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Memorial Day is a time that helps us to recall what it means to be an American. Patriotism and appreciation for the service and sacrifice of our veterans was displayed proudly at the Memorial Day events that I attended around the Fifth District. Especially moving was the ceremony at the D Day Memorial in Bedford.
Last week, the large defense authorization measure, which included pay raises for our military, was considered. I was saddened that the Motion to Recommit, which provided fuel savings and greatly expanded G. I. Bill benefits, was rejected by the Democrats.
One of the key provisions of the Motion to Recommit sought to reduce fuel costs for the military and for all Americans. This goal would be accomplished by eliminating one of the major hurdles to building a new oil refinery in the United States, namely finding a suitable site location for the refinery. It has been 30 years since a refinery was built in the U. S.; this has had the effect of limiting the supply of gasoline and increasing prices at the pump. The Motion to Recommit directed that within 90 days of enactment, three military bases that are slated to be closed shall be identified by the administration as suitable for an oil refinery.
Another key provision of the Motion to Recommit included the concepts that Secretary of Defense Robert Gates says are necessary to strengthen our all-volunteer army: (1) An immediate increase in education benefits for active duty personnel to $1,500 a month to improve retention, with those benefits increasing to $2,000 a month after 12 years or more of service. (2) Significantly increased benefits for members of the National Guard and Reserves. (3)The ability of service members to transfer their education benefits to dependents. After six years, half of the benefit may be transferred and after 12 years, 100 percent may be transferred to a spouse or dependent children. (4) Allows service members to use up to $6,000 per year of Montgomery G. I. Bill education benefits to repay federal student loans. (5) Create a matching program to help more veterans graduate debt-free. Up to an additional $3,000 per year could be paid by the Department of Veterans Affairs in return for the school retiring some or all of the service member’s debt. (6) Build on the existing educational benefits program to ensure rapid implementation with minimal additional administrative costs.
Two clean bills regarding veterans were passed overwhelmingly by the House, and I voted for both. One was the Veterans Emergency Care Fairness Act. It requires the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to reimburse certain veterans without a service connected disability enrolled as active participants of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) health care plan for the cost of emergency treatment received in a non-VA facility until such time as such veterans are transferred to a VA facility. Also, it requires the Secretary to reimburse certain veterans with a service-connected disability or a non-service-connected disability associated with or aggravating a service-connected disability for the value of emergency treatment for which such veterans have made payment from sources other than the VA.
The other was the Veterans Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment Act of 2008. Under this legislation, the Secretary of Defense is directed to increase, as of December 1, 2008, the rates of veterans' disability compensation, additional compensation for dependents, the clothing allowance for certain disabled adult children, and dependency and indemnity compensation for surviving spouses and children.
Please keep in touch with me on issues that are important to you. You may write Congressman Virgil Goode, 70 East Court Street, Room 215, Rocky Mount, VA 24151; or fax to 1-540-484-1459; or call toll-free to the Danville office, 1-800-535-4008.