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Ms. HIRONO. Mr. Chair, I rise in support of H.R. 2055, the Military Construction-Veterans Affairs Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2012. This bipartisan bill passed the Appropriations Committee by unanimous voice vote, and I urge my colleagues to support it on the House floor today.
To support those who have put their lives on the line for our country, this bill provides disability payments, pensions, survivors' benefits, and education benefits under the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill.
The ward in Iraq and Afghanistan have taken a major toll on our brave men and women in uniform. We must take care of our veterans' mental and physical health needs as they return home and transition to civilian life.
Today's bill provides $129.7 billion for the Veterans Affairs Department for Fiscal Year 2012. The Veterans Health Administration serves over 4 million patients. Continuing the practice the Democratic Congress started in 2009, the bill provides advance appropriations for VA medical accounts for both the next and the following fiscal years. Our veterans deserve the certainty of knowing there will be enough funds, in advance, for the care they have earned and deserve.
Of the more than 50,000 veterans in my district--rural Oahu and the Neighbor Islands--many live in rural areas. The veterans I have met with cite difficulty in getting to medical care in Honolulu from the Neighbor Islands, as well as not enough services on their own islands. Today's bill includes $250 million for innovations to improve health care assess for rural veterans. These include providing VA outpatient care through community-based outpatient clinics and completing a feasibility study on mobile health services, home-based care, and telemedicine.
Today's bill also provides $11.5 billion for military construction, a 4 percent increase over current levels. Hawaii has many military bases, and this bill will support the construction of housing and other facilities on our bases, sending a positive ripple effect throughout Hawaii's economy.
Today I am voting for the LaTourette amendment on Project Labor Agreements. This amendment would restore President Obama's executive order encouraging Federal agencies to consider requiring Project Labor Agreements for construction contracts. Project Labor Agreements are short-term agreements for the length of a project that can reduce projects' costs and duration. Project Labor Agreements strengthen project quality by helping the Federal Government specify the project requirements in advance. This is the third time this year that this Congress has tried to undermine Project Labor Agreements. Fortunately, amendments to preserve Project Labor Agreements passed the last two times; I hope the LaTourette amendment will also pass.
I am opposing the Amash amendment that would try yet again to eliminate Davis-Bacon prevailing wage protections. This is yet another attack on working families. The Davis-Bacon Act prevents contractors from driving down wages and benefits in an area. Amendments to eliminate Davis-Bacon protections have failed again and again this year, and I hope the Amash amendment will meet the same fate.
Overall, the underlying bill supports our veterans and military construction in Hawaii, and I urge my colleagues to support it.
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