On Veterans Day we pay tribute to those who have fought for our country from its earliest days to the present. This day reminds us of how important it is that the men and women who wear this country’s uniform know how grateful their fellow Americans are for that service.
The holiday’s birthplace is my home state of Kansas. Over half a century ago, a shoe store owner in Emporia named Al King promoted the idea of changing what had been Armistice Day – honoring veterans of the First World War – into a celebration of veterans of every conflict, and every era. What started in Emporia went national in 1954, when Congress passed and President Eisenhower signed a bill making the November 11 holiday the one we know today.
As important as it is to publicly recognize the service of our troops returned from the battlefield, it is more important – indeed a sacred obligation – that we make sure they receive the care, benefits, and compensation they’ve so courageously earned. This is one of the preeminent challenges facing our nation. Aside from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, I have had no higher leadership priority.
Since reports of substandard recovery facilities emerged last year, the Department of Defense has launched major reforms and improvements in outpatient care. Each of the services provides a multi-facetted approach to care. The Army, for example, gives each soldier a case manager, squad leader, and a primary care provider. Coordinators have been assigned to help guide troops and their families through what can be a bewildering system during a difficult period in their lives.
The Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs are expanding a pilot program to streamline the Disability Evaluation System into a single process producing one disability rating. We must also continue to improve coordination and information-sharing between these two departments so that wounded warriors making the transition out of the military health system are not burdened by excessive delay or duplicate processes.
To draw attention to the service and sacrifice of these extraordinary Americans, to take stock of what has been achieved, and to reflect on how much more needs to be done, I have designated November as “Warrior Care Month.” The Department of Defense has launched a one-stop website at www.warriorcare.mil, where service members and their families will be able to find out about the full range of resources available to them.
On this Veterans Day, let us redouble efforts to see our men and women get the care and the recognition that are their due. And if there are veterans in your family, in your community – or even if you see them walking down the hall or down the street – take a moment to say “thank you” for all they have done for us. They deserve no less.