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Hr 5892 And Other Vet Bills

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House Passes Comprehensive Legislative Package to Improve Veterans Care and Augment Needed Services

Washington, D.C. – On Thursday, July 31, 2008, Bob Filner (D-CA), Chairman of the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, announced that the House of Representatives approved seven bills that would improve health care delivery and augment services for veterans provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

Chairman Filner offered the following statement: “Today, we have considered several comprehensive and bi-partisan bills that go a long way to address the health care needs of our veterans and provide for their necessary and earned benefits. I believe that the tireless work of the members of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee has provided this Congress with strong legislation which will help to improve the lives of our Nation’s veterans. I look forward to working with my colleagues in the Senate so that we can further increase access and improve health care treatment for our veterans.”

The following bills were considered and approved by the House of Representatives:

H.R. 6445, as amended – The Veterans Health Care Policy Enhancement Act of 2008 (Introduced by Representative Cazayoux)

Provisions of this bill include:

· Prohibiting the collection of copayments from veterans who are catastrophically disabled (Category Group 4) for hospital or nursing home care,

· Removing the requirement for written informed consent for HIV testing among veterans thereby reducing existing barriers to the early diagnosis of HIV infection and would require VA to follow the same standard of HIV care that is recommended to non-VA patients,

· Directing VA to develop and implement a comprehensive policy on the management of pain experienced by veterans enrolled for health care services provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs,

· Mandating the VA to centralize third party billing functions at consolidated centers, instead of individual VA Medical Centers, and

· Repealing the specification that in order for family members of non-service connected veterans to be eligible for counseling services, the counseling must be essential to permit the discharge of the veteran from the hospital.

Chairman Filner offered the following comment on H.R. 6445: “One very important provision of the Veterans Health Care Policy Enhancement Act of 2008 addresses VA’s ability to provide counseling, training or mental health services to family members of veterans who are seeking treatment for non-service connected disabilities. Accessing mental health services for family members is particularly important for our newest generation of veterans and their families, many of whom are struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder and depression.”

H.R. 2192, as amended – Establishment of the Ombudsman in the Veterans Health Administration (Introduced by Representative Hodes)

This bill establishes an Office of the Ombudsman in the Veterans Health Administration to act as a liaison for veterans and their family member with respect to receiving health care and serve as a last resort for resolving issues that cannot be resolved at local or regional level.

H.R. 4255, as amended –United States Olympic Committee Paralympic Program Act of 2008 (Introduced by Representative Filner)

The bill would authorize the VA to make a grant to the United States Olympic Committee to provide and develop activities for service members and veterans with physical disabilities.

Chairman Filner provided the following comment on H.R. 4255: “Our nation’s current commitment in fighting the Global War on Terror has brought to light the need for H.R. 4255. As the number of disabled service members has substantially increased over the years, it has become necessary to expand available rehabilitative services to ensure these men and women are afforded the best possible care after their service to our country. As America looks forward to the Olympics this year, it is fitting to provide this support to our veterans so they can take part in the Paralympic Program now and in the future.”

H.R 6225, as amended – Improving SCRA and USERRA Protections Act of 2008 (Introduced by Representative Herseth Sandlin)

Provisions of this bill include:

· Ensuring that equitable relief is available to all Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) victims when appropriate,

· Protecting the student service member by capping interest at six percent during deployments, require institutes of higher learning to refund tuition and fees for unearned credit, and in addition, guarantee our service members a place when they return to school,

· Providing a service member 13 months to begin paying their student loans after an activation should they decide not to return to school immediately,

· Amending the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) to cover service contracts to allow our men and women in uniform with deployment orders to more easily terminate or suspend their service contracts without fee or penalty, and

· Amending the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act to allow a military spouse to claim the same state as the service member in regards to state and property taxes, and voter registration.

Chairman Filner provided the following statement in support of H.R. 6225: “When called to duty, service members across our nation must leave their loved ones behind, along with other responsibilities like school and work. Unfortunately, as we are witnessing today, some of these service members are finding it difficult to maintain their job, their residential housing, or their enrollment at an institute of higher education. H.R. 6225 honors the sacrifice of our service members by providing them with adequate protections so they may have the peace of mind that their interests and their families are protected while serving our nation.”

H. R. 6221, as amended – Improving Veterans’ Opportunities in Education and Business Act (Introduced by Representative Boozman)

Provisions of this bill include:

· Requiring the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to include in each contract the Secretary enters for the acquisition of goods and services a provision that requires the contractee to comply with the contracting goals and preferences for small business concerns owned or controlled by veterans,

· Conducting a five-year pilot project to expand on existing work-study activities for veterans and allow those veterans the option of working in academic departments and student services, and

· Assisting veterans in obtaining meaningful employment after their military service by reimbursing employers to offset their cost of training recently separated service members that could lead to permanent employment.

H.R. 674 – Repeal the Law Requiring Termination of the Advisory Committee on Minority Veterans (Introduced by Representative Gutierrez)

This bill would eliminate the provision in current law that requires the VA Advisory Committee on Minority Veterans to cease to exist on December 31, 2009.

Chairman Filner offered the following statement in support of H.R. 674: “Last week, our country observed the 60th anniversary of President Truman’s executive order desegregating the United States Armed Forces. As we rededicate ourselves to redeeming our Constitution’s promise of equal rights for every American, we have the opportunity here today to ensure that the Advisory Committee on Minority Veterans within the Department of Veterans Affairs can continue its work uninterrupted and fully supported. Today, more than fourteen percent of veterans are from racial or ethnic minority groups and the percentage of minorities who will join the military is steadily on the rise. I ask for your support for this Advisory Committee as it serves to bring awareness to cultural, racial, and ethnic issues among veterans to Congress and VA leadership.”

H.R. 5892, as amended – Veterans Disability Benefits Claims Modernization Act of 2008 (Introduced by Representative Hall)

Provisions of this bill include:

· Directing the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to modernize the disability benefits claims processing system of the Department of Veterans Affairs to ensure the accurate and timely delivery of compensation to veterans and their families and survivors; and,

· Establishing an Office of Survivors Assistance within the Department.

Chairman Filner stated, “H.R. 5892 would comprehensively modernize the VBA claims processing system and arm it with the up-to-date tools and paradigms it needs to process claims using integrated information technology and platforms, while improving accountability, timeliness, and quality of adjudicated claims. Additionally, it would enhance the annual reporting requirements of the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims as well as provide the Court with more discretion to decide all issues raised on appeal by appellate veterans. This bill will help VA update its claim processing system so that the VBA will become a 21st century, world-class entity that reflects the selfless sacrifices of those it serves – our veterans, their families, and survivors.”


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