Nov 30, 2021
Joe Biden Signs Bills to Support Veterans Speech Transcript
President Joe Biden signed bills aimed at supporting veterans on November 30, 2021. Read the transcript of his speech remarks here.
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President Biden: (00:00)
Please, please be seated. I feel like we have a quorum in the house. I missed the quorums.
President Biden: (00:10)
Vice President Harris, honored guests, I want to thank you all for being here. Secretary McDonough, thank you for your work to ensure that the VA provides world class care and support for those who board the battle. In a moment, I’m going to have the honor of signing into law four bills that the women and men in this room had written and gotten passed, bipartisan bills, to honor one truly sacred obligation we have as a nation. We have many obligations, but we only have one truly sacred obligation, mind you. And that is prepare those we send into harms way care for their families when they’re gone and care for them and their families when they’re home. And that’s a lifetime commitment. A lifetime commitment the nation owes to every one of our veterans. And it’s one that I embrace as Commander in Chief. For me, for Jill, and for the entire Biden family, it’s also personal. And it’s a commitment that we are helping to keep today because the leadership of the women and men in this room.
President Biden: (01:11)
The first bill I will sign requires the government accounting office to assess whether there are disparities associated with race and ethnicity when it comes to VA benefits and disability ratings. The weapons of war and the nature of injuries they inflict don’t differentiate based on race. And the type of disabilities our veterans carry with them don’t differentiate based on race. So the claims approved and the benefits delivered should not differentiate either. We’ve heard from veterans of color, who will upon returning home from their service are treated differently from white veterans. This bill will help us understand how this happened, keep better records, expose the facts to the light of day, and allow us to do the necessary work making sure that all of our nation veterans, all of them, are treated with equal dignity and equal equality throughout their entire time with the consideration being no different for based on race.
President Biden: (02:10)
And I want to thank and congratulate Senator Warnock, who’s here in the room who has such a, has been a moral leader in the U.S. Senate since he got here and leading on this issue. As well as Representative Takano, who has done yeoman’s work at House.
President Biden: (02:26)
The second bill I’ll sign is the Hire Veterans Health Heroes Act. I want to thank Senator Hassen and Senator Braun and Representatives Rice and Latta for their work to help veterans find a way to continue to serve their country. In 2019, the inspector general of the VA reported that staff shortages are one of the causes of the many problems we face in veterans care. And at the same time with our military, there are nearly 200,000 dedicated, well trained workers in nearly every area of healthcare, doctors, nurses, pharmacists, technicians, and physical therapists. They understand the health challenges our women and men in uniform face. 1,000 or actually 13,000 of them are separated from active duty every single year. And we can do more by helping the separated service members with backgrounds in healthcare, continue their work in healthcare in the federal government at places like the VA.
President Biden: (03:22)
This bill directs the Department of Veterans Affairs to create a program, to recruit military medical personnel who have less than a year left in their service to work in federal healthcare occupations. This new program will build upon existing efforts to create a pipeline for former military health professionals, for both our veterans and our military medical personnel. Service isn’t just what they do, it’s who they are. This bill’s going to allow those professionals to continue their service to each other and our nation.
President Biden: (03:54)
And the third bill I will sign is the Colonel John M. McHugh Tuition Fairness and Survivors Act. For so many of our service members, their service to us is also about building a better life for themselves and for their families. And part of keeping our commitment to them means helping survivors get the education they need and to fulfill their dreams. This law ensures that surviving spouses and children of veterans, who access the survivors independence education assistance program are eligible for in-state tuition, wherever they choose to go to school, whether they live in that state or not. I want to recognize Senator Tester and Moran, Representatives Trone and Moore for their work they’ve done on this bill.
President Biden: (04:41)
I also want to recognize the very special guest Kelly McHugh-Stewart. Kelly. Where are you? Kelly, thank you for being here. Thank you for being here. And she is the daughter of Colonel John M. McHugh for being here today. I want to thank her. Kelly, your dad was an American hero. But he wasn’t the only one in the family who’s a hero. Your work to share your story, to advocate for other surviving families and to turn loss into progress and understanding is heroic as well. So we thank you for it. Really. Thank you personally.
President Biden: (05:14)
The final bill I’ll sign today is the Protecting Moms who Served Act. In the Senate was championed by Tammy Duckworth, a mom, a veteran, a Senator, and Senator Susan Collins. This also was one of the pet projects that the vice president had when she was the United States Senator and sticks with her. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard about what we have to do and she’s right. In the House it was championed by a former nurse represented Lauren Underwood and Representative Bilirakis. And our country continues to have the highest maternal mortality rates in the developed world, which is hard. It’s just, especially among black and Native American women.
President Biden: (05:57)
For many years, Vice President Harris has led the fight to address this tragedy, maternal mortality in our nation. Represented in the Senator and reflected in our build back better framework and our investments in maternal health. We’re going to help expand and diversify the maternal health workforce improved maternal mental health and bolster community based programs, train providers, enhanced research, and ensure maternal care is coordinated.
President Biden: (06:33)
As we continue that work, we recognize that women veterans, and there are more than a half a million women veterans in this country under the age of 40. They face additional maternal health challenges. They frequently have other health risks that can complicate pregnancy. For example, expecting moms with physical disabilities or with mental illness are much more likely to experience pregnancy related complications and have their children prematurely. This bill will commission a comprehensive study of maternal health challenges facing veterans and will invest in maternal care coordination programs at the VA. It’s an important step in making sure we meet the needs of American mothers who have served.
President Biden: (07:18)
Earlier this month, I commemorated Veterans Day at Arlington National Cemetery. On that solemn day, we lay a wreath and renew our oath. But keeping faith with American veterans requires much more than lane wreaths or making more oaths. It requires acts that’s as you’ve done today, all of you, acts. That’s why I’m so proud to sign these bills. May God bless you and may God protect our troops and their families. And now I’d like to invite the folks to the stage as I sign the first bill. Thank you very much.
President Biden: (08:01)
Speaker 2: (08:09)
How you doing man, good to see you.
President Biden: (08:12)
Okay. Well, we… I want to tell you all I only have one pen. So-
Speaker 3: (08:22)
[crosstalk 00:08:22] going in the archive.
President Biden: (08:22)
No, you’re all going to get a pen, but I only got one with me today. I couldn’t figure out how to pick 50 of them up here, but thank you. All right.
President Biden: (08:37)
Congratulations. All right. Here we go. Government accountability office study on disparities associated with race and ethnicity, with respect to certain benefits administered by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs. Well sort of. All right.
President Biden: (09:18)
Okay. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you, everybody. My mother would say you’re doing God’s work. Thanks. Thank you.
Speaker 6: (09:26)
President Biden: (09:31)
Hey Pat, how are you, buddy?
Speaker 7: (09:33)
There you go.
President Biden: (09:33)
Good to see you. Hey, big John. You’re going to be here all through noon.
Speaker 8: (09:38)
That’d be good.
President Biden: (09:39)
Good to see you.
Speaker 8: (09:39)
I’ll like that.
President Biden: (09:43)
Love you. How you doing? Family good?
Speaker 9: (09:45)
President Biden: (09:45)
Okay. Dennis, hi, everybody. How are you? Good to see you. All right. Okay. Okay. Okay. Here we go. You ready?
President Biden: (10:03)
Okay. Thank. All right. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
President Biden: (10:38)
Well it means a lot to everybody. You did what you did. Seriously. You should be very proud. You got some great allies with you.
Speaker 10: (10:48)
President Biden: (10:48)
When you got big John Tester behind you, [inaudible 00:10:51].
President Biden: (10:54)
All right. Here we go. Men title… Well, I’m not going to read it all. I just sign it. All right.
President Biden: (11:18)
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Keep the faith. Okay. I’m going to sign the last bill here in a moment. When folks get the right folks are up here. Protecting… Tammy.
Sen. Duckworth: (11:40)
Mr. President, how are you, sir.
President Biden: (11:40)
God love you. How you doing?
Sen. Duckworth: (11:41)
I’m good. Thank you.
President Biden: (11:44)
You are good. You did it.
Sen. Duckworth: (11:44)
You did it. You did it. Thank you.
President Biden: (11:49)
Hey, it’s good to see you, man. Tester blocks out the sunlight.
Speaker 12: (11:54)
Tester brings a certain gravitas, doesn’t he?
President Biden: (11:56)
He sure does.
President Biden: (12:01)
Now the last bill Protecting Moms Who Served Act of 2021. All right, here we go. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. I’m just going to give you this pen.
Sen. Duckworth: (12:25)
Thank you, sir.
President Biden: (12:25)
You said you’re going to do this.
Sen. Duckworth: (12:25)
I told you.
President Biden: (12:25)
Sen. Duckworth: (12:33)
I did. Wave to Lieutenant Grove, [inaudible 00:12:33].
President Biden: (12:33)
How are you?
Speaker 13: (12:37)
President Biden: (12:37)
Well, I tell you what, whatever she tells me, she’s going to do. I just say yes.
Sen. Duckworth: (12:41)
We served together when we were lieutenants.
President Biden: (12:43)