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Providing for Consideration of H.R. 1540, National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscalm Year 2012

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Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. ANDREWS. Mr. Speaker, I would like to commend the majority and the minority for working together for a robust process that we had, but I am concerned about two deficiencies in the process, one the gentlelady from Guam will speak to momentarily. I think it's really a travesty that she is not able to present an idea this House has considered many times as part of this bill. And I hope that would be reconsidered.

Secondly, we have all said forever that we agree that there is a problem that has to be fixed for people who served our country in uniform. And here is what happens. You have a person who is very seriously injured in the line of duty in the military, and they retire and they would get disability pay for their injury. Let's say they have been deafened by a bomb going off near them, and they are very, very ill or disabled, and they qualify for disability pay. They also qualify for a regular military pension.

I think most of us on this floor would say, most people in the country would say they should get both. If you are injured in the line of duty and you are severely disabled as a result, you should get both your disability pay and your regular pension. And for years people on both sides have said they want to do this. The problem has been it does in fact cost money. And there are a couple of other variations here. The widows and widowers of these servicemembers have the same problem with respect to their benefits. And then there is another problem where people who serve in the Reserve get credit toward earlier retirement, but they have to make it fit around the Federal fiscal year or they don't get it.

So we have people over in Iraq and Afghanistan who have been deprived of earlier retirement. They have been shot at the same as everybody else, but because they got shot at after October 1, it doesn't count. It's just a bizarre rule that ought to be fixed.

Now, we had an amendment in the Rules Committee that fixed, to a great extent, these three problems. And it had a way to pay for it which is controversial. It would take some of the Internet gaming that's going on and say, A, it's legal, and B, that the money from it should go to help these service personnel who were injured in the line of duty. Some people like this idea, some people don't. But I think it should have been brought to this floor so we could have a debate about it.

If you talk to any one of our Members, Mr. Speaker, I think he or she would tell you they are all for fixing this problem, but it has to be paid for. So we had a solution that fixed a large part of the problem and was paid for, would not result in an increase in the deficit, but it didn't find its way to the floor. I know the technicalities of it. But I really think the House should be given a chance to work its will on this question.

It's as simple as this: The guy who lost his hearing because a mortar shell went off next to him, should he have to choose between his disability pay and his regular retirement instead of getting both? I think he should get both. And I think the House should be able to work its will on that question. I would urge us to consider during this debate process making that possible.

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