Washington, D.C. - Each year we have an opportunity to celebrate the 4th of July and remind ourselves of the sacrifices made on our behalf to secure our freedom and independence.
American history is filled with heroic and selfless acts made by men and women who have fought to defend our values and way of life. Today we continue to witness bravery from those who selflessly serve and protect our country. Giving them the proper tools and resources to fulfill their mission has always been a top priority of mine. Equally important, we must also keep our promises to veterans. Recent passage of the FY17 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations bill helps accomplish this in several ways.
First, we were able to secure funding that maintains military base infrastructure. This funding includes money for housing, training, and equipping military personnel, in addition to other services for military families. Projects funded under this bill include new construction as well as renovations to dated military bases within the U.S. and around the world. This allows us to keep our military bases safe and modernized to address new unique challenges.
In addition to meeting the infrastructure needs of our troops, we were able to add important funding for our veterans. This bill provides the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) with added resources that will be applied towards clearing out the national backlog of disability benefits claims. With an increase in funds, the VA is now in a position to hire 242 new staff members who will work towards addressing issues related to disability benefits claims.
I pleased to see that this legislation directs funds toward important medical services, allowing the VA to treat an estimated seven million patients this coming fiscal year. This includes added funding in important areas such as mental health care services and suicide prevention efforts.
The FY17 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations bill also addresses mandatory funding requirements such as veteran disability compensation programs, education benefits that help over one million of our veterans, and also vocational rehabilitation and employment training. These are all important services that give our returning military members the tools and resources they need to successfully enter the civilian workforce.
Overall this appropriations bill allows us to meet important needs and support our troops and veterans. We owe it to all of those who have sacrificed for our country, to keep our promises to those who are currently serving as well as our veterans. It is my hope that this 4th of July we can take a moment to reflect on the bravery and sacrifice of our forbearers, and look forward with continuing support to those who make those same selfless acts of service today.