Mr. FILNER. Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank Congressman Paul Hodes of New Hampshire for crafting this resolution which calls for the celebration of the 120th anniversary of our Federal Government's first grant of aid to State veterans homes.
I would also like to recognize the National Association of State Veterans Homes, representing 135 State veterans homes throughout the country. They were founded to increase the State veterans home representation and help facilitate communication with one another. They have worked to improve the quality of care, the services and treatment of our Nation's veterans who reside in State veterans homes.
As you know, Mr. Speaker, the Department of Veterans Affairs is authorized to contribute up to two-thirds of the construction of State nursing homes or renovations of existing State homes. This funding helps provide quality care for our Nation's veterans. When veterans are no longer able to care for themselves, they must be given the care necessary to continue their life with dignity.
Recently, we appropriated $165 million for 2008 to provide aid to State veterans homes to continue to provide care for our veterans. This will help alleviate some of the financial burden as the cost of veterans' care continues to rise without compromising the quality of that care.
Mr. Speaker, we must honor a servicemember's sacrifice that has been made by providing the quality of care our brave men and women deserve. It is important that we all support this resolution. With the current war on terror, there are thousands of brave servicemembers that are in the line of fire as we speak. They, too, might need this care. It is our duty, our responsibility, and our moral obligation to continue to provide them with this care.
Mr. Speaker, I stand here today in support of this resolution. I praise the great work and service that State veterans homes have provided for the past 120 years. I look forward to their continued success and for this strong partnership to continue for many years to come.
Mr. Speaker, I have a State veterans home in my district in Chula Vista, California. I visit there regularly. The morale there is very high. And I think probably one sign of their high morale is that the percentage of voting that comes out of that home is very, very high. So it shows that, not only are they cared for, but they take an interest in the government that they have to elect. So I ask that my colleagues join me in support of this resolution.
Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.
Mr. STEARNS. Mr. Speaker, I'm also pleased to be here in support of this bill, H. Res. 1335, a resolution celebrating a 120-year partnership between the Federal Government and the State veterans homes.
My colleagues, following the Civil War, a number of States independently established State veterans homes in order to meet the large needs of the veterans that were indigent, a lot of them were disabled. They returned from the war, but they were unable to establish a livelihood for themselves, earn enough money. They needed care. And these were veterans who sacrificed their lives in support of their country and were severely disabled and in need of help.
While the Federal Government operated national homes for disabled Union soldiers, the total number of veterans needing care was simply overwhelmingly. So in August, 1888, Federal sharing was formally authorized to help alleviate the burden that was placed upon the States. In 1952, the National Association of State Veterans Homes was established to help move this along. Their primary mission is to ensure that each and every eligible United States veteran receives the benefits, services, long-term
health care and respect which they have earned in their service to their country and their sacrifice for our country.
Working through a Memorandum of Understanding with the Department of Veterans Affairs, the organization also ensures that no veteran is in need or distress, and that the level of care and service provided by State veterans homes meet or exceed the highest standards we have in our health care system today.
Today, State veterans homes are one of the largest long-term providers in this country. In the State of Florida, for example, we currently have six State veterans nursing homes. We expect another one to open in St. Augustine in 2009. This is important because Florida is a State with ever-increasing veterans coming in, and we need to provide for them.
There are currently 135 State veterans homes throughout the United States with more than 30,000 total beds. The service these organizations provide to our Nation's veterans is obviously invaluable. And I commend the State veterans homes on their 120-year partnership with the government to provide care to our veterans community with a very high standard.
I urge my colleagues to support this wonderful bill.