November 11th is Veterans Day — a time in which we as a nation pause to give thanks to the brave men and women of our military, and their families, for all they have sacrificed for our nation. Our military families face enormous challenges, not just emotionally, but financially, and I want to lessen that burden.
To accomplish that goal, I recently teamed up with Maryland Congressman Dutch Ruppersberger to make it easier for military families to be with their loved ones as they recover from injuries or illnesses sustained defending our nation.
In the Senate, I recently introduced S. 1776 to expand the popular “Hero Miles” program, which was originally created in 2003 by Congressman Ruppersberger. The “Hero Miles” program authorizes the U.S. Department of Defense to accept donated frequent traveler miles to provide free, round-trip airfare to family members of service members recovering at military or Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) medical centers from injuries sustained in overseas conflicts.
The Fisher House Foundation, which administers the Hero Miles program, recently celebrated issuing its 25,000th airline ticket. The Foundation is a non-profit best known for its network of comfort homes built on the grounds of major military and VA medical centers.
Building on the success of the “Hero Miles,” S. 1776 would expand the program to allow the Department of Defense to accept donated hotel points in addition to airline miles. Congressman Ruppersberger has introduced a companion bill in the House of Representatives. I am pleased that the measure has received bipartisan support and that Senate co-sponsors include Senators Roger Wicker (R-MS) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA). The Fisher House Foundation, the USO, and the Military Child Education Coalition have all come out in support of the legislation.
The creation of the “Hotels for Heroes” program is the next step in providing military families with the support they need when their loved ones are wounded or injured. Americans are known for their generosity of spirit and love of country and this new program will allow them to show how much they appreciate the sacrifices made by our military by providing their families with additional support during a very difficult time. It’s really about Americans helping other Americans who have given so much to our nation. On this Veterans Day, I can think of no greater present for the members of our military.