I am concerned about the way our veterans are being treated concerning their benefits. I am confronted almost daily with men and women who gave this country their time and energy, and were promised that they would be taken care of by this country, who are being stripped of their benefits. Their medical coverage has been lowered and their prescription coverage is almost nonexistent, and they are finding that more and more government hospitals are being closed and they are unable to receive the treatment they need. Are you going to continue to cut their benefits? Or will they have them restored? These were things they were promised in return for serving their country. Why is this being done to them? How can we as a country continue to turn our back on them?
Thank you for your important question Joni. As a veteran myself, it is important to me that the brave men and women who served this country are treated fairly by the federal government, and I am committed to seeing that they are. I was an Army reporter in Vietnam, and when I went out into the field, I carried both a pencil and an M-16. I know that my service does not match that of many veterans, but we do share a common bond. Anyone who has served in a war knows the courage and the character of our fellow soldiers.
My experiences in Vietnam fueled my iron-clad commitment to America's veterans. Our nation owes its service men and women a decent salary, decent living conditions, decent health care and a secure retirement. I have fought for increases in funding for veteran's health care in order to reduce waiting times, expand outpatient care, and improve long-term care in the Veterans Administration health system. I have continued this effort by advocating an additional $1.5 billion for health care funding in the Fiscal Year 2001 budget.
In addition, I will work to build on the successes of the Veterans Millennium Health Care and Benefits Act, signed in 1999, which provides a broad array of benefits and services to veterans, including health care. I will also work to guarantee access to VA nursing home care, and expand access to assisted living and home and community-based care as well as adult day care and hospice services. Let me make it clear, Joni, that I do not support cutting any of these well-deserved veterans' programs.
America has a debt to those whose service is done. I believe veterans have earned whatever help they receive - with sweat, courage, blood and sacrifice. They have risked everything to keep America free. As president, I will do everything possible to make sure veterans receive the benefits that they deserve.