THE WHITE HOUSE AT WORK
Thursday, November 11, 1998
HONORING AMERICA'S VETERANS
We must protect the benefits you have earned, address fully the dangers imposed by modern warfare, and preserve what you fought for: The American Dream at home and our leadership around the world.
-- President Bill Clinton
Today, President Clinton will commemorate Veterans Day and help honor our nation's veterans at a ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery. He will also discuss Administration initiatives to ensure military readiness for the 21st Century. Prior to the event, the President will sign the Veterans Programs Enhancement Act of 1998, which will improve benefits and programs for veterans, and a Presidential Directive calling upon the Secretaries of Defense, Veterans Affairs, and Health and Human Services to establish a coordinating board to improve health care for our armed forces, veterans, and families.
Ensuring Our Military Remains The Best-Trained And Best-Equipped Force In The World. President Clinton considers military readiness -- ensuring that our armed forces are always ready to respond and have the tools to accomplish their mission -- to be the top priority of his national security program. The President worked to secure an additional $1.1 billion in military readiness funding for this fiscal year, which will allow our forward-deployed and first-to-fight units to maintain high standards of readiness throughout the year by:
- Reducing the backlog of equipment maintenance;
- Buying certain critical spare parts for Air Force and Navy aircraft; and
- Improving our recruiting efforts and supporting Army training activities.
Providing Needed Assistance To Our Nation's Veterans. The President will also sign H.R. 4110, the Veterans Programs Enhancement Act of 1998, to improve benefits and programs as follows:
- Benefit Compensation: This legislation will provide a 1.3 percent increase in compensation payments to veterans with service-connected disabilities and in dependence and indemnity compensation (DIC) to the survivors of those whose deaths were service-related;
- Gulf War Veterans: This legislation will extend existing authority for providing priority health care to Gulf War veterans through the end of 2001, expand outreach efforts to Gulf War veterans, and broaden the public's access to the findings of federally sponsored research on the health consequences of service in the Persian Gulf;
- Educational and Employment Opportunities: This legislation will expand veterans' options for entering on-the-job-training programs and meeting requirements for Montgomery G.I. Bill benefits and reinforce and expand an individual's right to return to a job after military service;
- Pension and Insurance Plans: This legislation will increase the special pension paid to recipients of the Medal of Honor, and increase assistance to certain veterans with terminal illnesses by allowing them to receive a portion of their life insurance as "living benefits" thereby helping them to meet medical and living expenses;
- Streamlining Services: This legislation includes provisions to: (1) permanently streamline and restructure the financing for Veterans Affairs (VA) housing loan operations; (2) enhance VA's efficiency in administering housing programs; and (3) contribute to high-quality VA health care by authorizing the Department to establish new educational benefits for certain categories of health care professionals.
A Strong Record Of Support For Veterans. President Clinton has fought to protect the benefits that veterans have earned and to address the new needs and challenges created by a changing world. The President has:
- Aggressively responded to veterans of the Persian Gulf War suffering from unexplained illnesses;
- Responded to the challenges created as the military downsized after the Cold War;
- Worked to address the needs of homeless veterans; and
- Ordered the formation of a Military and Veterans Health Coordinating Board to improve health protection for our armed forces, veterans and families. This Board will oversee the implementation of a new interagency plan requiring better medical record keeping, improved health surveillance, advanced research, and enhanced communications about health risks.