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Floor Speech

Date: Nov. 18, 2020
Location: Washington, DC


Mr. HOEVEN. Mr. President, I want to acknowledge and express my appreciation for the comments of the Senator from West Virginia, her father's service, and the service of so many veterans, as well as our colleagues here in the Senate who are here today saying thank you as we enter this time of Thanksgiving for our veterans and all those who serve today. We appreciate them so much.

Of course, that is what this colloquy is all about, for us to come down today and to say thank you to our veterans, thank you to those who serve. I know the Presiding Officer's State has a number of military bases and a large contingent of servicemembers, and they are truly fantastic. They are just amazing. We have two large Air Force bases in my State, and, of course, our Guard and others who serve in our military. I am impressed every day when I see what they do and how they serve. We are so deeply appreciative.

That is what today is all about. It is thanking our veterans and making the point, I think, that we need to be there for our veterans and our servicemembers every day, not just on Veterans Day, but that we need to be out there every day saying thank you for all that they do for us--and to their families--and to always keep in our hearts and our prayers all of those who are deployed around the world today keeping us safe.

In my State of North Dakota, we have a rich tradition of service. I am so proud of all of our North Dakotans who have served in the military and serve today.

Since I was Governor of North Dakota, from 2000 through 2010, and even since I have been here in the Senate, I don't think I have ever missed participating at home on Veterans Day in ceremonies for our servicemembers. Really, because we were in session last week, this was the first time in, I think, more than 20 years that I wasn't able to attend services at home for our veterans on Veterans Day. So what I did is I went over to Arlington Cemetery and spent some time there.

I also went to the U.S. Marine Corps Memorial, and I particularly wanted to go over to the Marine Corps Memorial because my father was a marine. Of course, for his life--he died when he was 87 years old, but throughout his life, you could never say he was a marine because once a marine, always a marine. So even when he was in his eighties, he would say he still is a marine. If you said ``was a marine,'' then he would get mad at you, but now that he has passed, I can say he was a marine. But he was awfully proud of his service.

As I looked at that Marine Corps Memorial, it made me think of him. It just is, again, a recognition for all of us of how much we owe our veterans.

So it is about thanking them and acknowledging them, but it is also very important that we show our gratitude in other ways, by making sure that our Armed Service forces, members, as well as all of our veterans receive the care, the benefits, the recognition, the things that our Nation has promised them for their service.

We need to follow through on those things. In this Congress we have worked to do that, and we need to continue to work to do that.

Some of the things we have been able to do are work to strengthen the VA's ability to provide veterans with a continuum of care so that not only do they have access to the medical care they need, but they also have that continuum of care as they get older.

We talk about our World War II generation, America's ``greatest generation,'' as laid out in Tom Brokaw's book and that famous acknowledgement of all that they did in World War II. So many of them, of course, we are losing now, and it highlights the need to make sure that we have the continuum of care there for them, both care in terms of nursing home care and also home-based care as well. We need to make sure that those options are available to them.

We also need to recognize that members of our military suffer injuries both seen and unseen. There are the wounds that you can see, but then there are also the wounds, the battle scars of war, that you can't see.

In terms of what the VA does for our veterans, we need to make sure that the mental healthcare and the suicide prevention programs are in place there as well. Last month the Commander John Scott Hannon Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act was signed into law, and I was pleased to be able to cosponsor that legislation, and that legislation will help advance a more comprehensive approach to address the tragedy of veteran suicide.

It also expands access to alternative treatment options like hyperbaric oxygen therapy, or HBOT, for veterans who have not been able to benefit or recover using traditional therapies for post-traumatic stress.

Last year, working with others, I was able to secure for the Fargo VA designation as the fifth location in the Nation for an HBOT pilot program, and we recently extended that program for a longer period of time and added additional service area in Jamestown, ND, as well.

I have to say, our VA veterans healthcare facility in Fargo is second to none. They do a tremendous job. I talk to veterans who go there not only from North Dakota but from much of Minnesota, and they really appreciate it. The care there is high level.

Sometimes we hear these stories and have great concern about veterans' care facilities where they are not doing a good job, and we need to address that, but I can say that our Fargo, ND, VA healthcare facility is tops. And the veterans I talk to on a regular basis tell me that, so we are very appreciative of all the healthcare providers who work there and do that very good job for our wonderful veterans. So we need to continue to provide that type of care as well.

Also, I joined with Senator Sinema and Senator Sullivan in introducing the Reduce Unemployment for Veterans of All Ages Act, which enables veterans, regardless of when they served, to access VA's vocational rehabilitation and employment benefits. That just makes sense, particularly during this pandemic. We are seeing the challenges with unemployment for everybody, and making sure that our great veterans have access to work and employment when they come back or leave the service is always a priority. It is obviously very much a priority as we work our way through this pandemic.

So passing this legislation would help provide veterans with greater self-sufficiency, better financial security, and, of course, a higher quality of life.

Also, as chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, I have worked with our committee to ensure that our Nation fulfills its promise to our Native American veterans. Native Americans serve in our military in a higher percentage than any other ethnic group, which is truly remarkable and a tremendous thing.

So, as I say, for all of our veterans, we have to be there, but we certainly have to make sure, then, that we are providing help and support for our Native American veterans who have served as well.

Clearly, Native American veterans face some unique challenges related to homelessness and housing, and that is a function of being on the reservation. They have some unique challenges, and we have to work to address those challenges.

So I have worked with Senator Udall, the vice chairman of the Indian Affairs Committee, along with Senator Tester, whom I think is ranking member on the Veterans' Affairs Committee, and we introduced the Tribal HUD-VASH Act, which would provide rental housing assistance as well as housing for eligible Native American veterans who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.

Our legislation has passed the Senate, and we are certainly hoping that it receives action in the House very soon.

As we continue to support our servicemembers, I also am a member of the Senate Defense Appropriations Committee, and we need to continue to work to invest in our military and ensure that our servicemembers have the tools they need to complete their missions.

In North Dakota we have many Active-Duty servicemembers at our Air Force bases, as well as others in the State. They perform incredibly important missions, and we need to make sure that we are supporting them and our servicemembers across the country and deployed around the globe and that they have what they need to do their missions.

That applies equally for our members of the National Guard and the reserves. As a former Governor--and I know the Presiding Officer was a former Governor himself--the amount that we rely on the National Guard is unbelievable. Their level of service is unbelievable. Whether it is fire or flood or hurricane or tornadoes or any kind of natural disaster here at home or whether it is deploying to the global war on terror in Afghanistan, Iraq, or anywhere else around the world, our National Guard is there. They do an incredible, incredible job, so we need to make sure we are supporting our Guard and reserves just as we support our Active-Duty forces. As a matter of fact, one of our Guard units is actually deployed for a 9-month assignment defending the Nation's Capital. They are here defending Washington, DC.

Again, talk to anybody who is a Governor or a former Governor, and they will tell you just how incredible the National Guard is. And those deployments are not easy. Whether they are deployed overseas, whether they are deployed somewhere in the United States, whether down on the border or wherever it may be, they serve. And we can't forget that their families serve too. When they are gone, the families have to pick up the slack at home, and they do.

That is one reason that each year since coming to the Senate, I have introduced in the past the Senate resolution proclaiming a national Day of the Deployed to recognize and thank our deployed servicemembers and their family members: Active Duty, Guard, and Reserves.

With Thanksgiving approaching, we are reminded of the many freedoms and blessings that we enjoy as a nation, all of which have been secured by the men and the women who have served and do serve in our Armed Forces.