December 15, 2011

“HOTELS FOR HEROES” PROGRAM PASSES CONGRESS

Program will provide free hotel stays to wounded U.S. troops and their families

(Washington, DC) – Congress has passed bipartisan legislation introduced by Senator Ben Cardin and Congressman C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger (both D-MD) creating the “Hotels for Heroes” program that will allow Americans to donate hotel reward points to members of the Armed Forces. The bill, which will benefit troops receiving care through the military health system and their families, was included in the “National Defense Authorization Act” that passed Congress by a vote of 283 – 136 in the House on Wednesday and 86-13 in the Senate Thursday. The bill now goes to the President for his signature.

“Passage of the Hotel for Heroes bill is a holiday gift from all Americans to members of the military and their families,” said Senator Cardin.  “It allows Americans to help other Americans who have given so much to our nation. It builds on the Hero Miles program and is the next step in providing military families with the support they need when their loved ones are wounded or injured.”

“The love and support of family is often the best medicine to help a wounded warrior recover from his or her injuries,” Congressman Ruppersberger said. “Military families are already facing enormous challenges and should not ever have to worry about how they will afford travel expenses. The donations of patriotic Americans will help these soldiers heal with their families at their side and show our troops how much we appreciate their sacrifices.”

“Hotels for Heroes” will be an expansion of the national “Hero Miles” program that provides free round-trip airfare to wounded warriors recovering at military or VA medical centers as well as to friends and family visiting them. Flights under the “Hero Miles” program, which was created by Congressman Ruppersberger in 2003, are made possible through frequent flyer mile donations made by individual airline passengers.  The “Hero Miles” program is administered by the Fisher House, a non-profit organization that opens its homes to military families visiting their injured loved ones at hospitals across the country. Fisher House recently announced its 25,000th ticket issued through the program.

“Hotels for Heroes” had early bipartisan support. Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS) was an original cosponsor of the authorizing legislation in the Senate and Congressman Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD) an original cosponsor in the House. Additional cosponsors in the House were: Congressmen Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and Andy Harris (R-MD). Cosponsors in the Senate were: Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS), Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Senator John Rockefeller (D-WV), Senator Robert Casey (D-PA), Senator Richard Burr (R-NC), Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA).