Veterans’ care is a top concern for Texas legislators, but some service members have higher priorities than others

OxyContin pills are arranged for a photo at a pharmacy in Montpelier, Vt. on Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2013. Drug overdose deaths rose for the 11th straight year, federal data show, and most of them were accidents involving addictive painkillers despite growing attention to risks from these medicines. As in previous recent years, opioid drugs — which include OxyContin and Vicodin — were the biggest problem, contributing to 3 out of 4 medication overdose deaths. (AP Photo/Toby Talbot)

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After selflessly defending our freedoms and liberties in the line of fire, care for veterans following their return from duty is continuously at the center of legislative issues among state and federal representatives.

Legislators regularly work to honor their service, especially lawmakers in Texas, where military commitments are revered and political efforts to honor such work are usually uncontested.

In fact, veterans are mentioned 178 times in filed legislation currently pending before members of the 85th Regular Session in Austin.

State Representative Brooks Landgraf (R-Odessa) is just one of those politicians getting in on the quick recognition that comes from supporting veterans’ priorities with his bill, HB 1483, which proposes renaming State Highway 191 in Ector County the Chris Kyle Memorial Highway.

Many will remember Kyle as the main character of the 2014 film “American Sniper,” and Landgraf said he hopes to memorialize the four-tour hero’s legacy with passage of his legislation in a release:

“I hope that by naming this highway in Chris Kyle’s memory, even more West Texans can learn of the impact and sacrifice he made in service to our country and to his fellow veterans.”

RELATED: People are calling Chris Kyle an “American Liar” after Navy documents reveal an open secret about valor claims

As the son of a WWII B-17 pilot, U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) shares his fellow Texas lawmaker’s concern for service members’ care and has prioritized veterans’ issues throughout his tenure in government, such as assimilation into civilian life following their return from combat.

In February, after Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner announced his intention to hire at least 600 new officers, Cornyn met with the Houston Police Department to discuss ideas that would expand the force, including his bill known as the American Law Enforcement Heroes Act (S. 583).

Cornyn’s legislation would specifically incentivize hiring veterans by paying HPD and other law enforcement departments nationwide $25,000 for every veteran recruited. However, job security isn’t the only issue affecting veterans, with many former servicemen and women battling mental health issues long after their returns home.

Studies show veterans are at greater risk of substance abuse problems compared to the average citizen, yet a growing number of doctors are prescribing harsh and highly addictive opioids as long-term solutions for pain, mental and physical alike.

While painkillers are often necessary and helpful in the course of treatment for many individuals, a coalition of former Texas military personnel has come together to highly recommend another solution: medical marijuana.

Despite repeated rejections of attempts to overturn the state’s prohibition of marijuana, the Texas vets say pot would beneficially expand their treatment options as they work to control injuries sustained on tour, all more safely than pharmaceutical drugs.  They also urged lawmakers to support Sen. Jose Menéndez’s legislation, SB 269, which would permit medical marijuana in Texas.

“Why do we as politicians say we know better than the doctors?” Menéndez said in a statement on his bill. “So many of our chronic pain sufferers, many of them veterans, are dying of accidental overdoses of opioid-based painkillers.”

RELATED: Prescription drugs “simply vanish” from VA hospitals around the country, and it’s been happening for years

Following calls from President Trump to increase military efforts, veterans’ issues may not be disappearing anytime soon, but lawmakers have been presented with more options than ever, and it’s many veterans only hope that they expand their options for care.

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