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Veterans supported during COVID-19 shutdowns

The leadership that President Donald Trump is demonstrating as he unites the American people behind the common cause of fighting the coronavirus pandemic should be quite familiar to America’s veterans. We’ve seen him apply the same energy and zeal to fulfilling the needs of our nation’s men and women in uniform throughout his presidency.

As a Vietnam veteran and the highest-ranking combat veteran ever elected to Congress, I’m one of many people the president has consulted with about the issues that veterans in this country face and the solutions that are needed. Mental health has always been at or near the top of that list, and it’s more important now than ever as lockdowns and stay-at-home orders deprive everyone of the social interactions that are so important to maintaining a healthy mindset.

Unfortunately, the veteran crisis hotline — which President Trump deployed – has received a higher-than-usual number of calls since the start of the pandemic, indicating that many veterans are struggling to cope with the added stress imposed by COVID-19.

Luckily, our commander-in-chief was strengthening support networks for the veteran community long before the novel coronavirus appeared.

Among his crucial reforms to the VA, for instance, President Trump significantly beefed up funding for mental health programs and launched new initiatives to help veterans cope with the unique issues that many of us face

In an effort to build on the administration’s successes and keep our promises to veterans, I introduced the IMPROVE Well-Being for Veterans Act last year, which would require the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to award grants to entities that provide suicide prevention services for veterans and their families.

Just as President Trump expanded the ability for Veterans to use their VA benefits to procure services from private health care providers, this bill would take advantage of local, private sector expertise to enhance our outreach and care with respect to at-risk veterans.

The men and women who serve our country in uniform risk their lives to protect us, even when we find ourselves at war with an invisible enemy. President Trump has consistently sought to make sure that the nation repays that sacrifice, whether by forgiving student loans, providing veterans with access to high-quality health care, or looking after the mental health of returning warriors

The president’s commitment to veterans is reflected in his Opening Up America Again guidelines that define a pathway for economies to reopen, outlining a three-phase plan to help state and local officials loosen up restrictions and allow people to get back to work as quickly as possible.

Veterans already face unique challenges in the job market, and now many are among the tens of millions of Americans who have filed for unemployment benefits as a result of pandemic-related shutdowns. Meanwhile, veterans are also far more susceptible than most people to suffering from anxiety related to social isolation and financial hardship

On Monday, I joined two other veterans, Rep. Dan Crenshaw and Benghazi hero John “Tig” Tiegen, to speak about the importance of a strong and aggressive commander-in-chief with Katrina Pierson as part of a Veterans for Trump Online Battle Brief. It’s a topic that we’re all naturally passionate about, so the conversation proved to be a lively one.

Our entire nation is battling this new invisible enemy of coronavirus together. Veterans know how important it is to have a leader like Donald J. Trump in charge at a time like this.

John Warren “Jack” Bergman is a retired U.S. Marine Corps lieutenant general and the U.S. representative for Michigan’s 1st Congressional District covering all of northern Michigan. He served as commanding general of Marine Forces Reserve and Marine Forces North.

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