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Remarks at the Bill Signing Ceremony for the Veterans Disability Compensation and Survivors Benefits and Housing Benefits Bills

October 18, 1978

THE PRESIDENT. This morning I've come to sign two very important bills involving our veterans, those who are disabled and those who have served in Vietnam—in fact, all the Americans who have honored our country by offering their lives for liberty and freedom.

Since our Nation was first founded, Americans have felt obligated to honor those who have offered their lives in this noble purpose.

In my own State, and in the area in which Jack Brinkley and I live, for instance, the land was settled by drawings of lottery cards by those who had served in the Revolutionary War. And many of the families who moved into the western part of Georgia and other parts of our country acquired their land by having served in the war to give our own country its initial status and freedom.

These two bills this morning, House bill 11886 and House bill 12028, continue this process to honor veterans in the first place and to give them an opportunity for a reasonable competitive relationship with other citizens who may not have suffered in the war.

One thing that we need to protect all citizens against is the impact of inflation. The disabled veterans compensation has been increased in these bills by 7.3 percent, which equates to the inflation rate last year.

There has been an increase in the maximum home loans to be guaranteed, from $17,500 to $25,000, and the fights of veterans to acquire certain categories of condominiums and also mobile homes has been included.

We also have recognized the importance of improved energy conservation and special provisions have been made for homes that would include these features. In addition to that, of course, we have increased the allocation of funds for modifying homes to accommodate those veterans who are severely disabled, up to a maximum now of $30,000.

The active duty requirements for veterans to receive loan guarantees in the Vietnam war have now been equated with those requirements for veterans who have served in the Korean and the World War II.

As many of you have known, who are related directly to veterans, we've had a problem in finding cemetery space for those who have died. And these bills will provide that not only will there be a better opportunity for making available limited space in Federal cemeteries, but also a new program for enhancing services through State cemeteries for veterans will be included.

We've never had an unidentified or unknown soldier from the Vietnam war. All those who died and whose bodies were recovered have been identified. But this bill recognizes that at Arlington, where our Nation focuses its attention upon veterans, that there should be a means to honor those who died in Vietnam, and a special plaque will be installed there as a result of these two bills.

I might add my thanks to the Members of Congress who serve in this important realm of legislative responsibility-Congressman Jack Brinkley, who happens to be my own personal Congressman from the Third District, Congresswoman Margaret Heckler, who was to be here this morning, and many others.

As you know, in the Senate Alan Cranston has been one of the leaders in meeting the needs of veterans. Although it won't be signed this morning, because it has not yet arrived on my desk, I will sign the veterans pension bill of 1978 as soon as it does arrive in my office.

I want to congratulate all those who have been instrumental in improving the lot of veterans. We quite often have not recognized them adequately, particularly those who served in the Vietnam war. This is a major step in the right direction. And I'm very proud as President to sign these two bills and want to again congratulate those in the Congress who have made this step forward possible.

Congressman Brinkley and Max Cleland, all of those who worked so hard, I want to thank you for it. Jack, you might want to say a word.

REPRESENTATIVE BRINKLEY. Thank you very much, Mr. President. It's a joy for me to be here representing the Third District of Georgia, which is the district encompassing Plains, Georgia, and to have had an active part in the role of the Veterans Committee of the House of Representatives. The housing subcommittee, on which Elizabeth Lunsford is majority counsel, deals with housing, which is important, basic, and fundamental for veterans. Our housing bill touches retirees, other veterans, and active duty military personnel. It streamlines the law and brings it up to date. It's important to the economy and to the quality of life of these men, and we're just grateful to have had a part in it.

Thank you very much, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT. Thank you, Jack. Max?

MR. CLELAND. It's an honor to be with you this morning, and I'm especially grateful to you for having representatives of the major veterans organizations with us today. Without their help, this legislation couldn't be possible.

Thank you, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT. Thank you, Max, very much.

I think the Congress has made it possible to improve greatly the attention paid to Vietnam veterans. And we've seen substantial improvement in their employment opportunities and in the services given to them.

As all of you know, in the past number of years, we have not honored Vietnam veterans from our hearts or actions as previous veterans of other wars were honored. And I'm very glad to see this defect in our societal attitudes corrected by the Congress. I'm glad to be a part of it. Thank you.

Note: The President spoke at 9:30 a.m. in the Cabinet Room at the White House. Max Cleland is Administrator of Veterans Affairs.

As enacted, H.R. 11886 is Public Law 95479, and H.R. 12028 is Public Law 95-476, both approved October 18.

Jimmy Carter, Remarks at the Bill Signing Ceremony for the Veterans Disability Compensation and Survivors Benefits and Housing Benefits Bills Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/244117

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