New Hampshire has a strong tradition of military service and honoring our commitment to veterans has been a top priority for Senator Shaheen. A senior member of the Senate Armed Service Committee, she has been a strong advocate for veterans, working to expand veterans’ access to health care, increase economic opportunity when they return home and making sure veterans receive the benefits they’ve earned and deserve. Senator Shaheen understands the sacrifices service members and their families make and will continue to fight for veterans in New Hampshire and across the country.
Senator Shaheen has worked tirelessly to make health care more accessible for New Hampshire veterans and has long worked to secure federal funding for VA health care sites throughout New Hampshire. The first piece of legislation she introduced in Congress was the Veterans Health Equity Act of 2009, which would require the Department of Veterans Affairs to ensure that every state has a full-service veterans’ hospital or that comparable services are provided by contracting with in-state hospitals. Shaheen recently sent a letter to Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Denis McDonough pushing the VA to address urgent infrastructure failures at the Manchester VA Medical Center and prioritize building a full-service VA hospital in the state.
Senator Shaheen worked to include provisions and helped pass the historic PACT Act, which expanded health care for veterans who were exposed to burn pits and other toxic substances. In the fiscal year (FY) 2021 national defense bill that became law, Shaheen supported an amendment offered by Senator Tester (D-MT) that would require the VA to provide benefits for veterans suffering from four diseases associated with exposure to Agent Orange during the Vietnam War. The amendment was based on standalone legislation authored by Senator Tester, which Senator Shaheen cosponsored. In addition, Shaheen cosponsored the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act, which was signed into law in 2019 and created a permanent legislative fix to help ensure “Blue Water” Navy veterans get the disability and health care benefits they deserve as a result of exposure to Agent Orange.
Senator Shaheen has been vocal about the need to fix problems that have plagued the Department of Veteran’s Affairs and address the veterans’ disability claims backlog. The FY 2015 Appropriations bill included multiple Shaheen provisions to help reduce the veterans’ disability claims backlog and improve health care access for New Hampshire veterans. She has also been a lead proponent of establishing veterans’ legal clinics to provide veterans with the legal services they need to fight for their benefits.
In 2021, Shaheen was the lead sponsor of the bipartisan Burial Equity for Guards and Reserves Act, which was signed into law in 2022. Her bill allows all Guard members and Reservists to be buried in veterans' cemeteries that receive federal grant funding through the Department of Veterans Affairs. In 2022, Shaheen helped lead a letter to Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Denis McDonough urging answers and speedy action to ensure same-sex veteran couples have access to the full and complete spousal benefits they are owed.
Veterans Jobs and Economic Opportunity
Senator Shaheen understands that one of the most important ways to support our veterans is to make sure they are able to get good-paying jobs when they return home. As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and Senate Appropriations Committee, Shaheen has made promoting veteran employment a top priority. Shaheen has worked to promote veterans employment by drawing attention to veteran-owned businesses and businesses that hire veterans throughout New Hampshire and has introduced several pieces of legislation that would promote the hiring of veterans and improve access to capital for veteran-owned small businesses.
Shaheen also recognizes that military spouse employment is the top issue impacting active-duty families, and the top contributor to financial stress among military families. Military spouses consistently experience unemployment rates substantially higher than the national rate, and two thirds of employed active duty military spouses report underemployment. To address this persistent issue, Shaheen joined colleagues in reintroducing the bipartisan Military Spouse Hiring Act, which would amend the tax code to incentivize businesses to hire military spouses.