[Hpn] Richmond, VA - Keeping our promises and honoring their service - The Augusta Free Press - November 10, 2003
Mon, 10 Nov 2003 23:20:06 -0500
Keeping our promises and honoring their service
The View from Capitol Hill
By Bob Goodlatte - The Augusta Free Press - November 10, 2003
Waynesboro, VA - America's veterans have engaged in one
of the noblest forms of public service - defending this
nation. We in turn have a responsibility to ensure that
our troops are sufficiently provided for when they
Having just commemorated Veterans Day, it is
appropriate to note some of the most recent actions
taken by Congress to honor our nation's veterans.
In our recent appropriations package, we included $15.8
billion for medical services for veterans with service
connected health needs, more than $5 billion for
Veteran's Affairs administrative costs, $4 billion for
facilities and $408 million for veterans' medical and
In just the last five years, we obtained a 49 percent
increase in funding for veterans' health-care services.
The Veterans Health Administration is now providing
services to more than 5 million users. With more than
170 medical centers, the VA health care system is the
largest integrated health-care network in the world.
Currently, 87 percent of the VA population lives within
30 minutes of a VA medical facility.
We have reduced the disability and pensions claims
backlog from a high of 432,000 to 253,000 and reduced
the processing time for claims from 233 days to 162
days - this improvement is a reflection not only of
increased funding, but of a concerted effort by the VA
to deliver benefits in a timely and accurate manner,
through computer modernization initiatives and
Congress also passed legislation to strengthen
veterans' education and job-training programs, by
boosting the GI Bill education benefit a record 46
percent over two years and authorizing educational
assistance for on-the-job training in certain
self-employment training programs.
In addition, Congress and the president have worked
together to provide $22 billion to help disabled
military retirees. Under this agreement, the
prohibition on concurrent receipt of disability
compensation and military retirement pay, which has
been in place for more than a century, will be phased
out for every veteran whose disability is 50 percent or
greater. In addition, the Combat Related Special
Compensation program will be expanded to include every
veteran with combat-related injuries, including all
National Guard and reserve members. This proposal will
likely be included in the 2004 Department of Defense
Authorization scheduled to be approved and sent to the
president for his signature before the year's end.
We also enacted legislation that doubled the number of
low-income housing vouchers for homeless veterans and
increased funding for the homeless veterans
While work remains, we have made remarkable strides in
providing services and care that befits the sacrifice
of our most honored Americans. With our servicemen and
-women presently engaged in the war on terror, we must
send a clear message to those in uniform that our
government and our country will keep its promises and
honor their service.
Bob Goodlatte represents Virginia's Sixth Congressional
District in the United States Congress.
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