The San Diego region is home to a very large and active veteran community, with more than 60,000 former servicemembers living in California’s 53rd Congressional District alone. As a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee, Susan focuses on caring for servicemembers both during their service and after they leave the military.
Improving VA Care
Susan regularly sits down with veterans to listen to their experiences to find solutions to improve the VA healthcare system. She also meets with local VA employees dedicated to caring for our veterans and who are equally frustrated that they don’t always have the resources to help our veterans.
Susan supported bipartisan legislation to expand access to health care. The Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act enacted into law provides for:
Preventing Suicides Among Veterans
Twenty veterans commit suicide every day - even one is too many. No veteran should feel that the country they sacrificed for doesn’t care about them. Susan is working to ensure an effective support system is in place for our veterans to access. We also need to better communicate to veterans about the vast network that is available to them.
Susan supported bipartisan action to strengthen the support system for veterans. The Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act will:
Susan will continue seeking ways to improve on efforts to reduce incidents of suicides among veterans.
Creating Opportunity for Veterans
When they are ready to end their military service, Susan wants to ensure servicemembers have opportunities to further their education, find employment, or start a business. As Ranking Member on the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Military Personnel, she is in a prime position to help servicemembers who are transitioning out of the military.
Through the annual defense bills, Susan continues to improve on transition assistance programs that help veterans make the most of their skills as they enter the civilian workforce. Employers can benefit greatly by what veterans have to offer in the workplace. These transition assistance programs can direct veterans to apprenticeships that connect their technical experience with the appropriate industry or academic institution.
Flexibility is critical when it comes to student loans for servicemembers. Susan updated the Higher Education Act to help reservists defer student loan payments and reenter college after activation.
Helping Homeless Veterans
Having talked to the many veterans living on the streets of San Diego, Susan has seen first-hand how those who fought for us are now fighting to get off the streets. It’s important these veterans know that they have not been forgotten especially after the sacrifices they have made.
A strong supporter of veterans’ transition programs, Susan has helped secure funding for programs in our community to help organizations expand and renovate their facilities so they may continue to meet the needs of the growing veteran population.
Susan has pushed for funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) voucher program because she sees the difference it makes in the lives of veterans in San Diego. HUD-VASH provides rental assistance for homeless veterans along with case management and clinical services in an effort to help them become self-sufficient members of their community once again.
Susan recently announced $1.4 million for San Diego to end homelessness among veterans. The funding will help veterans and their families with rent and utility payments. Since 2010, the overall veteran homelessness has decreased by 36 percent, and unsheltered homelessness has decreased by nearly 50 percent.
She is also working to get HUD to change the funding formula so that our region has the federal funding it needs to get people into housing and in better economic conditions. San Diego has one of the largest homeless populations in the country, yet our region doesn’t get its fair share of federal dollars to help get people off the streets.
Helping Veterans and Service Dogs
Susan has cosponsored the Puppies Assisting Wounded Servicemembers (PAWS) Act, a bill to establish a pilot program for training dogs to help treat veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress (PTS) and other post-deployment mental health issues. It is important that we not only employ medical and psychological expertise to combat this awful and debilitating condition, but it is also important to utilize the benefits of therapeutic practices such as PAWS.