July 15, 1992 PRESIDENT BUSH ON VETERANS +quot;I renew my pledge today...to do all that's

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July 15, 1992 PRESIDENT BUSH ON VETERANS "I renew my pledge today...to do all that's humanly possible to account for our comrades that are missing from the past wars. As long as I am President, we will never forget those POWs and MIAs. And another pledge -- as we move to a post- Cold War defense force, we cannot forget to take care of our military and civilian men and women who worked and fought so hard to ensure that freedom and democracy would prevail. For them, we will continue to work together to make sure that American veterans receive quality health care that is second to none." -- President George Bush Veterans Day 1991 Summary o From his first days in office President Bush has demonstrated a personal commitment to addressing concerns of veterans. In the 1988 primary campaign he declared his dedication to bringing veterans a stronger voice in government. As President he appointed to his Cabinet our Nation's first Secretary of Veterans Affairs. o A veteran of World War II, President Bush understands the contributions to freedom as well as the sacrifices made by the men and women who have served this Nation's Armed Forces. Accordingly, he is committed to maintaining veterans' affairs as a top priority. o The President's budgetary commitment to the Department has increased every year since he took office. He has devoted the necessary funding and resources to assure that veterans receive the recognition, assistance, financial stability, and benefits they earned through service. Proven Leadership o As a former Navy aviator, President Bush gained a first-hand understanding of the sacrifices that America's fighting men and women may have to make in combat. Fifty years ago President Bush became the Nation's youngest naval aviator when he postponed college to volunteer for military service at the height of World War II. In 1944, while on a mission over Chichi Jima, Lt. Bush's Avenger torpedo bomber was shot down by Japanese anti-aircraft fire. Nonetheless, he completed his mission and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for bravery. George Bush flew 58 combat missions and made more than 100 carrier landings. o Throughout his military service, President Bush witnessed the price that must sometimes be paid to preserve peace and freedom for our Nation and the world. No President commits American troops lightly, and perhaps no one is better suited to make such decisions than one who has served in combat. President Bush knows first-hand the sacrifices that may be required by his decisions and understands the degree of national commitment that must be behind our troops if they are sent in harm's way. George Bush also recognizes that the Nation's commitment to our men and women in uniform must not end when the fighting stops. Commitment to Quality Health Care for Veterans o President Bush has taken an active role in promoting quality health care for all veterans through both increased funding and creation of innovative programs. These programs include: -- Proposed increases of nearly $1 billion in fiscal years 1991, 1992, and 1993 for the provision of direct health care to veterans. -- The establishment of new nursing homes and domiciliaries, as well as noninstitutional programs such as adult day health care and hospital-based home care. -- The establishment of new outpatient, community-based, and outreach clinics, bringing to 350 the total of such clinics throughout the country. -- An expanded number of Geriatric Research, Education, and Clinical Centers, bringing to 15 the total number of such centers serving our older veterans. o The Bush Administration has developed a comprehensive plan for construction of new hospitals and renovation of existing facilities to ensure veterans greater access to the highest quality health care. By the end of FY 1993, 65 major construction projects will have been started during the Bush Administration. The Importance of the Veterans Health Care System o President Bush understands the importance of veterans hospitals and is committed to maintaining the integrity of quality care provided for our veterans. The veterans' health care system plays a vital role throughout the U.S.: -- More than half the Nation's practicing physicians have received at least a portion of their training in veterans' hospitals. Each year, veterans' hospitals train approximately 100,000 health care professionals. -- Veterans' hospitals are affiliated with more than 100 medical schools across the country. -- Veterans' hospitals account for one in every 16 hospital beds in our Nation. -- Veterans hospitals are leaders in geriatric care, treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder, spinal- cord injury care and research, and they have also had a considerable impact in many other fields. Accounting for POWs and MIAs o As a matter of highest priority, the President has continued to commit the resources of the United States Government to return any American who still may be held captive, to do all that is humanly possible to account for those still missing, and to repatriate the remains of those who died while serving our country in foreign lands. o In February 1989, the President reappointed former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General John W. Vessey, Jr., as his special emissary to Hanoi for POW/MIA Affairs to continue the policies and priorities established during the Reagan/Bush Administration. Specific results on accounting for America's POW/MIAs from the Vietnam War are required before further U.S. steps to lift the economic embargo on Vietnam can occur. This policy ensures that the President's POW/MIA objectives are protected and in the forefront of any improvement in relations with Vietnam. o In January 1992, the United States and Russia established a joint commission to investigate the cases of Americans unaccounted for from World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and the Cold War period who may have been held in the former Soviet Union. President Bush selected former Ambassador to the Soviet Union Malcolm Toon to chair the U.S. delegation to the Joint U.S.-Russia Commission which began its investigations in late March 1992. o Following recent statements by Russian President Boris Yeltsin that American POWs/MIAs may have been held in the former Soviet Union, President Bush immediately sent Ambassador Toon to Moscow to examine newly opened Soviet archives. The President is determined that the truth be known, and any Americans who may have been held by the former Soviet government must be accounted for as fully as possible. o In order to publicly reinforce America's commitment to our POWs and MIAs, the President has signed legislation requiring that the POW/MIA flag be displayed at the Departments of State, Defense, and Veterans Affairs, at other Federal Buildings including the White House, at the Vietnam Veterans' Memorial, and in national cemeteries on annual National POW/MIA Recognition Days. Operation Desert Storm: o A total of 49 military personnel were listed as missing in action during the war. Before the war began, the Bush Administration established a Joint Rescue Coordination Center to place highest priority on rapidly locating our missing. Twenty-three American POWs returned at the conclusion of hostilities. Remains of 13 U.S. personnel were recovered and returned to their families. The remains of 13 additional servicemen have not been located, of whom 12 were reportedly killed over water, making recovery highly unlikely. Vietnam: o The Bush Administration has continued to work diligently to account for American POW/MIAs from the Vietnam War. Since January 1989, the remains of 57 servicemen have been recovered from Vietnam and 20 from Laos. o President Bush has established POW/MIA offices in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia charged with the sole duty of accounting as fully as possible for America's POW/MIAs. The offices are engaged in field investigations, surveys, remains recovery, and the investigation of live-sighting reports. o The President is firmly committed to resolving the many unanswered questions about the fate of Americans still missing in Southeast Asia. He has fully committed the resources of the Defense Department and his Administration to returning any Americans who may still be held against their will, achieving the fullest possible accounting for the missing, and repatriating all remains of our veterans who died serving our Nation during the Vietnam War. Korea: o Bush Administration officials have established a dialogue between the U.S. and North Korea. Increased priority has been given to obtaining information on over 8,000 Americans (389 of which were listed as POWs) through bilateral channels and through the UN Command Military Armistice Commission. Since 1954, 46 remains reported to be those of Americans unaccounted for from the Korean War have been returned to the U.S. from North Korea. All of these remains have been returned since April of this year. The U.S. continues to pursue the issue of missing U.S., Republic of Korea, and UN servicemen with the North Koreans through discussions on the establishment of a multilateral commission. The Administration is committed to do everything possible to account for our missing servicemen from the Korean Conflict. World War II: o Approximately 78,750 Americans were unaccounted for after World War II. The Bush Administration has continued to support every effort to recover the remains of those servicemen. As examples: -- Since 1979 and as recently as July 1990, more than 110 sets of remains have been recovered from Papua New Guinea and returned to Hawaii for identification. -- Teams have also conducted excavations on Guam, Okinawa, the Solomon Islands, Wake Island, and many other battle sites. Education, Job Training, and Benefits for Veterans o The President signed into law a comprehensive benefits package for veterans of the Persian Gulf War, including readjustment counseling, dental care, guaranteed home loans, insurance programs, and the extension of benefits to their survivors. o In addition to existing government benefits, the Bush Administration implemented a series of new employment and educational programs designed to assist veterans. These include: -- An expansion and strengthening of Veteran's Preference, a foundation which ensures that veterans receive priority for hiring within the Federal government. -- An expansion of the Transition Assistance and Disabled Transition Assistance Programs that has resulted in increased cooperation between the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Labor in helping newly discharged veterans find employment. -- An expansion of previously enacted educational benefits to include vocational, technical, correspondence, and apprenticeship training for reservists. -- The establishment of a new health care education program for service members in the Ready Reserve. -- An increase in the Montgomery G.I. Bill Active Duty basic education and training rates for Persian Gulf veterans from October 1991 through September 1993. o The Bush Administration is committed to making burial in a national cemetery a realistic option for all veterans and plans to: -- Construct 10 additional national cemeteries in areas of the country that are currently underserved. -- Acquire land through purchase or donation to increase burial capacity of existing cemeteries scheduled to close by 2020. -- Make greater use of the cost-sharing opportunities through grants for State veterans cemeteries.

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