As a 24-year U.S. Army veteran and a Congresswoman representing a state with thousands of Gold Star Families, active-duty military and retired servicemen and women, one of my top priorities in Congress is looking out for their best interests.
Tragically, many veterans who have served our country suffer from emotional trauma such as depression, anxiety, or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and many of them either go untreated or are prescribed medications that lead to larger problems down the road.
A research study conducted by UC Berkeley found that being out in nature can dramatically reduce symptoms of PTSD in veterans. One step we can take to help curb depression and PTSD in veterans is through increasing their access to our wonderful public parks and lands.
That’s why I was proud to introduce the Alexander Lofgren Veterans in Parks (VIP) Act, to allow all veterans, active-duty service members and Gold Star Families to visit all national parks and public lands free of charge.
In 2020, the America the Beautiful annual pass became free for veterans and Gold Star Families; however, this change for veterans has never been put into law and could be undone in future years.
I was thrilled to see my bipartisan Alexander Lofgren VIP Act unanimously pass the House last month. We often say that we support the physical and mental health of our veterans, and it is great to see legislation pass that will do great things for the health of our heroes. Giving our veterans and Gold Star families free lifetime access to our incredible national parks will do wonders for their mental and emotional well-being. I was proud to partner with a fellow veteran, Congressman Ruben Gallego, on this legislation and look forward to working with our House and Senate colleagues to get this bill into become law.
Mariannette Miller-Meeks is a 24-year Army veteran and a member of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee currently representing Iowa’s Second District in the United States House of Representatives.