03 July 2009

Keeping Faith with Those Who Serve

/PRNewswire/ -- On the eve of the anniversary of our nation's founding, Lt. General Claudia Kennedy and Col. Don Fowler, Co-Chairs of the Democratic National Committee's Veterans and Military Families Council released the following statement lauding the efforts of the President and Democratic Congress to support our veterans:

"On the week of the anniversary of the birth of the United States, the President enacted into law the 2009 supplemental appropriations bill which extends new benefits to those Americans who, like their ancestors of 1776, have voluntarily put their lives on the line to protect the American people.

"The men and women serving in the armed forces of the United States deserve access to the highest quality health care facilities and mental health programs available to help with their transition to civilian life. The President's budget request includes the largest increase to veterans funding in 30 years, building on recent efforts to modernize veterans hospitals and facilities and improve care for those suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury.

"And the historic benefits provided by the New GI Bill, which ensures a bright future for our warriors returning to a civilian life, will now be available to the children of those who have lost their lives in active duty."

After September 11, 2001, tens of thousands of Americans answered the call of duty and signed up to serve their country. Since then, under the Bush administration's stop-loss policy, they have been asked to serve double and triple tours of duty - putting a huge emotional and financial burden on service members and their families. As enacted by the President and Democratic Congress, the supplemental compensates those veterans who were asked to bear the extra burden by providing a $500 allowance for every month served under stop-loss orders since September, 10, 2001.

The bill also includes important provisions to support family members of those who have given the ultimate sacrifice and lost their life in service to their country. The Fry Scholarship, a new benefit included in the bill, provides extended GI Bill of Rights college education benefits for children of service members who die in active duty.

To support military families, the bill also provides $1.8 billion for defense health programs that provide family counseling and traumatic brain injury and psychological health research. The bill supports the construction of nine wounded warrior support complexes to help wounded soldiers recover and invests $488 million in military hospital construction, as well as investments to complete construction at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.

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