Rep. Mark Takano, a Democrat representing California’s 41st Congressional District will probably become the leader of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs. While Takano has not served in the military himself, members of his family have. His great uncles did so in the 442nd Regimental Combat team, which was a US Army unit of Japanese Americans during WW2. They fought in the Army even though family were in internment camps, including Takano’s parents and grandparents. One of his uncles was KIA in Europe, and another a Vietnam Vet, took his own life.
He believes that his work will benefit many in his district in California. The district is home to March Air Reserve Base and also the Riverside National Cemetery. Riverside county has the 8th largest population of veterans on a per-county basis.
At 58, Takano is a former high school teacher and believes this role will give him a more powerful voice on veterans issues and help him become one of the most influential members of the House. Veterans Affairs is one of the biggest departments of the Federal Government. In the 2019 budget, more than $196 billion will be spent on veterans affairs. The House Committee that will overseas it is one of several in Congress with subpoena power.
Typically, the ranking members of the majority party chair the committees. The previous ranking member was Rep. Tim Walz who was elected governor of Minnesota. This made it so that Takano became the ranking member, being elected in 2012.
As far as if Takano would be good in the job, 130 current and incoming House Democrats signed a letter endorsing his bid for chairman. Committee leaders should be making a decision before the new congressional session starts in January. Representatives of veterans groups also welcomed the prospect of Takano becoming the chairman.
When it comes to the VA and their needs, there are many complaints of long waits for VA Health Care, the 20 veterans who are taking their own life each day, and some for-profit college chains that have been accused of taking advantage of veterans in order to get their GI Bill benefits, while breaking their promises about post-graduate jobs for veterans.
Takano says that the issue with the for-profit colleges is important to him. He also serves on the House Education and the Workforce Committee and has criticized Education Secretary Betsy Devos for not protecting students from “predatory” for-profit colleges.
Increased oversight of the VA is one of his top priorities. He is concerned about the efforts towards letting the private sector care for veterans. He feels like this can not be done at the expense of the core VA health care system.
Another one of his priorities is making sure the VA is prepared to care for a new demographic of veterans. While the veteran population is declining, the veteran population going forward will be more diverse than in the past. He believes that the VA needs to be proactive in addressing the needs of women and LGBT veterans. He also expects his committee will work in a bipartisan manner and would also like to boost the number of committee staffers from 28 to as many as 34 to provide adequate oversight.
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