In thanks to our veterans
As we commemorate this Veterans Day, we must do more than simply reflect and praise the courageous and patriotic service of those who have provided our nation’s defense. We must always make sure that our country is fulfilling its obligation to support those who have sacrificed. I have long supported the needs of our active-duty soldiers and veterans who have served honorably; working diligently to ensure access to health care, and to improve funding for special VA programs such as post-traumatic stress disorder treatment, blindness rehabilitation, spinal cord injury centers, homelessness, psychosocial rehabilitation and long-term care. It is critical that we provide the best health care and educational support for our service members and veterans if we are to fulfill our commitment to those who helped build America’s strength and security.
In response to the economic crisis, Congress enacted critical measures to expand educational opportunity and economic relief for veterans. The new Post 9-11 GI Bill, which took effect last August, restores the promise of a full, four-year college education, allowing up to 2 million veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts to be part of a new American economic recovery, just like after World War II. We have extended those crucial college benefits to all children of fallen service members since 9-11-01.
Recognizing that veterans coming home are facing a tough hiring climate, this Congress enacted incentives for businesses to hire unemployed veterans, as well as efforts to increase job opportunities with veterans on-the-job training in the energy sector and to ensure fairness to veteran-owned small businesses in federal contracts. As part of the Recovery Act, Congress provided nearly 2 million disabled veterans a $250 payment to help make ends meet.
The House of Representatives has worked to improve our veterans’ healthcare. We increased the investment in veterans’ health care and services by 70 percent since January 2007 -- including the largest single increase in the 78-year history of the Veterans Administration. This funding has strengthened health care for more than 5 million veterans, resulting in 18,000 new doctors and nurses, and greater access for veterans in rural areas. It has been critical for the 382,000 veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan in need of care this year -- with expanded mental health screening and treatment -- to treat the signature injuries of the war, PTSD and Traumatic Brain Injury. Working with the President, Congress ended the Bush Administration’s ban on enrolling modest-income veterans for VA health care – providing VA health care access to nearly 300,000 veterans.
On May 5th, President Obama signed into law the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act of 2010, to provide much needed support for the care network of America’s wounded warriors. The new law creates an unprecedented support program for veteran caregivers that will provide training, financial assistance, and improved respite service. It also improves health care services for America’s female veterans, expands the mental health services provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs, and expands supportive services for homeless veterans.
In addition to the necessary policy reforms to help our veterans, we have also taken the time to recognize and honor their contributions. Resolutions like H.Res. 866, which expresses support for National Veterans History Project Week and to encourage public participation in a nationwide project that collects and preserves the stories of the men and women who served our nation in times of war and conflict, are important to assist in the personal remembrance of the actions and sacrifices of our men and women in uniform but to also emphasize that the institutions of our republic, including the Congress and the President are forever grateful for our service members and owe them deeply.
For more information on legislation relevant to our Veterans please see the House Committee on Veterans Affairs homepage.