WASHINGTON, D.C. – House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (MD) released the following statement today in observance of Veterans Day tomorrow, November 11:
“Americans are praying everyday for the safety of the hundreds of thousands of servicemen and women overseas. Though they face violence and danger, they tirelessly devote themselves to defending America abroad, as did millions of veterans before them. Tomorrow, our nation will pause to pay special tribute to those veterans and the innumerable sacrifices they made in service to our country.
“While Memorial Day commemorates the lives of those who died in military service, Veterans Day remembers those who are living. According to the 2000 Census, there are currently more than 26 million veterans living in the United States.
“As soldiers return home from serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, the need for medical care, living assistance, and disability benefits are steadily increasing. This puts a strain on an already-overburdened Veterans Administration, which has not been adequately funded to meet these challenges.
“Many in Congress believe we should be doing more. Working with veteran service organizations, Democrats helped add long-overdue provisions to end the survivor benefits penalty or widows’ tax, end the disabled veterans’ tax for the most severely disabled veterans, and ensure that every member of the National Guard and National Reserve called up to serve in Iraq or Afghanistan can purchase TRICARE health care coverage for their families after they return home.
“However, more than 30,000 veterans are waiting six months or more for an appointment at VA hospitals, and there are more than 348,000 veterans on the waiting list for disability claim decisions.
“Recent proposed increases in veterans’ funding will not allow us to address these pressing needs. President Bush also recommended instituting a $250 user fee and higher pharmaceutical co-payments for certain veterans. Democrats opposed new fees and increases in prescription drug co-payments and continue to seek better funding for veterans' medical care.
“I am hopeful that this Veterans’ Day Democrats and Republicans will join together to renew our promise to make veterans a priority in deeds, and not just in words, as the next Congress begins in January.”