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Honoring our veterans by keeping our commitments

By By Chip Pickering
Nov. 12, 2001
This year, Veterans Day carries special significance as America continues the war on terrorism. We remember the brave soldiers who died for our freedom and all of the members of our armed forces who served their country to secure the liberties we enjoy today.
We have not forgotten our country's defenders. Congress is dedicated to providing quality health care and benefits to veterans who put in their time and service and have needs we must fulfill.
This year, Congress has been working to ensure that our veterans are continually provided the benefits they need.
We increased the total spending for Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) programs by $1 billion with the VA-HUD Appropriations Act (totaling $21.3 billion) and passed legislation that authorizes $550 million to repair dilapidated and obsolete medical facilities with the Veterans Hospital Emergency Repair Act.
This funding helps keep our promise to American veterans and addresses patient safety, privacy and accommodation for disabled veterans.
The 21st Century Montgomery GI Bill Enhancement Act, legislation I co-sponsored in the House of Representatives, was approved by the House to increase the education benefit by 70 percent over the next three years. This helps guarantee that those Americans who are prepared to offer their lives for their country are given good educational opportunities once back in civilian society.
The Veterans Benefit Act of 2001 is another strong response by the House to help meet the growing needs of our veterans. This initiative that was approved by the House provides a cost-of-living adjustment, increasing the compensation of disabled veterans and their survivors by $2.7 billion over five years.
We are also working to assist those veterans who need help getting back on their feet. The Homeless Veterans Assistance Act would authorize the VA Secretary to establish new domiciliary programs to serve homeless veterans. By providing additional vouchers for rental assistance in addition to nearly $60 million for the VA's Homeless Grant and Per Diem Program, we are giving veterans the chance to reestablish their lives and show that they have not been forgotten by their country.
Additionally, veterans' families are helped with The Veteran's Survivor Benefits Improvements Act which creates new life insurance and health care benefits for up to two million eligible spouses and children of veterans.
Recently, President Bush signed into law legislation that will expedite the construction of the World War II Memorial. This has finally put an end to the numerous delays in establishing this long overdue tribute by removing the last obstacle to building a national memorial on the Mall in Washington, D.C.
This national memorial is evidence of America's commitment to the struggle and sacrifice of the Americans who have diligently served so that freedom and democracy can prevail. Our veterans will continue to receive the honor and care that they deserve.
Our celebration of America's veterans must not end on Veterans Day. Let's continue to reflect on the many patriotic Americans, some who gave the ultimate sacrifice, who wore the uniform and made our country safe and strong.
Their service must never be forgotten. Their legacy will endure forever.
U.S. Rep. Chip Pickering represents Mississippi's 3rd Congressional District. Contact him at 427 Cannon Building, Washington, D.C. 20515 or (202) 225-5031.