Weekly Democratic Address
November 13, 2020
Hello, I’m Congressman Mark Takano, and I proudly represent California’s 41st Congressional District and serve as Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. On behalf of the House Democrats, I’d like to start by wishing all of our veterans a happy Veterans Day. We cannot thank you enough for your service and sacrifice. I also want to thank Speaker Pelosi for her partnership and abiding commitment to advocate for our nation’s veterans.
Throughout 2020, our Committee has worked diligently to advocate for veterans and ensure the Department of Veterans Affairs is fully equipped to carry out its first mission, serving our veterans, even as we confront the COVID-19 pandemic. We’ve worked to expand opportunities for student veterans, pushed VA to provide timely updates and information on its coronavirus response, continued to prioritize veterans’ mental health and continued to exercise our legislative and oversight functions.
This Congress, House Democrats also ensured Blue Water Navy Vietnam veterans exposed to Agent Orange throughout their service finally got the benefits they’ve earned and deserve. It took 40 years, but we got it done.
My number one priority this Congress has been reducing veteran suicide, and just after Veterans Day, we sent our bipartisan, comprehensive Veterans’ COMPACT Act to the President’s desk, marking real progress in the fight to prevent veteran suicide.
Despite the challenges of COVID-19, House Democrats took bold steps to address gaps in prevention and care for veterans who are at heightened risk for suicide like women veterans, those who recently separated from military service and veterans who haven’t used VA health care recently. The COMPACT Act also included my provision, which ensures that no veteran experiencing an emergency mental health crisis has to worry about cost when seeking the care that he or she needs.
Sadly, this year’s VA suicide prevention report confirms two points we already knew to be true: veterans connected with the Veterans Health Administration are less likely to die by suicide, and firearms continue to play a disproportionate role in these deaths. As long as seventeen veterans die by suicide each day, our work will not be finished.
Our armed forces have been a living example of our country’s “melting pot,” and the next generation of veterans is expected to be the most diverse group of veterans this country has seen. The Department of Veterans Affairs must be prepared to care for all those who, in the words of President Lincoln, have “borne the battle.”
Already, we’ve begun this work to address the barriers veterans from often-marginalized communities face when seeking care at VA. We passed the Deborah Sampson Act, championed by Julia Brownley, Chairwoman of the Women Veterans Task Force, which is the most comprehensive legislative package our 2 million women veterans in a decade have seen. We’ve worked to expand access to care for our Native veterans, a group that serves our country at higher rates than other demographics, by passing bills such as the Tribal Advisory Committee Act and the Native American PACT Act.
We are on the right path to making sure our servicemembers, regardless of gender or background or origin or creed, can return home to an equitable system that is ready to take care of them.
We thank our veterans for their patriotism, for their commitment to upholding our most sacred ideals, for their sacrifices and for their continued contributions to our country long after their time in service. Our country may not be perfect, but it is full of promise, and veterans know that’s worth fighting for.