The 111th Congress is committed to addressing the needs of America's service men and women as well as those of their families. We salute our men and women in uniform for the courage and bravery that they exhibit in battle and recognize the sacrifices of their families.
Working with veterans and military family organizations, this year we have enacted the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, to turn our economy around with new jobs and provide a tax credit for hiring veterans. The nation's budget includes the largest veterans funding increase ever requested by a President. This builds on a significant record of accomplishment for veterans and troops over the last two years - including the New GI Bill of Rights for education, historic veterans funding to strengthen health care, progress in improving our veterans hospitals and facilities, and improving care for those with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury, and an increase in other benefits for our troops and military families.
But this is just the start. Right now, Congress is working in a bipartisan manner to:
- Assure timely and reliable veterans funding;
- Strengthen support for military families, both while their loved ones are deployed and when they return home;
- Expand the New GI Bill to children of fallen service members; and,
- Provide troops and veterans with the quality health care that they need.
FY 2009 SUPPLEMENTAL APPROPRIATIONS
(H.R. 2346; passed House on 6/16/09 and being considered by Senate later this week)
EXTENDED GI BENEFITS: Allows the extension of the 21st Century GI Bill of Rights college education benefits to children of members of the armed forces who die while on active duty.
STOP LOSS: Provides over 185,000 service members who have had their enlistments involuntarily extended since September 11, 2001 with $500 per month for every month they were held under stop-loss orders.
DEFENSE HEALTH & MILITARY FAMILY SUPPORT: $1.8 billion for defense health and programs to support military families, including:
- $708 million for family advocacy programs, which provide military families with access to child psychologists, child care, financial counseling and other support to help them cope with the disruption and stress common with military life;
- $75 million for Traumatic Brain Injury and Psychological Health Research, and
- $20 million for rehabilitation equipment for state of the art care for wounded warriors.
EQUIPMENT FOR THE TROOPS: Provides $25.8 billion for equipment used by our service members in Iraq and Afghanistan, including $500 million for National Guard and Reserve equipment and $4.5 billion for lightweight Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles to protect our forces and provide a vehicle suited to the terrain and poor roads in Afghanistan.
WOUNDED WARRIOR SUPPORT: Supports the construction of nine wounded warrior support complexes to help soldiers wounded in combat recover and remain on active duty or transition to civilian life and support families through this process.
MILITARY HOSPITALS/WALTER REED: Invests $488 million in military hospital construction to renovate hospitals that are decades old and do not meet current standards for medical care. Also includes investments to complete the construction of Walter Reed National Military Medical Center at Bethesda, including a Warrior Transition Center, and the Fort Belvoir, VA, Community Hospital.
CHILD CARE FACILITIES: Provides for the construction of twenty-five new child development centers at military bases, which will provide care for an additional 5,000 kids.
FY 2010 DEFENSE AUTHORIZATION
(H.R.2647; on House Floor next week)
MILITARY PAY RAISE: Authorizes a pay raise of 3.4%, an increase of 0.5% above the budget request, as the Congress has done over the last two years.
CAREGIVERS FOR WOUNDED WARRIORS: Establishes a monthly compensation allowance for members with combat related catastrophic injuries or illnesses so they can receive assistance from a non-medical attendant with the daily functions of life such as eating, dressing and hygiene.
MENTAL HEALTH: Strengthen DOD efforts to expand mental health care for troops -- by providing DOD scholarships to students pursuing mental health-related degrees and requiring DOD to identify tools needed to expand DOD training for service members in becoming licensed mental health providers.
ENHANCING SPOUSAL JOB OPPORTUNITIES: Establishes an internship pilot program for military spouses to obtain employment with federal agencies and departments to provide them with opportunities in careers that are portable as they move from military station to station.
MILITARY HOUSING: Provides nearly $2 billion for family housing programs and requires DOD to review the current standards used to calculate the monthly rates for basic allowance for housing.
EDUCATION: Provides $50 million to assist local education agencies providing support to military children.
FY 2010 INVESTMENTS: The FY2010 Military Construction VA Appropriations bill contains $108.8 billion in overall funding level, $14.5 billion above 2009, for veterans medical care, claims processors, and military facility improvements. To provide quality health care for our 5 million veterans, this bill provides $53 billion in discretionary funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs for FY 2010 -- $5.4 billion more than fiscal year 2009 non-emergency appropriations. This year's budget increase is on top of the unprecedented increase of $17.7 billion provided over the last two years.
ADVANCED FUNDING FOR FY 2011: The Military Construction-VA Appropriations bill includes $48.2 billion in advance appropriations for fiscal year 2011 for three medical accounts: medical services, medical support and compliance, and medical facilities. This is an 8 percent increase over FY 2010 and will provide reliable and timely funding to support the delivery of medical care.
OTHER RECENT VETERANS INITIATIVES
TIMELY AND RELIABLE FUNDING: The House will soon take up the Veterans Health Care Budget Reform and Transparency Act (H.R. 1016), to authorize Congress to approve Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) medical care appropriations one year in advance of the start of each fiscal year. This will provide the VA with sufficient time to plan how to deliver the most efficient and effective care to an increasing number of veterans with increasingly complex medical conditions. In a letter sent by eleven veteran service organizations, a vote for this measure “will be among the most important for veterans and their families that the Committee will take this year.”
WOMEN'S VETERANS HEALTH: The House will soon consider Women Veterans Health Care Improvement Act (H.R. 1211), to expand and improve VA health care services for the 1.8 million women who have bravely served their country. It calls for a study of barriers to women veterans seeking health care, assessment of women's health care programs, medical care for newborn children of women veterans, enhancement of VA sexual trauma programs, enhancement of PTSD treatment for women, establishment of a pilot program for child care services, and the addition of recently separated women veterans to serve on advisory committees.