It is imperative that America's military men and women receive the support they deserve for the sacrifices they have made. Our members of the Armed Forces have fought to preserve the freedoms we cherish and I believe Congress must be steadfast in honoring our commitment to them.
Last year, I supported the largest increase in funding for veterans programs in theVA's history: over $37 billion for veterans programs. This legislation also adds more than 1,000 new claims adjusters to help ease the backlog of over 400,000 VA benefits claims. Congress must work to alleviate VA bureaucratic procedures, improve communications between the Department of Defense and the VA and strengthen the process for returning soldiers transitioning into the VA health care system.
I also joined my colleagues in making long-overdue updates and reforms to the Montgomery G.I. Bill that provide expanded educational benefits to veterans and their families. A key component of the reforms is that now for the first time ever, veterans will be able to transfer their G.I. Bill benefits to family members. I was a cosponsor of a bill that allowed these benefits to be transferred to the veteran's spouse and children. This important reform finally recognizes the sacrifices made not only by our brave soldiers, but also the sacrifices made by their loving families.
I am also committed to increasing accessibility to health care for our veterans who live far away from VA medical centers. I supported passage of the Veterans' Health Care Improvement Act of 2007 (H.R. 2874) which would provide additional transportation options for veterans in rural areas who must travel long distances to receive care. It would also enhance readjustment counseling and mental health services for Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom veterans through peer outreach and support programs.
If you are a veteran or know a veteran, I encourage you to participate in the Veterans History Project, a valuable and important project to preserve and pass on stories of wartime service.