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Amending Titlt 38, United States Code, To Extend Certain Expiring Provisions of Law

Location: Washington, DC



Ms. BERKLEY. Madam Speaker, before I begin my remarks, I also would like to thank Chairman Buyer, Ranking Member Evans, who we will miss very much, and Acting Ranking Member FILNER for moving forward on this bill.

I am supporting this legislation, but I feel that I need to make note of the fact that several of the provisions important to our veterans and their families have already expired. This should not have been allowed to happen.

In addition, there are other provisions that will expire before the end of the year. I want to particularly mention a provision in this legislation which extends through December 31, 2007, the Department of Veterans Affairs authority to provide a grave marker or headstone when a veteran is buried in a marked grave.

Veterans who served our country honorably should not lose their eligibility for recognition in death merely because the grave in which they are buried has a nonmilitary marker. I have a long record of interest in providing the burial benefits provided to our Nation's veterans, and this provision is truly a step in the right direction. We ought to make it permanent.

I joined Chairman MILLER in introducing legislation to extend this authorization. Although the VA and Members on both sides of the aisle supported making the authorization permanent, the committee was not able to fund the cost of a permanent authorization. I hope that we will be able to do so in the next Congress.

Eligibility for a headstone or a marker should not depend on whether a VA marker is provided before or after the placement of a private marker. As I stated, I am supporting this legislation, but I must make note that there are a number of other matters which should be acted on. I am especially disappointed that lease authorization for four clinics in Las Vegas on leases that will soon expire is not included, and it is going to have to be in order to provide health care to the veterans that live in southern Nevada.

Las Vegas' veterans are forced to rely on a string of clinics as the community awaits a new VA medical complex to be completed. It is at least 3 years out from being completed, even though we did break ground in October, which is a step in the right direction.

I have got 80-year-old veterans standing in 110-degree temperature going from clinic to clinic in order to get their health care needs met. That is why we are getting a full-service VA medical complex. But the fact is we need four leases approved by the end of the year. I hope we are going to do that before we recess for the year.

As I stated, Madam Speaker, I do support this legislation. I urge all of my colleagues to support it.


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