Thirty-one Vietnam Veterans were honored on Saturday by U.S. Representative Charlie Dent (PA 15) during a veterans’ military information forum held at the Palmyra First United Methodist Church.
Each veteran was awarded a pin provided by the United States of America Vietnam War Commemoration, a program Dent explained was authorized by the 2008 National Defense Authorization Act to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the war that lasted from 1955 to 1975.
Noting that Vietnam Vets were not well-received upon their return home, Dent said it was an honor to recognize and thank all veterans and pay special tribute to those who served during the Vietnam War and Vietnam War era.
“I know that I speak on behalf of all American citizens when I say thank you for your service and your sacrifice to our nation,” he stated.
A U.S. Congressman since 2005, Dent serves as chairman for both the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Subcommittee for the House Appropriations Committee and the House Committee on Ethics. The 15th district is comprises Lehigh County and parts of Berks, Dauphin, Lebanon and Northampton counties.
Following the ceremony, he provided a legislative update and overview of the 2017 Military Construction and VA Appropriations Bill that this week passed in the U.S. House of Representatives and now moves to the U.S. Senate for approval.
Highlights of the $81.6 billion bill include:
** Protections for local service members and National Guard and Reserve members through the addition of a security perimeter at Fort Indiantown Gap.
** $1.5 billion for Hepatitis C treatments.
** VA medical services funding.
** An emphasis on mental health care, suicide prevention, services to aid and take care of our homeless veterans, traumatic brain injury treatments, improvements to the Suicide Hotline, and certification of mental health therapists to expand access for veterans who need their care.
** Funding and new directives that will lead to further reductions in the disability claims backlog, and resources to improve services and provide more staff to tackle the backlog of claims appeals.
** Investments and requirements to modernize the VA’s electronic health record system.
** Extensive oversight provisions, such as a prohibition on bonuses for the VA’s senior executives, limits on VA construction authorities and an increase in funding for the VA Office of Inspector General.
** An increase of $250 million for military construction that will allow for full funding of family housing for nearly 1.4 million military families, the military health facilities that treat 9.8 million troops and families and updates to aging infrastructure on military bases.
** Moving forward on approval, Dent admitted congress is not very functional, and it can be very frustrating. If a bill can't be passed to fund veterans and the military, he said, "we might as well hang it up - we have a responsibility.”
Close to 100 people attended the first-time event organized by Dent staff person Chrystal Foster, herself an honorably discharged Marine who was wounded during her military service.
On-site access to veterans’ services was also provided from the Pennsylvania Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, the Lebanon VA Medical Center, the Philadelphia VA Regional Office and the Lebanon, Dauphin and Berks County departments of Veterans Affairs.