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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release November 13, 1998
              Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, VA

                           November 11, 1998

Today, President Clinton will commemorate Veterans Day and help honor our nation's veterans at a ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery, where he will place a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns. The President will then make remarks at the Memorial Service in the Arlington National Cemetery Amphitheater, where he will discuss why it's important to the United States and the international community to respond forcefully to the latest crisis with Iraq. The President also will talk about initiatives he has taken to ensure military readiness for the 21st Century. Prior to the cemetery events, the President will sign H.R. 4110, the Veterans Programs Enhancement Act of 1998, which will improve benefits and programs for veterans.

Attached are three fact sheets regarding: 1) H.R. 4110, the Veterans Programs Enhancement Act of 1998; 2) the release of $1.1 billion in military readiness funding; and 3) an outline of Clinton Administration accomplishments concerning veterans' issues.

Attendees at H.R. 4110, the Veterans Programs Enhancement Act of 1998 Bill Signing Ceremony Secretary of Veterans Affairs Togo West, Jr. Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA) Representative Silvestre Reyes (D-TX) Representative Lane Evans (D-IL) Representative Bob Underwood (D-GU) Mr. Cecil Aultman, National Commander, AMVETS Mr. George Duggins, President, Vietnam Veterans of America Mr. H.F. Gierke, Former National Commander of the American Legion Mr. Andrew Kistler, National Commander, Disabled American Veterans Mr. Thomas Leisher, National President, Fleet Reserve Association Mr. Carlos Martinez, President & CEO, American GI Forum Mr. Thomas Pouliot, Commander-in-Chief, Veterans of Foreign Wars Mr. Roger Putnam, President, Non Commissioned Officers Association Mr. Homer Townsend, Jr., National President, Paralyzed Veterans of America Mr. Paul Sullivan, Executive Director for the Gulf War Resources Center

Escorts for the Arlington National Cemetery Veterans Day Presidential Wreath Laying Ceremony Major General Robert Ivany The Honor Guard

Order of Speakers for the Arlington National Ceremony Veterans Day Memorial Service Chaplain Hugh Maddry, Chief of Chaplains, Department of Veterans Affairs National Commander Manuel Tanguma, Jr. Secretary Togo West, Jr. President Clinton Reverend Francis X. Roque, Bishop Protector, Catholic War Veterans

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Providing Needed Assistance To Our Nation's Veterans. Today, President Clinton signed H.R. 4110, the Veterans Programs Enhancement Act of 1998, to improve benefits and programs for veterans. This legislation will provide assistance in the following areas:

      Benefit Compensation: This legislation will provide a 1.3 percent
      increase in compensation payments to veterans with
      service-connected disabilities and dependence and indemnity
      compensation (DIC) to the survivors of those whose deaths were

      Gulf War Veterans: This legislation will extend existing authority
      for providing priority health care to Gulf War veterans through
      the end of 2001, bolster efforts to study and treat these
      veterans' illnesses in a scientifically sound and effective
      manner, expand outreach efforts to Gulf War veterans, and broaden
      the public's access to the findings of federally sponsored
      research on the health consequences of service in the Persian

      Educational and Employment Opportunities: This legislation will
      expand veterans' options for entering on-the-job-training
      programs and meeting requirements for Montgomery G.I. Bill
      benefits and reinforce and expand an individual's right to
      return to a job after military service;

      Pension and Insurance Plans: This legislation will increase the
      special pension paid to recipients of the Medal of Honor, and
      increase assistance to certain veterans with terminal illnesses
      by allowing them to receive a portion of their life insurance
      as "living benefits" thereby helping them to meet medical and
      living expenses during their time of special need;

      Streamlining Services: This legislation includes provisions to
      permanently streamline and restructure the financing for
      Veterans Affairs housing loan operations, enhancing VA's 
      efficiency in administering housing programs, and to contribute 
      to high-quality VA health care by authorizing the Department to 
      establish new educational benefits for certain categories of 
      health care professionals, thereby helping to attract and retain 
      the best qualified employees.

     President Clinton considers military readiness -- ensuring that our

armed forces are always prepared to carry out their assigned mission in peace and in war -- to be among his highest priorities. As part of the Omnibus Appropriations Act, President Clinton announced today the release of $1.1 billion in military readiness funding which will allow our armed forces to maintain high standards of readiness throughout the coming year. In September, the President met with the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Unified Commanders in Chief, who assured him that our current state of military readiness is sound, but that there are concerns about the future. In response, the President worked to secure this additional funding, which will, among other things, address emerging readiness concerns by:

In addition, the President has ordered a thorough and complete readiness review, involving the Department of Defense, the National Security Council, and the Office of Management and Budget, as part of the Administration's decision-making about budgetary priorities for fiscal year 2000.

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Throughout his Administration, President Clinton has fought to protect the benefits that veterans have earned in service to this nation and to address the new needs and challenges created by a changing world. The Administration has aggressively responded to veterans of the Persian Gulf War suffering from unexplained illnesses, to the challenges created as the military downsized after the Cold War, and to the needs of homeless veterans. This Administration has also worked hard to make the Department of Veterans Affairs more efficient and responsive, proposing and implementing changes at VA that will improve services and save money -- many of these changes have long been advocated by veterans.

Protecting Veterans Benefits. Ensured full cost of living adjustment on benefits going to disabled veterans and military retirees; fought to fully fund benefit programs; increased GI Bill education benefits by more than 20%; expanded Congressional proposals to eliminate compensation for certain mentally incompetent veterans; and increased funding for national cemetery system to ensure that veterans and their families are buried with dignity.

Improved and Restructured VA Health Care System. Implemented significant management restructuring of VA medical system, creating integrated service networks and consolidating duplicative medical and administrative services, to ensure that scarce resources are focused on patient care. To further expand resources, allowed VA medical facilities to retain all money VA collects from third-party medical insurers. These changes have allowed VA to provide care to 600,000 more patients since 1995.

Persian Gulf War Veterans' Illness. Established Presidential Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans' Illness aimed at finding the causes of these illnesses and improving the care available to Persian Gulf veterans. As part of Gulf War illness effort, expanded funding for research and medical care. Directed the Secretaries of Defense, Health and Human Services, and Veterans Affairs to create a Military and Veterans Health Coordinating Board to improve the health protection and care of our armed forces, our veterans, and their families. Announced the release of a National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) report, "A National Obligation," that lays out an interagency plan for improving the federal response to the health needs of our military, veterans and their families. Led successful fight for new legislation paying disability benefits to Persian Gulf veterans with undiagnosed illnesses.

Firm commitment to veterans in federal hiring. Despite overall hiring declines across the federal government, the percentage of jobs going to veterans remains high. The federal government continues to lead the nation in the percentage of veterans and disabled veterans in its workforce.

Training and Assistance. Helped more than 1.5 million veterans into jobs through the Department of Labor's veterans employment service. Nearly half a million separating service members and their spouses received job search training under DOL's Transition Assistance Program.

Targeted, Supportive Assistance to Homeless Veterans. Fought for increased funding to assist communities in developing local, coordinated solutions to break the cycle of homelessness. More than doubled VA funding of homeless programs. As part of a new Homeless Providers Grant Program, VA awards millions of dollars to public and private nonprofit groups to develop new programs to assist homeless veterans. The Administration's Interagency Council on the Homeless established a Homeless Veterans Task Force to improve services and programs for homeless veterans across agencies.

President Clinton will continue to fight to protect the benefits veterans have earned and to help veterans respond to new needs and challenges. Specifically, the President will:

     Work for passage of reinventing government initiatives that will
     improve services to veterans, simplify complex eligibility rules,
     and save money through streamlining;

     Continue restructuring of VA's health care and benefits delivery 

     Continue to improve veterans benefits delivery system to give 
     veterans increased access and more efficient service;

     Continue work with Presidential Advisory Committee to find causes 
     and care for Persian Gulf Veterans with undiagnosed illnesses; and

     Continue strong outreach to veterans and veterans service 

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