A Lasting Memorial
|By Congressman Steve Kagen, M.D.|
May 25, 2009
|This Memorial Day, we gather together to freely take advantage of all that Northeast Wisconsin has to offer.
Let us take the time as well to recognize the extraordinary sacrifices that have afforded us the opportunity to enjoy these freedoms. We honor all our brave servicemen and women who were lost while serving our nation. They risked their lives that we may enjoy ours.
We also pay tribute to those serving overseas and here at home. They cannot take the weekend off. We are grateful for their strength and perseverance.
Therefore, we dedicate ourselves – today and everyday – to building a better future for all of us.
I am working hard to guarantee our soldiers the benefits they have earned before, during and after they serve in harm’s way. We must make certain that those who sacrifice for our nation have a chance to participate in the opportunities they fought so hard to protect.
This past week, I introduced the Service Members Home Ownership Act, with my colleague from Wisconsin Ron Kind. The legislation we introduced extends the period of first-time home buying for members of our armed forces who have been serving overseas. The first-time homebuyer credit – a non-refundable $8,000 tax credit available to anyone who purchases his or her first home – expires in November 2009. Under our bill, members of the Armed Services of the United States who are serving outside the country in 2009 for at least three months will have an additional year to take advantage of this tax credit. I am very proud to be a part of the effort to make sure our troops and their families can purchase their first home when they return from service.
Our returning soldiers also deserve a first-class education, and I want to urge our veterans in Northeast Wisconsin to take advantage of the 21st Century GI Bill.
The 21st Century GI Bill, which passed in June 2008, expands education benefits for veterans to restore the promise of a full, four-year college education. We are striving to make our returning veterans a part of our economic recovery, just like World War II veterans a generation ago. I am proud to have voted for this legislation.
Members of the military who have served on active duty since September 11, 2001, including activated reservists and members of the National Guard can now receive up to four academic years of education benefits, including stipends for housing and books. And they have up to 15 years after leaving active duty to use their education benefits, and are allowed to transfer them to their spouses and dependants. Eligible veterans may apply for benefits through the Department of Veterans Affairs now.
Please contact your County Veterans Services Officers or my office to learn about taking advantage of this opportunity. Payments will be processed beginning August 1.
As we put our economy on the road to recovery, we will work hard to guarantee that no one is left behind. Our soldiers covered our backs while serving in harms way, and now it is our turn to cover theirs as they return.
May the sacrifice of our fallen heroes inspire us to do great things for those who have returned home, and let that be their memorial.