By Representative Calvert (CA)
As our nation observes this upcoming Veterans Day, we reaffirm a solemn promise to remember and honor the men and women of the United States Armed Forces -- past and present. Although Veterans Day was established to remember and revere the sacrifice of so many, our veterans also deserve to know that their country is looking after them and their families, each and every day.
There is no other group of Americans that our society is more indebted to than U.S. veterans. I have always supported veteran's benefits that assist not only former service members but their families as well. Since President Abraham Lincoln first promised to "care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan," every President of the United States has committed to care for and honor our veterans. In fact, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) was established in 1930 for the sole purpose of serving our veterans and providing them with the care they deserve. However, just as warfare has changed over the decades, so do the needs of our service members and veterans. Benefits must be provided in the most efficient and beneficial way possible, and Congress must be willing to identify and adjust resources so veterans have access to programs they require both now and in the future.
On October 13, 2010, both chambers of Congress passed and the President signed into law the Veterans' Benefits Act of 2010 (Public Law No: 111-275). The new law will provide greater VA Health Care access to returning combat veterans, improve the treatment of signature war injuries, and provide for shared records between the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs. It is also important to note that on September 28, 2010, the House of Representatives also passed several bills aimed at bolstering services for veterans, and I proudly supported each one of them. I was pleased that two of these bills are aimed at easing veterans' entrance into the workforce, especially during this economic downturn. All of these bills are currently awaiting action in the Senate.
First, the Veterans Benefits and Economic Welfare Improvement Act of 2010 (H.R. 6132) would focus on helping veterans develop marketable skills as they transition into the workforce, and would create an awards program to incentivize businesses for their contributions to the employment of veterans.
Second, the HELP Veterans Act of 2010 (H.R. 5360) would authorize $10 million annually from 2011 to 2016 for the Labor Department to make grants to programs to homeless female veterans and homeless veterans with children, including job placement initiatives. It would also authorize the VA to make loans to veterans looking to launch small businesses.
Third, H.R. 5630 would mandate stricter certification requirements for vocational rehabilitation counselors and employment coordinators employed by the VA.
Lastly, H.R. 3787 would give retired members of the Reserves the honorary title of veteran in recognition of their sacrifices, but without giving them additional veteran benefits.
While the 111th Congress will adjourn in the next month, I will again lend my support to these or similar initiatives that may be introduced next year during the 112th Congress.
I am hopeful that in the new Congress can and will work together to reaffirm its commitment to veterans and their families by passing legislation that will aid our vets in transitioning back to the workforce and daily life and ensuring their health remains strong after leaving the armed services. The history of this country is deeply rooted in service and sacrifice. On November 11, please join me and recognize America's veterans for their patriotism, love of country, and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good. To all those who have served -- our country salutes you. May God bless you and may God bless America.