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America’s veterans have engaged in one of the noblest forms of public service: defending our nation. These brave, patriotic men and women have helped to liberate victims of oppression, spread democracy across the world and preserve the freedoms our nation was built upon. They have served on aircraft carriers in distant oceans, kept the peace on volatile borders, and patrolled the skies of international hot spots. Theirs is a service marked by humility and born of a love of country. For these selfless actions, we in turn have a responsibility to ensure that our troops are sufficiently provided for when they return home.
Recently, with my support, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed an increase in veterans funding. Next year the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) is expected to treat more than 6.1 million patients, including over 400,000 veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan. To meet this ever-increasing need for quality health care, which our veterans so rightfully deserve, the bipartisan Fiscal Year 2010 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Act includes funding for mental health services, as well as funding for medical and prosthetic research to address the critical needs of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom veterans. The legislation also includes funding to improve access to care for veterans in rural areas. It is estimated that more than 41% of enrolled veterans live in rural or highly rural areas and this funding will help ensure they are getting access to the health care they need.
In addition to providing for our men and women who have completed their service to their country, the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Act contains important resources for our dedicated members of the armed forces who are currently serving our nation. This important legislation contains significant funding for quality of life projects that will directly improve living conditions and health care delivery for our active duty service members and their families, including funding to further eliminate inadequate military housing and improve the barracks our soldiers live in while they are in training. Additionally, the legislation contains funding for the Army National Guard, Air National Guard, Army Reserve, Navy and Marine Corps Reserve and Air Force Reserve to address critical construction requirements that aren’t currently being met.
It is crucial that we continue to provide the vital resources such as health care, housing and benefits to the brave Americans who have served and sacrificed for our country and those who continue to serve today. Mindful of their sacrifice, Congress has sought to honor our veterans, our active duty military and their loved ones. I am pleased the House of Representatives worked together in a bipartisan fashion to pass the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Act which provides these necessary resources to those who have so nobly defended our nation.