VETERANS' HOUSING OPPORTUNITY AND BENEFITS IMPROVEMENT ACT OF 2006 -- (House of Representatives - May 22, 2006)
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Mr. SALAZAR. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
Mr. Speaker, I rise today in strong support of Senate bill 1235, as amended, the Veterans' Housing Opportunity and Benefits Improvement Act of 2006. This bipartisan and bicameral benefit package incorporates a number of important measures aimed at improving the quality of life for our servicemembers, veterans, and military families.
I would like to thank Chairman Buyer and Ranking Member Lane Evans for their leadership on the full committee and for their assistance in moving this bill to the floor today.
I also want to express my appreciation to the chairman and ranking member of the Economic Opportunity Subcommittee, John Boozman and Stephanie Herseth, respectively, for their hard work and bipartisan leadership in this legislative package.
Additionally, I would like to thank the chairman and ranking member of the Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs Subcommittee, Jeff Miller and Shelley Berkley, for their diligence and hard work on this bill.
Our Nation's servicemembers and veterans have earned and their families deserve all of the benefits and opportunities provided under Senate bill 1235. In fact, they deserve much more. I am pleased, however, that this legislative package takes a strong step in the right direction, and I am sure the veterans and military families in my home State of Colorado will appreciate their efforts.
Mr. Speaker, Senate bill 1235, as amended, will enable severely disabled veterans to make necessary adaptations to homes in which they are temporarily residing, and it will give totally disabled veteran servicemembers who are leaving military service an additional year of Servicemembers' Group Life Insurance coverage and limit unjustified health premium increases on activated National Guard members and Reservists. It will extend the Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program which provides employment opportunities for homeless veterans and improve the Department of Labor's Veterans Employment and Training Service.
In addition, the bill includes language from H.R. 1773, the Native American Veterans Home Loan Act, a measure introduced by Representative STEPHANIE HERSETH of South Dakota. This bill will make permanent the Native American Housing Loan Program so that veterans residing on tribal land can obtain an appropriate home loan.
It will also provide housing opportunities for veterans who are residing on tribal land with Native American spouses.
By all accounts, the pilot program has been a great success and, in fact, has a negative subsidy; that is, it actually pays for itself. That is something that is rarely done here at the Federal level. Making this program permanent is the right thing to do for Native American veterans and their families.
Mr. Speaker, we also know that veterans who are former prisoners of war have been found to have disproportionate rates of heart disease and stroke. This bill will assure that they will be compensated for these conditions by codifying a current regulation.
Finally, this bill will improve the Department of Veterans Affairs' outreach to veterans and their families in an organized fashion.
Mr. Speaker, the servicemembers, veterans and military families of this Nation have earned and deserve our best efforts here in Congress. As we approach Memorial Day today, I am very proud to support this long overdue legislation, and I am confident that it will benefit the veterans of my home State of Colorado as well as other veterans around this country.
I fully support Senate bill 1235, as amended, and urge my colleagues to do the same. But before I reserve the balance of my time, I would like to bring attention to a matter of deep concern. We learned today of the theft of 26.5 million veterans' records from the home of a career VA employee. I am very concerned about this theft because the records include the name, Social Security number and date of birth of every veteran in this country.
I would like to encourage veterans to visit www.firstgov.gov or call 1-800-FED-INFO, 333-4636.
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