Washington, D.C. - Speaker Nancy Pelosi spoke on the House floor this morning in support of the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act, which will be voted on later today. Below are the Speaker's remarks.
“Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. I thank the gentleman for yielding. I thank him for his leadership and I am very pleased that today we have bipartisan support for this important legislation to benefit our veterans. I, too, join my colleagues in rising to honor the sacrifice and service of the bravest among us: the men and women of our armed forces.
“In the name of our safety, they lay their lives on the line. In the name of our security, they fight our enemies far from home. In the name of our values, they serve as our nation's greatest ambassadors, as champions of America's families.
“Each and every day, our soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines earn the respect of a grateful nation. And as long as those in uniform continue the battle abroad, we must do everything in our power to support them here at home.
“I would like to thank all of the Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle who worked so hard to strengthen the bill and to bring it to the floor today. Again, I want to commend: Chairman Bob Filner, Chairman of the Committee on Veterans Affairs; Chairman Mike Michaud, Health Subcommittee of the Committee on Veterans Affairs; and Chairwoman Stephanie Herseth-Sandlin, Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity, Committee on Veterans Affairs. I also want to recognize the hard work and commitment to those who have worn our nation's uniform by three key freshman members of Congress: Congressman Tom Perriello; Congresswoman Debbie Halvorson; Congressman Harry Teague.
“In both Houses, this has been a bipartisan effort, and I commend Ranking Member Steve Buyer for his leadership. I know that everything is not in this bill. There are endless lists of what we want to do for our veterans. But we are proud of Senator Burr and the role that he has played in the Senate, and all of the Members here. Thank you, Mr. Buyer.
“The Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act is a landmark moment in the ongoing effort to give back to our veterans and their families.
“It is a tribute to their service, and, in the words of the Paralyzed Veterans of America, it will ‘provide valuable benefits for veterans and their families - benefits they need, have earned, and so richly deserve.'
“This legislation will support family members and others who care for the disabled, ill, or injured veterans. This is very important to families, military families. Our wounded soldiers and their families have made a serious sacrifice for our country, and this bill will bring them some relief.
“It will expand mental health services and health care access for veterans in rural areas, and prohibit co-pays for our most severely wounded warriors.
“This bill marks a step forward for the 1.8 million women in uniform--thank you Chairwoman Herseth-Sandlin--removing existing barriers to female veterans seeking medical care.
“In a sweeping change long overdue and with strong bipartisan support--and I see my friend Congressman Henry Brown there. Thank you Mr. Brown for your leadership as well, my friend.
“In sweeping change, long overdue, we will provide care for newborns for the first time in history. Today's vote is one in a series of actions taken by this Congress to give back to America's veterans.
“Our signature achievement remains our New GI Bill, providing those who serve with full four-year college educations. This is also transferrable to a family member and also, a new improvement that we made was that if a veteran -- service member or woman dies in combat -- that this opportunity is provided for their children or another family member.
“Late last year, again, in a bipartisan way, we celebrated the passage of the Veterans Health Care Budget Reform and Transparency Act -- ensuring that the VA has timely and predictable funding, and our veterans receive the high quality care they have earned. Working to make sure that our economic recovery truly benefits all Americans, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act offered a tax credit for hiring veterans and a $250 payment to disabled veterans.
“Just this month, we passed the TRICARE Affirmation Act, stating explicitly that our health care reform legislation will not impact the excellent health coverage our veterans and service members already receive.
“In the last three years, we have given our troops a pay raise, helped restore military readiness, and bolstered the support for our military families. Today, we strengthen the benefits our men and women in uniform receive.
“Mr. Speaker, in the course of our meetings with the Veterans Service Organizations and with the families of our men and women in uniform and our veterans, we hear directly from them what their needs are and tried to establish their priorities, and to make it a priority in allocating resources of our country. And in the course of those conversations, we have heard from the families, that in a survey they took, of their own membership, the Blue Star Families, that they believe -- 94 percent of them thought that most Americans did not have clear understanding of their needs. We promise them that in all that we do here, we will remove all doubt in anyone's mind among our military families, that we understand their needs, especially as they present them in a prioritized way. And we'll make them our priorities in the Congress.
“In every action we strive to live up to our commitment. Just as the military on the battlefield has said, ‘on the battlefield we will leave no soldier behind.' So too, when they come home, we will leave no veteran behind.
“As the leaders of the American Legion have stated: ‘This legislation offers bold solutions to major challenges facing service members, veterans, and their families.'
“On behalf of every American who wears the uniform, I urge my colleagues to vote ‘yes' on this bill.”