Published October 1982 — Download PDF of the original newspaper column
Byrd's-Eye View By U.S. Senator Robert C. Byrd Veterans: A Lasting Commitment Many of West Virginia's veterans could benefit from provisions in two bills that I supported and that were recently approved by the United States Senate. The first bill, the Veterans Compensation, Education, and Employment Act, would provide a much-needed, 7.4 percent cost-of-living increase to veterans with service-connected disabilities and to dependents of severely disabled veterans. The bill would also make increased educational opportunities available to veterans by allowing for increased flexibility in determining eligibility for both educational assistance and rehabilitation programs. Finally, the bill would make it easier for veterans to find work by changing the administration and coordination of the government's veteran's employment programs. That particular provision would be of special significance to our Vietnam veterans, who are suffering from intolerably high unemployment rates. Veterans between the ages of 25 and 29 have an unemployment rate of nearly 17 percent, well above the national average, and nationwide an estimated 685,000 Vietnam veterans are out of work. The second important measure approved by the Senate recently, the fiscal 1983 appropriations bill for the Department of Housing and Urban Development and independent agencies, contains two provisions that would be meaningful to many Vietnam veterans: Funding for Agent Orange research, and funding for readjustment counseling centers. This is not the first time the Senate has addressed these important concerns. Last year, for instance, the Senate approved two amendments to the Veterans Health Care Act, amendments that I cosponsored, that provided basic health care eligibility for veterans exposed to dangerous substances such as Agent Orange, and extended for three years the Vietnam veteran's readjustment counseling programs. We in Congress place a high priority on strengthening our veterans programs, especially those involving education, training, rehabilitation, medical care, housing assistance, and income security. This nation's debt and obligation to all of the men and women who have served our country throughout the years must remain steady and strong. To our nation's veterans, we have a lasting commitment.