President Joe Biden holds the hand of Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., after signing into law four bills aimed at helping military veterans on Tuesday. Photo by Leigh Vogel/UPI | License Photo
Nov. 30 (UPI) -- President Joe Biden signed four bills into law on Tuesday aiming to help military veterans.
Biden said the legislation honors "one truly sacred obligation we have as a nation" -- "prepare those we send into harm's way, care for the families when they're gone and care for them and their families when they're home."
Biden also called the country's obligation to its veterans a "lifetime commitment."
Biden was joined at the bill signing by Vice President Kamala Harris and Secretary of Veterans Affairs Denis McDonough. The four pieces of legislation are meant to improve conditions for the country's veterans.
The president also mentioned his late son, Beau, who served in Iraq, calling the subject a personal one "for me, for [First Lady] Jill [Biden] and for the entire Biden family."
One of the bills addresses maternal healthcare for veterans, while the purpose of another is to launch a study of race and race and ethnicity disparities when it comes to Veterans Affairs benefits and disability ratings.
The latter (S.1031), orders the Government Accountability Office to study race and ethnic disparities in compensation benefits administered by Veterans Affairs, disability ratings determined by the VA and the rejection of claims for Veterans Affairs benefits. A report and briefing to Congress by the GAO is required within one year.
"The weapons of war and the nature of injuries they inflict don't differentiate based on race, so the claims approved and the benefits delivered should not differentiate, either," Biden said.
The "Protecting Moms Who Served Act" passed with all but nine members of Congress voting in favor.
The law will commission a comprehensive study to look at the country's maternal health crisis among women veterans. It will also focus on racial and ethnic inequalities and disparities.
"Our country continues to have the highest maternal mortality rates in the developed world," Biden said. "Which is hard -- especially among Black and Native American women."
The "Hire Veteran Health Heroes Act" requires the veterans affairs and defense departments to create a program to actively recruit and hire medical personnel to federal healthcare roles after their military service.
Biden pledged the bill would help address staffing shortages and allow members of the military trained in caring for other service members, to continue serving their country.
The "Col. John M. McHugh Tuition Fairness for Survivors Act" will require public colleges and universities that receive G.I. Bill benefits to provide in-state tuition rates for students who intend to use the Survivors' and Dependents' Education Assistance program.
The bill was named for a 46-year-old career Army officer from New Jersey who was killed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan in 2010 while serving during Operation Enduring Freedom. McHugh's daughter was on hand for the bill signing and formally recognized by the president.
"Your work to share your story, to advocate for other surviving families and to turn loss into progress and understanding is heroic as well, and we thank you for it -- really, thank you personally," Biden said.