As Published In: The Iowa City Press-Citizen
Nov 13 2019
Having worn our great nation’s colors in combat, commanded men and women overseas during Operation Iraqi Freedom, and served as the battalion commander of the largest battalion in the Iowa Army National Guard, I have a deep connection to and appreciation for our veterans. Some of my favorite moments in Iowa are centered on honoring our veterans and their families with the medals and the recognition that they have earned.
Last weekend, as I was wrapping up my 99 County Tour in Iowa, I was able to spend some time with Iowa veterans at my veterans resource fair. We were sharing stories about those hard times, we laughed about the good times, and we talked about the concerns they have with the VA and making sure they’re getting the quality of care they’ve earned.
I’ll never forget my time in military service. It’s marked me in so many ways, and has shaped my perspectives and driven me to fight to ensure our veterans get access to timely and quality care, and that they’re able to get the support they need when it comes to mental health.
In just the past few years, under the Trump Administration, we’ve been able to expand access to health care services through legislation like the VA MISSION Act — a bipartisan bill that I proudly helped get signed into law. This important bill, now law, included a number of my priorities, like allowing qualified VA health providers to practice telemedicine across state lines and enabling veterans to utilize telehealth services from the comfort of their own homes.
President Trump recently signed another one of my bills into law - the HAVEN Act. This bill, also now law, protects the economic security and well-being of veterans and their families who rely on disability benefits and may be experiencing financial hardship.
I’ve also directed the VA to take a hard look at its hiring practices and make sure the people treating and providing care to our veterans have a record of quality care. To that end, I’ve introduced the bipartisan Ensuring Quality Care for Our Veterans Act, which holds the VA accountable for how they help care for our veterans, and I’m continuing to press them on this issue.
While we’ve taken action in Congress to help our veterans, there certainly is more work to do. I remain committed to continuing the fight.
As we observe Veterans Day this year, let’s honor the extraordinary service and sacrifices our veterans, and their families, have made for our country in defense of our freedoms. To my fellow veterans — in Iowa and across our nation — you have my support and my deepest gratitude today, and every day. May God bless you and keep you.
Joni Ernst represents the state of Iowa as the first female combat veteran elected to serve in the U.S. Senate. In 2003, Joni served as a company commander in Kuwait and Iraq, leading 150 Iowa Army National Guardsmen during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Joni retired as a Lieutenant Colonel in the Iowa Army National Guard after 23 years of military service