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To DAV Virtual Marchers

It is my distinct honor to bring you greetings on the occasion of the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) virtual march on Washington, DC — an innovative way to ensure Americans across the country are able to voice their support for our nation's veterans. I commend the DAV for increasing awareness about the issues veterans are facing. Our nation owes a debt of gratitude to our servicemen and women, veterans and their families for the sacrifices they have made for us all. It is our responsibility to care for and honor them.

At the beginning of the 111th Congress, DAV and other leading veterans groups began advocating for funding three key Department of Veterans Affairs programs in advance of the start of each fiscal year. On June 23, 2009 the House passed legislation by Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Bob Filner authorizing this budget plan by an overwhelming majority. Otherwise known as advanced appropriations, this change will finally provide the VA with ample time to plan the most efficient and effective health care delivery system to an increasing number of veterans with ever more complex medical conditions

In addition to advanced appropriations, the House recently passed the groundbreaking Women Veterans Health Care Improvement Act (HR 1211), authored by Representative Stephanie Herseth-Sandlin, to expand and improve VA health care services for the increasing number of women veterans. The legislation calls on the VA to study the barriers to women veterans seeking health care, assess the current state of women's health care programs and enhance PTSD and other trauma programs at the VA specifically designed for women. As more and more women answer the call of duty, the VA has unfortunately been unable to keep pace. The legislation will expand and improve VA health care services for the 1.8 million women who have bravely served their country.

On July 10, 2009, the House passed the Fiscal Year 2010 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Bill (HR 3082), which will help veterans receive the critical health services they need. The bill contains a 58% increase in funding for veterans health care and benefits since 2007, which provides an increase of 8,300 claims processors, 145 community-based outpatient clinics, 70 Vet Centers, and more than 47,000 additional Veterans Health Administration employees. Advance funding for veterans health services in 2011 is also included in the bill to ensure the funding for our veterans' health care is timely and consistent.

Congress has also displayed a strong commitment to men and women in our armed services wounded in combat. The Fiscal Year 2009 Supplemental Appropriations Act (HR 2346) was signed into law by President Obama on June 24, 2009. Among other things, the bill provides funding for the construction of nine wounded warrior support centers to assist those wounded recover and remain on active duty or transition to civilian life. The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010 (HR 2647) includes a monthly compensation allowance for those with a combat related catastrophic injury to receive assistance with the daily functions of life from a non-medical attendant. The House and Senate will soon meet to reconcile our differences on this legislation before final passage of the bill.

The passage of these, and future, bills is incredibly important to me personally, and to House Democrats. Even before I became Speaker, I held regular roundtables with representatives of Veteran and Military Service Organizations including DAV to hear directly from them on how to improve services and honor our commitment to active duty troops and veterans. I am grateful for DAV's counsel over the years and for their continued desire to forge a strong working relationship. While we have made great strides in addressing the needs of America's veterans, there is still more work ahead of us. The 111th Congress will continue to work in a bipartisan manner to strengthen support for military families, ensure reliable veterans funding, and provide troops and veterans with the quality health care that they need.

Thank you to all those participating in today's virtual march for standing up for the brave men and women who have given so much for our country.

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