Weekly Democratic Address
December 25, 2020
Hi, I’m Congressman Mike Levin. I’m proud to represent North County San Diego and South Orange County, with Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton at the heart of my district.
As we celebrate the holidays this year, we also mourn the loss of more than 320,000 Americans to this pandemic – including more than 5,500 veterans, a profound tragedy for our nation. Each individual lost was somebody’s parent or grandparent, a son or daughter, a friend or co-worker who will be deeply missed, especially during this holiday season.
The holidays are also challenging for many families who are struggling to make ends meet, for our heroic frontline workers and for small businesses that are trying to endure this pandemic.
I’m proud that Democrats negotiated an emergency coronavirus relief and omnibus package to save lives and livelihoods and crush the virus. This agreement is an important initial step, which we must build on under the Biden-Harris Administration.
We also took important action last week to honor the service and sacrifice of those who have worn the uniform. As Chair of the House Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity, I was proud to sponsor the Johnny Isakson and David P. Roe, M.D. Veterans Health Care and Benefits Improvement Act of 2020.
This landmark legislation is the product of years of bipartisan work and the strong leadership of House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Mark Takano and Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Ranking Member Jon Tester. It includes numerous legislative initiatives from dozens of House Democrats and provisions from nearly 60 House-passed bills.
It includes the Homeless Veteran Coronavirus Response Act, a bill I introduced to expand and strengthen VA services for homeless veterans during the pandemic, allowing the VA to use existing funds for a wider range of services.
It includes the Reducing Veteran Homelessness Act, a bill I introduced to fill gaps in HUD-VASH case management.
It includes the Protect the GI Bill Act, a bill I introduced to increase transparency and accountability among educational programs that receive funding from the VA, and it includes the Pandemic Assistance for Student Veterans Act, which will minimize the impact of the pandemic on student veterans.
It also includes the Brian Tally VA Employment Transparency Act to support veterans who are the victims of medical malpractice by the VA or its contractors, and the Bill Mulder Transition Improvement Act to make the transition process easier for servicemembers returning to civilian life.
All of these provisions are critically important for the economic success and financial security of our veterans, and I was incredibly proud to lead them.
However, Speaker Pelosi said it best on the House Floor last week when she called the Deborah Sampson Act, led by Congresswoman Julia Brownley, “the crown jewel in this package.” The Deborah Sampson Act takes long overdue steps to address the inequities and barriers that women veterans face when accessing VA care and benefits.
The legislation expands access to care for women veterans, combats sexual harassment and assault, increases cultural competency for all VA staff and improves data collection to ensure that our nation’s nearly two million women veterans get the care, benefits and resources they’ve earned.
With this legislation, we are fulfilling President Lincoln’s promise to care for those ‘who shall have borne the battle’ and for their families, caregivers and survivors.
While we celebrate this extraordinary accomplishment, I know that many troops, veterans and their loved ones are spending this holiday apart from one another. Please know that I deeply appreciate your service and sacrifice, and House Democrats will keep fighting for you in the new year.
Thank you, and happy holidays.