Words can have consequences this Veterans Day as the nation pays tribute to its service members. That’s the message Congresswoman Kendra Horn (D-Fifth District) gave this week.

“We want to make sure we’re honoring our veterans, not just with words, but with words and action,” Horn said.

Congresswoman Horn voted with the majority of House members last week in support of the National Defense Authorization bill. If confirmed by the Republican-led Senate, the bill will support funding for Department of Defense programs and activities, including military personnel strengths. It does not provide budget authority, which is provided in subsequent appropriations legislation, Horn said.

“It addresses issues from survivors who have lost their service member, and we’ve done a lot of other work to support veterans,” said Horn, a member of the Armed Services Committee, which is responsible for all active duty and reserve military service members. Her Oklahoma City office helps veterans navigate through the Veterans Administration.

“We help veterans connect with mental health services because we know far too many veterans are suffering and struggling with mental health issues,” Horn said.

The congresswoman is also about to introduce a bipartisan resolution which recognizes the importance of recognizing the needs of veterans in the criminal justice system, she said.

Veterans may need health care assistance and to properly be credited for all their service years, Horn continued. Many of her staff members are veterans themselves. Veterans can better understand daily issues veterans face in life, she explained.

“We’ve had challenges here with the VA. Let’s be honest about it,” Horn said. 

The new leadership within the state’s VA system was needed this year because people who were in charge were not paying attention, she said. Horn said the past leadership failed to oversee contractors who were doing an unacceptable job.

“That’s a nice way of describing this really shoddy workmanship that they were able to pull off,” Horn said. “I had to really pull back and fix some of that, and they’re making progress.”

Congress needs to continue working on setting up service members for success as they reintegrate into civilian life, she explained. People don’t always empathize with the needs of service members coming off deployment with service injuries, Horn said. Although there are improved treatments and better understanding veterans living with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and brain injury due to combat — stigmas still persist.

“I think the veterans and active duty community have made a lot of progress. There’s more ability or willingness to talk about mental health issues,” Horn said. “There’s a greater understanding of what PTSD and traumatic brain injury is — a lessoning of the stigma of having mental health challenges.”

The VA points out that about 22 veterans lose their battle to suicide each day in the United States. The statistic is heartbreaking and is  therefore unacceptable to not be proactive in recognizing solutions, Horn said. Mental health is a critical piece to the puzzle.

“Brain health is connected to our overall health and well being,” Horn said. “And our veterans sacrificed and offered themselves for all of us. And our duty to support them doesn’t end with active duty. It continues well beyond that.”

Horn has announced two public events in Edmond during November:

• Community Conversation with Horn from 4-6 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 17, Sequoyah Middle School, 1125 E. Danforth Road; and

• Community Coffee with Horn from 9-10:30 a.m. Sunday, Nov. 23, Aspen Coffee at 180 W. 15th Street.

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