This Veteran's Day

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One of the first people to come see me in Washington after I got elected to the Senate – back before we had a real office and were working out of a clunky trailer – was a Boston locksmith named Joe.

At the time, Joe was the president of the Massachusetts Chapter 1 of Rolling Thunder, an organization dedicated to fully accounting for American prisoners of war and servicemembers who are still missing in action. He came to my office that day because he had one goal: to honor their sacrifices. Joe laid out his plan for me, and his passion lit up our little trailer. He wanted to place an honorary chair on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol. The chair would remain empty, a constant reminder of America’s prisoners of war and service members who remain missing.

These chairs were already showing up in unexpected places. You’ll find one on Beacon Hill, at Gillette Stadium, the Garden and Fenway. Similar POW/MIA chairs can be found at arenas, theaters and government buildings across the country. But not on Capitol Hill.

So that day, I promised Joe that we were going to fight to get it done. I worked with Senator Marco Rubio and Boston Congressman Stephen Lynch to introduce a bill to establish a POW/MIA Chair of Honor on the U.S. Capitol grounds. Yes, believe or not, this was truly a bipartisan effort – when Democrats and Republicans work together, we can still get things done.

Our bill received powerful support from Rolling Thunder National and its Massachusetts Chapters, the National League of POW/MIA Families, and the National Alliance of Families for the Return of America’s Missing Servicemen. We couldn’t have won without their voices speaking out and fighting for it.

And last year, that bill Joe came to see me about became law.

On Wednesday, leaders from both parties (including Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan) came together and held a beautiful ceremony unveiling the commemorative chair in the Capitol’s Emancipation Hall. Joe wasn’t able to make the trip – but his Rolling Thunder friends rode down from Massachusetts to see Joe’s vision come to life.

Veterans Day has always been an important day in my family. All three of my big brothers served in the military. I remember my mother running back from the mailbox with a note from David, who trained as an emergency medic at Fort Sam Houston – or John, who did a tour in North Africa. And she held her breath for word from Don Reed, who completed 288 combat missions in Vietnam.

The letters kept coming home, and my brothers came home too. But the heartbreaking reality is that many families aren’t so lucky. Today, there are tens of thousands of service members still missing in action, many from World War II, and more than 1,600 from the Vietnam War. They haven’t returned home to us, but they will never be forgotten.

This Veterans Day, as we honor all those who have served our country, I hope you’ll join me in pausing to remember those who have yet to return home from past wars, and the families who still check the mail everyday. We owe them a debt that can never be repaid.

CEOs got a raise. Seniors and veterans deserve one too.

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Three weeks ago, the Social Security Administration made a quiet announcement.

Next year, for just the third time since 1975, seniors who receive Social Security won’t be getting an annual cost of living increase. Neither will millions of other Americans whose veterans’ benefits, disability benefits, and other monthly payments are pegged to Social Security.

Two-thirds of retirees depend on Social Security to pay for the basics, to put food on the table and keep a roof over their heads – but seniors who usually get a small boost on January 1st won’t see an extra dime next year. That’s why today, I’m introducing the Seniors and Veterans Emergency (SAVE) Benefits Act – a one-time payment equivalent to a Social Security benefits increase of 3.9%.

Help us show Congress that America’s seniors and veterans need a boost on January 1st. Sign up right now to show your support for the SAVE Benefits Act.

Why give seniors and veterans a 3.9% Social Security boost? Well, times are tough for America’s seniors – but they aren't tough for everyone. According to recent data, CEOs at the top 350 American companies received, on average, a 3.9% pay increase last year.

But here’s the kicker: taxpayers like you subsidize huge pay packages for CEOs through billions of dollars in giveaways, including a crazy loophole that allows corporations to write off obscene executive bonuses as a business expense for “performance pay.”

Our new SAVE Benefits Act would give seniors and veterans a benefits boost without adding a single penny to the deficit simply by closing that performance pay loophole. In fact, closing that tax loophole would create enough revenue to give seniors and vets this 3.9% emergency boost and still have money left over for the Social Security Trust Fund to help extend the life of Social Security.

Think about what this change would mean. A one-time 3.9% Social Security payment is worth about $581 a person next year – a little less than $50 a month. For someone barely scraping by on a $1,250 Social Security check each month, $581 would cover almost three months of groceries, or a year’s worth of out-of-pocket costs for a Medicare beneficiary’s prescription drugs. According to an analysis, that little boost could lift more than 1 million Americans out of poverty. That’s a big deal.

This is about choices. We have the money to do this – only right now that money goes to fund a loophole that benefits corporate CEOs. We could use exactly that same money to help out seniors and vets – and make the Social Security system more stable. For me, it’s pretty straightforward: Our spending should reflect our values.

So let’s just do it. Let’s close the loophole and let’s use the money to give seniors and vets the support they need on January 1st. Sign up now to show Congress that America supports the SAVE Benefits Act.

Max Cleland Campaigns for Elizabeth

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Senator Max Cleland of Georgia, a true American hero, spent the day campaigning for Elizabeth on Saturday with veterans from across Massachusetts.

After greeting voters in Melrose and Waltham, Senator Cleland joined Elizabeth in Beverly for a rally. The First Baptist Church was filled to the rafters with more than 800 people today to hear Senator Max Cleland address veterans and others about his support for Elizabeth Warren.

Several veterans for Warren took to the stage behind Cleland, led by Mayor Setti Warren of Newton, who served in Iraq. 

“Sharing the stage with all these veterans who served our country and Max Cleland, a true American hero, gives me goose bumps,” said Elizabeth, whose three brothers served in the military. “I learned what it means to have someone away and in harm’s way.  We are grateful as a country to every one of them.”

Cleland was severely injured in Vietnam but continued to serve his country by representing Georgia in the U.S. Senate.  

 “This is a very special woman,” Cleland said about Elizabeth after discussing her brothers’ service.  “I know that for sure cause I looked in her ‘binder.’”  Cleland emphasized that military families serve right along with loved ones on active duty. He added that Elizabeth prioritized military families at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and hired Holly Petraeus, wife of General David Petreaus, to set up the new Office for Servicemember Affairs.

Elizabeth expressed her gratitude to all the veterans in the audience.  “We have a sacred commitment to our vets and honoring the promises we made to them,” she said.  She promised to fight for veterans in the Senate and fight for opportunities like the GI Bill to be there for those returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. 

Elizabeth and Max Cleland then went to Hopkinton for a rally at the Laborer’s Training Center, where they were joined by Joe Kennedy.

Meet our volunteer: Dan Futrell

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Dan Futrell - Elizabeth WarrenLast Fall, Somerville resident Dan Futrell, a decorated Iraq veteran with five years of active duty in the Army and two Bronze Stars, got involved in his first political campaign to support Elizabeth Warren.

Futrell, who was drawn to Elizabeth's message that "No one succeeds on their own," says, "I believe we are responsible to ourselves and to each other. In the military, you are a member of a team. You will succeed or fail together. If you see your battle buddy fall down, you stop and help him up. And I see that as a bigger responsibility - we must apply that military concept to the broader issues of society."

Dan Futrell - Elizabeth Warren"I don't think Scott Brown is a bad person," Futrell says. "He's just not pointing us in the right direction as a nation. Elizabeth understands the responsibility we have toward one another, and she understands that this responsibility is not optional. For instance, she's done a lot to help veterans. At the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, she hired Holly Petraeus to look out for issues that specifically affect veterans."

With Vietnam veteran Bill Dooling, Futrell put together Vets and Military Families for Warren. "We support her because we know she's on our team," Futrell says. Together they are growing the veteran outreach and organizing military families across the state.

Veterans looking to help the campaign can sign-up through:  http://elizabethwarren.com/groups/veterans.

Memorial Day in my family

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I was only three years old when my brother Don joined the military, and my two other brothers would follow within a few years.

I'm proud of my brothers -- and I honor the courage, dedication, and sacrifice of all our service members and their families on Memorial Day and every day.

Watch my special Memorial Day message:

I think when you grow up in a family with someone in the service, and you're lucky enough to see everyone come home safely, Memorial Day has special meaning.

You understand what others have lost -- and you honor even more the sacrifice and the service of those who fight for the country and all those who love them.

I hope you and your family have a safe and happy Memorial Day.