Today, I have an important update for you on President Trump and Congress’s efforts to rebuild our military, keep our homeland safe and care for our veterans.
On November 14, 2017, the House passed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2018 (H.R. 2810), which President Trump signed into law on December 12. The NDAA is vital annual legislation that authorizes funding for the Department of Defense.
Both Republicans and Democrats worked together to pass this bill into law, sending a powerful bipartisan message to our servicemembers that national defense is a national priority again.
- greenlights the president’s plan to rebuild the military,
- increases funding for our national defense by $88.4 billion,
- and authorizes 20,000 more servicemembers to help address the threats against the United States.
Importantly, the bill also provides a 2.4 percent pay raise for the troops – the largest in eight years. Our men and women in uniform deserve nothing less for the sacrifices they make to protect us.
Further, the NDAA strengthens Georgia’s contribution to our national defense, including essential funds for cybersecurity operations at Fort Gordon and surveillance aircraft stationed at Robins Air Force Base. With more than 100,000 Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and Airmen in Georgia – the fourth largest military population in the nation – it’s important to ensure our warfighters have the resources and equipment they need.
In addition to strengthening our military, I believe we must also use our economic and diplomatic tools to address threats from the regimes in North Korea and Iran. Accordingly, this year the House passed the Iran Ballistic Missiles and International Sanctions Act (H.R. 1698) and the Otto Warmbier North Korea Nuclear Sanctions Act (H.R. 3898). Both bills would impose additional economic sanctions on these rogue regimes and deprive them of resources that could be used to threaten our country.
Finally, we must continue to improve services for our nation’s veterans and their families. They served and sacrificed; now we must ensure they receive the best possible care and services our nation can deliver, which starts with reforming the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
I’m glad to report that we made significant progress this year when Congress passed and the president signed the Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act (S. 1094). This important legislation will help improve services and care at the VA by making it easier for the VA Secretary to punish or fire bad employees and protect the whistleblowers who report bad behavior.
Congress also passed the Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act (H.R.2288), which President Trump recently signed into law. The bipartisan bill modernizes the disability benefits appeals process at the VA.
In addition to reforms at the VA, this year Congress passed and the president signed the Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act (H.R. 3218), an important bipartisan bill modernizing veterans’ educational assistance programs.
Among its reforms, this new law:
- increases college aid funding for Guardsmen and Reservists, their surviving spouses and dependents;
- provides 100 percent college aid funding for post-9/11 Purple Heart recipients;
- removes time restrictions to use educational benefits;
- and provides additional benefits to veterans who pursue degrees in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).
I will continue to update you on legislation for our nation’s military and veterans, but I understand there are many issues of importance to you and your family. Please do not hesitate to contact me through my website or follow me on social media, including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Congressman Tom Graves