Opinion

After Afghanistan, our veterans need continued support

President Biden’s incompetent handling of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan was challenging to watch. The American people are rightly outraged by the abject weakness displayed by the president and his advisors. No community feels this pain more acutely than America’s veterans, especially those who served in Afghanistan.

For two decades, members of our military served bravely in Afghanistan with honor and distinction. During their time on the frontlines, they did everything our country asked of them and more, ensuring our homeland did not suffer another major terrorist attack akin to 9/11. Dozens of high-profile terrorists were captured or killed including Osama bin Laden. Contrary to the events of the last several weeks, our troops should be proud that they kept evil at bay for 20 years. They deserve our gratitude and our respect for a job well done.

In traveling across North Carolina, I have been distressed to hear about veterans of the war on terrorism who are struggling mentally amid the withdrawal and its aftermath. Far too many of our best and brightest not only bear the physical scars of war, but long-term mental conditions like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). They need to know that there are plenty of effective resources, at no cost to them, like the Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 (press 1). It is up to each of us to support these men and women on an individual basis, as family members, friends, and neighbors. But it is also incumbent upon our lawmakers to add resources and options for our veterans.

For example, a small but significant bill that recently became law and offers promise is the PAWS for Veterans Therapy Act. I helped introduce this overwhelmingly bipartisan bill in March. The bill creates a five-year pilot program at the Department of Veterans Affairs to allow veterans with mental health conditions to be eligible to receive service dogs. Our brave servicemen and women should have as many tools as possible to improve and save their lives on the homefront.

Beyond the health needs of our vets, they deserve economic options to put them in a position to succeed after they return home. The number of unemployed veterans is still unacceptably high. There are straightforward, innovative solutions that Congress can pursue that will allow veterans to gain more skills for a rewarding career, especially in a trade. That’s why I’ve introduced bills like the Veterans’ Entry to Apprenticeship Act. The legislation would allow veterans to use their Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits to attend pre-apprenticeship programs. It is my hope that this bill would help give veterans more on-ramps on the road to success after they’ve served our country.

Every man and woman who has served our nation in uniform deserves the best that our country can give them. Please know that the lawmakers you send to Washington, D.C. are always available to assist veterans with any federal agency, especially the VA. That has been one of my top priorities in Congress, and that will be the case for as long as I am privileged to serve in public office.

Ted Budd represents North Carolina’s 13th Congressional District and is serving his third term in the 117th United States Congress.