With Fort Hood in Texas' 31st District, we are reminded daily of the sacrifices made by our service men and women. As the representative for Fort Hood and its supporting communities, I will continue to work for legislation that will improve the quality of life for our soldiers and their families as well as the thousands of veterans and retirees who have voluntarily sacrificed so much for our country.
I have the great pleasure of serving on the House subcommittee directly responsible for allocating resources our military and veterans require to provide the quality of life our current and former service members deserve. As we grow the size of our Armed Forces to adapt to current and future threats, we are confronted with numerous challenges that directly affect our communities. I work regularly with military and local community leaders to address the issues they are experiencing and to identify and plan for situations in the future. I have worked directly with Pentagon officials to determine exactly how many soldiers Fort Hood will have after all the announced troop movements are final so that Fort Hood area communities and businesses can adequately plan for everything our soldiers and their families will need.
I have consistently supported funding and measures to improve veterans' benefits. In 2008, my efforts on the Military Quality of Life and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Committee led to nearly $88 billion for veterans' services, which include more than $27 billion for medical services. Since being assigned to the committee four years ago, I have worked consistently to increase VA funding and I will continue to do so as the need grows. In order to serve veterans better, I formed a veteran's advisory council made up of veterans from the district to help me identify and respond to issues that affect them.
As important as our active duty military and veterans community is, I also believe that we should recognize the sacrifices and efforts made by our military spouses and families. I believe it is Congress' duty to assist them with the many challenges they face.
I have introduced and co-sponsored numerous pieces of legislation with our military spouses and families in mind including a bipartisan bill that allows military service men and women to transfer their unused G.I. Bill education benefits to their spouses or children. I have also introduced bills specifically targeted to help military spouses. The first, the Military Spouses Employment Act, would offer tax credits to businesses who hire unemployed military spouses ultimately making it easier for military spouse to find work. The second, the Military Spouses Residency Relief Act, would allow for military spouses to claim residence in the same state as the soldier. Both of these bills were brought to my attention by military spouses. Military spouses and families have shared in the sacrifices of service men and women and I strongly believe they should have the ability to share in the benefits.
Lastly, I would like to say that I do not support the idea of a permanent U.S. military presence in Iraq, but think we must remain committed to the effort until the Iraqi government can provide for their own security. I believe our deployed forces should have every tool they need to successfully accomplish their mission, and I will not support any initiative to withhold funding from our troops in the field or to establish an artificial timetable for withdrawal. I visit regularly with Fort Hood's military leaders as well as rank-and-file soldiers who wholeheartedly believe we have made significant progress in Iraq and that we will continue to do so if we don't pull the rug out from under them. I realize there are people who oppose U.S. operations in Iraq, and I respect their right to do so. However, while the situation in Iraq has improved sufficiently to allow for greater inroads on the political front, prematurely withdrawing our forces would result in complete chaos within Iraq and instability throughout the region. The U.S. and the world cannot afford the consequences of a full-blown war among the Middle Eastern countries and religious factions that would inevitably result from an untimely withdrawal of U.S. forces.
I will continue to adamantly support our Armed Forces and the communities to which they are so closely tied. I will also continue to ensure our soldiers have the best equipment possible to provide for their safety and ability to accomplish their mission so that they may return to their loved ones knowing their efforts were worthwhile.