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Military Construction And Veterans Affairs Appropriations Act, 2009

Floor Speech

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC

Military Construction And Veterans Affairs Appropriations Act, 2009

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Ms. BERKLEY. Mr. Chairman, I rise tonight in support of this bill. I want to thank Chairman Edwards and Ranking Member Wamp for their extraordinary efforts on behalf of this Nation's veterans, and for including report language on veterans burial benefits.

I'm deeply concerned about the eroding value of plot allowance and burial benefits provided to our Nation's veterans. Because the benefits are not indexed to inflation, their value continues to diminish each year. As a result, families and State veteran cemeteries have been left to cover the increasing costs of burying their loved ones. The VA simply must assess the need to increase the plot allowance of burial benefits to cover the same percentage of burial benefit costs that were covered in 1973 when these benefits were first initiated.

I appreciate the fact that the chairman has included the report language in the report the need for increasing burial benefits for our veterans.

I'm also pleased that the committee recognizes the importance of veterans' mental health and substance abuse services. This is an issue of great importance to me. I had a constituent by the name of Justin Bailey. He volunteered to serve this Nation, he was sent to Iraq, he served with honor and distinction. And when he returned, he developed a substance abuse problem. At the suggestion of his parents, he checked himself into a VA facility, and even though he was suffering from a substance abuse problem due to PTSD and other mental health issues, he was given more medication while he was in the VA facility. And he ultimately ended up overdosing while he was in the care of the VA.

Unfortunately, Justin is not an isolated incident. There are thousands of young men and women returning from service overseas that come back with a mental health problem or substance abuse problem or PTSD. I'm very delighted that this committee and Chairman Edwards have recognized that this is a crisis and this bill increases funding for mental health and substance abuse services for our veterans.

Again, I want to thank Chairman Edwards and Ranking Member Wamp for recognizing the importance of these issues, and I would like to urge my colleagues to support this legislation without reservation and without continuing to add on things that do not belong in this bill and are not germane.

Let's stand up for our veterans, and let's stand up for them this evening.

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