Former Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee Chairman Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii, received The American Legion's Distinguished Public Service Award Tuesday during the organization's 51st Washington Conference. His work to improve the Post 9/11 GI Bill by sponsoring legislation that was passed last fall and signed into law in January, was one of many reasons for the recognition.
"I am truly humbled and honored to be recognized by the Legion," Akaka said, who used the original GI Bill to receive his college education after he served in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers during and after World War II.
Sen. Akaka used a video presentation to express his gratitude to hundreds of Legionnaires gathered for the conference at the Renaissance Hotel in downtown Washington. "I believe that all of us share a common interest in wanting to help others, in this case veterans. We have a sacred obligation to care for those who served our country."
Throughout his Senate career – which he has announced will not extend past the 112th Congress – he has always served on the Veterans Affairs Committee. He was chairman of the committee during the 111th Congress.
"During his tenure as the chairman, Sen. Akaka presided over significant legislation to provide historic budget increases for our veterans, secure advance appropriations for VA, expand access to VA health care, improve health services for all veterans and modernize benefits," American Legion National Commander Jimmie L. Foster said at the conference. "Sen. Akaka sponsored the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Improvement Act of 2010. This legislation substantially improves and expands educational benefits so that America's newest generation of veterans receives a benefit package that is equal to or better than those provided to veterans of World War II, Korea or Vietnam."