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Mr. BARBER. Madam Speaker, I am offering this amendment to improve this legislation and truly show this Chamber's support for our veterans and men and women in uniform by preventing their pay and services from being impacted by a potential government shutdown next year. The underlying bill we are voting on today lacks key provisions that are needed to protect our veterans in Active Duty military. My amendment will add these provisions.
My amendment will ensure that our patriotic military men and women are not victims of partisan gridlock. My amendment ensures that basic military pay will not be interrupted in a potential shutdown. My amendment guarantees that our Armed Forces will be paid for the entire year, not just for the 6-month duration authorized by this continuing resolution.
Unfortunately, Congress has failed to do its job, and we cannot allow a government shutdown to impact the basic pay of our men and women in uniform. This is a guarantee and an assurance that they have a right to expect we will uphold no matter what.
My amendment also addresses the fact that three critical Veterans Administration authorizations are set to expire at the end of the year.
The first is for Contract Medical Disability Authority. Without this extension which my amendment provides, the VA would not be able to pay for contract medical exams from discretionary funds. This could significantly delay veterans' receipt of benefits.
The second authorization which my amendment extends would give the VA the authority to establish sites to treat homeless veterans and those with mental illness. Without this extension, the VA would not be able to provide these essential services at these sites.
The third VA authorization set to expire helps the VA provide housing and treatment to homeless veterans with a serious mental illness. Again, without this extension, the VA would no longer be able to provide for therapeutic transitional housing assistance for veterans who are homeless or who have a serious mental illness.
Our veterans stepped forward when we asked them to serve this great Nation. In return, it is our undeniable responsibility to help them find employment when they are able to work and to care for them when they are not. Tonight, there are about 70,000 homeless veterans who will sleep on the streets of our country. This is a situation that is absolutely deplorable, and we must act to provide them with the assistance they deserve.
None of what I've proposed here should be a partisan issue. This is about keeping our sacred promise to those who have defended our freedoms. There are nearly 100,000 veterans in my southern Arizona district and two military installations--Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, where I grew up and where my father was deployed, and Fort Huachuca in Sierra Vista and the 162nd Fighter Wing of the Air National Guard just across the district line.
I am offering this amendment in thinking of the men and women who are stationed there and across this Nation and across the world. During our recent work period, I went to the airport in Tucson to honor the men and women of our Army National Guard as they left for deployment in Afghanistan. I told them and their families, on behalf of all of us, how grateful we are for their service. Today, I ask you to join with me in putting action behind those words. This is not a partisan issue. We can and must find common ground in this Chamber on this very issue.
This morning, my colleague Congressman Platts and I introduced a bipartisan bill, the Veterans Health Care Access Act. Our bill will make it easier for veterans to get access to the health care they need. What other issue we face is more important than this to both sides of the aisle than supporting our Armed Forces and our veterans?
At a time when we need to get services to our veterans who are newly returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan, we cannot be creating uncertainty and allowing a lapse of service or pay. This is about the Army sergeant I met on the flight going home who is now diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury and who will soon be medically discharged. He deserves to know that we will stand up for him and others like him.
Let me say again that the passage of this amendment will not prevent the passage of the underlying bill. I urge my Republican and Democratic colleagues alike to vote ``yes'' on this final amendment and to support our military and to support our veterans.
I yield back the balance of my time.
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