By Rep. Kristi Noem
Every November, we set aside time to recognize those who have acted on our behalf to protect freedom and defend our liberties – those who have worn our nation’s uniform – who have earned the title “Patriot” and can call themselves a “United States Veteran.”
More than 72,000 veterans call South Dakota home. Each has spent years serving so others could enjoy the blessings of liberty that we celebrate in this country. As a small token of gratitude for their sacrifices, our office hosted a Veterans Day Open House this year in Sioux Falls. For a few hours, we sat down and talked with South Dakota veterans over cookies and coffee, helping many navigate complicated federal programs, such as Social Security and VA benefits. I’m incredibly grateful to those who took the time to stop in, and I hope others recognize our door is always open to you.
In addition to helping veterans get the federal benefits to which they’re entitled, I’ve been fighting to make sure the promises made to veterans are kept. This summer, for instance, President Trump signed legislation I supported that aims to expand whistleblower protections within the VA and streamline the process required to fire any VA employee. This is a critical step in improving VA operations.
More recently, we worked with the president to give troops the largest pay raise in years and expand veterans’ access to education and workforce training. I’m glad both have been signed into law.
Additionally, the House passed the Black Hills National Cemetery Act, which I introduced. The legislation would expand the Sturgis-area cemetery by 200 acres, ensuring we keep this important promise to veterans for decades to come. I’m hopeful the Senate will take up the bill soon.
This is all in addition to legislation we passed last Congress to increase mental health access for veterans and incentivize small businesses to hire those who have served.
There’s more work to do, however. I continue to fight to keep the Hot Springs VA open. There are changes that must be made to the VA CHOICE Program, which the House Veterans Affairs Committee is working very hard on.
There is no way to fully compensate our veterans for the sacrifices they’ve made, but this November, I encourage you to take a moment and personally thank one of South Dakota’s 72,000 patriots and their families. There is a price to freedom, and we can never forget that.