Standing Up for Our Veterans
Our United States Senator, Debbie Stabenow, believes our veterans should not stand at the back of any line. Whether it’s health care, education, a chance at a good job, or the military recognitions they earned in service, our nation must keep its promises to our heroes who have served. She learned this respect for service from her own family – her father served in World War II.
Over the years, Senator Stabenow has been a champion for veterans of every generation. She’s fought to provide care for those suffering from service-connected illnesses, including Agent Orange exposure, traumatic brain injuries, and PTSD. She has pushed for greater resources to improve the disability claims and appeals process, and led efforts to ensure that women veterans can access critical health services.
Senator Stabenow is dedicated to ensuring that our veterans receive the military honors they have earned defending our country. Most recently, she passed legislation to make SPC Jim McCloughan eligible for our nation’s highest military honor, the Medal of Honor. She is a champion for our national cemeteries, memorials, and other efforts to honor those who serve.
Access to Health Care
New VA Health Clinics
One of the biggest ways in which Senator Stabenow has made a difference for Michigan veterans is in the opening of new health clinics. The community of Alpena had a problem – many veterans were forced to drive hundreds of miles for routine medical care and lab tests. In 2003, Senator Stabenow began working with the community on a solution. She was told over and over that Alpena would never get a clinic, but she didn’t give up. Five years later, the Alpena Community Based Outpatient Clinic opened.
Senator Stabenow met with Cheboygan County community leaders, who had collected thousands of signatures for a new clinic. She personally delivered these signatures to the VA Secretary, and a new clinic opened a few years later. She has continued to champion new clinics, and today Michigan veterans are served by new and expanded clinics in Bad Axe, Cadillac, Cheboygan County, Clare, Grayling, Oscoda, and Wyoming. Senator Stabenow is now working with community leaders to expand services in Gaylord and Traverse City.
Veterans Choice Health Care Program
Senator Stabenow believes that veterans should be able to get timely medical appointments close to home. The Veterans Choice program was created to do just that, but the program is not working. Senator Stabenow heard from one former National Guardsman who needed to see a specialist to treat lesions on his brain. He was first sent to the wrong doctor and ended up waiting over 5 months for an appointment. And the doctor who ended up treating him didn’t get paid.
Unfortunately, this veteran is not alone – Senator Stabenow has heard similar stories from veterans all over the state. That’s why she’s taken on the fight to make the Veterans Choice program work better for our veterans and to hold third-party contractors accountable. She’s spoken with the VA Secretary about the unacceptable situation in Michigan, and legislation she authored to require prompt payment to Veterans Choice Program providers recently was signed into law as part of the VA Mission Act.
Mental Health Services
Senator Stabenow understands that many people who have served in our military have battle wounds that can’t necessarily be seen, which is why she is leading efforts to improve mental health care for our men and women serving in the military and our veterans.
The federal budget that was recently signed into law includes an additional $500 million for veterans mental health care programs, including $186 million specifically for suicide prevention and a 16 percent increase for opioid treatment, prevention, safety initiatives, and justice programs.
A nationally recognized leader on mental health, Senator Stabenow passed her Excellence in Mental Health Act that put community mental health centers on an equal footing with other health centers by improving quality standards and offering new services like 24-hour crisis psychiatric care. The law requires certified community behavioral health clinics to provide intensive, community-based mental health care for members of the armed forces and veterans, particularly those members and veterans located in rural areas. And it requires care coordination across settings, including VA medical centers and outpatient clinics.
Senator Stabenow sponsored the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act and the Female Veterans Suicide Prevention Act, which were both signed into law.
Thanks to Senator Stabenow’s bipartisan work to support Alzheimer’s patients and their families, both Medicare and the veterans’ TRICARE system now cover Alzheimer’s care planning visits to provide patients and caregivers vital information on treatment options and services. Care planning is a process that can help patients enjoy a higher quality of life and give families tools to better cope with a loved one’s illness.
VA Infrastructure Funding
Senator Stabenow fought to secure an additional $2 billion for VA infrastructure improvements in the federal budget that was recently signed into law. The funding will be used to address hospital maintenance and construction backlogs and will go a long way toward reducing deficiencies at VA facilities throughout the country.
Education and Job Opportunities
Education & Employment Training
Senator Stabenow sponsored the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill and follow-up legislation to make it work better for veterans pursuing additional education. She has long championed better job opportunities for our veterans.
Senator Stabenow is also sponsoring the Apprenticeship and Jobs Training Act (S.1352), which would provide businesses with a tax cut up to $5,000 for each new employee enrolled in a federal or state-registered apprenticeship program. Apprenticeship program credit could be given for previous military training, meaning that veterans would be able to get into skilled jobs that match their military experience sooner.
Careers in Agriculture
As Ranking Member on the Senate Agriculture Committee, Senator Stabenow has championed initiatives to help veterans start careers in agriculture, creating a Veteran Liaison at the Agriculture Department and providing veterans more training and financing. To build on this progress, she introduced the Farmer Veteran Opportunity Act of 2018. The legislation would make all new veterans eligible for Agriculture Department support, make risk management tools like crop insurance more affordable, and give veteran farmers better access to land and capital to start and expand their businesses.