Jun 8, 2022
President Joe Biden signs nine bipartisan bills into law that will benefit veterans 6/07/22 Transcript
President Joe Biden signs nine bipartisan bills into law that will benefit veterans 6/07/22. Read the transcript here.
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Speaker 1: (00:11)
Ladies and gentlemen, the President of the United States accompanied by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs.
Good afternoon, everyone. Thanks to all of the lawmakers and advocates who helped make this day possible.
Mr. President, thank you for inviting our terrific VA team to the White House for this signing. Like the veterans we serve and the country they’ve defended our team as strong and diverse, I’m proud to be part of that team, which includes importantly, our inspector general tough advocate for vets. And I’m grateful you invited us today.
We VA believe we have the best mission in government. And with veterans like Colonel Gail Halvorsen to serve, you see why. With the signing of today’s bills, Colonel Halvorsen’s story will be memorialized forever. During the Berlin airlift, pilots like Halvorsen established an air bridge into Germany that broke the Soviet effort at isolating West Berlin, and Halvorsen did something more. First with candy from his own ration, then with that of his battle buddies and ultimately with candy donated by Americans back home, Halvorsen took it upon himself to airdrop over 23 tons of candy to the children of Berlin, earning him the affectionate title of [foreign language 00:01:58] or The Candy Bomber. That act of kindness paired with our nation’s advocacy for freedom, helped convince a generation of young Berliners that we would stand with them always and forged a relationship that stands strong to this day.
It’s not hard to see a through line from those days to today’s American led commitment to freedom in Ukraine. Mr. President, the bills you’re signing today not only memorialize Colonel Halvorsen, but help VA better serve vets like him. In your State of the Union, you challenged us to cut through partisanship and get things done for veterans. Well, these bills are the unity agenda in action. This day was made possible because of your leadership and because as our president and the head of a military family yourself, nobody better understands our nation’s sacred obligation to all those we serve.
Ladies and gentlemen, it’s my distinct honor and pleasure to introduce to you a great friend of America’s veterans, President Joe Biden.
President Joe Biden: (03:07)
Thank you. Well, it’s good to see you all. Denis, the secretary, thank you very much for that introduction, but more importantly, as a lot of the senators here know, for me and my friend for a long time, and thank you for joining the administration. When I was forming the administration, I knew Denis could do any job in the administration, but he wanted to be Secretary of Veterans Affairs because it mattered so much to him. And I think the most important thing to have someone in charge of that department was somebody who cares, cares about what he or she is going to do. I knew he’d pull every lever to deliver results to military veterans and their families. And that’s exactly what he’s done.
President Joe Biden: (04:06)
I also want to thank all the veteran service organizations here today. I’m going to ask you all the stand. I’m not going to read your names out now, but all the organizations of the veterans organizations please stand. Thank you. Before we leave today and we finish, I want to thank each one of you personally, because you just keep it going for us. You are the most valuable thing the veterans have. I mean it sincerely. So thank you. We owe you a great deal and all the families owe you.
President Joe Biden: (04:44)
And the Democratic and Republican sponsors as well, especially the leaders of our veterans committee, Big Jon Tester, Jon, thank you very much old buddy, and Senator Moran. And thank you as well as Takano. And Walsh is also here. Where are you? Where is everybody? There you go. Okay. You guys have four ready across. Okay. I need glasses. When I look out, the only thing I see is Joe Manchin. Hey Joe, how are you? God, I wish I had Joe’s hair.
President Joe Biden: (05:22)
All Kidding aside, all friends, look, y’all did so much to make this state possible all of you. And you’re critical to the passage of the PAC Act, which is on the floor right now. And the act would extend benefits and services of those exposed to burn pits and toxic substances during military services, service, I should say, and we need your support to get it passed. And in my State of the Union address, I laid out a unity agenda, four big things that all of us Democrats, Republicans and independents could tackle together as a nation. First was the opioid crisis, second was mental health, third was cancer, and the fourth was supporting our veterans.
President Joe Biden: (06:01)
Today, our administration is delivering on that agenda. In just a moment, I’ll be signing nine different bills with overwhelming bipartisan support that improve care for our veterans and honor their service and their sacrifice. And you’ve heard me say it many times before, our nation has many obligations. It only has one truly sacred obligation. And I mean it and I’ve been saying this for over 35 years, sacred obligation. And that’s prepare and equip those we send them into harm’s way and to care for them and their families when they come home. It’s a sacred obligation, because veterans are the backbone, the spine of who we are as a country. Less than 1% of the population risk everything to defend our nation and our values and everything we hold dear. The 99% of us who don’t, we owe them, we owe them big. And that’s what today’s all about is paying a debt in my view.
President Joe Biden: (06:58)
The United States and the State of the Union I talked about, we need to talk about burn pits that incinerate waste of war, tires, poisonous chemicals, jet fuels and so much more I won’t even mention. Toxic smoke with thick poisons spreading through our bases and into the lungs of our troops. And when they came home, many of the fittest and best trained warriors we’ve ever had were not the same, headaches, numbness, dizziness, cancer. My son Beau was one of them.
President Joe Biden: (07:29)
Under Secretary McDonough leadership, the VA is pioneering new ways to link toxic exposure to diseases and to help more veterans get the care they need. Earlier this year, we expanded the eligibility for veterans suffering from nine rare respiratory cancers. But current law does not entitle at all toxic exposed veterans to mammogram services does now. Until today, the bill I’m signing, the law will ensure the veterans who served near burn pits get the preventative care they need. It’s named after Kate Hendricks Thomas and her husband and her handsome son is here today with two cousins. Two cousins, right? Welcome guys. Thanks for coming.
President Joe Biden: (08:15)
And I know when you said you had to go and sit in the front row in front of the president and all the pressure on what am I going to do? What am I doing? But I’m really glad you’re here. We really are, because it’s the root of a dad, it’s all about them, it’s all about them. Marie and military police officer who was a deployed in Iraq, diagnosed with stage four breast cancer from a mammogram, she advocated for women and men in the military to have access to such life saving screenings. Sadly, she lost her battle in April. Gone too soon, but her legacy is going to live on forever. Our hearts are with Dr. Hendricks Thomas’s family. And as I said are here today and other survivors, other cancer survivors.
President Joe Biden: (09:11)
Another bill improves breast imaging services for veterans, regardless of whether they’re exposed to burn pits or not. Another extends the law that sunsets next month to compensate Americans who develop cancer and medical conditions from the nation’s World War II era nuclear programs. Beyond medical support for our veterans, several other bills honor our members in uniform and those who fought tirelessly on their behalf. The congressional gold medal is going to go to US Army Ranger veterans of World War II Rangers, who played a critical role in the D-Day invasion and Normandy which began 78 years ago, yesterday.
President Joe Biden: (09:55)
This elite group once numbered 7,000, but now it’s down to 12, a dozen left. On behalf of our nation, we want to thank them for their heroism and their service. As a point of personal privilege is my honor to sign a bill that will name the new VA outpatient clinic that will be billed in Hawaii after a dear friend of mine and a former Senate colleague who I work with. And Macy’s here as well. But Danny Kaka, Danny was a great friend. He was an army veteran of World War II and a former chair of the committee and veteran’s affairs. One of the finest people I ever served with. He really was a man of great honor and integrity.
President Joe Biden: (10:40)
Today, I’m also signing a bill dedicated to veteran center in Utah in honor of Colonel Gail Halvorsen known as The Candy Bomber. You heard about it, as Denis just talked about. And I’m signing a bill that makes it easier to continue honoring veterans who have a building named after them when the VA switches properties. In other words, if there’s a named building and the property’s being abandoned, whatever building they’re moving into, that will take on the same name. We’ll have to go through the process of getting it authorized again.
President Joe Biden: (11:10)
The remaining bills focus not just on our veterans past, but the success of their future. We’re going to strengthen the oversight of the VA’s activities so veterans get the care they deserve and restoring educational assistance benefits. So veterans displaced by COVID-19 can continue to gain new skills to meet the demands and changing the workforce.
President Joe Biden: (11:35)
Look, let me close with this. Last week, we commemorated Memorial Day. And a reminder that our veterans and our military families represent literally the best of America. We can never fully repay the debt to all of you, but I promise that my administration will always have your back. I made that commitment when I ran and I commit that now. And the men and women sitting me for me made a similar commitment. We mean it. This is something we Bidens take personally. Every veteran and family member of a veteran who serves has made our lives, our liberty and our very nation possible, we owe you and we thank you. May God bless you all, and may God protect our troops.
President Joe Biden: (12:20)
And with that, now I’m going to go and sign those nine bills. And at some point, I don’t know, I’m no longer doing advanced work, Jon, but I got to get you all up here for the signing. We’ll work that out. So thank you. And again, kids, thank you for being here. Okay. Thank you very much. Maybe I can talk to you afterwards. Will you talk to me later? Okay. All right. Thank you.
President Joe Biden: (16:03)