U.S. Rep. Derrick Van Orden is dedicating much of his time representing Wisconsin’s 3 rd Congressional District to helping provide economic opportunities for veterans.
Van Orden visited …
U.S. Rep. Derrick Van Orden is dedicating much of his time representing Wisconsin’s 3rd Congressional District to helping provide economic opportunities for veterans.
Van Orden visited with City of River Falls Fire and Emergency Services personnel on Friday, Jan. 26. Earlier that morning, the River Falls Chamber of Commerce held A Conversation with Rep. Van Orden, where he laid out his initiatives and took questions from a room full of chamber members.
Van Orden’s office has worked to secure federal funding to help the City of River Falls pay for a planned new fire station.
He spent a few moments with the Pierce County Journal at the close of the morning to talk about initiatives to help veterans transition to life after the military.
Van Orden sits on the House Committee on Veterans Affairs. He represents a Pierce County portion of River Falls and is a former Navy Seal with 26 years of military service.
“It might sound funny, but we’re doing some cutting edge things on the V.A. Committee.
Veteran suicide statistics are double the national average of those who didn’t serve in the military. It’s something the committee is tackling head-on.
“I did some cutting edge things to change some of these treatment modalities to work at this problem. We’re not going to know really for another year or so if they’ve been successful, but we have to do something different. I’ve chosen to really dedicate myself to that,” he said.
Van Orden chairs the Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity and believes that group’s work will help veterans and can alleviate the crisis of homeless veterans. He said there are 33,000 homeless veterans in the United States.
He urged employers to put an emphasis on hiring veterans.
“When you leave the military, you lose your uniform, you lose your rank, you lose status. The joke with the spouses is twice the husband, half the paycheck. People lose their way,” Van Orden said. “What I’m doing is hyper focusing on the Transition Assistance Program, to get someone from being a productive member of the military to a productive member of society.
“When people are in the military, it gives them a sense of purpose. They are contributing to society. They’re supporting themselves and their families. That’s what gives you the wherewithal to get through some stuff. We’re focusing on veteran economic opportunities. The reason that people should be hiring veterans is when they have an honorable discharge, obviously they know where to be, when to be there and what they’re doing. Those are pretty big ones. They’re respectful and understand how to communicate with people. They’re literate. They like hard work. I encourage everybody to seek out veterans. I would like more veterans hired immediately following their service to help keep them in the right frame of mind.”
Van Orden said he helped get $1.4 million in funding directed for a River Falls emergency services project, and he believes in prioritizing those kinds of projects and clean drinking water with federal funding.
“My guidance was the first thing that we’re going to focus on is clean drinking water. It’s 2023, you should be able to turn on the tap and drink water out of your faucet in the United States. Projects that had to do with clean drinking water were the first ones picked, and then public safety. If your house catches on fire, you want to know that there’s a department that’s going to put it out. If people are committing crimes, you want to know that the police will be there.”
Of the River Falls money, he said, “I’m super stoked. I’m very proud of my staff for getting this done. I’m really thankful that the River Falls Fire Department put this project forward because we never would have known about it. If anyone has an idea for congressionally directed spending, reach out to my office (vanorden.house.gov).”
Van Orden said he’s also working to help citizens who are being penalized by Social Security, which is telling them they’ve been overpaid in benefits, and they take money back.
“They’re yanking money back from them and not leaving them with anything to pay rent,” he said. “We are working on a legislative solution so that if the Social Security Administration has overpaid you, it’s on them, not the disabled person. It’s on them, not the elderly person. It makes a lot of sense. If they overpay you 100 bucks, I want that 100 bucks to come out of the operating budget for Social Security Administration, not your paycheck, because it’s not your fault.”
He urged anyone facing a problem like that to reach out to his office for help.