Reps. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) and Scott Perry (R-Pa.) launched a new caucus on Thursday for congressional members who have served in the military post-9/11.
The caucus will be dedicated to issues related to the 2.8 million veterans who have served and deployed since 9/11, and provide a forum for the newest generation of veterans.
Those issues include helping veterans transition to civilian life, reducing a backlog in Veteran Affairs disability claims, promoting education, entrepreneurship and employment opportunities, and improving services for veterans.
The launch comes on the 12th anniversary of the Iraq War. Gabbard and Perry, who are both post-9/11 veterans, will serve as co-chairmen.
“Taking care of our brothers and sisters in uniform who have selflessly served our country must be a priority for Congress,” Gabbard said at a press conference Thursday.
“In recent years, Congress has passed legislation to expand Veterans’ health care options, hold the VA more accountable and improve access to mental health services,” added Perry.
“But we have much more work to do and I’m honored to join my colleague Congresswoman Gabbard to confront these challenges and do right by our Nation’s true heroes and their families,” he said.
Gabbard is a captain in the Hawaii Army National Guard. Perry is a brigadier general in the Pennsylvania Army National Guard.
Other members of the caucus will include Reps. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.), Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), Mark Takai (D-Hawaii), Ted Lieu (D-Calif.), and Seth Moulton (D-Mass.).
Gallego is a former Marine and Iraq veteran; Hunter is a former Marine and an Iraq and Afghanistan veteran; Takai is a lieutenant colonel in the Hawaii Army National Guard and an Iraq veteran; Lieu is a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Air Force Reserves; and Moulton is a former Marine and Iraq veteran.
“I’m committed to working tirelessly to ensure that veterans have a smoother transition and that they have the resources they need to continue their education, find a job, and get the care they need for themselves and their families,” said Gallego.
“The number of veterans in Congress is at an all-time low, now more than ever, there needs to be a strong and united voice in Congress advocating on behalf of our veterans,” said Takai.
“No veteran in America should face a crisis of health security, homelessness, unemployment, substance abuse or post-traumatic stress,” added Lieu.
“As veterans, we know the sacrifices that service men and women make to keep Americans safe,” said Moulton. “It’s Congress’ responsibility to protect our veterans and provide them with the resources they need to live healthy, successful lives.”
Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) CEO and Founder Paul Rieckhoff hailed the establishment of the new caucus.
“After more than 13 years of Americans in combat, it is encouraging to see these members of Congress band together to tackle veterans’ issues head on,” he said.
“We hope this caucus will bridge the military-civilian gap and provide quality solutions to veteran suicide, reforming VA, lowering veteran unemployment, protecting the New GI Bill and more,” he said.