Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Members of Congress and military family organizations held a roundtable in the Capitol this morning to highlight Congress' commitment to men and women in uniform and spotlight the unique needs of military families. At the roundtable, Blue Star Families released their extensive poll regarding issues facing today's military families.
Below are the Speaker's opening remarks:
"Today is a very special occasion. Usually in this room, we meet with our veterans' service organizations. They come in and there's so many different wars, different ethnic groups, different disabilities, different generations, everything and we hear their concerns and we establish our priorities on how we go forth each year.
"But today, we have that perspective enhanced by the role that the military families play and so for us, it's a really a very special occasion and we're absolutely thrilled that all of you are here.
"I am pleased to be joined by Congresswoman Susan Davis of California and Congresswoman Kay Granger from Texas, the co-chairs of the Military Task Force of the bipartisan Women's Caucus in the Congress. Thank you, Susan and Kay, for joining us.
"I want to say to both the National Military Family Association and Blue Star Families: your organizations are the guardians of a promise made by President Lincoln in the Gettysburg Address 144 years ago when he pledged to care for "him whom shall have bourn the battle and for his window and orphan." And the pledge he made in that address is the pledge that we continue to make to you today.
"We're of course thrilled to be joined by Tina Tchen from the White House Council on Women and Girls. The First Lady has made military families a key priority for her and for the White House, and we will be working with the Administration to ensure that your sacrifices we're aware of them and appreciate it are recognized, not just in word but in deed.
"It is appropriate that we have gathered during Military Appreciation Month; this Friday our nation marks Military Spouse Appreciation Day. Every day we recognize and appreciate our military the sacrifices our military families make.
"Today, the Blue Star Families will be sharing with us the results of almost 3,000 military families about the challenges that you all face. We're looking forward to hearing these results. The better we understand the needs of our military families, the better we are able to serve you.
"When it comes to caring for those who have worn our nation's uniform and their families, Congress works in a bipartisan way. We're proud to have provided the largest single increase in veteran's health benefits in the history of the VA that was a couple of years ago and we've built upon that.
"We have paid special attention to the mental health needs of over 300,000 veterans returning from Iraq especially, but also Afghanistan. We've enacted the new G.I. Bill to provide our brave men and women serving in uniform, a full four-year college scholarship. The new G.I. Bill goes into effect in August, and one of its appealing provisions is that it is transferrable.
"The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act that we passed at the beginning of this year built on these accomplishments with an additional $3.4 billion dollars to modernize DOD hospitals, barracks and daycare centers. It also includes a tax credit for businesses hiring unemployed veterans. We want to make sure that our veterans have every opportunity to succeed when they come home.
"From dwell time, to family support, to spouse health, employment issues, and the challenges of child care we have gathered you all here today to hear about the issues facing all of you.
"Of the challenges you face, Blue Star Families and the National Military Family Association advocate powerfully on behalf of all of America's military families. And so I'm very pleased now to turn the program over and introduce Pam Eggleston from Blue Star Families, who will be followed by Joyce Wessel Raezer of the National Military Family Association for their presentations. We will then hear from Tina and then we will go on from there for other presentations from some of you.
"So thank you all very much for coming here to listen to what our guests have to say. Now I'm going to defer to Pam Eggleston to talk to us from the viewpoint of the Blue Star Families."