Kathleen Rice

04/22/2021 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 04/22/2021 14:44

Rice, Gillibrand, Stivers, Murkowski to Introduce Bipartisan, Bicameral Bill to Modernize Outdated VA Motto

WASHINGTON - Today, U.S. Representative Kathleen Rice (D-NY) and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), chair of the Senate Armed Services Personnel Subcommittee, introduced bicameral, bipartisan legislation to update the mission statement for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to be more inclusive of women and LGBTQ veterans and their surviving family members. The legislation is co-led by Representative Steve Stivers (R-OH) in the House and Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) in the Senate.

The Honoring All Veterans Act would change the VA's current mission statement to read: 'To fulfill President Lincoln's promise to care for those 'who shall have borne the battle' and for their families, caregivers, and survivors.'

'It is long overdue for the Department of Veterans Affairs to update its mission statement to reflect all Americans who have fought for our nation,' said Representative Rice. 'Women and LGBTQ military service members and veterans have sacrificed their lives to keep the rest of us safe, and they deserve to be properly recognized by the agency that serves them. I am proud to lead this bipartisan bill with Representative Stivers in the House, and I thank Senators Gillibrand and Murkowski for leading it in the Senate.'

'The motto of the VA must honor the immense sacrifice and courage of all Americans who have served our nation. Women, members of the LGBTQ community and their families are vital members of our military, and I look forward to working together with Senator Murkowski and my House colleagues to update this outdated motto to ensure that the humanity of every individual is clearly seen and acknowledged,' said Senator Gillibrand, chair of the Senate Armed Services Personnel Subcommittee.

'Brave men and women continue stepping up by answering the call to serve, and the VA motto should clearly reflect that,' said Representative Stivers. 'I am proud to join my colleagues in this effort to let America's veterans know that we recognize and support every one of them. To all my fellow veterans, please know that the sacrifices you are making to keep our neighbors safe are not, and never will, go unnoticed.'

'I have always been someone who believed our words matter,' said Senator Murkowski. 'That includes the mission statement of the VA. Everyone who has served and sacrificed for the sake of our freedoms should be recognized and honored by VA's core mission. I am proud to join my colleagues in the House and Senate in a push to amend the current language to be more inclusive of ALL who serve, including the families and caregivers who support them.'

The Honoring All Veterans Act has been endorsed by the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), Minority Veterans of America (MVA), and the Military Women's Coalition (MWC).

'For four years IAVA has been calling for the VA to update its motto to reflect the diversity of today's fighting force and our veterans, and today we commend Representative Kathleen Rice (D-NY) and Steven Stivers (R-OH) and Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) for introducing this important legislation to get the job done,' said IAVA CEO Jeremy Butler. 'Every veteran should feel welcome at the VA in an environment that celebrates the service of America's veteran community as a whole. This is a critical first step and much more work needs to be done to pass the bill into law this year.'

In addition to changing the mission statement, the bill will also require that within 30 days of enactment, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs publish a notification on the Department's website explaining the mission statement change, update each Department website, and issue guidance and a timeline to the entire Department for updating all previous mission statement references. Within six months, the Secretary will be required to submit a report to Congress on the Department's compliance.

The full text of the legislation can be found here.