Since our nation’s founding, generations of brave men and women have answered the call to serve their country. Representing Maine’s veterans has been the highest honor of my time in Congress. I’ve had the opportunity to travel across the state, meeting with veterans and their families and talking about their service and what we could do together to solve any problems they may be encountering.

These experiences have meant so much to me — whether it’s presenting service medals to a veteran and his or her family, visiting a local veterans organizations, or greeting our service members as they return from deployment abroad.

But veterans do so much more beyond serving bravely on the battlefield. They return home and are integral parts of our communities, often continuing to serve in different capacities. They are our police officers and firefighters, our teachers and doctors, our friends and neighbors. That’s why Veterans Day is a great opportunity to recommit to supporting our veterans and their families — not just when they first return home from service, but every single day after that.

This is a responsibility I take seriously. I’m proud of what we we’ve been able to accomplish for Maine veterans over the past 12 years. One of the biggest problems that veterans in Maine used to face was easy access to health care. For many in the more rural parts of our state, getting down to the VA facility at Togus meant taking a day off from work and making a long trip to Augusta — up to a 600-mile round-trip, for some.

I’m proud that together, we were able to bring Project ARCH to Maine. ARCH allows our veterans to receive good health care much closer to home — and without potentially losing a day’s wages or having to drive hours and hours for a simple doctor’s appointment.

Working together, we’ve been able to accomplish much toward our shared goal of caring for veterans over the long term. We’ve been able to enact into law a meaningful support infrastructure for caregivers of veterans — because the sacrifice of service is one that is shared by family members and loved ones in addition to veterans.

We also have been able to ensure that aging veterans could always access affordable and quality health care at state veterans homes. We secured additional resources to confront the very serious problem of veterans homelessness. We strengthened the GI Bill, making it just a little easier for veterans to access important education and training opportunities.

But there is more we can do to help our veterans and their families, and Veterans Day is a perfect opportunity to acknowledge and act on that.

As a new wave of veterans returns from service in Iraq and Afghanistan, we must do more to ensure veterans can translate their unique military skills into civilian employment at home. Veterans are among the most skilled, dedicated and passionate workers in our communities. We have made some good progress on this, but we must continue to do more so that no veteran is ever left searching for a job just so he or she can get by — especially after they’ve served their country.

We also must do more to ensure veterans can access all of their benefits in an easy and timely manner. The bipartisan VA reform legislation we passed into law earlier this year puts us on a path to do that, but we can’t forget about this issue just because we’ve passed a law. I remain wholly committed to working with the secretary and others to ensure we put a more responsive and easy-to-navigate delivery system in place for our veterans, so that no one ever feels overwhelmed by bureaucracy when they’re just trying to access the benefits they’ve more than earned.

This Veterans Day, I’m asking all of us to do more than just saying thank you for the service of veterans and their families. Saying thank you is powerful and important, but it is our actions that will affect real change. Talk with the veterans in your communities. Get their perspective about things and hear from them what we could do to make life easier. I know that all of us together can honor the sacrifices of the past while also making a better future for those coming home to us.

U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud represents Maine’s 2nd Congressional District and serves as ranking member on the House Committee on Veterans Affairs.


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