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President Biden on Tuesday signed four bipartisan bills that are aimed at helping veterans and military families by addressing disparities in benefits, creating recruiting programs, reducing education costs for surviving families and by addressing the maternal health crisis among veterans.
"We have many obligations but we only have one truly sacred obligation, mind you, and that is prepare those we send into harms way, care for their families when they're gone and care for them and their families when they're home. That's a lifetime commitment, a lifetime commitment the nation owes to every one of our veterans," Biden said at the White House.
The president remarked that the full room of senators and House members that joined him for the bill signings made it seem there was a quorum present and that he missed having quorums from his time as a senator. Vice President Harris and Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough also attended.
A bill spearheaded by Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) will require the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to conduct a study to assess whether there are disparities associated with race and ethnicity in the veteran benefits system.
Biden congratulated Warnock and called him a "moral leader in the U.S. Senate since he got here."
"The weapons of war and the nature of injuries they inflict don't differentiate based on race and the types of disabilities our veterans carry with them don't differentiate based on race, so the claims approved and the benefits delivered should not differentiate either," Biden said about the legislation.
Warnock; Sens. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.); and Rep. Mark Takano (D-Calif.) joined the president for the signing.
"Hey big John, you're going to be here all afternoon," Biden quipped to Tester, who is the chairman of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee.
A second bill, the Hire Veteran Health Heroes Act, directs the Department of Veterans Affairs to create a program to recruit military medical personnel who have less than a year left in their service to work in federal health care occupations.
"This new program will build upon existing efforts to create a pipeline for former military health professionals. For both our veterans, our military medical personnel, service isn't just what they do, its who they are," the president said.
Tester, Moran, Takano and Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) joined for the signing.
The Colonel John M. McHugh Tuition Fairness for Survivors Act aims to help reduce the out-of-pocket education costs for surviving spouses and children of members of the military.
Kelly McHugh Stuart, the daughter of McHugh who advocated for the legislation, was on stage with the president for the signing along with Tester, Moran, Hassan, Takano and Rep. David Trone (D-Md.).
"Part of keeping our commitment to them means helping survivors get the education they need and to fulfill their need," Biden said about the legislation.
Lastly, the Protecting Moms Who Served Act, spearheaded by Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), will commission the first-ever comprehensive study on the scope of the U.S. maternal health crisis among veterans with a focus on the effects of racial and ethnic disparities on maternal health outcomes.
Duckworth, Tester, Moran, Takano, Sens. Chris Coons (D-Del.), Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), and others joined for the signing. The bill was also a favorite project of Harris's when she was a senator and Biden said Harris has led the fight to address maternal mortality in the U.S.
"It's an important step in making sure we meet the needs of American mothers who have served," Biden said.
It authorizes $15 million for the VA maternity care coordination programs to help ensure effective coordination between VA facilities and non-VA facilities in the delivery of maternity care, facilitate access to resources, and offer childbirth preparation classes in parenting, nutrition, breastfeeding, lactation and breast pumps.
"Tammy!" Biden said to Duckworth when she got on the stage. "You did it."
"You said you were going to do this, remember?" Biden added. "You did."