Defense and National Security
As the Ranking Member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense, Pete works hard to support our 1.4 million active duty military servicemembers, our 835,000 members of the National Guard and Reserve, and our over 20 million veterans. Pete believes that we owe our active duty service men and women, veterans, and military retirees a great debt of gratitude for the sacrifices they have made for each of us, and he is committed to making sure we repay that debt to those who have given so very much.
Protecting our Troops
Pete is committed to ensuring that our troops are adequately prepared to face any challenge. That is why Pete has fought to increase funding for military readiness to ensure that those on the battlefield have the resources needed for their safe return. Additionally, Pete has supported increased investments in programs that are vital to the rebuilding and resetting of the force after twelve years of conflict, such as funding for facility sustainment and modernization.
Through the Appropriations Committee, Pete has worked to increase funding for research into traumatic brain injuries and psychological health, the signature wounds of our last decade of conflict, as well as increased funding for suicide prevention outreach programs
Pete has also worked to provide funding for members of the military to use for college courses to support their professional and personal self-development goals. This funding is a critical resource for servicemembers as they return to their families and transition from the military to the civilian workforce.
Pete believes it is the utmost priority of Congress to provide effective oversight to protect the interests of the American people and, as the Ranking Member of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, he has the responsibility of overseeing the expenses of over $600 billion of our nation’s treasury. Pete has used his position as Ranking Member to prioritize our spending to ensure efficient and effective use of our tax dollars.
As part of this oversight, Pete has worked to focus military efforts to address suicide prevention in a more effective way. For instance, Pete had serious concerns that the Navy’s nearly 123 suicide prevention programs were ineffective and dissipated resources. That is why Pete has worked with the Navy to streamline the various different suicide prevention programs and ensure that our servicemembers have better programs that are more efficient and effective.
Additionally, in crafting the Fiscal Year 2014 Defense Appropriations Act, Pete worked to reduce overall funding. Specifically, the law includes $572.6 billion for Department of Defense programs, which is $61.1 billion less than the FY 2012 funding level.
Recognizing the Sacrifices of Military Families
Pete understands that supporting our troops also means supporting their families. When a servicemember enlists, their families enlist with them and face immense sacrifices, such as frequent moves, long separations, and the anxieties associated with fear for their servicemembers’ lives. Our military families deserve all the help we can provide.
To that end, Pete is a cosponsor of H.R. 3441, the Spouses of Heroes Education Act. This measure would expand eligibility of the Marine Gunnery Sergeant John David Fry Scholarship, which provides full undergraduate education benefits under the Post-9/11 GI Bill to the children of a member of the Armed Forces who died in the line of duty, to spouses of servicememembers who are killed in action.. This will ensure that surviving spouses who suddenly find themselves as the sole breadwinner for his or her family have the means and education to take on the increased financial responsibility.
Taking Care of our Veterans
Pete believes that we owe a great debt to the men and women who have fought for our country. We must return that debt by providing our veterans with the care and resources they deserve.
Pete is pleased that over the last decade, Congress has provided a much needed increase in resources available to the Veterans Health Administration, increasing spending by over 100 percent, from $28.8 billion in FY 2004 to $57.9 billion in FY 2014. Locally, this increase in resources is best evidenced by the construction of a new Adam Benjamin, Jr., VA Outpatient Clinic in Crown Point, which is significantly larger than its predecessor, giving veterans in Northwest Indiana access to improved care and expanded services.
However, Pete continues to have serious concerns regarding the delay in processing times for veterans claims and the delivery of health care to our nation’s veterans. Specific controversy surrounding the delivery of care to veterans in Phoenix, Arizona, is of particular concern, as it may indicate a systemic, nationwide problem.
That is why, in the aftermath of the scandal, Pete sent a letter urging the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to implement a nationwide review of veterans on wait lists and the veteran health care system, including a review of our local Adam Benjamin, Jr. facility to ensure that the facility is providing appropriate and timely care.
Additionally, Pete is a supporter and cosponsor of H.R. 1980, the Quicker Veterans Benefits Delivery Act. This measure would seek to decrease processing times by allowing the Department of Veterans Affairs to make greater use of private medical evidence when making claims decisions. Pete also supported H.R. 4810, the Veteran Access to Care Act of 2014, which seeks to help veterans receive timely access to medical care by requiring the Department of Veterans Affairs to offer non-VA care at the department’s expense to any enrolled veteran who cannot get an appointment within VA wait time goals.
Through his role as Ranking Member of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, Pete has worked to to encourage interoperability between the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs health records system in order to better streamline the continuation of health care as our active duty service men and women transition to veteran status. To that end, P.L. 113-76, the Consolidated Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year (FY) 2014, includes language that restricts the amount of money that may be spent until the Secretary of the Department of Defense provides the House and Senate Appropriations Committees with a detailed expenditure plan for accomplishing the goal of interoperability of veterans' health records.
Beyond concerns regarding timely access to health benefits, Pete remains troubled with the high rate of unemployment among our veterans. That is why Pete supported P.L. 112-56, the Putting Veterans Back to Work Act. This law established two tax credits – the Returning Heroes Tax Credit and the Wounded Warrior Tax Credit – to encourage the hiring of veterans who have been unemployed.
Military OneSource is a Department of Defense programs that provides free support, information, and resources to veterans, service members, and their families.
Military OneSource services include:
Should you need assistance contacting Military OneSource or determining what services may be available to you, please contact Pete’s Merrillville District office .