With the new 115th Congress commencing this week, U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Fla., focused on veterans issues.
Bilirakis sits on the U.S. House Veterans Affairs Committee and his first bill of the new session was the “Retired Pay Restoration Act" which lets veterans “receive both military retired pay and VA disability compensation.” Currently veterans who were injured in their time with the Armed Forces have disability pay deducted from retirement pay.
On Thursday, Bilirakis explained why the bill was needed, insisting the current set up is unfair.
“The men and women who dedicated their lives to serving our nation should be compensated fairly for their sacrifices,” said Bilirakis. “I introduced the Retired Pay Restoration Act to ensure that all veterans who receive retirement payments following their military service can also receive disability payments from the VA. With this bill, we’re making sure veterans are getting the benefits they have earned and deserve.”
The bill was sent to the Veterans Affairs Committee and the U.S. House Armed Services Committee.
Also on Thursday, the Florida Republican took to the House floor to say veterans issues is one of his top priorities for the next two years.
“I remain committed to supporting our nation’s veterans,” Bilirakis said in his first speech of the new session. “We made some good progress last year, but there’s still much more work to be done.
“While our military spends over six months preparing soldiers for assignment, we only spend five days preparing them to reintegrate to civilian life,” he continued. “I will be making it a priority to ensure veterans have a robust transition and support system for returning home.
We also must bring greater accountability and transparency to the VA. If a VA employee fails in their duty to care for our nation’s heroes, they should be swiftly terminated. We need to turn around this culture of mediocrity at the agency.”
Despite not being chairman of the Veterans Affairs Committee, losing out to U.S. Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn., Bilirakis expressed his support for the new chairman in his speech.
“I look forward to working with Chairman Roe and my colleagues on the House VA Committee this year to stand up for our men and women who have worn the uniform,” Bilirakis said.