This week, I introduced the Caring for Camp Lejeune Veterans Act of 2009. My bill would require the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to provide health care to veterans and their family members who have experienced adverse health effects as a result of exposure to well water contaminated by carcinogens at Camp Lejeune. Thousands of Navy and Marine veterans and their families who lived on Camp Lejeune have become ill with a variety of cancers and diseases believed to be attributable to their service at Lejeune. While we continue to seek more answers on this tragic situation, this bill is a step in the right direction. Senator Hagan has joined me in this effort. I look forward to working with her to ensure that the Lejeune veterans and their families have access to the care they deserve.
I also introduced the Services for Ending Long-Term Homelessness Act this week. Over a half a million Americans do not have a place to call home each night, and two to three million people find themselves homeless at some point during the year. The latest estimates indicate that there are 150,000 chronically homeless individuals nationwide. My bill would strengthen permanent supportive housing programs by combining housing with support services, such as mental health, substance use disorder treatment and recovery, and employment opportunities for chronically homelessness individuals and families. It is important that we work to address homelessness by helping people become self-sufficient so that they can return to a better, more productive life.
On Wednesday, I attended a Veterans’ Affairs Committee hearing on disability compensation and the claims backlog. The disability compensation system has been plagued with problems for far too long and it is time to help veterans get decisions faster. I am pleased to be working with the Disabled American Veterans to draft a bill that would make needed changes in the compensation system. The men and women who have served and sacrificed for our nation deserve a system that meets their needs without hassles or delays.
As many of you may know, after much consideration I have decided to vote against Judge Sotomayor’s nomination to the Supreme Court. Undoubtedly, she has impressive academic credentials, a lengthy judicial record, and a personal story that is inspiring to many Americans. However, I am concerned with Judge Sotomayor’s ability to adhere to long-standing case precedent and apply the law according to a strict interpretation of the Constitution. I am troubled by her decisions in cases where she appears to have relied on something other than well-settled law to come to a decision. My fear is that she has been unable to separate her personal belief system from that of the letter of the law. Her nomination is expected to come to the Senate floor next week.
The Senate is also continuing consideration of bills to fund the operations of the federal government in the coming fiscal year. Next week the Senate is expected to continue consideration of the Agriculture appropriations bill and related amendments.