Chattanooga Times Free Press Opinion 8/8/2018

Let Blackburn Help Trump with Vets 
Terry Thomas 
Chattanooga Times Free Press 
August 8, 2018 

I served in combat on the rivers in Vietnam with the U.S. Navy, and now I serve my fellow veterans as the quartermaster of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1289 here in Chattanooga. We have about 400 members, all of whom have served our country faithfully over the past several decades.

Too often, our members find themselves unable to receive the care they need — the same care they have earned and were promised. Your heart will break hearing about what our veterans have to go through to get care from a dysfunctional Veterans Administration. President Trump is working to make the necessary changes that the Obama administration put off for too long, but he cannot do it alone. He needs senators and congressmen who are willing to work with him to get the job done. That's precisely why I joined with a 1,000 veterans across the state in a coalition in support of Marsha Blackburn.

No one has fought harder for our active duty military and our veterans than Marsha Blackburn. We need to elect her to the Senate because the issues with the VA are far from solved.

Chattanooga area veterans often have to drive to Nashville for treatment because our VA clinic doesn't offer the services that many veterans need. They have to wait weeks to even get an appointment. Then, after traveling for two hours, they have to wait hours on appointments that constantly get put off. These delays have serious consequences.

When you pause to think about the remarkable sacrifice men and women made, this is appalling. The federal government must keep its promise to care for our veterans when they come home.

The service at VA clinics doesn't improve because veterans don't have any choice about where to get their treatment. If veterans could choose which doctor they want to get treated by, they could receive that high quality of care, and that competition would force the VA to improve service.

President Trump is giving that choice to veterans. He recently signed into law the VA Mission Act, which gives our veterans greater choice about where and how they want to be treated. This legislation expands veterans' access to walk-in clinics, greatly improves the quality of veteran care homes, and ensures the VA must find our veterans the private care they need when the VA cannot provide it.

Under previous presidents, it was almost impossible to fire VA employees who were mistreating veterans. President Trump has signed into law the VA Accountability Act, which ensures that when VA employees mistreat or dishonor a veteran, they are fired.

When it was time to serve and defend our nation, we showed up. When it was time to fight for us, Marsha Blackburn and President Trump showed up. It's time the VA starts showing up too.

These bills won't solve all the problems with the VA, but they are steps in the right direction. With the help of people like Marsha, President Trump is holding the VA accountable, giving our veterans choice and making sure that the most honorable among us aren't forgotten.

Marsha has always fought for our veterans. She will work with President Trump to make good on the promise our country made us. That's why I and more than a 1,000 other veterans in Tennessee are supporting her, and we urge you to join us.

Terry Thomas, a resident of East Brainerd, served four years in the U.S. Navy and spent one of those years in Vietnam. He also served as a Tennessee state trooper for 32 years. He has been the quartermaster at VFW Post 1289 in Chattanooga.