Last week, I introduced Robert McDonald, President Barack Obama's nominee for Secretary of Veterans Affairs, at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs. The next day, the committee - 13 other senators and I - voted unanimously to approve his nomination. (The full Senate unanimously confirmed his appointment).
I voted in support of Robert McDonald's nomination because I believe he possesses the skills and integrity needed to advocate for our nation's veterans. As a U.S. Army veteran and the former CEO of Proctor and Gamble, he has proved his commitment to our nation and his effectiveness as a leader.
Voting to confirm McDonald allows him to swiftly begin tackling the VA's problems, ensuring our veterans are receiving quality health care they deserve. As one of 14 senators chosen to serve on the 2014 Senate-House conference committee to negotiate the veterans' reform legislation, I am committed to rebuilding the VA by increasing accountability for senior VA employees; allowing qualified veterans in remote locations who are experiencing long wait times to receive care from another institution; and requiring the VA to hire more doctors, nurses and other needed staff.
We can't afford to let partisan politics hinder these negotiations. Our nation's obligation to our veterans relies on quick passage of this bill and the confirmation of McDonald as secretary of the VA so he can implement these reforms.
Along with shortening wait times, the VA must collaborate more with the Department of Defense to better serve post 9/11 veterans, including those facing post-traumatic stress, mild traumatic brain injury or other "invisible injuries." Physical wounds are visible and easy to document, but some veterans with post-traumatic stress and mild traumatic brain injury have been denied disability claims because it is difficult prove the link between their injuries and their military service.
That's why I wrote and introduced the Significant Event Tracker Act based on solutions brought to me by Michael Fairman, an Ohio combat veteran and advocate for soldiers with post-traumatic stress.
The SET Act creates individualized reports to track soldiers' exposure to events, such as roadside bombings, that potentially could lead to "invisible injuries." This will ease the burden of proving the cause of their injury for veterans so they can focus fully on their recovery. U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., an Iraq war veteran, soon will introduce the bill in the House of Representatives.
Our veterans deserve care befitting their service to this country. The Senate must commit itself to passing legislation that ensures quality, timely care for visible and invisible injuries alike.