Veterans: Breaking the Gridlock

Rev. Stacy Martin, Director of Advocacy

Isaiah 41:18
I will open rivers on the bare heights,
and fountains in the midst of the valleys;
I will make the wilderness a pool of water,
and the dry land springs of water.

I believe it's safe to say that hope does not abound in Washington, DC. Partisan gridlock has produced a desert of sorts, for Members of Congress and advocates alike, in which no change can be accomplished and no hope resides. But, as the book of Isaiah reminds us, God's promises extend far beyond our inability to imagine springs of water bursting forth in the desert.

At a time when many of us considered Congressional compromise a veritable relic, this week a spring of water burst forth from the desert of vitriol and gridlock that has, regrettably, come to define Congress.

On Monday afternoon, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Representative Jeff Miller (R-FL), the chairpersons of their chambers' respective veterans' committees, announced a $17 billion compromise bill to address many of the problems that appear to affect the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). ​

This bill, a compromise between opposing philosophies about the role of government as well as government spending, would allow veterans, who either live far away from VA facilities or who are unable to secure an appointment with the VA within a certain number of days, to access medical services beyond the VA system. The bill attempts to further address the VA's issues by:

  • Including funding for additional doctors and facilities
  • Extending a treatment program for veterans with traumatic brain injuries.
  • Extending the GI Bill, which would help veterans more easily access and afford college tuition.

The bill appears to be a good first step in ensuring that veterans receive the kind of care that individuals who sacrifice so much should receive. And for that, Sen. Sanders and Rep. Miller should be commended.

However, that the bill was introduced – even after much wrangling – as a bi-partisan compromise is worth more than mere commendation; it is worth celebrating. Rep. Miller commented Tuesday that he expects the House to support it with "a wide bipartisan vote," and the Senate is expected to quickly sign off on the House's vote if scheduled quickly enough.

In the desert of impasse and contempt that for too long has defined this town, there is hope that this beacon of cooperation and compromise can extend beyond the VA. Senator Sanders and Representative Miller have given us a long-awaited sip of the waters of cooperation and compromise we have so long thirsted for. They have given us reason to hope. We may still be in the desert, but springs of water are beginning to burst forth.