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Public Statements

Statements on Introduced Bills and Joint Resolutions

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC



S. 1444. A bill to amend title 38, United States Code, to clarify the meaning of ``combat with the enemy'' for purposes of service-connection of disabilities; to the Committee on Veterans' Affairs.

Mr. KERRY. Mr. President, in order to reduce a 400,000 case backlog in disability claims, I am introducing legislation to make it easier for our veterans to enroll in Department of Veteran Affairs', VA, disability programs. Specifically, the Compensation Owed for Mental Health Based on Activities in Theater Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Act or COMBAT PTSD Act will change the definition of ``combat with the enemy'' so veterans can more easily be enrolled in PTSD programs.

It has become apparent that the nature of modern warfare is vastly different than it was in previous generations. In the past veterans were confronted with an identifiable enemy, on a battlefield that was much more easily discernible. This is no longer the case forcing our military to adapt to the changes of the battlefield. They have done so admirably--their ability to shift from a force designed to deliver quick decisive blows to a full spectrum force has been extremely impressive. Every American can agree that the men and women in uniform today deserve nothing but the best resources available to them.

Unfortunately, when our veterans return home they too often find a wait of approximately six months for their claims to the VA to be filed. This is unacceptable. It most certainly does not reflect the level of sacrifice and commitment that they have given to this nation. I know we can do better.

During previous conflicts the definition of ``combat with the enemy'' was simply determined by an individual's appearance on the front lines. However, today's battlefields may not include a front line as they have in past conflicts. We are using a 20th century model to diagnose and treat individuals returning from a 21st century conflict.

My legislation reflects these changes in conflict to ensure that our men and women in the military gain access to VA programs as soon as possible. It changes the VA's definition of ``combat with the enemy'' to include those that have served in a theater of operations, or in combat against a hostile force during a period of hostilities. This will more accurately reflect the current face of conflict.

President Obama's recent increase in the number of VA claim processors is certainly a good start, but those of us in Congress need to do our part to support this effort. With nearly 400,000 claims unprocessed it is time that we expedite this process. The men and women who have served honorably in our Nation's military who need our help cannot return to a bureaucratic maze.

I ask all my colleagues to support this legislation.

By Mr. KERRY (for himself and Mr. Lugar) (by request):

S.J. Res. 18. A joint resolution relating to the approval of the proposed agreement for nuclear cooperation between the United States and the United Arab Emirates; to the Committee on Foreign Relations for not to exceed 45 days pursuant to 42 U.S.C. 2159.

Mr. KERRY. Mr. President, today Senator Lugar and I introduce, by request, a joint resolution of approval of the proposed agreement for peaceful nuclear cooperation between the United States and the United Arab Emirates, which the President transmitted to Congress on May 21, 2009, pursuant to section 123b. and 123d. of the Atomic Energy Act of 1954, as amended. Pursuant to Section 130i.(2) of that Act, the majority and minority leaders have designated Senator Lugar and me to introduce this joint resolution.

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