Press Releases

On Saturday November 9, Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash) received the Washington state Department of Veteran Affairs’ “Outstanding Male Non-Veteran” award for his service to veterans at a Veterans Day luncheon in Auburn.  Smith was nominated for the award for his commitment and dedication to veterans’ issues, specifically his work on the American Lake VA Medical Center, which provides care for more than 17,000 veterans.  The number of patients continues to grow because of the large density of military bases in the immediate area – Army, National Guard, Air Force and Navy – and Smith has worked hard to ensure both the quality and the availability of care for the veterans at the center.  The following is a statement from Smith on the award: 

“This award is a very great honor.  As a Member of the House Armed Services Committee, I have worked to craft our nation’s policies regarding national defense as well as benefits for military retirees and veterans.  All of us owe the men and women who have served our country an enormous amount of gratitude and respect.  Many of these men and women have chosen to live here in the Puget Sound region, and I feel honored to represent so many of them in Congress.

“One of the biggest challenges facing our veterans and military retirees is health care.  I am committed to improving access to health care and expanding coverage for those who have served our nation.  Further, many retirees are eligible to receive health care at both VA and DOD facilities – I have worked to make sure retirees do not have to choose between these programs.

“We must also honor our veterans and military retirees by helping provide for their spouses, who have also sacrificed so much to our nation.  I strongly support the Survivor Benefits Plan.  Spouses are often hit hardest by a reduction in family income, and can scarcely afford to live on less. 

“I am also an ardent supporter of concurrent receipt, working hard to permit retired members of the armed forces with service-connected disabilities to be paid both military retired pay and veterans' disability compensation. By faithfully fulfilling the required length of service, our veterans earned the retired pay, for service performed in the past. These veterans have also suffered debilitating injuries in the line of duty, and as a result should be compensated. Disabled veterans, particularly those who spent their lives protecting our nation in military careers, have a right to expect responsiveness from their elected representatives. 

“Concurrent receipt is a critical issue not only for our military retirees and their dependents, but also for those who are considering a career in the military.  Above all, improving the treatment of personnel, retirees and veterans is not only the right thing to do, but is fundamental to our national security.  If we want to continue leading the world in military power, we must have the best personnel.  Denying benefits like concurrent receipt tells active duty personnel and those considering a career in the military that our nation fails to keep its promises to the men and women in uniform who make sacrifices everyday for our country.  We cannot permit this injustice to continue any longer.  Veterans have given so much to preserve the security and prosperity of this country, and in the midst of the war on terrorism, our debt of gratitude is more apparent than ever and we must take action.

“I remain committed to our veterans and will work diligently to provide them with the best benefits available.  Thank you again for honoring me with this award.”

Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash) supported passage of H.R. 4546, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2003.  The bill, which provides approximately $393 billion for the nation’s defense programs, was approved by voice vote.  It now awaits Senate action before being sent to the president for his approval.

Last month, Smith, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, voted to instruct conferees on the bill to agree to Senate language providing full concurrent receipt for veterans, reinforcing the nation’s commitment to veterans.  Unfortunately, some of the president’s senior advisors had pledged to recommend that he veto the defense authorization measure if either more complete concurrent receipt provisions from the House and Senate had been included in the final bill.  

The Defense Authorization bill greatly improves the quality of life for our men and women in uniform.  The bill provides a 4.1 percent military pay raise, with larger pay increases for mid-grade and senior non-commissioned officers and mid-grade officers, reduces out-of-pocket housing costs for military personnel by increasing housing allowances to cover 92.5 percent of all housing costs and provides more than $10 billion to build new military housing and working facilities for military personnel and their families.

“This bill provides the essential and fundamental tools to fight the global war on terrorism and secure the homeland.  It focuses on three vital objectives for our military:  protecting and defending America’s homeland, supporting U.S. service members and their families, and better equipping troops with training, equipment and weapons to fight and win the war against terrorism.  In order to effectively fight and win the war on terrorism, our military must have the best equipment and training available and this bill moves us firmly in that direction,” said Smith.  “Despite the progress that we have made in the quality of life for our men and women currently serving in the military, I am very concerned about the failure to deliver on our promise to our veterans.  Retirement pay is a hard-earned benefit for our veterans and we have only begun to fulfill the commitment we have made to our nation's veterans.  I am extremely disappointed by the failure to fully fix concurrent receipt with this legislation.  After many conversations with veterans and after attending the rally just two days ago with Sen. John Kerry, I am more determined than ever to make sure that all our veterans are justly compensated for their service and dedication.  I will continue to press for fully enacted, fully funded concurrent receipt.”

The bill creates a new payment for all military retirees who were wounded in combat and received the Purple heart and those retirees who were severely disabled in combat-related incidents.  Monthly payments would range from $103 to $2,100 each month, depending upon the level of disability, and would represent a partial to full offset of the reduction in retired pay required by current law on concurrent receipt.

“While this represents progress in the fight for concurrent receipt, we clearly have a long way to go.  I look forward to working with my likeminded colleagues in both the House and the Senate to fulfill our promises to this nation’s veterans,” Smith concluded.

Under present law, service-disabled military retirees must surrender a portion of their retired pay if they want to receive the disability compensation to which they are entitled.  Congress enacted this unjust law in 1891, and it affects approximately 550,000 disabled military retirees.  Military retirees are the only federal employees affected by the offset.  For 17 years, legislation has been introduced in the House of Representatives to correct this long-standing inequity.
Other highlights of H.R. 4546 include:

Combating Terrorism:  More than $15 billion for programs to combat terrorism and defend the homeland against weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles.

Funding the War Against Terrorism:  The bill authorizes $10 billion for ongoing costs of the War Against Terrorism.

New Weapons/Equipment:  The bill authorizes approximately $130 billion to develop, test, and build new military weapons and equipment.

As a member of the House Armed Services Committee, Rep. Adam Smith has been a strong advocate of full funding for concurrent receipt.  He believes that health care is a critical issue not only for our military retirees and their dependents, but also for those who are considering a career in the military.  Improving the treatment of personnel, retirees and veterans is not only the right thing to do, but is critical to our national security.  If we want to continue leading the world in military power, we must have to have the best Armed Services.

On Sunday November 10, Congressman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) and Senator John Kerry (D-Mass) will join veterans from across the Puget Sound region in demanding that the president fulfill his promise to America’s veterans and see concurrent receipt fully funded.

One of the most pressing concerns facing Congress when they return to Washington, D.C., is the issue of whether or not to fund concurrent receipt.  In 1891, Congress enacted an unjust law that adversely affects approximately 550,000 disabled military retirees.  As a result, service-disabled military retirees are required to surrender a portion of their retirement pay if they want to receive the disability compensation for which they also qualify.  

Military retirees are the only category of federal employees required to offset their disability benefits with their retirement pay.  For years, our government has short-changed the career servicemen and women who have sacrificed their health for the freedom and security of their fellow Americans.  And for the last 17 years, legislation has been introduced in the House of Representatives to correct this long-standing inequity.  Both the House and Senate have passed bills this year authorizing concurrent receipt, but negotiators face a veto threat from the White House if full funding levels are sent to the president’s desk.

Members of the media are invited to attend the event.  For further information on the event or to speak with Smith, please contact Katharine Lister at (202) 226-8454.

1:30p.m. – 3:00p.m.  Congressman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) and Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.) join Puget Sound veterans at a rally in support of concurrent receipt.
Where: VFW Wild West Post 91
2000 S. Union Ave., Tacoma
Take I-5 to exit #132, South 38th St/Hwy 16 exit
Take the Union Ave exit
Turn Right on Union Ave.

e making.  We're not going to make this happen overnight, but we need to do better and I know that we can. 

We also need a system that doesn't simply create vast fields of opportunity for foreign investors, but creates better societies for the people who live there.  The reality is that education and health care are central to improving the quality of life for citizens whether they live in Mexico, Thailand or Somalia, and the current international market prescription of low taxes and almost no social spending almost guarantees that people's quality of life will not improve.  The United States needs to re-examine these prescriptions and instead fight for a balanced plan that promotes sustainable development.  This is not only a matter of basic fairness, but it goes directly to the manner in which we are perceived by the rest of the world.   We need to ask ourselves if we want to be seen as a nation that has furthered policies of despair and poverty or whether we want to be partners in helping empower those in developing countries. 

Military Leadership 
I've spoken about communications, foreign assistance and trade as critical elements of a new foreign policy framework.  But there are, and will continue to be, times when these tools cannot by themselves advance our national interest.  When other levers don't work, our military plays an important role our foreign policy implementation. 

First, we must strengthen our relationships with our allies who are also committed to fighting the scourge of terrorism. We must aggressively build coalitions around our shared interests and values to demonstrate to the world that the United States is not simply waging a campaign against Islam. The challenge, scope and cost, of the battle against these extremist groups is great and the international community has a clear stake in ensuring the victory of our ideas. 

In this new world, our soldiers are called to a battlefield that is much different than that of the past.  Smaller numbers of troops are rapidly deployed to far-flung theaters across the world.  Their dominance must be measured not only in firepower, but in communications and access to information.  There is no question that our military is heads and shoulders above the rest of the world, but we must continue to "transform" our forces to become a lighter, more nimble force that leverages information technology. 

As a Member of the House Armed Services Committee, I've focused a great deal of my work on making sure we have the best and most advanced fighting force in the world. I'm proud to represent both Fort Lewis, the Army's testbed for Transformation, and McChord Air Force Base, home of some of the most technologically advanced airlift capabilities in the Air Force. We've had success, but there is more work to be done: we must develop new war-fighting technologies, update our military doctrine and transform our forces. The Bush Administration came into office purporting to be strong supporters of transformation. Unfortunately, their progress on this front has occurred in fits and starts.  It is my strong hope that the White House will recommit to this crucial goal. 

The operations in Afghanistan were a good example of how technology can be utilized to make our weapons more effective while reducing our soldiers' exposure to harm. Our growing inventory of new precision-guided weapons let us destroy more targets with fewer aircraft sorties. Better communications let our air and ground forces work together more effectively. The growing integration of our intelligence let our forces know where moving targets were. We were able to blend manned and unmanned aircraft into a new, more effective type of warfare. 

The Pentagon must build on these successes and gain greater resolve to not only transform our warfighting capabilities, but also the bureaucracy itself. This means that the services must have the ability to procure and field weapons and technologies more quickly. Training must be revamped to use innovations like distance learning. The government cannot spend years developing new technologies when commercial products are readily available.  We must expand intelligence capabilities - through more on the ground "human intelligence" but also through technology that allows for better data analysis and sharing. There are companies right here in the Puget Sound area that are leading the way toward empowering our intelligence agencies to protect their data while sharing it with those who need it. These are the types of partnerships that must be used if we are to protect our borders, prosecute the war on terrorism and prevent future attacks.  

Finally, in regards to the Middle East, we must clearly support a two-state solution to the ongoing crisis in that region.  Provided there is an immediate end to the suicide bombing campaign, we must be prepared to back a Palestinian state – as well as the associated aid and assistance.  That is the only way we can put an end to the years of violence and suffering among Israelis and Palestinians alike.  We must continue to stand by Israel, but they must be willing to stop annexing land and expanding their settlements.  

Our nation is faced with a set of challenges very different from those faced by previous generations.  As we adjust to better respond to the new reality, I’m confident that our values of freedom and opportunity provide the foundation on which to craft a new foreign policy framework.  

The fundamentalist Islamic movement is presenting an alternate vision - based on hatred and violence -  that has made gains, especially among the poorest and most disenfranchised.  Much of the rest of the world - the "undecideds" if you will - are trying to determine whether or not to embrace our values and our way of life.  

To win the current battle, we must address some of the shortcomings of globalization and also demonstrates that this path is highly preferable to that offered by the extremists.  We must show that we are committed to ensuring that nations in the developing world are partners in the benefits of globalization. 

As we undertake the process of crafting a new foreign policy, we have opportunities .  We can marshal our resources and expertise to reduce poverty, improve health care and provide education to children who represent the best hope for much of the developing world.  

We can establish energy independence that will lead not only to new energy technologies and an improved environment, but also a renewed commitment to a foreign policy best for our nation and truest to our values. 

We can build vibrant diplomatic and military alliances that not only improve our nation’s security, but forge an international consensus for  human rights, freedom and democracy. 
As our country worked to contain communism and promote democracy and freedom overseas after World War II, Harry Truman realized that we had to make some fundamental changes in our own country.  We could not speak with authority about democracy and freedom in the era of Jim Crow, when so many Americans were treated as second-class citizens.  To achieve our foreign policy goals, we had to make changes at home.  Now, to achieve what we want at home - security - we have to make changes in our foreign policy.  We need to be a more positive player on the global stage, and that will require an enormous amount of commitment by both leaders and the American public.  It’s vitally important, and I appreciate the opportunity today to share my vision as to how we go about this task.

Today, the Bush administration announced that the final federal budget deficit for fiscal year 2002 was $159 billion.  Excluding the Social Security surplus, the deficit exceeded $300 billion.  Just two short years ago, the federal budget had a surplus of over $200 billion.  The turnaround under President Bush represents the largest reversal in over 50 years, and means that the federal government will need to borrow over $2 trillion from the Social Security trust funds over the next decade.  Rep. Adam Smith issued the following statement on the current state of the American economy:  

“While I agree with the president that we must meet our most pressing priorities of protecting our country against terrorism, improving our international relations, and growing our economy and that these needs warrant small, short-term deficit spending, I have serious concerns about the current lack of a responsible economic plan that includes a balanced budget.  While a one or two year small deficit alone won’t jeopardize our future, if we continue down this path of undisciplined spending and unrealistic budgeting, our economy will be in greater trouble.  

“Currently, we face growing budget deficits and a hesitant economy.  Rather than continuing the legacy of fiscal discipline, the 2001 $2 trillion tax cut and the Administration's relentless push for more big tax cuts have destroyed the bipartisan spirit of fiscal restraint that swept through Congress in the 1990s. As a result, demands for additional tax cuts and new spending - especially in the later years of the decade - continue unabated despite the projection of an overall budget deficit, including the Social Security surplus, of $1.6 trillion over the next 10 years.  Restoring fiscal discipline will help return our nation’s economic confidence and trigger a longer economic recovery.  

“War and recession have brought back deficits, but they are not an excuse to undo long-range budget discipline. To get back on track, Congress and the president must have the courage to make the hard, honest choices that are necessary right now to ensure that those deficits will be small and short-term.  With retirement of the baby boom generation approaching, failure to discipline our budget in the coming years will have far reaching ramifications and add crushing new burdens on workers and taxpayers in the following decades.  We must take action now with an honest discussion of the choices we face and develop a budget that is fiscally responsible.”

Rep. Adam Smith has consistently been a strong advocate of fiscal discipline and honesty in federal budgeting.  He believes that a return to sincere and deliberate fiscal discipline must be the cornerstone of our government’s economic policy.  In the 1990s when Wall Street and Main Street saw that the government was serious about keeping its books in order and reducing the national debt, interest rates fell and private investment grew.  Businesses created jobs and all Americans benefited from lower interest rates on their mortgages, student loans and consumer credit.