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Veterans Make Progress

 

With the nation focused on the war in Iraq and the dedication of our servicemembers around the world, VFW and Ladies Auxiliary members focused increased Congressional attention on those who serve this country, both now and in the past.  Your many phone calls, letters, e-mails and personal visits were the reason for VFW’s legislative success.

 

Your efforts brought about the first substantive fix to the concurrent receipt problem.  Your efforts soundly defeated an administration proposal to charge an enrollment fee to access VA health care.  Your efforts ensured that veterans health care spending was not slashed below the budgeted amount.  Your voice does have an impact and it is essential that you continue to use it.

 

With the second session of the 108th Congress set to begin and national elections set for the end of the year, we must continue to sound off and let our elected leaders know where veterans stand on the issues.  With your continued hard work and dedication, we can be just as successful in the future!

 

Strengthen Veterans Health Care

 

Veterans Health Care, Capital Asset, and Business Improvement Act, PL 108-170

  • Extends VA’s requirement to provide non-institutional long-term care for an additional five years and allows VA to contract out for nursing home, adult day care and other extended care services
  • Authorizes many new major construction and leasing projects for VA health care facilities
  • Provides outpatient dental care to POWs held 90 or more days and exempts them from VA’s pharmacy copayment
  • Provides VA health care services to veterans who participated in certain DoD chemical and biological testing, such as Project SHAD
  • Extends VA health care to certain Filipino WWII veterans residing in the U.S.
  • Includes work skills training, employment support and job development in the list of authorized rehabilitative services
  • Extends housing assistance program for homeless veterans through 2008
  • Provides an additional $25 million for specialized mental health services
  • Increases the threshold for major medical construction projects to $7 million
  • Requires VA to notify Congress before proceeding with CARES-related construction projects
  • Creates an office of Research Oversight to monitor safety of human subjects
  • Names VA facilities after former House Veterans Affairs and Armed Service Committee Chairman, Bob Stump; former VA secretary Jesse Brown; medical pioneer Michael Debakey; Medal of Honor Winner, George Whalen; veterans advocate, John McGuirk; and veteran Victor Saracini

 

FY 03 Consolidated Appropriations Bill, PL 108-7

  • Provides $23.9 billion for veterans health care, a $2.5 billion increase over FY 02 levels

 

Improve Veterans Benefits

 

Veterans Benefits Act, PL 108-183

  • Restores DIC , VA home loan, education and benefits eligibility to surviving spouses who remarry after age 57 and burial eligibility at any age
  • Permits the spouse or dependent children to receive all accrued benefits if the veteran dies while a VA claim is pending
  • Increases the amounts payable under the Survivors’ and Dependents’ Educational Assistance Program and allows for an extension of payments for those guard members called to active duty service
  • Increases the Adaptive Housing and Automobile Grants for disabled veterans, while allowing housing grants to be processed when severely disabled veterans are still on active duty service pending a medical separation
  • Lowers certain Home Loan Guarantees fees for reservists and permanently extends their eligibility for the program
  • Provides VA benefits to children with Spina Bifida born to certain veterans who served in Korea
  • Extends additional presumptions of service connection to POWs held for more than 30 days
  • Provides benefits to certain Filipino veterans residing in the U.S.
  • Allows MGIB to be used for certain categories of self-employment training and entrepreneurship classes
  • Allows federal agencies to utilize “sole source” contracts for disabled veteran-owned small businesses
  • Requires DOL to staff Transition Assistance Program offices overseas
  • Prevents companies from taking advantage of veterans by buying disability compensation in lump sum payments for pennies on the dollar
  • Calls for the expedited treatments of remanded disability claims

 

Veterans' Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment Act, PL 108-147

  • Provides a cost-of-living increase, of about 2%, in the amounts payable for service connected disabilities, DIC, dependent compensation and the clothing allowance

 

National Cemetery Expansion Act, PL 108-109

  • Authorizes the construction of 6 new veterans’ cemeteries: southeast PA; Birmingham , AL ; Jacksonville , FL ; Bakersfield , CA ; Greenville , SC ; and Sarasota County , FL.

Increase Quality of Life for the Armed Forces

 

FY 04 Defense Authorization Act, PL 108-136

  • Grants special compensation to all military retirees with combat-related disabilities or purple hearts, and phased-in concurrent receipt to those with non-combat-related disabilities rated 50% and above
  • Raises base pay by 4.1% and reduces the out-of-pocket housing expense to just 3.5%
  • Repealed a law that would have capped pay raises below private sector wage growth
  • Extends special pays and bonuses for personnel through the end of 2004
  • Provides an additional subsistence allowance for servicemembers in certain high cost-of-living areas
  • Increases family separation allowance and the special pay for imminent danger and hostile fire and extends the special pay to reservists retroactive to 9/11/01
  • Authorizes SBP coverage for survivors of guard and reserve personnel who die during training
  • Extends full commissary privileges to Selected Reserve and Reserve retirees aged 55-60
  • Authorized government long-term care coverage for Reserve retirees aged 55-60
  • Provides full replacement costs for damaged household goods during military moves
  • Improves immigration benefits for non-citizen active duty personnel

 

Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, PL 108-189

  • Eases financial and legal burdens on troops called to active duty service
  • Offers protections of eviction for housing leases of up to $2,400 per month and allows penalty-free termination of leases if relocation is necessary
  • Limits interest rates to 6% on all pre-existing credit obligations, including credit cards
  • Allows termination of automobile leases without penalty, and prevents repossession of automobiles and other personal property without court intervention that takes military status into account
  • Mandates an automatic 90-day stay in all civil proceedings and requires appointed counsel if additional stays are needed due to service
  • Allows servicemember to reopen default judgments against, when due to military service obligations, in all civil and administrative proceedings.
  • Protects servicemembers from double taxation when they have a spouse who works and is taxed in a different state than which they maintain permanent residence

 

Military Family Tax Relief Act, PL 108-121

  • Increases the Death Gratuity to $12,000, excludes it from income for tax purposes, and provides the increased amount retroactively to 9/11/01
  • Allows National Guard and reserve members, who train over 100 miles from home, to take an above-the-line tax deduction for travel expenses without itemizing their tax returns
  • Excludes certain servicemembers from the residency requirements for eligibility for capital gains tax breaks on the sale of a primary residence
  • Expands combat zone tax filing rules to those serving in contingency operations
  • Excludes amounts received under the Homeowners Assistance Program from being taxable income

 

Higher Education Relief Opportunities for Students Act, PL 108-76

  • Allows the Secretary of Education to excuse servicemembers from paying federal student loans while on active duty
  • Asks colleges and universities to provide full refunds of tuition and to minimize reenrollment requirements to students who are unable to complete their education because they were called to active duty service

 

FY 2004 Military Construction Appropriation, PL 108-132

  • Provides $10.698 billion for military construction
  • Earmarks $1.2 billion for barracks, and $159 million for medical facilities
  • Includes $1.1 billion for family housing units, $2.7 billion for operation and maintenance and $16.5 for child development centers

 

 

 

Provide a Strong National Defense

 

FY 2004 National Defense Appropriation, PL 108-87

  • Provides $368.2 billion for DOD, including $98.5 billion for personnel, $115.9 billion for operations and maintenance, $74.7 billion for procurement, $65.2 billion for research and development and $15.7 billion for the Defense Health Program
  • Funds 1.388 million active duty personnel and 863,300 guard and reserve

 

Iraq/Afghanistan Emergency Supplemental Appropriation, PL 108-106

  • Provides an additional $17.8 billion for military personnel, $39 billion for operation and maintenance, $5.5 billion for procurement and $658 million for the Defense Health Program
  • Allows inactive reservists and their families to become eligible for TRICARE if no other health coverage is possible and expands eligibility time periods for other reservists called to duty.
  • Prevents injured and disabled servicemembers from being charged for meals during their hospitalization and makes the benefits retroactive to 9/11/01
  • Continues temporary increases in Imminent Danger Pay to $225 per month  and Family Separation Allowances to $250 per month through 9/04
  • Authorizes payment of a per diem for travel of family members of servicemembers injured due to active duty service

 

 

Wartime Supplemental, PL 108-11

  • Grants $62.4 billion to DOD with over $13 billion for military personnel and $500 million for Defense Health Programs
  • Provides $3.9 billion for the Department of Homeland Security for various Anti-terrorism activities

Other Important Legislation

 

Vietnam Veterans Memorial Visitor Center Act, PL 108-126

  • Authorizes the construction of a small underground visitor center at the grounds of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

 

Veterans' Memorial Preservation and Recognition Act, PL 108-29

  • Creates penalties for the destruction or vandalism of veterans’ memorials
  • Authorizes highway signs for veterans’ cemeteries

 

Bob Hope Post Office Act, PL 108-120

  • Names a Post Office in Burbank , CA after entertainer and strong supporter of all servicemembers, Bob Hope

 

Floyd Spence Post Office Act, PL 108-47

  • Names a Post Office in Lexington , SC after the former Armed Services Committee Chairman

 

Ronald Reagan Post Office Act, PL 108-143

  • Names the Post Office in Billings , MT after former President Ronald Reagan

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