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Public Statements

Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2005

Location: Washington, DC



Mr. OBAMA. Mr. President, I speak in favor of the amendment offered by the distinguished chairman and ranking member of the Veterans Affairs Committee.

A few weeks ago, I met with Sergeants Ryan Kelly, Jeremy Feldbusch, and Heath Calhoun, all of whom had recently returned from Iraq. They served their country bravely in battle, and in doing so, each of these men sustained a disabling injury that will change their lives forever.

When they came home, it would have been easy for them to go about their own business or feel sorry for themselves.

But they did not. Instead, they decided that their service to our country would not end on the battlefields of Iraq. They would speak out for their fellow soldiers--the ones who also may come home without a leg, or an arm, or their sight, but may not have the resources to carry on and support their families.

This amendment is their tribute to their brothers and sisters-in-arms.

For only about $3 per month, it allows service members to purchase group disability insurance that would award them a maximum of $100,000 if they are deemed seriously injured. For disabled veterans who may not be able to work when they come home, this insurance could help them obtain long-term care, send their kids to school, or simply make sure that they can pay the bills and still put food on the table. It won't cost the Government a dime. It simply needs our approval to allow it to happen.

The blessings of modern technology have saved the lives of many service members who would otherwise have died from their wounds. Yet, it also means there will be more wounded who need care. Every single one of us has a fundamental moral duty to take care of those men and women who've sacrificed to safeguard our freedom. This amendment offers us one way to do that, and I thank Senators Craig and Akaka for their cooperation in moving this issue forward.

Mr. AKAKA. Mr. President, I am pleased to support this important and timely amendment.

This amendment will go far to ease the financial burden that is placed on a service member and his or her loved ones as a result of traumatic injury. Between $25,000 and $100,000 will be paid to service members who suffer such injuries based on severity of injury.

Service members and their families face heavy financial burdens while hospitalized, and prior to being medically discharged from the military. This effort will help lessen the burden that exists on service members and their families before VA benefits kick in.

Importantly, to qualify for this necessary benefit, our soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines do not have to do any additional paperwork. They are automatically enrolled in this program by virtue of being a participant in the Service members' Group Life Insurance Program.

The insurance premium will cost the service member approximately $1 a month and will be determined by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs.

This insurance policy is meant to supplement, and not take the place of, existing DoD and VA benefits. This amendment is intended to fill a gap: assistance to service members and their families during recovery from a traumatic injury. In no way should anyone view this as a precedence for shifting costs to a service member.


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