Supporting Our Veterans
Idaho is proud of our men and women in the active duty military and Idaho National Guard who are serving our country honorably at home and abroad and of the veterans who served our nation. We thank them for their great service to our nation, and we recognize the sacrifices that they and their families make to protect our freedoms and way of life. Just as they served our nation in its time of need, our country must remember them in their time of need. While I know the federal government has many challenges it must face in meeting its commitment to our nation's veterans, I am proud of the work Congress has done to increase funding for veteran's health care and to improve veteran's benefits.
Concurrent Receipt and Survivors Benefits:
I believe that Congress must address the issue of concurrent receipt and survivor benefits for our veterans, and I am proud to cosponsor three pieces of legislation to address these important issues. HR 303, the Retired Pay Restoration Act, would permit additional retired members of the Armed Forces who have a service-connected disability to receive both disability compensation from the Department of Veterans Affairs for their disability and either retired pay by reason of their years of military service or Combat-Related Special Compensation and eliminate the phase-in period under current law with respect to such concurrent receipt. H.R. 333, the Disabled Veterans Tax Termination, would permit retired members of the Armed Forces who have a service-connected disability rated less than 50 percent to receive concurrent payment of both retired pay and veterans' disability compensation, to eliminate the phase-in period for concurrent receipt, and to extend eligibility for concurrent receipt to Chapter 61 disability retirees with less than 20 years of service. I am also a cosponsor of HR 775, the Military Surviving Spouses Equity Act, which would repeal the requirement for reduction of survivor annuities under the Survivor Benefit Plan.
I strongly support measures to help our servicemembers transition back into their daily lives and successfully enter the civilian workforce. I am a cosponsor of H.R. 3943, the Post 9/11 Troops to Teachers (TTT) Enhancement Act offered by Representatives Joe Courtney, Tom Petri and Doris Matsui. The bill will expand the TTT program, which has successfully sent about 12,000 military veterans into classrooms over the last 15 years. TTT offers financial assistance for military personnel to obtain their teaching certification and teach for at least three years, with additional funding going to those who agree to teach in schools with the most need. Apart from offering an excellent career option to departing military members, TTT directly targets major shortcomings identified by leaders in the education community: a shortage of male teachers, a shortage of minority teachers, and a shortage of math, science and special education teachers. Eighty percent of the program participants are male, 35% are minorities and many veterans are well suited to teach science and math because they worked highly technical jobs in the military. Many students have also benefited from the military philosophy of hard work and sacrifice that former soldiers bring to the job.
During the 110th Congress, I cosponsored legislation to modernize and expand the education benefits for our nation's fighting men and women who have served on active duty since September 11, 2001. This legislation was signed into law on December 17, 2007. While this legislation makes significant improvements to the past GI bills, certain errors and mistaken exclusions remain and need to be corrected. I am a cosponsor of HR 3813, which would enable veterans to use their benefits for qualifying technical and vocational education programs as well as traditional university programs.
As a member of the Appropriations Committee, I will continue to use my position to support robust funding for our veterans programs. I am proud to support our nation's military men and women and veterans who fought so valiantly in defense of our nation. Veterans have made tremendous sacrifices to preserve our way of life, and the American people are indebted to the men and women who have served our nation. Rest assured, I will keep working to ensure that veterans programs receive adequate funding so that our nation's veterans receive the treatment and care they deserve.