MILITARY CONSTRUCTION AND VETERANS AFFAIRS APPROPRIATIONS ACT, 2008--Continued -- (Senate - May 22, 2008)
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Mrs. CLINTON. Mr. President, I certainly add my support to the very passionate appeal of my friend from Arkansas on behalf of that wonderful State. I remember very well all the difficult storms and floods that too frequently impact Arkansas. I hope our colleagues will support the request for disaster assistance.
I rise to support strongly the GI bill that has been proposed in the Senate. I thank Senator Webb for his hard work on this bipartisan legislation, as well as Senator Lautenberg, Senator Warner, and Senator Hagel--each one a veteran who understands, deeply and personally, the importance of honoring the service and sacrifice of our men and women in uniform.
I am proud to be a cosponsor of this legislation. It is in the spirit of the original GI bill of rights to provide every American who has served honorably since September 11, 2001, on Active Duty, with real help to go to college, to earn a degree, to end his or her military service with a new beginning in civilian life.
After 36 months of Active-Duty service, a veteran's tuition and fees for any in-State public college would be fully covered. We provide a stipend for books and supplies and a housing allowance based on actual housing costs in the area. The benefit would apply fully to members of the National Guard and Reserve who have served on Active Duty, and all Active-Duty servicemember would be entitled to a portion of the benefit based on the length of their Active-Duty service.
This is not a half measure or an empty gesture. This is a full and fair benefit to serve the men and women who serve us, and that is why this is such a key vote.
We often hear wonderful rhetoric in this Chamber in support of our troops and our veterans, but the real test is not the speeches we deliver but whether we deliver on the speeches.
There are some who oppose this benefit, arguing that our men and women in uniform have not earned it, that it is too generous. I could not disagree more strongly. This is a question of values and priorities. Each one of us will answer that question with our votes today. Let's strengthen our military by improving benefits, not restricting them.
There are those opposing this important legislation who have offered a half measure instead, designed to provide the administration with political cover instead of a benefit to our veterans. That is not leadership and it is not right. It is time we match our words with our actions. After all the speeches are done and the cameras are gone, what matters is whether we act to support our troops and our veterans--before, during, and long after deployment.
I have proposed my own GI bill of rights to build on this legislation with opportunities to secure a home mortgage, to start a small business or expand it with an affordable loan. As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, I am proud to support our troops and veterans, improving health care for the National Guard and reservists, providing our servicemember with the equipment and supplies they need to improve treatment and care at our military and veterans hospitals.
The original GI bill was proposed 2 1/2 years after the attack on Pearl Harbor and, more than a year before the war ended, President Roosevelt signed that bill into law. Eight million veterans participated, improving their skills or education. At the peak in 1947, veterans accounted for nearly half of all college admissions. That is the way we should be honoring the service of those who served us. This is our moment to provide each and every new veteran the opportunity to realize their version of the American dream--the dream they have spent their lives trying to defend.
It is time we started acting as Americans again. We are all in this together. Let's send this legislation to the President and let's serve the men and women who served us.
Thank you, Mr. President.
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