Toomey focuses on veterans

DUNCANSVILLE – Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., is leading a pair of efforts he hopes will improve employment opportunities and speed up access to disability benefits for national guard soldiers and reservists who’ve returned from Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

His employment plan entails the construction of a website – “one that works” he said, referring to the federal healthcare exchange website launched in October. The comment drew laughter from the 20-plus veterans gathered at VFW Post 8724 in Duncansville.

Toomey said a website is currently being developed to automatically match veterans’ skills gained in the military with job opportunities available in real time. He said the website is scheduled to open next year.

“Younger folks are having trouble finding work when they come back. … The economy is bad overall, but – for reasons I don’t understand – it’s even worse for veterans,” he said.

Toomey has also introduced legislation that he said is based on suggestions by veterans returning to civilian life.

He is seeking to improve communication among government offices so county-level military supports are notified of veterans’ return to civilian life, and can plan to contact them to explain available services upon their return home.

And Toomey is making a priority of ensuring services are readily available. Backlogs of veterans’ disabilities claims, which have soared since 2005, must be addressed, he said.

“We have to get caught up with processing the backlog of VA disability claims. It’s been taking too long,” he said.

He has asked the VA to inform him about how it will accomplish its strategic goal to reduce the backlog. He also signed a letter to President Barack Obama asking for his direct personal involvement in resolving the issue.

Representatives of the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve presented Toomey with a framed statement of support. Toomey reciprocated gratitude, speaking to each of the more than 20 veterans gathered.

In addition to his comments to the veterans, Toomey spoke with reporters about Obama’s Friday announcement regarding the Affordable Care Act.

Contrary to promises that Americans who are content to keep their health care plans would not lose them because of the Affordable Care Act, millions of people stand to lose their insurance plans because they do not meet the specifications of the law.

But Obama announced Friday that people would be able to keep their insurance plans for one more year.

“I’m not convinced it’s possible,” Toomey said of Obama’s announcement. “It’s not certain that those plans can exist anymore. … You can’t fix this law. You have to repeal it entirely.”

He supports other ways of decreasing the cost of health care: by forcing insurance companies to compete for customers’ business across state lines, by offering individuals tax deductions like employers currently receive for purchasing health insurance, and by “squeezing out unnecessary costs” of medical exam procedures.

“There are a whole series of individual, discrete reforms that can be taken,” he said.