From Congressman Tom Latham –
In my listening town hall meetings throughout September, Iowan after Iowan explained to me the sense of frustration they feel with the partisanship and poisonous atmosphere they have seen in Washington. These citizens who represented the ideological spectrum all had the common message that when they look at Washington, they see nothing but self-interested officials who are more worried about politics and party than the American people and progress. It’s true that Congress and Washington haven’t given the American people much reason to believe that it’s anything but dysfunctional. But I want you to know that while partisanship continues to cause some in Congress to be inactive, I am committed to working with anyone who is willing to join me to address, and find long-term solutions for, the important issues facing our nation and her people.
Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives approved bipartisan legislation which I co-authored that corrects an inequity in how the federal government regards men and women who make their careers in the Guard and Reserve components of our armed services. The legislation would extend full veteran status under federal law to retired members of the Guard and Reserve. Current law does not consider Guard and Reserve members veterans unless they have met a number of technical requirements, including active duty service for more than 30 days. The policy excludes many soldiers in the Guard and Reserve who, while never deployed, carried out critical support roles during times of war and peace during military careers that spanned decades.
I introduced this legislation with Congressman Tim Walz, a Democrat from Minnesota, who shares my goal to make sure Guard and Reserve members receive the recognition and benefits they deserve. Congressman Walz and I have been working together to solve this problem that is important to Guard and Reserve states like Iowa and Minnesota for the past two years. On October 11th, the legislation was approved by the U.S. House of Representatives on a bipartisan basis and now awaits consideration in the U.S. Senate.
The brave men and women who wear the uniform of our armed services should never have to worry about partisanship or politics getting in the way of their benefits. Over the course of the last 10 years, our military has become increasingly reliant on the National Guard and Reserve to carry out duties that are critical to our defense and security. This issue is a matter of fair treatment to those who served their nation faithfully for 20 or more years in the Guard or Reserve. Each one of these brave men and women has earned the honor of being recognized as a veteran so they can receive the full benefits they deserve.
I have noted several times over the past several months that I understand and share the frustration of the American people when it comes to Washington’s bickering and inaction. In letters and phone calls from Iowans and in my town hall meetings last month, I heard concerned citizens tell me they felt like Washington was no longer listening and no longer working for the good of the American people. Unfortunately, political concerns have gotten in the way of good policy too often in recent years. But I continue to have faith in America and in our nation’s history that good people can set aside their differences and come together and find common ground to advance solutions for the nation. As House passage of the Guard and Reserve legislation that Congressman Walz and I co-authored illustrates, even in Washington in 2011, it is still possible to work to accomplish good things for our country.