TAKING CARE OF AMERICA'S VETERANS -- (House of Representatives - November 05, 2007)
The SPEAKER pro tempore. Under a previous order of the House, the gentlewoman from New York (Mrs. McCarthy) is recognized for 5 minutes.
Mrs. McCARTHY of New York. Mr. Speaker, it has been a great comfort to listen to my colleagues on both sides of the aisle talk about National Bible Week. The Bible can bring great comfort to all of us, especially in time of need. And when I look at the legislation that we have been trying to pass and legislation that is coming forward, I hope we can all remember the words of the Bible and take care of each other and not the almighty dollar.
Mr. Speaker, next week is November 11th. We remember those who answered the call when America needed them most. Honoring our veterans reminds us that our freedoms come at a cost and with liberty comes responsibility. Congress has a responsibility to take care of the men and women who are serving and who have served. This year we passed legislation to increase the VA budget by $6.7 billion above last year's level. This is the largest single increase in veterans funding in the history of the VA. This increase will help better serve the health care needs of our veterans, both young and old, by providing over 1,000 new VA caseworkers to reduce the unacceptable delays in receiving their benefits.
Our young veterans are coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan with new injuries. We have seen a dramatic rise in traumatic brain injuries due to IEDs and roadside bombs. As of January, over 2,000 of our brave men and women have been diagnosed with TBI. These veterans need a high level of intensive care when they return from battle.
I understand the issues our soldiers who come home with TBI face. That is why I worked with Defense Subcommittee Chairman Murtha to include language in the Department of Defense authorization that sets aside funding and support for TBI treatment.
We are in a new century and the members of our Armed Forces, our veterans and their loved ones, need a new GI Bill. A new GI Bill should increase funding for veterans' medical care; employment assistance for our homeless veterans throughout this country; increased pay for our active duty members, so they can actually have a family life; expand current benefits under the current Montgomery GI Bill.
I am proud to be a cosponsor of H.R. 2702, the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act. This legislation provides education assistance for our young veterans returning home from the war under the Montgomery GI Bill.
In addition to increased funding for a new GI Bill, there needs to be other substantive changes made to veterans care. There should be a guaranteed funding stream for veterans health care. Access to health care should improve and there should be increased funding for special VA programs such as posttraumatic stress disorder treatment, homelessness, long-term care.
We must also address the problem called concurrent receipt. Currently other Federal retirees get both disability and retirement pay. But we deny our veterans this privilege because of an outdated law.
Congress must authorize full payment of both retirement pay and disability compensation to more than hundreds of thousands of disabled veterans and military retirees.
What we need to do is keep the promises we made to our veterans. I am hoping Congress in the coming days, months, and years will take care of these promises. We owe this to the American people. We owe it to our young people that sign up to fight the wars that we are fighting. If we don't keep our promises, why should our young people join to keep this country secure?
I salute our veterans, thank them for their service, and say God bless America.