THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
STATEMENT BY THE PRESIDENT
Today I am pleased to sign into law H.R. 4110, the "Veterans Programs Enhancement Act of 1998." It is particularly appropriate on this Veterans Day to express the Nation's continued gratitude to our veterans by improving a wide range of veterans' benefits and programs. I am particularly pleased that H.R. 4110 includes so many Administration proposals.
Most important, the bill provides a 1.3 percent increase in compensation payments to veterans with service-connected disabilities and in dependency and indemnity compensation to the survivors of those whose deaths were service-related. This increase, effective December 1, 1998, reflects the same percentage increase in benefits that Social Security beneficiaries and veterans' pension recipients will receive. Approximately 2.3 million veterans and over 300,000 surviving spouses and children will benefit from this increase, which will ensure that the value of their well-deserved benefits is maintained.
The bill also furthers the Nation's commitment to veterans who served in the Persian Gulf War. In particular, it extends existing authority for providing priority health care to Gulf War veterans through December 31, 2001. In addition, the bill bolsters efforts by the Departments of Veterans Affairs (VA), Defense, and Health and Human Services, with the help of independent scientific organizations, to study and treat these veterans' illnesses in a scientifically sound and effective manner. Furthermore, this legislation enhances outreach efforts to Gulf War veterans and broadens the public's access to the findings of federally sponsored research on the health consequences of service in the Persian Gulf.
The bill contains a number of provisions to help veterans reach their educational and employment goals. For instance, the legislation expands veterans' options for entering on-the-job training programs and meeting requirements for Montgomery G.I. Bill benefits. In addition, the bill reinforces and expands an individual's right to return to a job after military service, as provided by the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act.
Other provisions revise veterans' pension and insurance programs. For example, the legislation increases the special pension paid to recipients of the Medal of Honor, the Nation's highest military award. Additionally, the bill provides increased assistance to certain veterans with terminal illnesses by allowing them to receive a portion of their life insurance benefits as "living benefits," helping them to meet medical and living expenses during their time of special need.
The bill includes many other provisions to improve the quality and effectiveness of VA services to veterans. One provision permanently restructures and streamlines VA housing loan operations. Another provision contributes to high-quality VA health care by authorizing the Department to establish new educational benefits for certain categories of health care professionals to help attract and retain the best qualified employees.
This Nation owes no greater debt of gratitude than to our veterans, particularly those who have suffered disability or who made the supreme sacrifice while defending our freedoms. Each Veterans Day, the Nation makes a special effort to give thanks for and to honor the sacrifices of veterans and their families. This comprehensive legislation further expresses our gratitude to these brave men and women, not just on Veterans Day, but every day. For that reason, I am privileged to sign H.R. 4110 into law.
WILLIAM J. CLINTON
THE WHITE HOUSE, November 11, 1998.
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