WRITTEN STATEMENT OF TESTIMONY BY KARL R. HORST, PRESIDENT & CEO, CONGRESSIONAL MEDAL OF HONOR FOUNDATION
Thank you, Chairwoman Luria for your service and leadership of this subcommittee, as well as your subcommittee’s support of our nation’s Veterans.
It is an honor and privilege for me to be here this afternoon. At the Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation, we have the privilege of working for our Nation’s truest heroes, the Recipients of the Medal of Honor.
The mission of the Medal of Honor Foundation is to support the Medal of Honor Society, the Recipients, their outreach programs, and to preserve the legacy of the Medal of Honor through education, outreach and recognition. The Foundation also preserves the legacy of the Medal of Honor by promoting American values; specifically, the qualities of courage, sacrifice, selflessness, patriotism, citizenship, and integrity.
I am here today to reinforce and advocate for the Congressional Medal of Honor Society’s position supporting H.R. 1826, “Veterans Valuing Our Widows and Widowers Act.” The Society concurs with the language in the legislation outlining the payment of a special pension to the surviving spouses of Medal of Honor Recipients. In the absence of a surviving spouse, the Society believes the special pension should follow a succession to a designated next of kin caregiver to receive the special pension from the federal government.
The committee’s initiative to amend H.R. 1826 is both timely and necessary. Today, there are only 71 living Recipients of the Medal of Honor and they are a rapidly diminishing treasure for our country. Since January 15th this year, three more Recipients passed. The average age of living Recipients is 73. The average age of the 58 World War II, Korea and Vietnam Recipients is 79. In fact, 18 of the Recipients are more than 80 years old.
We at the Foundation have the opportunity to work with the Medal of Honor Recipients at events throughout the year. I have seen first hand how important spouses and caregivers are to the Recipients. In most cases, the caregivers are next of kin family members. There are some instances where the caregivers are not next of kin. However, to be clear, the Medal of Honor Society only supports designated next of kin caregivers be eligible to receive the special pension.
The spouses and caregivers work tirelessly to ensure the Recipients are able to participate in outreach events where they interact with the American public. In fact, spouses and caregivers allow Recipients to travel and participate in outreach programs far beyond the normal age where most Americans retire and limit their travel. The Recipient’s stories of courage and valor in combat and their compassion for their fellow Americans are inspiring to all who have the opportunity to come into contact with them. Their spouses and next of kin caregivers help make that possible and this legislation is the appropriate support for them and for the Recipients. The Society feels this special pension is so important that the Society provides a one-year continuation of this compensation to ease the burden on surviving spouses and next of kin caregivers.
Thank you again for this opportunity to be here today. I am happy to take your questions.