Remarks by Secretary Eric K. Shinseki
Arlington National Cemetery
November 11, 2010
- Vice President and Dr. Biden;
- Medal of Honor Recipient Brian Thacker;
- Speaker Pelosi, Minority Leader Boehner, other Members of Congress;
- Secretary Gates, Secretary McHugh, Secretary and Mrs. Donley;
- Vice-Chairman and Mrs. Cartwright, General and Mrs. Casey [USA], Admiral and Mrs. Roughhead [USN], General Schwartz [USAF], General and Mrs. Amos [USMC]; Admiral and Mrs. Papp [USCG];
- Colonel Roger Dimsdale, US Army retired, National Commander of the Legion of Valor— our co-host for this year’s celebration;
- Other representatives of our Veteran Service Organizations;
- Fellow Veterans, other distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen:
Good morning. For over 90 years now, Americans have set aside this day and this hour to honor the men and women who have served this country, in peace and in war, while wearing the uniforms of the United States of America.
It’s a day of remembrance, a day of thanks, a day of prayers, and a day of promises—promises that the sacrifices of those who have served and are still serving will not be forgotten; that returning warriors will not bear their wounds alone; that their families will receive help in facing uncertain futures; and that the survivors of those who do not return will be embraced and cared for by a grateful Nation.
To keep these promises, the Congress established the Department of Veterans Affairs. Thirty percent of VA’s workforce are Veterans themselves—selfless Americans, dedicated to meeting the needs of our Nation’s Veterans each day.
Veterans do not strive alone. The vision of our President, the leadership and support of the Congress, the concerted efforts of our Veteran Service Organizations, the good people at VA, and the American people themselves are needed to address and resolve the complex and complicated challenges facing Veterans, especially during difficult economic times.
Last year, President Obama and the Congress provided VA the largest single-year budget increase in over 30 years. The President’s 2011 budget request would increase VA’s 2010 funding by another 10 percent. Over the past 22 months, VA has begun addressing some longstanding issues with critical, bi-partisan support—
- Implementing the new Post-9/11 GI Bill. To date, over 384,000 Veterans and family members are enrolled under this program. When you include VA’s other education programs, that number goes up to over 660,000.
- Awarding service connection for three new diseases for Vietnam Veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange. 250,000 Veterans are expected to submit claims, and their automated payments began last week.
- Granting service connection for all combat Veterans suffering from verifiable PTSD—post-traumatic stress disorder.
- Finally, granting service connection for nine new diseases associated with Gulf War illness.
We will continue our efforts on behalf of Veterans on every front—increasing their access to benefits and healthcare services, eliminating the disability claims backlog in 2015, and ending Veteran homelessness in 2014. With the leadership of the President, and the continued support of the Congress, we will provide quality care and timely benefits to those who have sacrificed the most on behalf of our great Nation.
Our special guest, today, fully shares the President’s commitment to America’s Veterans. He has seen his own son off to war, endured the long wait for that son’s return, and felt the special pride of knowing that the burden of wartime service was not left entirely to other families.
Ladies and gentlemen, I am honored, personally and professionally, to present to you a patriot in his own right—the Vice President of the United States of America, Joe Biden.