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We owe our veterans much more than a “Thank you for your service.” 

I’m keenly aware of our veterans’ sacrifices because I’m named after PFC Nicholas Antonucci, who died at 20 years old during the Korean War. My dad’s brother made the ultimate sacrifice while serving our country as so many have, before and since. 

I am also humbled by, and grateful to, all service personnel who swear an oath to protect and defend the Constitution. To me, patriotism is more than waving a flag, having a parade, and paying lip service as many career politicians do.

When we send our best and bravest young Americans to put themselves in harm’s way, we need to fix their physical and psychological wounds when they come home. The very least we can do is help them to easily transition back to the civilian world. 

It’s offensive to me that our vets, after leaving the foreign battlefields, must face the enemy of a mind-numbing and inefficient bureaucracy when they return home. This should offend us all. 

The best way to honor our veterans is with action that goes beyond the recent meager and insipid “improvements” from the Department of Veterans Affairs. We must:

  • Immediately improve legal representation for discharge upgrades due to conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), military sexual trauma (MST), and HIV/AIDS.
  • Quickly create presumptions of service-connected disability related to Agent Orange, Gulf War syndrome, and toxic exposures from burn pits; lower the evidentiary burdens for veterans seeking care.
  • Significantly reduce wait times to access benefits and services, especially on the East End of Long Island.
  • Comprehensively help our veterans come back into society in every way imaginable, including expanded educational benefits, meaningful job training programs, and specialized mental health services.
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