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Florida's First Congressional District has the highest percent of United States veterans in the country. Serving those who have served our country must be a focus point from our district's congresswoman.

The Veterans Crisis Line, online chat, and text-messaging service are free to all Veterans, even if you are not enrolled in VA health care.

 

Confidential support is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year through the Veterans Crisis Line (1-800-273-8255 and Press 1).

 

Access support through online chat or text here.

Veterans Issues

Florida’s 1st has the highest percentage of veterans of any Congressional district in the United States. Nearly one-fifth of every adult in the district served in the United States military, and Eglin Airforce Base employs nearly 15,000 civilian and military personnel today. Though Eglin today boasts aggressive environmental protection policies, once upon a time Eglin tested a range of chemical weapons, including Agent Orange, that caused disease to military and civilian personnel. 

 

 I want to make it easier for veterans exposed to toxic substances to access Veterans Affairs benefits.

 

Veterans and service members suffering from diseases caused by toxic exposure during their service should not have to fight to see a doctor or receive benefits they earned through their service. These include burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as a range of chemicals, dispersants and herbicides tested and deployed by the military.

 

My legislation would allow Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits for anyone with a disease connected to their service. 

 

Bills concerning military service and toxic exposure

  1. Unseal records of historical chemical testing, use, and exposure to allow VA benefits access to veterans exposed to these toxic elements during service.

  2. Expand benefits to civilians who, working as military contractors, suffer from diseases caused by toxic exposure.

  3. Expand and further define the medical definitions of what is considered toxic exposure in the US Military to better represent the science on the issue.

  4. Expand VA care and healthcare access, address coverage gaps, and facilitate private-practice care. No loss of TRICARE coverage or increase in costs for military retirees after 20 years of service. 

  5. Establishment of a trust and a designated capitol memorial for service members and civilians with service-acquired diseases.

  6. Establishment of a trust and designated memorial for women service members right here in Pensacola - the first and only such memorial in the entire United States.

  7. Establish an office within the VA to identify and notify all military and civilian personnel who were exposed to known carcinogens and other toxic substances during their service so they can get the early screening and tests needed before an undetected disease takes another life.

Disease and cancers caused by toxic exposure represents one of many issues veterans face when serving or coming home. The lack of oversight in VA spending creates a black hole of money with no accountability. Veteran suicides are not being fully addressed. Healthcare access for treatment of PTSD are limited by the federal government's inability to pay for medicinal cannabis prescriptions. Female veterans still often find a lack of enthusiasm for prosecuting sexual assault within the military justice system. 

  1. Oversight of spending through VA grant programs, including mandatory reporting of how funds are spent, how many veterans were served, and metrics to calculate the success of programs.

  2. Removal of cannabis from the list of Schedule I drugs, allowing veterans to use their VA benefits to pay for medicinal marijuana prescriptions. 

You can find veterans services online by clicking your county from the list below:

Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa, Walton and Holmes

 

National resources for veterans can be found online at https://www.maketheconnection.net/.

 

The Veterans Crisis Line, online chat, and text-messaging service are free to all Veterans, even if you are not enrolled in VA health care. Confidential support is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year through the Veterans Crisis Line (1-800-273-8255 and Press 1). Click here for ways to access support through online chat or text here.

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Left: My father-in-law, Thomas Romer.

Center: Thomas Romer's father, Eugene.

Right: My grandfather, Paul Lohr.

My father-in-law served as a United States Marine Corps Sargent in Vietnam. He joined in 1968 at just 19 years old.

 

During his service, he was exposed to carcinogenic herbicides, including Agent Orange.

 

Forty years later, he died from the disease caused by that exposure (Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma), leaving his then 19-year-old son (my husband) without a father. 

My and my husband's family are proudly made up of current and former service members.

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Eglin Air Force base in Florida’s 1st tested Agent Orange, in addition to other toxic herbicides (Agent Purple, White and Blue), from 1952-1970.

 

The disclosure of this information in 2020 enabled service members who developed diseases as a result of these tests access to veteran’s benefits. Civilians who worked as contractors still do not qualify for relief caused by these exposures, however, and I want to change that.

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My family I support the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund directly, and volunteered to help set up the annual Agent Orange Awareness Day event held in Washington, D.C. in 2021.

Currently, the only area of the national mall honoring victims of Agent Orange is a small plaque off to the side of the main wall. There are no names. There is no wall. I believe the service men and women who came home from Vietnam but did not survive the war deserve to be honored by name in our nation's capitol.