Friday, November 13, 2009

I rise today in support of our Nation’s veterans and in support of their families.

Ninety years ago tomorrow, our nation marked the very first Armistice Day in recognition of the end of World War I.  In 1954, Armistice Day became Veterans Day, and every year since, we have marked the occasion through ceremonies, pageants, parades, and other events designed to honor the men and women who have served this nation so selflessly in the Armed Forces.  I encourage all Americans to use the opportunity of Veterans Day to let those around you who have served our nation, those in your community, to know how thankful we are for their contributions.

I know that across our nation there will be remembrances of those we have lost and honors to those who have served in the past or who are serving today, but we can and should do more to honor our nation’s veterans.  We should make sure they have access to the health care that we have promised.  We should make sure their caregivers are given the support they need to assist our wounded warriors.  We should expand health services for female veterans.  We should do more for veterans in hard-to-reach rural areas.  We should increase our mental health services for veterans because injuries to the brain deserve the same attention as injuries to the body.

These programs – access to health care, support to caregivers, services for female veterans, services to rural veterans, improved mental health services – are all included in the bills that have been put into the veteran’s package – the Caregiver and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act of 2009.  I have cosponsored a number of these bills and will passionately support this package. Our service members stand up for America when on duty.  America must stand up for our service members when they return home.

The legislation before us has wide bipartisan support.  It has been endorsed by organizations, including the Disabled American Veterans and the Paralyzed Veterans of America.  It has been endorsed by the American Legion.  It has been endorsed by the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.  It has been endorsed by the Veterans of Foreign Wars.  It has been endorsed by the Wounded Warrior Project.  Each of these groups wants to see a vote on this omnibus package of support for our veterans and to see that vote happen now.  But we in the Senate are not here debating this package; we are not here preparing to vote on this bill because a single Senator has objected to having an up-or-down vote.  Our veterans deserve to have this chamber debate this bill.  They deserve to have this chamber vote up or down on this bill.

Tomorrow we will honor our veterans through ceremonies across this nation.  But we should do more than simply honor our veterans; we should act to stand up for our veterans.  We need to stand with them and their families as they have stood up for us when on duty.  We should move expeditiously, and I encourage all Senators to support the effort to quickly have this bill before us for a debate and an up-and-down vote.