A Florida congressman is once again calling for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to change its mission statement so as to be more inclusive.
U.S. Rep. Brian Mast, R-Fla., an Army veteran who lost both his legs when serving in Afghanistan, teamed up with U.S. Rep. Kathleen Rice, D-NY, to unveil the proposal at the end of last year with U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-NY, now running in the crowded field of Democratic presidential candidates, championing the proposal in the Senate.
Mast and Rice were not able to get their proposal over the finish line and brought it back this week.
Currently, the VA uses a quote from President Abraham Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address: “To care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan.” Mast and Rice want to change the mission statement to: “To fulfill President Lincoln’s promise to care for those ‘who shall have borne the battle’ and for their families, caregivers, and survivors.”
Mast weighed in on the proposal on Friday.
“There’s no doubt that female veterans face unique challenges and healthcare needs that the VA has not yet been able to successfully address. Fixing this critical failure starts at the top and changing the mission statement is a needed first step,” said Mast.
“I also know personally that when I deployed to Afghanistan and was injured, it wasn’t just a challenge for me, but it deeply impacted my wife and our entire family,” he added. “Acknowledging the ongoing needs of families, caregivers and survivors is another critical improvement.”
“As women continue to play an increasingly vital role in our armed forces, they’ve become a larger and more prominent part of our veteran community,” said Rice. “But unfortunately, the Department of Veterans Affairs mission statement simply does not reflect that new reality. The brave women who have worn our nation’s uniform and their families deserve to be equally embraced by the motto of the very agency meant to support them. This bill will finally give women veterans the recognition they deserve for their service and sacrifice – it’s long overdue.”
Mast and Rice noted that almost 350,000 women in the Armed Force have deployed since 9/11 and they have reeled in more than 40 cosponsors on Capitol Hill and several veterans groups behind their proposal.
“A long overdue motto change at the VA would support women veterans and take a significant and meaningful step in recognizing their military service,” said Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America CEO Jeremy Butler. “This new legislation retains the heart of Lincoln’s historic statement while placing the outdated motto in the history books. IAVA applauds the leadership of Reps. Rice and Mast in introducing this important bill, and we call on all Members of Congress to cosponsor and work to pass it into law.”
Kevin Derby can be reached at Kevin.Derby@floridadaily.com.