Just as the military leaves no one behind on the battlefield, we must leave no veteran behind when they come home.
As the proud representative of Naval Base Ventura County since 2006, to honor my father, brother, and uncle, and to be able to serve the 48,000 veterans who live in our community, I asked to serve on the House Veterans Affairs Committee after my election to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2012.
It has been my deepest honor to serve our veterans, and to work with the over 100 community organizations in Ventura County that are dedicated to making the lives of our veterans and their families better.
The Veterans Affairs Committee should serve as an example to the rest of Congress on how to work together in a bipartisan fashion to solve problems.
Together, with both my Republican and Democratic colleagues on the committee, we have fought to address the many challenges at the Department of Veterans Affairs to ensure it serves our veterans as well as they have served us.
While there is much more to do, from reducing the claims backlog, to providing badly needed resources to reduce wait times and increase access, to increased accountability and transparency, we have made progress.
Locally, I have worked closely with our veterans’ service organizations to expand services in Ventura County for veterans and have held a laser-like focus on ensuring the VA follows through on its commitments to improving care at the Oxnard Clinic that serves so many county veterans.
Through our efforts, the VA has increased the number of full-time providers at the Oxnard Clinic by over 50 percent, with further increases scheduled for October. The clinic is also adding more space — more than 4,400 additional square feet, to include nine exam rooms, two group therapy rooms, and two offices to expand services for both mental and physical health care needs.
Long term, the VA has begun the process to build or lease a 30,000 square foot dedicated community clinic. Additionally, the Oxnard Clinic is adding a residency slot locally.
At my insistence, the VA has participated in numerous veterans’ community events in Ventura County since last year, and I have secured a commitment to hold another community meeting in Oxnard in October.
In August, I met with local veterans’ representatives at my office to hear their views about VA services and the need for improved care in Ventura County.
At our meeting with the VA, I discussed these concerns with the director of the VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System. Just last week, I met with the newly appointed secretary of the VA, Robert McDonald, and was pleased that he is fully committed to listening, responding, and making the VA a very attentive customer-friendly organization.
To better address the needs of Ventura County’s veterans, the VA has committed to establishing an in-house VA site management team in Oxnard, and the VA is creating a community advisory group made up of veterans and veteran service organizations.
The VA is also expanding services locally for physical therapy, partnering with the gastrointestinal clinic at Naval Base Ventura County. I was also pleased to announce the VA recently entered into a contract for a new patient-centered-care pilot program with Ojai-based Reins of H.O.P.E. dedicated to helping veterans here in Ventura County.
Veterans’ casework is also one of the top focuses of my office, where I am very pleased that we have been able to help secure over $3 million in personal benefits owed to our vets, just since last year.
While there remains much work to do, I am hopeful that through greater cooperation with local community advocates, better transparency, and the additional resources provided by Congress, the VA will better serve veterans in our community and across the nation.
If you are a veteran who lives in my district, please contact my office at (805) 379-1779. We are here to help.
Julia Brownley represents the 26th Congressional District, which includes most of Ventura County.
Issues: 113th Congress, Local Issues, Op-Eds, Veterans' Affairs