The Congressional Hispanic Caucus went to Puerto Rico for Veterans Day weekend. The group included Reps. Nanette Barragán (D-CA), Nydia Velázquez (D-NY), Darren Soto (D-FL), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), and Ritchie Torres (D-NY), as well as Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Veterans Affairs Tanya J. Bradsher, Governor of Puerto Rico Pedro Pierluisi (D), Governor of New York Kathy Hochul (D), and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY).
The group met with veterans, listening to their concerns and touting the bipartisan PACT Act, which expands health care for veterans who were exposed to toxic substances during the course of their service.
Governor Pierluisi said, “This Veterans Day weekend visit serves as a strong reminder that the CHC and New York delegation will always fight for Puerto Rico’s Veterans. I look forward to working alongside my colleagues to continue our work to deliver the resources and services our brave Veterans deserve. Veterans served us, so now it’s our sacred obligation to serve them.”
House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries said, “We know that on the island, there are close to 100,000 men and women who have served in uniform. We’ve got to ensure that we are there for them with respect to health care, employment opportunities, housing and in every possible way. We want to make sure that all veterans can benefit from the PACT Act and what we’re doing on your behalf because every day is Veterans Day.”
“As the first Floridian of Puerto Rican descent to serve in Congress, I was deeply proud to join my colleagues and the Biden Administration for a CHC On the Road event in honor of Puerto Rico’s brave veterans,” said Congressman Darren Soto. “Our Veterans deserve nothing but the best, because they’ve risked their lives in service to our nation. While we can never fully repay them, Democrats will always fight for America’s Veterans within the halls of Congress.”
Representative Nydia M. Velázquez said, “Unfortunately, when veterans from the Island return home, they often struggle to access the same benefits as veterans living on the mainland. These inequalities are unacceptable, and I hope we can continue raising awareness about these disparities, their root causes, and how Congress can address them.”
Puerto Rico veterans
Puerto Rico sends. a higher proportion of men and women into the U.S. armed services than most states, and there are about 90,000 veterans and service members living on the Island. However, Puerto Rico offers veterans just 13 benefits, including tax breaks, compared with the national average of 36.
Veterans in Puerto Rico also have less access to health services than those living in states. The CHC visitors made it clear that they are trying to improve the situation.
The largest inequity for Puerto Rico’s veterans continues to be the fact that they cannot vote for their Commander-in-Chief. Residents of Puerto Rico cannot vote in presidential elections.