I believe that when you serve our country, our country should always be there for you in return. Veterans and their families deserve our admiration and gratitude. Through their service they’ve protected our country, represented the best of our values and been a force for good around the world. For that reason, when veterans and their families are in need, we should be there for them.
First and foremost, this starts with improving Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) services and benefits. We’ve taken some initial steps recently to expand coverage, reduce wait times and increase accountability, but much more works to be done. We should also take concrete steps to expand initiatives that are already working well, like Fisher House. Fisher House is a non-profit organization that provides free apartment-style lodging near VA and military hospitals for families who have loved ones receiving care.
Founded in 1990, Fisher House is dedicated to a simple proposition: no veteran should spend time in the hospital alone and no military family should have to choose between being together at the hospital and paying the bills. I couldn’t agree more with those goals and that’s why I’ve been proud to lead the effort in Congress to increase federal support for Fisher House. Prior to Fisher House, it was a common sight to see families sleeping in their cars or in tents in the parking lots outside VA hospitals.
This week I urged my colleagues – Republican and Democrat – to join my effort to increase federal support for Fisher House, which will be instrumental in getting more houses built and allowing more families to stay together. Each of the last three years the House passed amendments I offered during consideration of the Department of Defense Appropriations bill to increase federal support for Fisher House. This year will be no different and we began the process this week. I will be working with members of both parties to generate support for Fisher House ahead of budget votes later this year.
After being built, Fisher Houses are donated to the U.S. government, becoming a permanent asset to help families. These facilities are near hospitals – often in walking distance – and families of veterans and service-members can stay for no cost while a loved one is receiving treatment. For many families who must travel great distances, these facilities serve as a home away from home, offering laundry and kitchen facilities and more. The Fisher House Foundation also operates the Hero Miles program, Hotels for Heroes program, and grant and scholarship funds for military charities and families. The Fisher House Foundation has proven to be fiscally responsible, receiving a four out of four stars rating from Charity Navigator and an A+ from the American Institute of Philanthropy.
From now until the end of 2017, Fisher House plans to break ground on three new houses and hold dedication ceremonies for ten others. Supporting increased funding for the program will help reach more families by ensuring more of these houses can be built in the communities that have a recognized need.
In studying the federal budget, I have made the case that we can increase funding for Fisher House without diverting resources from other needed programs. In the coming weeks I will continue to build support for Fisher House. Let’s help veteran families in need stay together.