In case you missed it, on Veterans Day, the Buffalo News published an editorial applauding Senator Gillibrand’s efforts on behalf of service members, veterans and their families. The editorial highlights Gillibrand’s legislative victories, including her hard-fought military justice reforms and her instrumental role in passing the PACT Act, legislation to provide health care and benefits for the millions of veterans who were exposed to burn pits and other toxic substances while serving overseas.
Read the full editorial here or below:
The Editorial Board: A better Veterans Day in 2023
Buffalo News Editorial Board | November 11, 2023
Veterans Day is an American holiday that too often gets short shrift, even from those who value the sacrifices made by those who have served.
The evidence is in the chronic struggle to serve the needs of veterans, especially those whose wellbeing has suffered as a result of that service. Whether it was post-traumatic stress disorder, exposure to toxic substances or sexual assaults that were covered up, political and military leaders were prone to look the other way.
The good news is that those veterans have had champions, in and out of government. Comedian and social critic Jon Stewart has been among the most prominent and the most willing to call out members of Congress who put politics before the health of veterans. Bold and persistent supporters also agitate within Congress. One of the most notable is a New Yorker: Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand.
Gillibrand has been fiercely protective of American servicemen and servicewomen, taking on critical issues that most others were willing to let slide. And not only taking them on, but winning, even in the face of unrelenting institutional opposition from military brass.
Because of her determination, the prosecution of sexual assaults within the military are no longer under the control of commanders who were often subject to conflicts of interests. Instead, those assaults and some other serious crimes are now handled by a group of experienced military prosecutors who will report to the civilian leaders of the military’s branches. That will help ensure fair adjudication of criminal charges, a change with multiple benefits including help with recruiting.
Gillibrand was also instrumental in passing the PACT Act, which aids veterans from as far back as the Vietnam War. It includes benefits for veterans exposed to toxic substances including Agent Orange and the fumes from burn pits: places where troops set fire to just about anything that would burn, including fuel, furniture, metals and plastics. The consequence has been conditions that range from allergy-like symptoms to upper respiratory illnesses and cancer.
As Veterans Day approached, Gillibrand’s office announced that half-a-million veterans have had their PACT Act claims approved. More than 26,000 New Yorkers have filed claims and, she says, thousands more are eligible.
Veterans can apply for benefits at va.gov/. If their claim was previously denied, but their condition is now considered presumptive, they can file a Supplemental Claim online or by mail. A full list of presumptive conditions and locations is available here.
For help applying, veterans can call the VA at 800-698-2411, reach out to their local Veterans Service Organization or contact Gillibrand’s office at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you to our veterans and to those who stand with them.