Also Discussed Progress Made on Plan to Keep Military Families from Being Cut from Nutrition Programs
Colorado Springs, CO - Sitting down with veterans and military family advocates in Colorado to hear their concerns, Michael Bennet, U.S. Senator for Colorado, said yesterday he is continuing his push for a national veterans cemetery to serve Southern Colorado. Bennet also discussed his efforts on behalf of military families, including his Military Family Protection Act. Bennet announced late last week that the bill, which would exempt combat pay from income requirements for federal child nutrition programs, is headed to the Senate floor for a vote.
In a roundtable discussion, meeting participants-which included members of the Veterans Cemetery Committee, The Retired Enlisted Association and Military Officers Association of America-shared some of their concerns and priorities with Bennet.
"For years, veterans in southern Colorado have fought for a national veterans cemetery to call their own," said Bennet. "It's about time Washington lives up to its promise and makes good on its obligation to America's veterans, troops and military families. A national veterans cemetery in southern Colorado would be a fitting tribute to service and sacrifice of our veterans, and with their help and their support, I'm hopeful we can get the job done."
Bennet also discussed the Military Family Protection Act, which last week was included in the Agriculture Appropriations Bill for Fiscal Year 2010. The bill would protect military families from being cut from child and maternal nutrition programs. Currently, combat pay can make dependents of service members ineligible for crucial child nutrition programs when family members go overseas. The Military Family Protection Act would permanently exempt combat pay from being counted as income for federal child nutrition programs and WIC.
The Southern Colorado Veterans' Cemetery bill was first announced by Bennet and Senator Mark Udall in March. The state currently has two national veterans cemeteries-Fort Logan National Cemetery near Denver and Fort Lyons National Cemetery near Las Animas-but Fort Logan will reach full capacity in just ten to fifteen years.
A new cemetery in El Paso County would serve the growing veterans populations in the Pikes Peak region and Southern Colorado. Congressman John Salazar introduced the companion bill in the U.S. House of Representatives in January. The House bill is cosponsored by Reps. Diana DeGette (CO-01), Doug Lamborn (CO-05), Ed Perlmutter (CO-07), and Jared Polis (CO-02).
The new cemetery would also enable veterans who reside in Southern Colorado to be buried near the communities they call home. The Pikes Peak area has one of the highest concentrations of veterans in the country, and both of the existing cemeteries-between 70 and 80 miles away-are inconveniently located for families traveling from the Pikes Peak region to visit their loved ones. Additionally, treacherous weather conditions and poor highway access often inhibit such travel.