Senator John ThuneThere are many in South Dakota who have answered the call to defend America with extraordinary military service. All of South Dakota's veterans deserve recognition for their sacrifice, but special tribute must be paid to those who have been wounded in defense of freedom.
April 13-19, is National Paralyzed Veterans Awareness week. I urge all South Dakotans to pause and think about those friends, family, and neighbors who have lost mobility as a result of combat injuries. The courage that many veterans exemplify by living with paralysis sometimes equals the courage they displayed in serving our country.
I believe that this courage needs to be rewarded, and there are several ways Congress can act. Recently, the President signed into law companion legislation to a bipartisan bill I introduced in the Senate that will allow for the construction of a National Disabled Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. The National Disabled Veterans Memorial will be constructed using funds raised through private donations, and will not take away funding from veterans benefit programs.
This Congress I have also introduced the Veterans' Disability Compensation Automatic COLA Act, which would ensure that veterans do not have to rely upon an act of Congress each year to receive the annual disability cost of living increase they deserve. This is a common sense benefit to those who have served our nation so admirably.
Last but certainly not least, I am proud to join Senator Tim Johnson and a bipartisan group of others in support of S. 2639, a bill to require mandatory funding for veterans health care. Because of the sacrifices that our military men and women have made for our country, I believe that veterans health programs should not be subject to the annual political games of the appropriations process.
Throughout my career I have had the honor of spending time with paralyzed veterans and their families. The experience of sitting down with service members and learning about their sacrifice first-hand is truly humbling. It is my hope that all Americans, including Members of Congress, will use Paralyzed Veterans Awareness week to renew our commitment to giving back to those who have given so much in service of our nation.