As Prepared For Delivery:
Thank you, Steve Schwab, for that introduction. And, thank you to Senator Elizabeth Dole and the entire Dole Foundation for your leadership on behalf of military and veteran caregivers and families. I also want to acknowledge the great Senator Bob Dole, who has been a relentless and principled advocate and partner on disability rights and so many other vital issues. I understand you’re both watching at home, and I’m sending you my best.
It’s good to join you all. I’ve been fortunate, in my family and in my career, to know many current and former military members and their loved ones. I grew up relishing the impassioned dinner table arguments between my father and and my mother’s brothers, who first crossed paths in the segregated Army Air Force during World War II, where they were members of the celebrated Tuskegee Airmen. My stepfather was also a veteran, and held several appointments at the Pentagon. I’ve had the great privilege, at the State Department, UN, and on the National Security Council, of working closely with outstanding military leaders from every branch. And, I’ve seen the impact that service can take on those “hidden heroes” who care for them, as well as the immense pride and challenges that come with looking after someone who has sacrificed so much for our country.
So, as the President’s Domestic Policy Advisor, I am honored to be responsible for driving policy relating to veterans, their caregivers, families, and survivors. In that work, I’m lucky to be supported by the White House’s Special Assistant to the President for Veterans Affairs, Terri Tanielian, with whom I know you’ve worked closely and whom you’ll be hearing from after this. Terri’s appointment is not only a sign of President Biden’s commitment to veterans affairs; having her onboard also gives us experienced hands coordinating every day with the VA, DOD, HHS, Office of the First Lady, and other agencies to prioritize the needs of veterans and their families. I’m also glad that we’re joined today by Rory Brosius, Special Assistant to the President for Military Families and Executive Director of Joining Forces, with whom we work closely.
President Biden often says we have a truly sacred obligation as Americans—to prepare and properly equip our women and men in uniform when we send them into harm’s way, and to care for them and their families when they return. That’s the spirit we’ve brought to this work.
Caring for our service members and their families when they return means modernizing VA health care—the facilities, the IT systems, the workforce, the models of care. It means addressing toxic exposures, by examining what additional administrative actions can be taken to provide health care and benefits for those that may have encountered airborne hazards, burn pits, and other harmful exposures during their military service. It means ensuring access to care in homes and communities, and expanding the support for the workforce providing the care—both direct support providers and all the family caregivers with us today. It means ensuring equity for all veterans, whether that’s expanding services for women or—in light of this year’s tenth anniversary of the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell—providing access to comprehensive gender-affirming care. And, it means mobilizing a whole-of-government response to eliminate veteran homelessness and reduce veteran suicide—both supporting individuals in crisis and working to address upstream risk factors like financial problems and access to firearms.
And, of course, a big part of caring for those who have borne the battle entails caring for like you. Spouses. Parents. Siblings. Battle buddies. The Domestic Policy Council works closely with Rory and the First Lady’s Joining Forces team, to ensure support for military and veteran families, caregivers, and survivors. We helped to ensure those without health insurance could gain access through the special enrollment period—reducing health care premiums and delivering critical economic relief to families and businesses through the American Rescue Plan. We’re encouraging the Federal Trade Commission to ban unnecessary occupational licensing restrictions—which needlessly burden one-third of military spouses—because you shouldn’t have to get a new license every time you move to a new post.
And, that’s just the start. The President’s Build Back Better legislation that’s now before Congress will make unprecedented investments in American families—and have a transformational impact on military and veteran families and caregivers.
We’re going to take on our nation’s caregiving crisis, which we were experiencing even before COVID, by expanding home care for older and disabled Americans and improving the conditions and pay of the home care workers who support them.
We’re also going to lower child care costs for the one quarter of veterans with children at home. Ensuring that middle-class families have affordable, quality child care, and never have to pay more than 7% of their income for child care. Making universal preschool a reality. Providing paid family and medical leave, including to address needs related to a deployment and caring for a wounded, ill, or injured loved one.
With one third of post-9/11 veterans reporting trouble paying their bills, we’re going to extend the expanded Child Tax Credit that’s giving nearly 90 percent of American families a major tax cut and cutting child poverty almost in half. These monthly payments to parents, up to $3,600 per year, help cover the cost of food, housing, health care, and transportation.
This is what building back better means. This is how we live up to our sacred obligation.
I mentioned my father earlier, and I’ll close by noting that it’s now been ten years since we lost him. His health issues weren’t service-connected, but I still vividly recall how difficult and scary those final years were. A stroke. Surgery. Cancer. Diabetes. Rehab. Monitoring him closely for anything unusual.
In the toughest moments, my family was blessed to have all the support we could hope for. But, too many Americans still don’t. And, I want you to know that the President and our entire Administration won’t rest until you are taken care of as well as you care for your loved ones. Thank you all for your heroic work and your extraordinary service to our county. I’ll hand the floor back to Steve.