Congressman Pascrell strongly believes in honoring veterans and the contributions they have given to this nation by providing them with easy access to the best possible healthcare and educational opportunities.
From his first day in Congress, Bill has fought to ensure that the federal government honors its commitments to all of those who bravely serve our nation. Bill's vocal advocacy for the rights of our veterans and active military members to receive the finest health care in the world only grows stronger each year.
The best way to support our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan is to ensure that their sacrifice on the ground is matched with a clear strategy for victory and with the resources to get the job done and come home safely. In addition to addressing the needs of America's service men and women, Bill is also focusing on those of their families. He recognizes the sacrifices of their families and was proud to vote for improved troop and family housing and expanding childcare for military families as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
After years of fighting for its construction, Bill was thrilled to announce the opening of the first ever veterans' outpatient clinic in Passaic County in a moving ceremony in August 2004. The Paterson-based clinic currently serves over 30,000 veterans in the area, providing primary care services such as preventive health screening, and lab and health education for acute and chronic medical conditions. Since the clinic's opening, long waiting times for health care have been eliminated, and Passaic County veterans no longer have to compete with fellow vets to receive the top flight medical care that they need and deserve.
Although the clinic's opening was a monumental victory, it was only the beginning of Bill's work to defend veterans' rights. Bill holds an annual veterans' registration drive to provide health care screenings and to sign up hundreds of vets for the benefits they have earned. He consults with an advisory board of local veterans each year, allowing him to conduct one-on-one discussions about the most vital needs of veterans in Essex and Passaic Counties.
Recently, Bill fought for an increase in education benefits for our veterans who have served our country in the wars in Iraq in Afghanistan. In 2008, the 21st Century GI Bill was signed into law, covering the full cost of education at any public school in the nation and many private schools for men and women who have served in the armed forces after 9/11. This gives today's veterans the same opportunities that World War II veterans received which gave rise to our "greatest generation."
Bill is dedicated to ensuring wounded warriors receive the highest quality treatment when they return home. Bill is a proud original cosponsor of the Heroes at Home Act of 2009 and the PTSD/TBI Guaranteed Review for Heroes Act. Both of these important pieces of legislation will ensure that servicemen suffering from traumatic brain injuries (TBI) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) receive the support they deserve. The Heroes at Home Act of 2009 (H.R. 667) establishes a program for training and certification of family caregivers of veterans and members with TBI. It also includes outreach to raise awareness of veterans and the public about the symptoms of PTSD and TBI. The PTSD/TBI Guaranteed Review for Heroes Act (H.R. 1701) would create a special review board at the Department of Defense so service members can seek review of their discharge if their TBI or PTSD was not taken into consideration.
As co-chair of the Congressional Brain Injury Task Force, Bill works to spread awareness of TBI, which has been dubbed the signature wound of the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Throughout his time in Congress, Bill has worked to increase funding for our nation's veterans and active service members, fighting cuts in previous budgets. He was pleased that the budget for FY2011 provides a record $60.3 billion in funding for our veterans- an increase of $4.2 billion from last year. This accounts for a 20% budget increase since 2009. This increase will improve health care, fight to end the plight of homeless veterans and provide returning veterans with the world-class education they deserve. This is clearly a step in the right direction, but it's only the start of a new commitment to our troops, present and future.
Bill Pascrell will continue to advance the cause of legislation that improves the lives of our nation's heroes. He will fight tirelessly to pass a law requiring mandatory funding for veterans health care, and continues to fight for annual military pay raises. Every day that he is in office, Bill works to give back to our veterans and active military a tiny measure of the boundless gifts that they have given to all of us.