WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the La Crosse Tribune published an op-ed penned by U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) honoring Veterans Day.
La Crosse Tribune: US Sen. Tammy Baldwin: Despite successes for veterans health care, more work to be done
Veterans Day is a time for us to reflect and honor the sacrifice that our servicemembers have made in defense of our country.
Servicemembers missed holidays, anniversaries, and birthdays with loved ones; they’ve sustained injuries, both visible and invisible, and, they’ve devoted years of their lives to serving our nation.
In Wisconsin, service to others is in our DNA. Wisconsinites have stepped up to defend our values, freedom and way of life.
And when our servicemembers return home and hang up their boots for a final time, we have a sacred commitment to do right by those who served us. But, sadly for some veterans, we have come up short on our end of the bargain.
Two years ago, I heard from a veteran whose traumatic brain injury was improperly diagnosed at the Tomah Veterans Health Administration facility and subsequently did not receive the benefits they deserved.
While inquiring with the Department of Veterans Affairs about how to help this veteran get reexamined, I heard from another veteran with a similar experience. And another. And another.
It was a disturbing pattern of a particular doctor misdiagnosing these heroes and robbing them of the compensation they earned. Alongside some brave Wisconsin veterans, I took these devastating stories up the entire chain of the VA, eventually speaking with the VA Secretary Denis McDonough about this pattern of misdiagnosis and asking that he investigate and make amends.
We successfully got the VA to open an investigation into the doctor, get hundreds of potentially impacted veterans’ new exams, and, just last week, the VA announced that those impacted will be eligible for years of backdated benefits.
Nothing can undo the compounded harm done to these veterans by getting told their condition was not real and then denied care and benefits, but I am so proud that after years of advocacy, we held the VA accountable and pushed them to right this wrong.
This is not the only case in which our country left some of our veterans shortchanged. For too long, generations of toxic-exposed veterans, many of whom were exposed to open-air burn pits that contained garbage, jet fuel and other materials, were denied health care for conditions related to this exposure. That’s why I was proud to join Democrats and Republicans in passing the Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring Our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics of 2022 (PACT Act), to finally deliver these toxic-exposed veterans their earned health care and benefits.
As a senator, I take my obligation to care for those who served us seriously. I am honored to be an advocate and voice for the hundreds of thousands of veterans who call Wisconsin home.
To all those who have served our nation, their families, and loved ones, thank you for your service and sacrifice.
I am committed to following through on these words of support each and every day and delivering for our veteran community. Happy Veterans Day, Wisconsin.