March 25, 2003
CONGRESSIONAL BUDGET FOR THE U.S. GOVERNMENT FOR FISCAL YEAR 2004
Ms. CANTWELL. Mr. President, I rise to support Senate amendment No. 341, an amendment to provide partial concurrent receipt for veterans.
I would like to thank my colleague from Nevada for his unwavering and tireless support of veterans throughout the country. My constituents are aware of his advocacy for full concurrent receipt and appreciate his support.
Mr. President, as you know, our current military benefits system requires disabled military retirees who have a service-connected disability to deduct their disability compensation from the funds they would otherwise receive as retirement pay. This requirement unfairly merges two distinct programs and forces many disabled retirees to forfeit a significant portion of their well-deserved retirement pay.
The retirement benefit is an entitlement granted to all members of the U.S. Armed Forces who dedicate 20 or more years to providing our Nation's defenses. Disability compensation, on the other hand, is awarded as a compensation for personnel who are injured in the line of duty. I believe veterans should receive each payment separately. Allowing disabled veterans to receive their full military retired pay and disability compensation will restore fairness and common sense to U.S. military retirement policy.
Last year, President Bush signed compromise legislation that provides concurrent receipt to two veterans groups: one, any retiree receiving disability compensation, of at least 10 percent, whose disability was combat-related and for which the retiree was awarded the Purple Heart; and two, any retiree with a service-connected disability rated at 60 percent or higher incurred as a direct result of armed conflict, while engaged in hazardous service, in the performance of duty under conditions simulating war, or through an instrumentality of war.
Although this compromise was an important first step, it remains an insufficient remedy to a persisting inequity in our veterans benefits system. Senate Amendment No. 341 would expand concurrent receipt to include veterans who have a service-connected disability of at least 60 percent. This is another important step in what will continue to be a long battle to provide concurrent receipt to all eligible veteransa battle that I remain committed to fighting.
Again, I thank the Senator from Nevada for his leadership on this issue. I encourage my colleagues to support this amendment and look forward to working with them to provide full concurrent receipt for all veterans.
Ms. CANTWELL. Madam President, this is a very important amendment that would restore $678 million to workforce training programs that is vital to America in a time of high unemployment. The underlying bill basically cuts these funds and, instead, gives them to a tax cut for the wealthiest Americans.
What is really important for us to understand is that we have had report after report that in the Information Technology area there are more jobs to be had if we had skilled workers who had the training to work in this areas, and the same is true for the nursing and health care fields. According to the American Hospital Association there are over 126,000 openings in nursing, yet we are cutting the training programs that could retrain thousands of unemployed workers who could fill these openings. By cutting funding for workforce training, we are eliminating the opportunity for 65,000 Americans to receive training.
So where do these jobs go instead, I know because I have had firsthand experience as an employer. You go find the workers and sometimes they are from overseas. So by cutting workforce training, we are sending a message that instead of retraining our dislocated and unemployed workers we would rather have the Department of Labor issue more labor certifications so that these jobs can be filled by foreigners.
Please vote for this amendment to restore the funds so that the workforce level in this country will at least be at 2002 levels.
I urge my colleagues to support this amendment.