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Veterans Back Benefits Bill-Intro by Democrats
Last comment by sebekm 6 months, 1 week ago.

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Leaders of more than 20 veterans’ service organizations today joined Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders at a news conference to support the most comprehensive legislation for veterans in decades.

The bill (S. 1982) is backed by the American Legion, Disabled American Veterans, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America and many other organizations.

“This bill is the result of a great deal of bipartisan work to address issues raised during congressional hearings in which many of these organizations testified before joint sessions of the House and Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committees,” Sander said. “In my view, this is the most comprehensive piece of veterans’ legislation to be offered in decades and addresses many of the challenges facing service members, veterans and their families.”

The package would improve VA health care and dental care, expand educational opportunities, help the VA address a disability claims backlog and help veterans find jobs. The measure also would undo a 1 percentage point cut in annual cost-of-living adjustments for military pensions that was part of a budget agreement late last year.

The legislation is cosponsored by Sens. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), Mark Begich (D-Alaska), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-Conn.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.).

The legislation includes provisions that would:

•Improve veterans’ health care through increased access to complementary and alternative medicine, chiropractic care and transportation service

•Improve VA’s claims system in part by requiring quarterly reports to Congress on efforts to eliminate a backlog of benefits claims by 2015. VA would have to detail both the projected and actual number of claims received, pending, completed and on appeal.

•Expand access to education benefits for veterans and their survivors, including making recently-separated veterans eligible for tuition at the in-state rate and improving the level of benefits offered to survivors of certain service members killed on active duty.

•Ensure veterans receive consistent access to the benefits they have earned by establishing advanced appropriations for the mandatory accounts at the Department of Veterans Affairs.

•Assist veterans suffering from reproductive issues, largely related to the widespread use of improvised explosive devices in Iraq and Afghanistan, in starting their families.

•Renew provisions from the VOW to Hire Heroes Act of 2011, including a two-year extension for the Veterans Retraining Assistance Program.

The legislation will not increase the deficit because the $24 billion cost of the bill is paid for by $4 billion in savings from the VA and offset by $20 billion in caps on the Overseas Contingency Operations fund that will lock in savings from winding down military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.

http://www.sanders.senate.gov/newsroom/recent-business/veterans-back-benefits-bill


Latest Activity: Feb 09, 2014 at 10:52 AM


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sebekm commented on Sunday, Feb 09, 2014 at 12:49 PM

I thought it was odd that all the co-sponsors were Democrats. When you don't have a single Republican backing a bill which appears to have such broad-based support among the military/veteran community, there's usually more to the story. Sometimes it's "just politics," but here's what The Marine Corps Times has to say about it:

"...(W)hile the bill is being fast-tracked to the Senate floor by Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., and is expected to come to a vote by next week, it currently has just 10 co-sponsors, all Democrats.

And while it contains several measures that previously have passed the House, including a requirement that public universities extend in-state tuition to veterans using their Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits — approved in the House on Monday by a vote of 390-0 — no Republicans have publicly supported the broader Sanders legislation.

On Tuesday, two veterans groups came out against the bill, citing concerns about its proposed funding source — diverted war appropriations — and comprehensive nature, which they described as “everything but the kitchen sink.”

Representatives of AMVETS and Concerned Veterans for America said their groups support the bill’s provision to repeal caps on annual cost-of-living increases in military retired pay, but feel the broader legislation would burden a VA that still has a backlog of 400,000 benefits claims and faces problems providing timely, adequate health care for its current beneficiaries.

“We’re opposed to the bill basically because it’s bad for veterans and bad for VA. It increases mission creep and reduces VA’s ability to properly serve veterans,” said Darin Senick, VA adviser for Concerned Veterans Of America."

and

"The bill would establish spending caps for Overseas Contingency Operations approprations starting in 2018 and using the projected budget savings to pay for the legislation.

Sanders said the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that $1.025 trillion will be needed for overseas contingency operations in the next 10 years. But the Obama administration has projected that just $260 billion will be needed, meaning nearly $800 billion could be available for other purposes."

See: http://www.marinecorpstimes.com/artic...

There's a lot of numbers flying around here. And when you talk about capping overseas contingency operations and slashing more than 75% of the project funding, you tend to get people's attention. On its face, this bill looks like it makes sense to me. I'd look for more bi-partisan support if the Democrats hope to get it to the President for signature.

PoliticsNation commented on Sunday, Feb 09, 2014 at 13:27 PM

Seb-check this page out on face-book. The veterans on face-book are upset because a couple of senators are trying to get rid of this bill and introduce another bill.

https://www.facebook.com/votevets

PoliticsNation commented on Sunday, Feb 09, 2014 at 13:30 PM

I'm posting the alternative bill for the veterans that don't have access to face-book. From what I read the difference in the bills is the time of service.

VoteVets.org and our membership call on the Senate to immediately pass S. 1963, restoring full Cost-of-Living-Adjustment (COLA) benefits to all veterans who have served for 20 or more years in the U.S. military until they reach the age of 62 and will most likely be voted on next week, having been fast-tracked.

The legislation is being spearheaded by Arkansas Sen. Mark Pryor and Alaska Sen. Mark Begich.

“Passage of this legislation is urgent, and it’s appropriate that it has been fast-tracked, to give military members the peace of mind that their retirement will be there,” said Jon Soltz, Iraq War Veteran and Chairman of VoteVets.org.

sebekm commented on Monday, Feb 10, 2014 at 18:26 PM

Good info, PolNat. As I said, my hunch is that it's probably politics that separates the two sides on this one. Each side wants to claim credit, and neither side wants to give any. Nothing gets done when that happens.


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