The Central Coast is home to military bases, many active military personnel, and veterans who have devoted their lives to protecting our country. As a veteran, I am committed to ensuring that these brave men and women, who have sacrificed so much for our country along with their families, have access to the services and benefits they have earned.

If you are experiencing issues with the Veterans Affairs (VA) Department, please reach out to my office. 

My office helped Angela, who served as an Arabic linguist with the US Navy and was subsequently diagnosed with PTSD. She filed her first claim in 2012 but had been denied benefits twice by the time she reached out to my office for help in 2016.

WATCH: Angela, a Navy veteran, explains how we helped secure her VA benefits

After assisting her for two years, she was granted 70% rating for disability benefits from the VA and now can file for VA Unemployability. I am so glad that Angela reached out to my office and that we could provide her with the help she needed and deserved. 

I've heard from far too many Central Coast veterans who are delaying the health care that they need and deserve out of frustration and lack of accessibility to local Veterans Affairs (VA) facilities. In 2021, the House passed my amendment to the Veterans Affairs Appropriations Act that provided funding to address challenges Central Coast veterans experience in accessing VA medical centers and local Community Based Outpatient Clinics (CBOCs). The amendment $5 million to upgrade and improve the VA phone system to have local CBOCs answer calls rather than routing calls to the major VA Medical Centers in an effort to reduce wait times for veterans on the phone and to provide more timely health services.

Our veterans are often unfortunately at greater risk of mental illness and substance abuse and local Veterans’ Treatment Courts (VTCs) are instrumental in helping veterans involved in the criminal justice system who suffer from substance use, or co-occurring substance use and mental health disorders. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) fully funded my first grant request, totaling $975,000 to Santa Barbara County to support our VTCs and our veterans. 

I am also working across the aisle to reduce veteran homelessness on the Central Coast by introducing the bipartisan Home for the Brave Act. The bill would exempt disability benefits from counting toward total income when determining eligibility for housing assistance programs through the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Our veterans stepped up to defend our national security and Congress must step up for them to fix this egregious penalty against our disabled veterans.I also led a bipartisan letter to the Secretaries of HUD and the VA demanding answers to why housing vouchers for veterans are going unused in our communities due to delays in referrals by VA case workers.  

I am also working to improve the lives of military families, including access to childcare for military families and improve mental health services for their children. That's why I've introduced the bipartisan Childcare Expansion for Military Families Act (H.R. 5748).

In addition, I co-led the bipartisan Military Housing Transparency and Accountability Act, which will direct the Secretary of Defense to develop a centralized Military Housing Feedback Tool for members of the U.S. Armed Forces and their families to identify, rate, and compare housing. I successfully included both of these bills in the House passed FY23 National Defense Authorization Act. 

In 2017, President Trump signed into law the bipartisan Gold Star Families Support and Installation Access Act, which I co-authored with my colleague Congressman Don Bacon. This bill now ensures that Gold Star qualified families can receive grief counseling, visit a grave site of their loved ones, and attend a memorial service or access military commissaries on military bases.

In the 117th Congress, many bills I have backed have been signed into law by President Biden and will transform VA healthcare for our veterans. Most notably, the PACT Act, will open up health care benefits to over 3.5 million veterans exposed to toxic substances during their military service and finally consider exposure to burn pits and airborne hazards as a cost of war. 

Lastly, throughout my work to support veterans and military families in our community, I have been committed to bipartisanship. I am proud to be the vice-chair of the For Country Caucus, a bipartisan caucus made up of military veterans who are committed to find bipartisan solutions to issues facing veterans. 

For more information concerning work and views related to veterans and military families, please contact our office.

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