Issue Position: Military & Veterans' Benefits
In 1789, George Washington, our first Commander-in-Chief said, "The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional to how they perceive the Veterans of earlier wars were treated and appreciated by their nation."
When a man or a woman puts on the uniform and defends our country, this nation makes a sacred promise to care from them when the battle is long over. Unfortunately, our government is breaking that promise everyday. Since 1996, the Veterans Administration has seen a 150 percent increase in enrollees while funding for VA hospitals has increased by only 50 percent. As a result, veterans have to wait for months to get an appointment in a VA hospital and some aren't even allowed to enroll in the VA health care system. Since coming to the Senate in 1997, Senator Landrieu has fought to restore the broken promise to veterans by making spending on veterans health care mandatory. This will put VA health care in the same budgetary category as Social Security and Medicare, programs which cannot be cut at the whim of the President or Congress.
Louisiana has 379,000 veterans. In 2002, 97,704 veterans received care at VA hospitals or outpatient clinics and 59,621 veterans and survivors collected disability compensation or pensions. In addition to this, 8,100 veterans received GI Bill payments for education and 43,698 owned homes purchased through VA loan guarantees. The impact that the VA has on the people of Louisiana is evident, and Senator Landrieu has fought hard to make sure that the care provided at the state's three VA hospitals (New Orleans, Alexandria, Shreveport) and four Community Based Outpatient Clinics (Baton Rouge, Jennings, Monroe, and Lafayette) is state of the art. In May of 2004, Senator Landrieu announced that seven new outpatient clinics will be opened in Lake Charles, Natchitoches, Hammond, Franklin, Ft. Polk, Franklin, Bougalusa, and La Place by 2012.
Guard and Reserve Pay
Senator Landrieu scored a major victory for our citizen soldiers by securing an agreement from Senate leaders in October 2004 to pass the Guard and Reserve Pay Protection Act, which will give tax relief to small business employers who continue to pay the salaries of activated National Guard and Reserve members. An estimated 41 percent of activated Guard and Reserve members face a reduction in pay when activated. READ MORE
Survivor Benefit Plan
Senator Landrieu passed legislation in 2004 that eliminates the "widow tax" that seeks to take away the benefits that surviving military spouses rightly deserve. For this, she was awarded the Military Officers Association of America's (MOAA) Legislator of the Year Award, and the National Military Family Association's Award for Service to Military Families.
Senator Landrieu has sought to eliminate the tax on military retirement pay. She has consistently supported measures that would enable military retirees to collect both their retirement pay and disability pay concurrently. As of 2004, those who are 50 percent disabled can collect these two payments concurrently. Senator Landrieu will continue to fight to ensure that all military retirees are eligible for concurrent receipt.
Keeping Faith with America's Newest Generation of Veterans
The brave men and women who are fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq today deserve the best equipment and care that money can buy. Senator Landrieu has spearheaded efforts to ensure that National Guardsmen and Reservists are properly equipped when they are sent to the battlefield, and ensure that their families are cared for when they are gone.