Rep. Wasserman Schultz Celebrates Flag Day, Continues to Fight for Veterans & Military Retirees
In honor of Flag Day, Rep. Wasserman Schultz today called for continued work in Congress to pass the "New GI Bill of Rights for the 21st Century," a comprehensive package to improve benefits for our men and women in uniform today and provide long overdue benefits for the veterans and military retirees who have already served.
The package, introduced in the House of Representatives in April, will improve veterans' health care to meet the needs of our returning troops, and bolster our support for our troops in harms way, as well as their families here at home. Further, there are special provisions for the National Guard and Reserve, as their service in Iraq and Afghanistan has been above the call of duty. It will provide better education, health care and job training benefits for those who have answered the call.
"In honor of Flag Day, we must make a clear commitment to pass the New GI Bill of Rights for the 21st Century," said Rep. Wasserman Schultz. "Just as we honor our flag, we should also be honoring those who have worn our uniform and doing all we can to ensure they have the benefits and protections they have earned and deserve."
Rep. Wasserman Schultz outlined the progress so far on the "GI Bill of Rights for the 21st Century," calling on Congress to do more to honor our troops, veterans and military retirees. We have succeeded in honoring our debt to our servicemen and women by getting a provision in the House-passed Defense bill to continue combat pay for those recovering from combat injuries. We have also strengthened our support for our men and women in uniform, as the House-passed Defense Authorization bill, supported by Rep. Wasserman Schultz includes such provisions as nearly doubling the funding for up-armored Humvees and increasing the size of the Army by 10,000 in 2006 and the Marine Corps by 1,000 in 2006.
On other issues in the "New GI Bill of Rights," Republicans have blocked our efforts at helping our veterans.
The "New GI Bill of Rights" makes health care accessible and affordable for our veterans by improving veterans' health care and blocks increases in prescription drug co-payments and enrollment fees for veterans.
Democrats successfully forced Republicans to drop the President's fee increases for prescription drug co-payments in the veterans' spending bill. However Republicans have blocked an amendment to provide $3.2 billion more than the President's budget in FY 2006 for veterans' health care, to meet the growing needs of returning soldiers, including mental health services and prosthetics and amputee care, medical facilities, and medical research.
Rep. Wasserman Schultz also voted for an amendment which was defeated by Republicans to provide an additional $53 million in urgently needed funding for items critical for veterans returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, including funding for combat-related trauma care centers, telemedicine initiatives for trauma care centers, and VA medical and prosthetic research.
The "GI Bill of Rights" provides the benefits our veterans have earned and deserve by ending the disabled veterans' tax.
In May, Democrats launched a discharge petition to force a vote on ending the Disabled Veterans' Tax entirely for about 400,000 military retirees who were left behind under the partial repeal which the GOP-controlled Congress reluctantly enacted in 2003. Democrats tried to offer this as an amendment on the Defense Authorization bill, but Republicans blocked its consideration. Fortunately, Democrats continued to succeed in chipping away at the problem by speeding up the end of the Disabled Veterans' Tax for about 29,000 military retirees in the House-passed Defense Authorization bill.
The "GI Bill of Rights" improves health and education benefits for our National Guard/Reservists by expanding military health care (TRICARE) for National Guard/Reservists.
Rep. Wasserman Schultz supported an amendment, which was adopted by the Armed Services Committee by a vote of 32 to 30, to provide full TRICARE to all members of the Guard and Reserve and their families. However, Republican Chairman Hunter stripped the amendment from the bill instead of allowing Democrats to make a slight modification to the amendment, which would have addressed the violation.