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Veterans Benefits Awareness Act of 2008

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

VETERANS BENEFITS AWARENESS ACT OF 2008 -- (House of Representatives - May 20, 2008)


Mr. FILNER. I would yield myself such time as I may consume.

Mr. Speaker, we are in the midst of a package of 10 separate pieces of legislation that honors our Nation's veterans, our Nation's most deserving citizens, appropriately enough, as we prepare to honor them on Memorial Day. As we honor our fallen heroes, we cannot forget those who need either health or other benefits from our Nation.

That is what these bills do. They extend benefits in a whole range of areas: Health care, substance abuse and spina bifida, reimbursement for emergency treatment outside the VA facilities, construction of new facilities to serve these heroes. We also address our responsibility for oversight of the VA by mandating the revision and update of administrative policies so that the VA can better serve our veterans.

As you know, Mr. Speaker, we have had many opportunities for oversight recently. We have had in a court case the discovery of e-mails which seem to indicate that our VA management was not being totally transparent on the number of suicides, for example, of our recent Iraqi veterans. Just last week, another e-mail was discovered that indicated that we should not adequately diagnose PTSD, post-traumatic stress disorder, and instead give these young men and women lesser kinds of diagnoses, which would cost us less.

It is unacceptable to the Congress of the United States and to the American people that the administration set up to serve our veterans would be finding ways to save money and not treating the veterans for their needs. We intend to root that kind of attitude out of the VA and to make sure that all our veterans, whether they are just coming back from Iraq or Afghanistan, or those that served us earlier in Vietnam or World War II and Korea and the Persian Gulf War I, to make sure that all of their needs are met, and that is what we are committed to and that is what these bills on the floor today indicate.

We also address the compensation cost-of-living adjustment that is so important to our veterans who base their income on the dependency and indemnity compensation. They need an annual increase to cover the cost of living, and this bill before us today will assure that.

It is my hope that on this Memorial Day we, as a Nation, remember the words of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. A half century ago he said ``Those who have long enjoyed such privileges as we enjoy forget in time that men,'' and he would say, I am sure today, women, ``have died to win them.'' President Washington, over 220 years ago, said, ``The best guarantee of the morale of our fighting troops is a sense of how they are going to be treated when they come home.''

So let us remember these words of Roosevelt, of Washington, as we prepare on Memorial Day to recognize and remember those heroes who have died in uniform. Our Nation has a proud legacy of appreciation and commitment, and we have to make sure that they know that we appreciate them and we know that our liberty, which we enjoy today, depended on them.

The bills before us today have come from all of our legislative subcommittees. Members on both sides of the aisle and all the committee worked very hard. I want to thank Chairman Michaud of the Health Committee, with his Ranking Member Miller of Florida, I want to thank the chair and ranking member of the Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity, Ms. Herseth Sandlin of South Dakota, and Mr. Boozman of Arkansas, and also the chair and the ranking member of the Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs, the gentleman from New York, Mr. Hall, and the gentleman from Colorado, Mr. Lamborn.

We are now looking at H.R. 3681, which would authorize the VA Secretary to purchase national media outlets to inform veterans of their benefits. You would think we would not have to do such legislation, Mr. Speaker, but apparently we do. Over the past 2 years, the Committee on Veterans' Affairs has conducted several hearings to determine how to improve the outreach to our veterans, and while various agencies have made tremendous improvement, more needs to be done to inform veterans of the entitlements they rightfully deserve and how to access those benefits.

Providing our veterans the information they need on television is a crucial component that can affect the livelihood of our veterans and their dependents. So I ask all of you to join me in supporting H.R. 3681.


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