When I was growing up, the rules of our house were straightforward. If you made a mistake or broke the rules, you would have to pay the consequences. While it seems simple, this guiding principle helped me gain a sense of right and wrong and learn a valuable lesson in accountability. Today, these are values I now try to instill in my young son and that guide my life and work as your representative.
In 2016, when my committee set out to overhaul the Toxic Substances Control Act, I was reminded of this lesson. I thought it was critical that in our legislation, we included ways to hold accountable bad actors who break the rules and pollute our air and water. As a result, we included a provision that would allow the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to force companies who are responsible for polluting our drinking water to pay for the research into the health effects of the chemicals they discharge.
Last week, I was extremely encouraged to see groups in our community petition the EPA to use this authority as it relates to PFAS and GenX in the Cape Fear River. This is exactly the type of action we wanted to encourage when we re-wrote the law, and I applaud this effort to hold Chemours Co. accountable. This action complements the additional funding I helped secure this year to address PFAS in our region. It also builds off the community engagement meeting I hosted in Fayetteville with the EPA in 2018 and why I invited EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler back to Fayetteville to meet with local leaders in August. I will not rest until we solve the PFAS issue, and this is a step in the right direction.
When I think of accountability, I also think of our commitment to our veterans and ensuring the programs that were designed to help them are effective and easily accessible. That is one reason why last week I was thrilled to see President Donald Trump sign into law S. 785, the Commander John Scott Hannon Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act. This landmark legislation aims to improve our mental health services for both veterans and transitioning service members.
For too long, we have seen the suicide rate among veterans skyrocket. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has also left more people feeling isolated and contemplating suicide. That is why this legislation is needed now more than ever. By easing the transition from active duty, providing grants to suicide prevention programs, and increasing oversight and review of mental health services, this legislation takes critical steps forward to provide for our veterans.
Finally, I wanted to share more good news out of the VA last week. Earlier this year, I heard from constituents who were denied access to the VA Burn Pit Registry only because they served in Syria, which was not included on the list of approved countries at the time. That’s why I included language in the National Defense Authorization Act (ironically a bill some are trying to fool members of our community into thinking I didn’t support) to add Syria and Egypt to the list of covered countries. In June, I also led my colleagues in a letter to secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert Wilkie and asked him to expand the registry to include these service members who were exposed to dangerous toxins. Thankfully, the secretary agreed and replied to me recently saying they have begun the process to extend the registry to these deserving veterans.
Every day, it is an honor to be Fort Bragg’s congressman and be able to represent you and our entire region. These recent accomplishments are all examples of how government should work. When we listen to people back home and hold the government accountable, we can solve problems. I’ll continue to work across the aisle on common-sense solutions to protect our community and support our veterans, the military and their families.
Richard Hudson represents North Carolina’s 8th District, which covers Cabarrus and other counties.
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