From a Rep. Nick Rahall Release

KIMBALL, W.Va. – In remarks delivered Friday afternoon at a Veterans Day ceremony in Kimball, U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.) called for a national commitment to honor the bravery and endurance of veterans with more than just words.


“As our men and women return from the long wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, many having followed in a proud family tradition of military service, we must honor their bravery and endurance with more than just words,” said Rahall, who was the keynote speaker at the annual event hosted by the McDowell County Visitors and Veterans Center.  “These wars have tested the military’s resolve and resources.  Now, with budgetary debates raging in Washington, our own resolve will be tested in honoring those who have sacrificed so much for us over the past decade.”


Rahall delivered remarks at the Kimball ceremony after attending Veterans Day parades in Beckley and Oceana.  In praising the sacrifice of West Virginia’s veterans, Rahall expressed concerns about various proposals circulating in Washington to change the military retirement system.  He noted that advisory committees at the Department of Defense and the “Super Committee” in the Congress are exploring ways to find savings in the pension and health benefits promised to career military soldiers, as well as to seniors and workers who pay into Social Security and Medicare.


“There is talk about reducing the already too small COLAs – not just for veterans’ benefits, but for Social Security as well.  There is talk of means testing and inflation indexes and retirement ages.  There is talk and talk and talk, but none of these proposals – none of them – have been fully laid before the American people yet.  And, until the American people have had their say, none of these proposals deserves to move anywhere in the Congress,” said Rahall.


While advocating fiscal responsibility, Rahall has cautioned against blanket spending cuts that would harm seniors and veterans as well as job creation.


“There are some determined to mindlessly slash any and all spending programs in sight, without regard to their value and importance to seniors and veterans, to public safety, and to creating jobs.  To our veterans and retirees, you have my pledge that I will do my part in support of the benefits you have each already paid for, in full.  You have my pledge to fight against proposals that give to the ‘haves,’ and take from the ‘have nots.’  We must keep our promises and not break faith with you and your families.  I aim to ensure that the budget cutters in Washington don’t forget that,” said Rahall. 


When the Congress returns from the Veterans Day recess next week, the House of Representatives is scheduled to consider budget and spending bills for next year; the current Continuing Resolution funding the government is set to expire after November 18.  In addition, the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction is scheduled to report a deficit reduction package by November 23.


“Too often, the budget cutters, engrossed in the facts and figures, fail to see the human side of those numbers.  They choose not to see, or maybe just do not bother to understand, how their proposals will affect veterans and retirees trying to cope in the real world.  They fail to understand that many veterans and retirees live on fixed incomes and that costs – from food, to medicine, to gas – keep going up.  The last thing that our ailing economy needs is to cut back seniors and veterans benefits and services even more,” said Rahall.


As a member of the House Military Veterans Caucus, Rahall has been active in supporting the 51,000 veterans in southern West Virginia, voting to increase resources for veterans’ health clinics and education benefits, and cosponsoring legislation to expand veterans hiring incentives and to limit increases in fees and copayments through the military retirement system.  He recently helped to secure passage of legislation to ensure a long-overdue 3.6 percent COLA for veterans and their dependents. 


“We offer to all of our living Veterans, from World War II to Afghanistan, and those who have passed away, the heartfelt thanks of a grateful nation. It is because of our veterans that we can continue to live each day as free citizens of this great Nation. For without their service – your service – and sacrifice, the flame of freedom would have been extinguished long ago,” said Rahall.