The armistice that ended "the war to end all wars" took effect on November 11, 1918, at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. The following year, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed November 11 as the first commemoration of Armistice Day. After World War II and the war in Korea, Congress approved and President Dwight Eisenhower signed legislation making November 11 a day to honor American veterans of all wars. Today, as veterans return from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, it is as important as ever to honor those who served our country. "While much remains to be done, Congress has made significant progress in addressing many of the long-standing problems that our service members and veterans face. As a member of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, I was proud to be a partner in bringing about true reform. In observing Veterans Day, we must make sure that we continue to work to keep our promise to those who served," Senator Bernie Sanders said.
Last year, Congress provided the Department of Veterans Affairs with the largest increase in funding in its 77-year history. The department's $88 billion budget -- $3.7 billion more than the president requested -- included a large increase for veterans' health care. This year, Congress has followed with an equally impressive $94.3 billion to help ensure that every veteran that needs care, gets care.
One of the most important pieces of veterans' legislation to pass was the new GI Bill for the 21st Century (the italic version of the bill was not the official name of the bill) . It will dramatically improve veterans' education benefits for the men and women who have served in our armed forces since September 11, 2001. This new GI Bill is a major step forward in opening up higher education opportunities for today's veterans. It was patterned after the GI Bill that passed at the end of World War II. As veterans became teachers, doctors, attorneys thanks to the GI Bill, the legislation also improved the economic well-being of our country and expanded the middle class. By more than doubling the educational assistance currently available, this legislation can have the same positive impact.
Another bill that passed the Congress this year and was signed by the president increases help for severely-disabled veterans who need to adapt their homes to accommodate their disability. This proposal by Sanders was supported by the VFW, the American Legion, the Disabled American Veterans and other service organizations.
In Vermont, this June marked the opening of a new Community Based Outpatient Clinic in Bennington. The facility will help ensure that veterans in southern Vermont get the quality health care they deserve and to which they are entitled. Senator Sanders is also working to expand outpatient clinics to other areas in the state.
Recently, $3.2 million in new funds were secured by Senators Sanders and Leahy for the Vermont Veterans and Family Outreach Program that the Vermont National Guard began last year. At a time when there is increased concern about the high number of service members experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury, it is absolutely imperative that all of our returning service members are made aware of and connected to the services and help that are available to them. This program uses VA-trained Vermont veterans to contact recently returned service members to do just that. Veterans and their families who have questions about the program or are in need of assistance should call the 24/7 HELPLINE at (888) 607-8773.