- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Sen. Bernie Sanders, Vermont independent, said Tuesday a comprehensive veteran’s reform bill could be brought up on the Senate floor as early as Thursday.

The bill will undo the cost-of-living adjustment cuts included in the 2013 budget agreement and will also make changes in several areas ranging from health care to Veterans Affairs efficiency to education to unemployment.

“I know every Veterans Day and every Memorial Day politicians all around the country go out and give great speeches, but I think it’s time to put our money where our mouths are,” Mr. Sanders said. “We can never repay the people who put their lives on the line. We never can, we’re not going to bring back the dead, we’re not going to bring back arms and legs, but we do have a moral obligation to do everything that we can to protect those people who have protected us and that is what this comprehensive legislation does.”

The $24 billion bill is paid for with $4 billion in savings from within the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, “nothing new that hasn’t been used in the past,” Mr. Sanders said. The remaining $20 billion comes from Overseas Contingency Operations funding as the war in Afghanistan winds down.

Representatives from more than 20 veterans’ service organizations supported the bill, saying that it helps every generation of veterans and prioritizes veterans. The bill will also provide more benefits for survivors of deceased service members by expanding the education opportunities available to them.

“I know my husband would be proud of the intent of this bill to step forward and safeguard his loved ones, just as he stepped forward to serve our country,” said Patricia Sands, with the Gold Star Wives.

The bill already has 10 co-sponsors, but no Republican support. When asked why Republicans aren’t initially supporting the bill, Mr. Sanders said, “You can ask them.”

He emphasized that the bill contains many provisions that have garnered bipartisan support, including an initiative to provide in-state tuition for recently separated veterans, which passed the House Monday night by a 390-0 vote.

• Jacqueline Klimas can be reached at jklimas@washingtontimes.com.

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