North Dakota’s deep patriotism is evident in the strong record of military service throughout the state. In North Dakota, the majority of the state’s more than 7,000 post-9/11 veterans have settled near U.S. Air Force bases in Minot and Grand Forks. Our veterans put their lives on the line to protect our country, and Senator Heitkamp believes we need to make sure they get the support they deserve when they return home. Senator Heitkamp fights for our veterans, just as they fought for us.
Supporting Veterans’ Programs and Services
Senator Heitkamp has traveled across North Dakota to hear about challenges veterans face, learning what she can do to support them. With so many young servicemembers who have recently returned from Iraq, Afghanistan, and beyond, Senator Heitkamp has worked to guarantee they have access to the health, education, and job support they deserve, so they have every opportunity to succeed.
In 2016, Senator Heitkamp successfully pushed to create a five-day Vet Center in Grand Forks to help area veterans get the mental health services and support they deserve. Vet Centers help veterans readjust to civilian life by providing free counseling, screening, and referral services closer to home, while removing the stigma of seeking mental health care.
In 2015, Senator Heitkamp reintroduced her bipartisan Connect with Veterans Act to better connect the nation’s new veterans with services, resources, and benefits that are available in their communities to help them transition back to civilian life. Currently, no mechanism exists for local governments and communities to interact directly with the 550 servicemembers who transition from military to civilian life across the country each day – and Senator Heitkamp’s bill aims to bridge that divide.
Since joining the U.S. Senate, Senator Heitkamp has sponsored a resolution each year to designate June as National Post-Traumatic Stress (PTS) Awareness Month. The resolution calls on the U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs and the Secretary of Defense to further educate servicemembers, veterans, the families of service members and veterans, and the public about the causes, symptoms, and treatment of PTS. This issue is one of the greatest challenges facing our brave men and women while they are serving and after they return home from duty. Senator Heitkamp believes we need to do all we can to educate our servicemembers and veterans, the military chain of command, and the public about PTS to eliminate any stigma associated with this common injury and take steps to help those who are suffering.
Improving Health Care for Rural Veterans
In rural states like North Dakota, it can be especially difficult for veterans to access and receive the care they need. Senator Heitkamp has consistently worked to meet the needs of these veterans by reforming the Choice Program, which aims to allow veterans who have difficulty obtaining a timely appointment with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), or live more than 40 miles from a VA health care facility, to seek care from local providers. In 2018, the president signed into law bipartisan legislation Senator Heitkamp helped pass that will reform VA health care services to better serve veterans across North Dakota and the country.
In response to serious flaws in the referral, authorization, and scheduling processes administered by Health Net— a third-party administrator— Senator Heitkamp helped establish the Choice Program Care Coordination pilot initiative at the Fargo VA. Now, North Dakota veterans can book their Choice Program appointments directly through the Fargo VA Health Care System.
Senator Heitkamp was also part of a bipartisan effort calling on the VA to hold Health Net accountable for struggling to provide timely payments to community health providers. Soon after, the VA announced the end of its contract with Health Net.
Honoring North Dakotans Lost in Vietnam
As the nation honors veterans from the Vietnam War around the 50th anniversary of the conflict, Senator Heitkamp delivered a series of 15 speeches on the floor of the U.S. Senate over the course of six months – sharing the stories of their lives, recognizing their sacrifice, and remembering the families they left behind. Senator Heitkamp has shared the stories of the more than 160 North Dakotans who did not return home from the Vietnam War.
Videos of Senator Heitkamp’s speeches are available on a webpage she made for the project.
More than 150 Bismarck High School students worked with Senator Heitkamp to gather information and stories about the lives of North Dakota’s fallen. The collaboration not only taught the students about North Dakota’s proud tradition of military service and about American history, but also helped Senator Heitkamp give speeches paying tribute to some of our state’s heroes.
Safeguarding Veterans' Finances
Unfortunately, many North Dakota veterans have been targeted with deceptive advertising for services like mortgage refinancing or have been the focus of financial scams. Senator Heitkamp has also repeatedly heard from North Dakota veterans and servicemembers about their concerns for how their finances would be taken care of when they were deployed or training.
The Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act— which Senator Heitkamp wrote and negotiated over the past five years and was signed into law— includes provisions that help protect military troops, veterans, and their families from financial scams, fraud, and foreclosure while they are serving or after they return home.
Connecting Native American Veterans with Services and Benefits
Native Americans serve in the armed forces at a higher rate than any other ethnic group. But for too many of North Dakota’s Native veterans, it can be difficult to access the services and benefits they deserve after bravely serving our country. To connect Native veterans across the state with resources and support, Senator Heitkamp has held Native American Veterans Summits to bring top officials and veterans together – and to guarantee veterans have access to the benefits they’re owed.
Senator Heitkamp’s summits at Turtle Mountain Community College in 2015 and at United Tribes Technical College in in Bismarck in 2014 provided venues for hundreds of Native veterans and local Veterans Service Officers to speak with officials from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the Indian Health Service (IHS), and state agencies about persisting challenges. Attendees also visited more than a dozen booths to learn about housing programs, ongoing health care initiatives, and other benefits available to veterans.
After hosting the summits, Senator Heitkamp created a webpage to collect resources to help Native veterans in North Dakota based on the feedback she heard from them.
Senator Heitkamp's Recent Work for Veterans
|11/27/18||Heitkamp Nominates Six ND Students to Military Service Academies|