This week our Nation will celebrate Veterans Day, our national day honoring the brave men and women of the military who have made great sacrifices for our freedom throughout our Nation’s history.
As a member of the United States Congress I honor those who have served our Nation and have heard firsthand their personal stories of bravery and self-sacrifice. Veterans Day is important as communities across the Nation and New Jersey hold community events expressing our deep appreciation for the dedicated service of veterans to the Nation.
America’s veterans and their families have made countless sacrifices in order to protect our most sacred American value, our freedom. I believe addressing the needs of America’s veterans is an important responsibility of members of Congress.
In advance of Veterans Day, I am pleased highlight several veterans-related issues.
In the Congress, I have joined my colleagues in honoring more than 300 surviving Women Air Force Service Pilots from World War II, also known as WASP, at a ceremony in the United States Capitol. Congress passed legislation awarding these heroic women the Congressional Gold Medal, which is Congress’ highest honor. I was pleased to greet 93-year-old Genevieve Rausch of Hillsborough in the Capitol as she received her medal. Each year I am privileged to visit with many New Jersey veterans in ceremonies large and small across the congressional district honoring those who have served the Nation in uniform.
Congress is also working on legislation regarding veterans’ burial rights. Currently, federal cemeteries receive a burial benefit to cover the cost of burial for the veteran as well as the veteran’s spouse and dependents. However, state cemeteries only receive a burial benefit from the federal government that is equivalent to the burial cost of the veteran. This is an important issue to New Jersey veterans who know firsthand that our federal cemeteries in the Garden State are on the verge of capacity and therefore veterans and their families may have no choice but to be buried in state or community cemeteries.
Given the importance of the issue, I have taken action by supporting legislation to expand the federal burial benefit to include spouses and dependents of veterans who wish to be buried in state cemeteries. This is designed to lessen the great burden of burial costs on the families of those who have served our country.
I have also cosponsored legislation amending the United States Constitution giving Congress the power to prohibit the physical desecration of the flag of the United States.
We have also passed the Veterans Opportunity to Work Act, which commits us to helping the men and women who have served in the military compete in today’s austere economic climate through comprehensive legislation that helps provide a solution to unemployment.
The House of Representatives also approved legislation entitled the Restoring GI Bill Fairness Act of 2011, which provides assistance to veterans who are seeking higher education.
My congressional office stands ready to assist veterans who may be experiencing difficulty with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. We regularly help veterans and their families recover lost, stolen or never issued service medals. If you or someone you know needs help with a veteran’s issue, please contact my district offices at 908-788-6900 or 908-518-7733 so that we might be of help.
There is still much work for Congress to do to help our Nation’s veterans. I will continue to remain a strong advocate and work to ensure that our veterans receive the benefits they have both earned and deserve.
Congressman Leonard Lance represents New Jersey’s Seventh Congressional District in the United States Congress. The Seventh District includes towns in Hunterdon, Middlesex, Somerset and Union counties.