Senator John Thune, Weekly ColumnAs the holiday season gets underway in South Dakota and Thanksgiving is just around the corner, it is important for us to pause to consider one of our greatest blessings—the gift of freedom—and express our gratitude to the men and women who have and continue to defend that freedom. From our veterans to our soldiers on the front line of the War on Terror, we thank these men and women who have chosen service over self.
On Veterans Day, we pay special tribute to our nation’s veterans, who symbolize the very best of America: honor, duty, and patriotism. The sacrifices made by these brave men and women are something we should remember every day, but this is a special day set aside just for them.
Each of America’s veterans has added a resounding drumbeat to freedom's march. This is a drumbeat that started with the Revolutionary War and can still be heard today in the War on Terror. It's a drumbeat that each of us hears every time we enter a voting booth or raise our right hand over our chest to pledge allegiance to our nation's flag. Each of our liberties has been won with the greatest of sacrifices.
It is my privilege and duty as a member of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs to provide our nation’s veterans with a system that provides them and their families with the highest quality care and ensures they have an opportunity to succeed.
Congress has made many recent strides in improving benefits and care for America’s veterans.
Veterans’ health care and benefits funding has increased more than 75 percent in the last decade. The Senate recently approved a significant boost in the budget for veterans’ medical care, increasing spending by about $4 billion, 21 percent above the previous year. This year’s Veterans Affairs appropriations bill provides more than $70 billion to the Department of Veterans Affairs, the highest amount of appropriated dollars in the history of the VA.
I am committed to ensuring that the VA is adequately funded so that South Dakota’s 77,000 veterans receive the benefits they deserve, including those who require specialty care. Much has been done on behalf of our veterans, but we should always be looking for ways to do more for our veterans.
Just recently, I had the privilege to visit with wounded soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. While I was there, I visited the prosthetics lab, as well as the occupational and physical therapy wards. What I saw in every face at that hospital was incredible courage, unfaltering devotion to our country, and inspiring resilience.
During my visit, I also gained a deeper understanding of the importance of prosthetic research. This year’s Senate VA appropriations bill spends $412 million for medical and prosthetic research. I will work to make sure that prosthetic research continues at the VA.
As we observe Veterans Day, let us strive to live each day in honor of those who have fought and fallen for freedom's march. We will never forget their sacrifice, and we will always be grateful for their service.