Below are just some of the issues that I am working for on behalf of Central Texans. To view video of additional floor speeches, committee hearing statements and questions, and district events that I have attended, please visit my YouTube channel at http://www.youtube.com/doggett.
Congress Passes Doggett "More Education" Tax Credit
The Recovery Act included my proposal for a new higher education tax credit, also known as the American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC), of up to $2,500 of the cost of tuition and related expenses paid during the taxable year. Forty percent of the tax credit – up to $1000 – would be refundable—this means that families that need help the most will benefit from this tax credit. It is estimated that in 2012, the AOTC will provide $9 billion in tax relief for those seeking more education after high school. For the first time since higher education tax credits were created, my tax cut expanded the definition of a “qualified education expense” to include textbooks, making them more affordable for students. In the State of the Union, President Obama called on Congress to make permanent this tax cut. Click here to read my op-ed in the Daily Texan about this important tax cut and other issues related to investing in higher education and students’ ability to achieve their God-given potential through higher education.
Expanding Access to Higher Education
With my support, Congress passed the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act, which eliminates the unnecessary middleman-role of private financial institutions in the federal student loan system. By cutting red tape, and lending directly to students, the federal government will save $61 billion dollars more over the next decade for our students with more resources left over to reduce the national debt. The legislation represents the largest single investment ever in higher education, with $36 billion more put into Pell Grants. The Pell Grant program is the nation’s vital financial aid program, providing scholarship aid to more than 9 million low and moderate-income students annually. To see a video of my press conference talking about these important reforms with student body presidents from St. Edward’s University, Huston-Tillotson University, the University of Texas at Austin, and Austin Community College, please click here. Or, to see my speech on the floor of the House of Representatives on the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act, please click here. In addition, this year I called on the House Appropriations Committee to keep its promise to college students by maintaining the current maximum award of $5,550.
Keeping College an Attainable Dream through PELL Grants
In the 2010-2011 academic year, 11,270 UT Austin students, 10,686 Texas State students, 16,540 Austin Community College students, and 706 Huston-Tillotson students received over $140 million in Pell Grants. Across the entire UT system, more than 77,000 students received over $326 million in Pell Grants. I have worked to expand and protect Pell Grants, which serve as an equalizer for college students and make the dream of a college degree a reality for millions of students each year. Earlier this year, I urged the House Appropriations Committee to maintain the $5,550 maximum Pell Grant award. I also supported the legislation that provided $17 billion to protect the maximum Pell Grant award and the 2010 Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act, which invested $36 billion in the Pell Grant program to increase the maximum Pell Grant scholarship. I also strongly opposed the Republicans’ 2012 Budget Proposal, which would slash the maximum Pell Grant award by more than $2,500 and eliminate Pell Grant awards for 1.4 million students.
Doggett Moves to Create Commission to Reduce Child Fatalities, Develop Coordinated, National Response to Maltreatment
Each weekend that my wife and I are back in Texas, we try to devote a little time to our three preschool granddaughters. The joy of being with them, their growth, their learning, their creativity, and also their innocence and vulnerability are in such contrast to the abuse that too many young children face. To better address this kind of tragedy, we must improve our understanding of the causes of abuse and neglect and determine what steps we can take to prevent this kind of maltreatment. This bipartisan commission, which you can read more about by clicking here, is the first step in developing a coordinated, national response. The legislation has been endorsed by the National Coalition to End Child Abuse Deaths, National Children's Alliance, National Association of Social Workers, National, District Attorneys Association, Every Child Matters Education Fund, National Center for the Review and Prevention of Child Deaths, American Professional Society for the Abuse of Children, Child Welfare League of America, Children's Advocacy Institute, The Center for Public Policy Priorities, Prevent Child Abuse America, First Star, National Child Protection Training Center.
You can read my Huffington Post piece, "The Death of Even One Child Due to Abuse and Neglect is Too Many," by clicking here. You can also view my remarks in the Human Resources Subcommittee on this issue:
Preserving SSI Benefits for Children with Disabilities
During a hearing of the Human Resources Subcommittee, of which I am the ranking member, we discussed how children with disabilities would be affected by cuts to Supplemental Security Income, or SSI, benefits. You can watch my opening statement below. SSI benefits are available to help low-income families with children who suffer from severe physical or mental disabilities or blindness to meet their basic needs. Only about one-tenth of children with disabilities receive SSI, and the benefits—about $600 a month on average for families with little or no income—are modest. These benefits help offset the cost of caring for severely disabled children, as well as the impact of lost wages felt by parents addressing their child’s difficult impairments. SSI is particularly important in Texas, which has had more poor disabled children—about 130,000 --- receiving these benefits than any other State in the nation. As I said during this important hearing, “We can all agree on the need to improve and strengthen SSI outcomes, and I look forward to working on common-sense reforms. But we should reject any direct cuts in assistance to disabled children in the name of helping them. However great our nation’s fiscal challenges, we must not balance our budget on the backs of poor disabled children.”
If you are interested in reading more about Rep. Doggett's work for children through education, please see the 'Protecting Education' section of this page, or simply click here: Protecting Public Education.
Protecting Clean Air
Big Polluters and their friends continue to stand in the way of safe limits on pollutants such as mercury, arsenic, and particulate matter. Seniors, children, and those with respiratory illnesses such as asthmas are particularly at risk from the polluters’ irresponsible efforts. I will continue my efforts to ensure that the Environmental Protection Agency is allowed to do its job to protect public health by updating and improving Clean Air Act standards. By clicking here you can view a speech I delivered on the House floor in opposition to a bill that would have undermined cornerstone environmental protections.
Accelerating the Clean Energy Economy
We need a more comprehensive energy policy that encourages much greater reliance on renewable energy and energy efficiency. With my support, Congress has expanded tax incentives for renewable power and provided tax incentives for renewable power and provided resources to help finance renewable energy facilities. Our economic recovery depends on creating a robust green collar economy. Texas is well positioned to reap the benefits of a clean energy economy. Solar resource potential in Texas is among the highest in the nation, and Texas already ranks first for installed wind capacity. Watch a video of my remarks about boondoggle subsidies for dirty fuels at a Ways and Means hearing below:
Deficit Resource Roundup
With our soaring national debt, getting our fiscal house in order is essential. I have created a comprehensive Deficit Resource Roundup, where you will find a collection of resources about the crisis facing our Nation. It is very important to me to hear your views on this issue. After you have explored this page, I invite you to share your thoughts and suggestions on how we might best address this problem. You can visit my comprehensive Deficit Resource Roundup by clicking here.
Combating Tax Loopholes that Ship U.S. Jobs and Tax Dollars Offshore
I have been a strong advocate for closing tax loopholes that allow large corporations to avoid paying their fair share. In particular, the use of international tax games by multinational corporations is widespread and drains untold billions out of the Treasury. I introduced my latest legislation designed to combat these abuses. The International Tax Competitiveness Act would stop companies from avoiding taxes on intellectual property developed in the U.S. and then transferred offshore. You can watch a recent ABC News report describing this outrageous abuse below:
The bill would also prevent corporations that are run from the U.S. from avoiding U.S. taxes simply by filing a piece of paper in a tax haven and claiming to be foreign. An egregious example of a corporation that has dodged its U.S. tax liability by moving offshore is Transocean, the owner of the rig that exploded in the BP oil spill. Click here to read an article about Transocean’s move first to the Cayman Islands then to Switzerland.
Targeting Hidden Spending Through the Tax Code
Like a traditional, direct expenditure, a tax expenditure removes money from the U.S. Treasury, but it does so indirectly by creating an exception to regular tax laws such as through a preference, credit, or deduction. Some groups that cannot justify Congress spending money directly are using the Tax Code to get these special benefits so they don’t have to pay taxes on the same basis as the rest of us. I have been trying to put a stop to the unchecked growth of these tax breaks and to slow our growing National debt. I am concerned about spending—whether through the Appropriations Act or the Tax Code. We need to examine closely both types of expenditures to ensure that each is effective, efficient and truly necessary. As a small step in this regard, I authored a provision in recent legislation extending expiring tax provisions that requires an evaluation of these provisions before we are called on to extend them again next year. I have also been urging the Administration to take action to create a process to systematically evaluate tax expenditures in the same way it does direct expenditures. By clicking here, you can view my recent exchange with an Office of Management and Budget official at a recent House Budget Committee review of an Administration deficit reduction proposal.
Congressman Doggett works for Fair Elections
The disastrous Citizens United v. FEC Supreme Court decision kicked open the door to even worse corporate influence in our democratic process. I supported the “Democracy is Strengthened by Casting Light On Spending in Elections” (DISCLOSE) Act, which would have required stricter disclosure requirements on such political activity, and will continue pushing for such legislation to ensure that the voice of the corporation does not rise above the vote of the citizen. I spoke in support of the bill, stating, “This is a vote for a fully informed, fully empowered American people. We want to keep America the best democracy, not the best democracy money can buy. This bill stops a tobacco company from masquerading as a phony ‘healthcare coalition’; a Wall Street bank from promoting another bailout as a ‘consumer alliance’; and a polluter claiming it is ‘citizens for clean air and clean beaches’ while attacking those seeking to hold it accountable.” You can listen to my full remarks below:
Congressman Doggett’s Legislation to Protect Legal Aid Signed Into Law
The President has signed into law H.R. 6398, legislation I authored at the request of leaders of the State Bar of Texas to continue full FDIC protection for Interest on Lawyers Trust Accounts (IOLTAs). For decades, revenue from IOLTAs has provided a key funding source for legal aid in all 50 states. My bill, which was supported by the American Bar Association and the Independent Community Bankers Association, will help provide legal services for those who otherwise would have no access to our justice system. My floor remarks on this bill are below:
Congressman Doggett Works to Protect Texas Voters
Whether you are a disabled elderly member of our community, serving in our armed forces overseas, or a young university student whose personal documents are not with them at college, I firmly believe that all citizens should have equal access to the ballot box. It was over forty years ago that President Lyndon B. Johnson had the will and the courage to secure passage of the Voter's Rights Act, and I strongly supported the reauthorization of this vital legislation in 2006 to ensure that no American is denied the opportunity to vote. We have come too far to allow misguided State laws to add bureaucratic red tape to the ballot box, and I will continue working in Congress to ensure that the voices of all voters are heard.
Ensuring Seniors and Veterans Can Continue to See their Doctors
I continue to work toward a longer-term correction of the long-broken payment formula for Medicare and Tricare doctors, ensuring fairer payments for physicians and helping to make certain that their patients enjoy access to the doctor of their choice.
Congressman Doggett Reintroduces the Smuggled Tobacco Prevention Act
I testified before the Ways and Means Committee on my legislation, the Smuggled Tobacco Prevention (STOP) Act. By giving our law enforcement the tools they need to crack down on the illicit tobacco trade, the STOP Act will combat tobacco-related death and disease, reduce funding for organized crime and terrorist organizations that threaten our national security, and raise government revenue without raising taxes. This is why it has the support of national public health groups including Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, the American Cancer Society, the American Heart Association and the American Lung Association. Click here to view my testimony when I testified on this issue.
Protecting Health Insurance Reform
I remain committed to preserving the hard-fought reforms to our health insurance system achieved through the Affordable Care Act, and will resist all efforts by those in Congress who seek to repeal or defund it. Repeal would shift rights away from American families back to insurance companies, leave millions of Americans with no hope of securing insurance, force young adults off their parents' insurance plans, and return insurance company discrimination against children with pre-existing conditions. For seniors, the repeal would also mean the end of free Medicare preventive care, forcing seniors to pay new fees for everything from cancer screenings, to diabetes testing and routine check-ups, and an end to 50% discounts on brand name prescription drugs for those who have reached the “donut hole” gap in coverage. You can hear two speeches I delivered on the House floor against these misguided repeal efforts.
Defending Reproductive Rights
There is a steady drumbeat to overturn Roe v. Wade and demand mandatory motherhood even for a woman or girl who is the victim of rape or incest. I will continue working to ensure that women have access to the full range of reproductive care and that our children receive comprehensive, age appropriate education to reduce unintended pregnancies in the first place.
Congressman Doggett is a Member of the Friends of Animals Caucus, Stands Firm for the Belief Cruelty has No Place in Our Society
As a member of the Friends of Animals Caucus, I understand that how we treat animals is part of our humanity; cruelty has no place in our society. I am a sponsor of the Animal Fighting Spectator Prohibition Act, which would prohibit knowing attendance at organized animal fights and impose additional penalties for causing a minor to attend such events. Under current federal law, it is often challenging for authorities to differentiate between spectators and participants, and perpetrators often escaping responsibility by claiming they do not own the fighting animals. These spectators enable animal fighting through admission fees and gambling wagers, and by removing these funds, we remove a vital incentive for the fights.
Congressman Doggett Joins Multiple Efforts to Stand for America's Dogs
I am once again a sponsor of the Puppy Uniform Protection Statute (PUPS) Act. This bill would provide basic protections for dogs, including a requirement that large-scale breeders be licensed and inspected to ensure humane treatment of their dogs. Last year’s audit of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal Care program revealed a troubling lack of inspections of large-scale dog dealers and a failure to properly enforce violations of the Animal Welfare Act. I will continue to support reasonable protections against animal abuse.
Congressman Doggett Urges Financial Protections for Consumers
With my strong support, Congress enacted legislation to create the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a powerful consumer advocate to ensure American families can finally have the information they need to make informed financial decisions. When your family is counting on something -- a home, a job, or a retirement plan -- we should not let big government get in your way, but neither should we let other powerful forces interfere, such as Wall Street banks, health insurance monopolies, or pharmaceutical giants. After so many suffered from the totally unnecessary Wall Street meltdown, Congress finally responded with a law that arms families with ways to protect themselves.
Strong Opposition to Bank Bailouts
I strongly opposed the bank bailouts, regardless of which President supported them. Not only did I twice vote against the so-called “bank bailout,” which provided the Treasury Secretary with $700 billion to buy bad mortgages and other troubled assets owned by financial institutions, I also voted twice against releasing another $350 billion to bail out the big banks. While the Wall Street Reform bill should have done more -- much more -- about those Wall Street interests that are paid too much and taxed too little, it represents a modest but important step toward preventing bank bailouts.
The "Save Our Schools" Amendment
In 2009, Republican state leadership denied Texas schools more than $3 billion in federal aid—in other words, federal dollars made not a dime of difference to our schoolchildren and our teachers. To prevent such budgeting games from reoccurring, I worked with the Democratic delegation to secure special protections to ensure federal aid to education actually helped Texas school children. Despite repeated attacks and threats from Governor Perry and others and ultimate repeal by a new majority of the House of Representatives, the “Doggett Amendment,” as the Governor derided it, had some positive impact. The amendment prevented the federal money from being hijacked into the Texas appropriation process where it almost certainly would have been used to hide cuts to public education made by the Texas Legislature in its budget for the upcoming biennium. In addition, the amendment drew attention to the meager amount the State was promising for public education. In the end, over $830 million in federal funds moved directly from TEA to local schools. To see Rep. Doggett's remarks at the Save Our Austin Urban Schools Coalition, watch below:
Ensuring No Child Starts Behind
During the 2012 fiscal year appropriations process, I called on the House Appropriations Committee to provide robust funding for the Child Care and Development Block Grant, Head Start and Early Head Start, and the Early Learning Challenge Fund. Whether American’s most vulnerable young children will reach their potential depends in large part on our investment in these programs. I also urged the House Appropriations Committee to fund formula-driven education programs such as Title I and Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) at the highest possible level to help ensure that the children who need the most assistance have the resources to succeed.
Supporting Afterschool Programs for Children and Families
Afterschool programs help keep kids safe, improve academic performance and support families across America. That is why I urged the House Appropriations Committee to increase its support for the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program, which supports academic enrichment opportunities for students during non-school hours for children.
Congressman Doggett Defends Funding for Teach for America
As a member of the Congressional Public Service Caucus, I have consistently supported funding for public service programs like Teach for America. In 2010, when Secretary of Education Arne Duncan came before the House Budget Committee to discuss the President’s budget proposal cutting this program, I urged him to maintain funding for Teach for America. You can view a video of me discussing this issue with the Secretary by clicking here. This year, I called on the House Appropriations Committee to increase the competitive funding stream for non-profit programs like Teach for America that work to recruit and provide professional development for teachers.
Doggett: Remove Seniors' Social Security Numbers from Medicare Cards to Prevent Identity Theft
Forty-four million Americans are carrying in their wallet or purse something that makes them more vulnerable to identity theft: their Medicare card. Apart from the Social Security card itself, the Medicare card is the most frequently issued government document containing a person's Social Security number and displaying such information on Medicare cards unnecessarily places millions of individuals at-risk for identity theft. Since 2008, as part of a bipartisan effort, I have called on the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to take steps that private companies and other government agencies have already taken to protect the identities of seniors by removing the display of Social Security numbers on Medicare cards. I introduced legislation in the 110th Congress, which was passed by the House of Representatives with broad support, that called on the agency to take action. And, on behalf of seniors and people with disabilities, I am renewing my efforts in the 112th Congress to ensure that all seniors have the same protection that those with private insurance do. To see video of my questioning of a representative from CMS on this issue, please see below:
Congressman Doggett Works to Protect Social Security
I have consistently fought against misguided and risky privatization schemes that would divert substantial payroll taxes to Wall Street management fees and replace the safety net of Social Security with the insecurity of the market. Recent events demonstrate that we cannot subject retirees’ security to such a roller coaster ride. Social Security isn’t a Ponzi scheme or a handout. It is one of our most successful initiatives, providing security for tens of millions of seniors. In seven decades, Social Security has never been a day late or a dollar short. It has never contributed a dime to the deficit and has generated a $2.6 trillion surplus. With modest improvements to ensure its long-term solvency, Social Security will be there for our grandchildren.
Protecting the Promise of Medicare
In 1965, when our own Texas President Lyndon Johnson succeeded in passing Medicare, most of those over 65 had no health insurance. Today, our seniors are getting the care and peace of mind they earned by paying into Medicare for their entire working lives. Now, we are flooded every day by those who want to solve our nations’ debt problems by taking from those who need the most – by cutting Medicare funding, increasing costs for seniors, or even turning management of Medicare over to private insurance companies. Especially in these tough economic times, we should not be endangering vital safety-net programs that millions of Americans paid into and depend on. In 2008, for my work on Medicare, I was awarded the AARP’s National Legislative Achievement Award.
House Passes Congressman Doggett’s Silver Alert Bill
I have once again introduced the National Silver Alert Act (H.R. 112), to help law enforcement quickly locate missing seniors. Silver Alert is a public notification system similar to Amber Alert that is triggered by the report of a missing senior with Alzheimer's or other mental impairments. Our seniors, who have worked a lifetime and raised a family, need our special help when they can no longer help themselves. Click here for video of my remarks on the House floor about Silver Alert.
Congressman Doggett Introduces Bill to Give a Helping Hand to America's Innovative Entrepreneurs
I have introduced bipartisan legislation to expand eligibility for self-employment assistance to the long-term unemployed to help America’s innovative entrepreneurs create new small businesses, strengthen our economy, and help get America back to work. Self-employment assistance is an underutilized tool in our efforts to create jobs. In states that have created these programs, aspiring entrepreneurs who would otherwise be eligible for unemployed benefits, can receive an allowance in the same amount while starting their own business—getting back to work and creating jobs at the same time. Texas is known for its innovative spirit. These programs will give Americans who aspire to run their own business the support they need while getting started. To read more about my bill, please click here.
Congressman Doggett Leads Effort in the U.S. House to Extend Federal Unemployment Benefits, Preserve a Vital Lifeline for an Estimated 5 Million Americans
With over 6 million fewer jobs than when the recession began and more than 4 workers competing for every available opening, too many American families are struggling to make ends meet. And if we allow unemployment insurance to expire, millions of Americans will be left without a lifeline -- lacking the means to put food on the table and a roof over their family’s head. Too often, our Republican colleagues blame unemployment on the unemployed, but it is long past time we set the story straight. The fact is, unless you are actively searching for a job, getting job training for a new job, or are on a temporary layoff, you are not entitled to an unemployment check. We must create jobs, but we must also preserve a vital lifeline for folks who are looking for work. The time to extend unemployment coverage is now.
To read more, you can click on one of the following links:
- Huffington Post, “The Facts are Clear: The Time to Extend Federal Unemployment Coverage is Now”
- US News & World Report, “Americans Don’t Turn Their Backs on Americans in Need
- Roll Call, “Doggett: Jobless Need Another Extension of Benefits”
- KTBC Fox Austin, “Doggett Discusses Extending Federal Unemployment Benefits with KTBC’s Joe Bickett”
- Rep. Doggett’s Opening Statement at Human Resources Subcommittee Hearing on Extending Federal Unemployment Benefits
Keeping the Internet Open
I oppose the so-called “Stop Online Piracy Act” and have urged the House Judiciary Committee to reject the bill’s overly broad language that could harm free speech and cybersecurity. For Central Texas, the Internet continues to be an engine for economic growth. We must ensure that we balance the goal of fighting copyright infringement with protecting the freedom of expression and creativity that has contributed to the success of the Internet. SOPA would stifle technology innovation and investment at a time when it represents one of the few brighter parts of our economy. You can read a piece from the Austin Post on my efforts by clicking here.
Bringing a Patent Office to Austin
I have urged officials at the Commerce Department and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to address our backlog of patents by placing a regional patent office in Austin (you may read a recent report highlighting my efforts here). In addition, I voted for an amendment that would require USPTO to consider the availability of qualified personnel in determining the location of its satellite offices. Thousands of Texas longhorns headed North through Central Texas over a century ago to the Midwest on the original Chisholm Trail. Now, we are building a trail of a different kind that reaches from here, all the way around the world. It’s a trail of world-quality innovation, research, and entrepreneurship, and it puts us at the center of the next generation of technological breakthroughs. It is this reputation that Austin has built that makes it the ideal location for a new Patent and Trademark Office.
Public Interest Stakeholders Need a Greater Voice in Trade Policy
I remain concerned that the Obama Administration has not taken steps necessary to ensure that labor, environment, and public health groups are well represented on our Industry Trade Advisory Committees (ITACs). Trade Advisory Committees are designed to provide public and private sector input in developing U.S. trade policy and in trade negotiations. By clicking here, you can see the letter I and some of my House colleagues recently sent to the Administration, urging it to expand ITAC membership to include more of these important stakeholders.
Helping Austin Veterans Get the Care They Need
After I hearing from some of neighbors about the need for a VA facility in our community, I began working to make sure that the dollars we vote to spend in Washington make a real difference in the lives of folks right here in Central Texas. Last June I was privileged to be a part of the new Austin Outpatient Clinic’s (AOC) groundbreaking ceremony. When complete, it will be the largest veterans clinic of its kind anywhere in America, with triple the size of the existing clinic and double the clinic staff. The AOC will have a women’s clinic, with a designated entrance and waiting area for women to protect the needs of those who have experienced sexual trauma. In addition, with the funds that Congress approved for the clinic, we were able to purchase thousands of additional square feet of space in a separate location where all mental health services will be housed.
I also worked with the VA to open a new rural, satellite clinic in La Grange, which is the first of its type. This clinic is particularly important to some of our oldest vets in counties east of Austin, and will significantly reduce the time it takes for them to reach the care they need.
Congressman Doggett Works to Ensure No Veteran Has to Make the Decision Between Getting Well and Getting Paid
I have reintroduced the Wounded Veteran Job Security Act to ensure that no wounded veteran ever has to make the decision between getting well and getting paid. Over 45,000 Americans have been wounded as a result of their brave service in Iraq and Afghanistan. Complications from amputations sometimes force veterans to return repeatedly to the VA for care. Or, what begins as a migraine may later be diagnosed as a Traumatic Brain Injury, requiring a battery of tests. We have a duty to support our veterans when they return home, and this bill will amend existing law to establish a right for veterans who receive treatment for illness, injuries, and disabilities incurred as a result of their service to the United States to be retained by their employers. The legislation is supported by many organizations, including the American Legion, the Disabled Veterans of America, Veterans for Common Sense, and the Reserve Officers Association. Click here for video of my remarks on the House Floor about the Wounded Veteran Job Security Act.
Congressman Doggett Introduces Bipartisan Bill to Give “Blue Water” Vietnam Veterans the Benefits they Deserve
I am also the sponsor of bipartisan legislation I introduced with Rep. Chris Gibson (R-NY), Tim Walz (D-MN), and Denny Rehberg (R-MT) that would extend coverage and associated benefits with “Agent Orange” exposure to an additional group of Vietnam Veterans. The Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2011 would allow blue water veterans who served up to 12 miles offshore in Vietnam presumptive coverage for Agent Orange exposure. This would enable them to receive Veterans Affairs benefits if they suffer from any of the diseases the U.S. government has linked to Agent Orange. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) introduced similar legislation in the Senate. Our veterans, whether they served a week ago or half-a-century ago, deserve to know that we will make good on our promise to them by preserving fundamental benefits like healthcare. This bipartisan effort is a necessary step in ensuring that our obligation to our veterans does not end when they step off the battlefield.
Protecting Veterans Healthcare, Retirement, and Education Benefits
The needs of those in uniform do not end on the battlefield, and neither should our obligation to them. I have previously voted to stop Department of Defense efforts to impose more costs on our service members and veterans who rely on Tricare. In 2009 with my support Congress delivered for the first time ever “advance appropriations” for veterans’ health care by approving two budgets at once so that the VA can rely on a stable and uninterrupted source of health care funding—dollars less subject to political or legislative delays. More recently, I supported legislation to prohibit cost-sharing increases for Tricare beneficiaries and voted to increase funding for post-traumatic stress disorder and suicide prevention medical services by $20 million.