Earlier this month, I visited the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial in France as part of a national security mission to Europe and the Middle East. The memorial honors the American soldiers who gave their lives in the European theatre during World War II.
It was only fitting that my visit to the memorial came on the 70th anniversary of Victory in Europe (V-E) Day when the Allies accepted the unconditional surrender of Nazi Germany.
It is my honor and privilege to represent the people of Sarasota and Manatee counties, more than 70,000 of whom have served our country in uniform.
I have no higher priority than ensuring that our veterans receive the recognition and benefits they have earned.
That's why so much of my time and focus in Congress is spent working on issues important to veterans. I'm proud to have sponsored and passed meaningful bills that improve the health care and job prospects of veterans throughout the nation. I also fought successfully for $27 million in funding for the new national veterans cemetery in Sarasota, allowing more than 150,000 area veterans to be buried close to home with the honor and dignity they deserve.
Most recently, I sponsored a bill that just passed the U.S. House this month giving all veterans in America access to a national identification card.
Over the years, I have heard from countless veterans who have expressed frustration over their inability to document their service to our country without carrying around their official military records.
Currently, millions of veterans are forced to carry a paper DD-214 document to prove their military status. This form contains sensitive personal information including social security numbers and service details that put them at needless risk for identity theft. According to the Federal Trade Commission, veterans have twice the rate of identity theft than the general public nationwide.
My legislation -- the Veterans ID Card Act -- will minimize the threat of identity theft for our nation's heroes. This bill (H.R. 91) would enable all of our veterans to receive their own simple, standardized identification card at no cost to the taxpayers. It would also provide employers looking to hire veterans with an easier way to verify an employee's military service as well as give veterans the ability to take advantage of service-related discounts.
I am pleased to report that the U.S. House passed the Veterans ID Card Act by a vote of 402-0 earlier this week.
I urge my colleagues in the Senate to follow the House's lead and pass the bipartisan Veterans ID Card Act so that it may be signed into law by President Obama.
As we approach Memorial Day, I offer my deepest gratitude to all of those who have served our country in the armed forces and their families. May God bless all of the servicemen and women who have given their lives in defense of America.
U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Sarasota, is serving his fifth term in the U.S. House of Representatives. He served six years in the Michigan Air National Guard and four years on the House Veterans Affairs Committee.