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It's government's turn to serve veterans

By BY U.S. REP. BLAKE FARENTHOLD
Nov. 10, 2013 at 5:10 a.m.

U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold

This Monday, we stop to honor the sacrifices of our veterans - because of whom our freedom endures.

From the beaches of Normandy to the desert sands of Iraq, our servicemen and women have put their lives on the line to protect freedom all around the world. It was our armed forces that liberated Europe from the Nazis and that killed 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden. As the Lee Greenwood song goes, "I'm proud to be an American where at least I know I'm free, and I won't forget the men who died who gave that right to me."

Veterans' service does not end when active duty ends. Our veterans return home to be leaders in the workforce, their communities and the nation.

One example of this service can be seen in retired U.S. Army Capt. Rene Coronado, who is currently the veterans field representative on my staff. He returned home from Iraq determined to do all he could to help his fellow soldiers.

Capt. Coronado hosts weekly veterans meetings to offer his advice and expertise on filing benefit claims with the Veterans Affairs, job training programs and a host of other community and government services. Before Capt. Coronado joined my team through the Congressional Wounded Warrior program, he served as a Veterans Affairs Coordinator at Texas A&M University - Corpus Christi.

The sense of service our military instills in every person who enlists turns girls into women and boys into men. An active duty or retired member of the United States military will forever bring a can-do attitude to every job or task set before them. This is one of the many reasons veterans make great employees in the private sector.

We must keep our promises to care for them like they kept their promises to defend us. Our veterans have faced some of the most difficult and dangerous situations during their service. They should not have to fight to get the benefits they've earned or suffer through delays at the hands of federal bureaucrats.

So far this year, the VA has received 272,000 fewer claims than anticipated, yet no significant progress has been made to reduce the claims backlog. There is also a second backlog piling up as veterans file benefit appeals claims.

This is a very serious problem, and the VA should be dedicating all of its available resources to correcting it.

Congress has made sure the Department of Veterans Affairs has the needed resources to serve our veterans by exempting its budget from sequestration and other cuts. In fact, Congress allotted $300 million in additional funding to the VA this year to address the issue of backlogged claims.

In the district I represent, we've gone from having one VA building to offering new and expanded services at two clinics, an annex in Corpus Christi and an outpatient clinic in Victoria. There are also facilities in Harlingen, San Antonio and Houston that serve veterans in the 27th congressional district of Texas.

That said, the time that many veterans have to wait for their claims to be processed is way too long; in many cases, it's 125 days or more. And many veterans throughout Texas are also forced to travel hours to different clinics across the state for specialized care. We need to fix that; we must do more.

It is my duty not only as a member of Congress but also as an American to fight for our veterans and ensure they get the health care and benefits they deserve without having to wait six months to a year or more to receive help.

I take doing more to support our veterans to heart. If you are a veteran, thank you for your service. Now, I want to be of service to you.

Please do not hesitate to call me or any member of my staff, including Capt. Coronado. He will help you cut the red tape, navigate the bureaucracy and provide you with the details of his weekly veterans meetings.

His number is 361-884-2222, or you can email him at Rene.Coronado@mail.house.gov. You can also find out more information about our veterans services on my website, Farenthold.House.gov.

Thank you. God bless Texas, and God bless America.

Rep. Blake Farenthold is the U.S. Congressman for District 27. Constituents can contact his Washington office at 202-225-7742.

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