Minnesota is home to thousands of men and women who have served our country with distinction, and their service and sacrifice commands our support. To help honor their sacrifice, I believe the United States government must provide veterans with the health, education, housing, and job benefits that they have earned.
I am proud of the accomplishments Congress has made to help support and honor our veterans. We provided the largest increase in funding of Veterans Affairs history with the passage of the Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies appropriations bill in 2008. The Veterans' Benefits Act of 2010 is a law that enhances veterans employment and work training opportunities, addresses veterans housing issues, upgrades disability, insurance and survivor programs, and requires a comprehensive study of best treatment practices for chronic multi-symptom illness in Gulf War I veterans. We passed the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act, a law which offers the caregivers of veterans training, compensation, respite care, and access to mental health counseling.
In the fall of 2007, I worked closely with the Minnesota Congressional delegation to ensure that the members of the Minnesota National Guard 1/34th Brigade Combat Team (BCT) received their full Active Component GI Bill entitlements. The 1/34th BCT returned to Minnesota after a 22-month mobilization and deployment to Iraq, the longest tour of any ground combat unit during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Unfortunately, members of the unit were informed after they returned home that they were not eligible for their full GI benefits because their orders to return home cut them a few days short of the eligibility for these benefits. After my office was informed of this decision by the Army, I wrote to the Department of Defense to appeal this decision. I am pleased to report that the Army responded positively to my inquiries and that most soldiers of the 1/34th BCT were granted waivers to access those educational benefits.