07.24.09

Senator Burr's Week in Review

This week, the Senate considered the National Defense Authorization Act, which authorizes funding for our nation's military and defense initiatives. I offered several amendments to the bill, including the Military Spouse Residency Relief Act, which was approved by voice vote. I am very pleased by the passage of this amendment, which allows spouses of servicemembers to maintain residency in their home state. Under current law, active-duty personnel can keep a home state of residence no matter where military orders send them. However, military spouses do not have these rights, even though they move right along with their service member. This means that every time they move, military spouses have to change their license plates and registrations, voter registration, and even file state and local tax returns in a different state than their active-duty spouse.

Many of us take for granted the frequent moves that military spouses must make to support our armed forces and what these moves mean not only in terms of the headaches and hassles involved in constantly changing residency but also the impact on careers. Recent studies have found that military wives move farther and more often than their civilian counterparts; are more likely to be unemployed than the average civilian spouse; and, even if they do find work, tend to earn less than civilian wives. Moreover, spouses are also much less likely to have their names on deeds and titles of family property because of the implications of moving to another state, leaving many feeling like second class citizens. For some perspective of the impact of the current law on spouses, click here to read a recent AP story: http://www.federalnewsradio.com/index.php?nid=27&sid=1691506.

By extending to them the same residency rights enjoyed by servicemembers, this amendment sends a clear message to military spouses that we appreciate their sacrifices and are grateful for the contributions they make to the success of our Armed Forces.

I also offered an amendment yesterday to block the construction of an outlying landing field (OLF) in Sandbanks or Hale's Lake, North Carolina for Oceana Naval Air Station in Virginia. While the amendment was defeated, I believe I got the point across that the Navy must listen to the local community when considering these sites. This amendment was included in the Defense bill that the House passed, so there is still a chance that we can get this important provision into law.

The health care debate continues in Washington and across the country, and the President has stepped up efforts to build support for his plan. I was disappointed on Wednesday when President Obama said during a news conference that Republicans had not offered any alternatives to his proposal, which would create a new government-run plan. As loyal readers of this weekly update know, this is not the case. In May, Senator Tom Coburn and I introduced the Patients' Choice Act, a bill that would provide quality coverage for all Americans. According to a study conducted by an independent research organization, our bill would generate a $70 billion surplus over the next decade. Congress should not rush this important reform effort, but instead take the time to consider these alternatives and the potential costs and benefits they might have.

On Tuesday, I had the privilege to speak with family caregivers from across the country who were in Washington for the Wounded Warrior Project's Caregiver Summit. These individuals put their lives on hold to care for our nation's wounded warriors, and they deserve our support. To make sure caregivers get the support they need, Chairman Akaka and I have introduced the Caregiver and Veterans Health Services Act of 2009. This bill would strengthen support for caregivers of veterans and help ensure that veterans in need of institutional care have the choice of receiving care from a family member at home. I want to single out two special North Carolinians, Sarah and Ted Wade, who spent many hours reviewing drafts of the bill before it was introduced. Their unique perspective on the needs of both family caregivers and seriously injured veterans needing full-time care was essential.

I also spoke with the Southern AIDS Coalition about the importance of the Ryan White program. The program's authorization is set to expire at the end of this year. I will continue to work with my colleagues, the Southern AIDS Coalition, and North Carolinians to ensure that this vital program keeps on providing appropriate care, treatment and support to those living with HIV/AIDS.