Rep. Phil Roe, an Army veteran who received an award from MOAA last year for his many efforts in the House of Representatives on behalf of military members past and present, and their families, recently announced plans to retire at the end of his current term.
The Tennessee Republican has served in the House for 11 years and was chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs for two years beginning in 2017. He’s been that committee’s ranking Republican since early 2019.
“It’s been a huge privilege to serve in the U.S. Congress and especially on the House Veterans Affairs Committee,” Roe told MOAA on Jan. 8. “We really went to work. As the chairman, I said, we’re going to get as much legislation done as we can to help veterans.”
The committee's goals included upgrading the electronic health record system, expanding the Forever GI Bill, and improving mental health resources to fight the veteran suicide epidemic. During Roe's time in leadership, it passed more than 80 bills, of which about a dozen were signed into law by President Donald Trump, including the VA MISSION Act and the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019.
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MOAA honored Roe for his work on behalf of the military community in 2019 with the Colonel Arthur T. Marix Congressional Leadership Award, an annual honor presented to a key lawmaker who has shared common cause with MOAA’s advocacy efforts.
MOAA President and CEO Lt. Gen. Dana T. Atkins, USAF (Ret), said veterans are more fortunate because of Roe’s devotion.
“From his service with the Army Medical Corps to his steadfast support and key leadership on so many military and veterans issues, Representative Phil Roe has made a difference in the lives of countless servicemembers, past and present, and their families,” Atkins said. “In particular, his work to secure passage of the VA MISSION Act and other reforms to veterans care will continue to improve the lives of those who’ve served and scarified for this nation. MOAA is saddened to learn of his retirement plans, but we wish him and his family the best on the next step of their journey.”
Long before his time in Congress, Roe served in the Army. He earned a medical degree and spent two years in the Army Medical Corps, including a year in South Korea treating wounded troops during the Vietnam War. He spent time training at the Memphis VA, giving him a look at the needs of medical care for veterans.
Reflecting on his experience and comrades from service, Roe said he knew he wanted to use his position in Congress to look after veterans and their families.
In his first term leading the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, Roe said he was thrilled to achieve each of his legislative goals: increase access to care, improve the electronic health record system, and review VA assets to ensure effective use of resources. He said he is most proud that the MISSION Act he helped author, as well as the Blue Water Navy benefits bill, became law.
“One of the reasons I stuck around was to get Blue Water Navy across the finish line,” Roe said. “I’m very happy that law has been righted. It was a 10-year process, but when you decide something is right and you don’t stop, you can get it done.”
Roe said he was grateful to his staff, colleagues in Congress, the White House administration, and members of MOAA for their efforts to push legislation.
MOAA’s annual Storming the Hill event is especially meaingful because Roe said he’s able to meet with veterans face-to-face to hear about their concerns. Meeting with veterans helps lawmakers understand real-life problems and find where legislation may have unintended consequences, he said.
“We want to make sure no veteran falls through the cracks,” he said. “In a proactive way, MOAA has asked, 'How can we help?' I’ve appreciated that.”