Honoring the bravery of our veterans means providing the benefits and services our nation promised to these true American heroes. As the daughter of a World War II veteran, the wife of a veteran and a U.S. Representative, I am personally committed to ensuring that Congress meets its obligation to those who served our nation in uniform.
Each day, the number of veterans who call Las Vegas home continues to climb. With this growth there comes an increased demand on our local VA system. As a member of the House Veterans' Affairs Committee, I have worked to secure funding for the Valley's first full service VA hospital, outpatient clinic and long-term care facility to serve the needs of more than 200,000 veterans.
Designs for this-state-of-the art medical campus are already on the drawing board, and $259 million in federal funding I helped bring to Nevada is being used for design and construction of the facility. A location to house the new hospital was selected in October 2004 in North Las Vegas and groundbreaking will occur at the site in the fall of 2006.
President Bush and Republican leaders in Congress have failed to deliver the full funding needed for America's veterans. I fully support increased investments in new VA facilities, medical research, meaningful burial benefits and other programs to benefit veterans.
I am also continuing the fight to end the Disabled Veterans Tax so that all military retirees with service-connected disabilities will be able to receive full retirement compensation from the VA, rather than the current system where our vets actually lose a portion of their pay. Congress has begun to mend this broken system, but half of all disabled military retirees are still being unfairly penalized.
And I am proud to have voted to protect the spouses of our veterans who will no longer be penalized by what has been called the "Widows' Tax." Those who served in the military expect that their survivors will receive the retirement benefits that they were promised in exchange for the service of a loved one to our nation. Congress has finally begun to address the practice of penalizing survivors once they reach age 62, when benefits were slashed to 35% of the military retiree's benefit. Those survivors whose benefits had been reduced have received an increase in their April 2006 checks. The benefit will increase each April until 2008 when the payment will be restored to the 55% paid to survivors under age 62. Ending this outdated and unfair practice will help the families of our veterans and send a message to active duty military personnel that America keeps its promises to our military.
I believe we should honor the commitments we have made to those who fought for our country, and I will continue to work in Congress to improve care and benefits for our veterans in southern Nevada and across the nation.