VFW Victories for Veterans
Legislative Achievements In 2004
Improve Veterans Health Care
P.L. 108-447, FY 2005 Consolidated Appropriations Bill
· Provides $28.1 billion in funding for the Veterans Health Administration, which is $1.2 billion over the president’s request and $1.9 billion over last year’s funding level.
· Does not include any increase in fees or co-payments.
· Earmarks $32.6 billion for the Veterans Benefits Administration.
· Includes $402 million for medical and prosthetic research.
P.L. 108-422, Veterans Health Programs Improvement Act
· Extends VA’s long-term care authority through 2005.
· Permanently extends sexual trauma treatment programs.
· Prohibits VA per diem payments to state veterans homes from offsetting other forms of aid.
· Increases grants for homeless assistance.
· Permits and funds VA to lease 16 new medical facilities and to enter into an agreement at the Fitzsimons campus in Colorado.
· Requires congressional notification prior to CARES-related changes at eleven facilities.
· Eliminates the requirement that VA’s under secretary for health be a medical doctor.
· Creates centers for education and research on complex multi-traumas associated with combat injuries.
· Reauthorizes emergency medical preparedness centers.
· Eliminates co-payment requirement for hospice care.
· Creates retention and hiring programs for nurses in state veterans homes.
· Creates a pilot program to study and implement private-sector recruitment practices for VA nurses.
· Creates a Capital Fund and allows transfer of real property under certain guidelines.
· Requires a report on VA’s historic structures.
· Authorizes VA to transfer property to private groups for use as homeless housing.
· Grants VA authority to build parking lots in association with construction.
· Allows VA to use its Advanced Planning Fund if Congress has already authorized construction on a project.
· Supersedes state law for enhanced lease land-use requirements.
· Allows Kentucky the first option to purchase the Louisville VAMC and allows the transfer of property to GSA in Boise, ID.
· Designates various VA facilities after numerous people.
· Creates an audit program for the recovery of overpayment of benefits due to VA’s error.
· Allows all enrolled veterans access to the canteen service.
· Requires annual reports on specialty care waiting times and waste management.
P.L. 108-445, Department of Veterans Affairs Health Care Personnel Enhancement
· Reforms pay scales for VA doctors and nurses to make the positions more attractive and to improve recruitment.
· Permits nurses to utilize flexible work schedules.
A Strong National Defense and A Better Quality of Life for Today’s Servicemembers
P.L. 108-375, FY 2005, National Defense Authorization Act
· Grants a 3.5% pay raise for servicemembers, extends several pays and bonuses and eliminates the out-of-pocket housing expense.
· Enhances TRICARE benefits for reservists and family members, while extending coverage for six months for all separating servicemembers.
· Eliminates the Social Security offset to the Survivor Benefit Plan
· Authorizes disabled military retirees rated 100% disabled to begin drawing full concurrent receipt immediately.
· Permanently raises the family separation allowance and imminent danger pay amounts to $250 and $225 per month respectively.
· Assists family members of certain injured servicemembers in visiting their relatives.
· Allows for the indexing of the death gratuity tied to the increase in basic pay.
· Prevents all servicemembers from being charged for meals while hospitalized.
P.L. 108-287, FY 2005 Defense Appropriations Act
· Provides $416.2 billion for DoD, a $24 billion increase over FY 2004 levels.
· Allocates an additional $25 billion for emergency wartime funding in Iraq and Afghanistan.
· Earmarks $18.2 billion for the Defense Health Program with over $19 million targeted for amputee care at Walter Reed Medical Center.
· Funds a 3.5% pay raise for military personnel and eliminates the average out-of-pocket housing expense.
· Grants $10 billion for missile defense.
· Allows for a recapitalization of equipment and supplies.
P.L. 108-324, FY 2005 Military Construction Appropriation Act
· Provides $10 billion for military construction, with $4 billion going specifically to family housing.
P.L. 108-234, Campaign Medals Act
· Creates separate campaign medals to be awarded for service in Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom.
P.L. 108-220, Reimbursement for Certain Armed Forces Travel Expenses
· Reimburses the costs of one round-trip ticket for servicemembers in Iraq and Afghanistan under the Central Command Rest and Recuperation Leave Program.
P.L. 108-376, American Samoa Voting Rights Protection Act
· Eliminates a technicality in the law that would prevent servicemembers from voting in run-off elections in American Samoa.
Improved Veterans Benefits
P.L. 108-454, the Veterans Benefit Act
· Increases the amount of the educational benefit for apprenticeships and on-the-job training and allows for competency-based apprenticeships.
· Grants surviving spouses twenty years to use their educational benefits.
· Allows GI Bill funding to be used for college admissions tests.
· Fosters better coordination between DoD, VA and Labor to encourage states to award credit for apprenticeships served while on active duty.
· Creates on-the-job training for current VA employees to become claims adjudicators.
· Allows reservists to buy into the GI Bill for one year after their two-year stint on active duty.
· Allows servicemembers to buy up to 24 months of health care insurance from their employers.
· Updates and improves some provisions of USERRA.
· Provides additional $250 per month for DIC recipients with children.
· Prevents life insurance proceeds from counting against VA pension requirements.
· Allows veterans to receive housing and automobile grants if disabled during vocational rehabilitation.
· Makes the death pension retroactive to the beginning of the month the veteran died, eliminating the 45-day rule.
· Adds brain, colon, lung and ovarian cancers to the list of diseases considered presumptive due to radiation exposure.
· Codifies the new cost-of-living amounts in disability compensation, DIC and the clothing allowance.
· Provides specialty adapted housing to new categories of certain veterans.
· Allows homeless transition houses to accept volunteer labor.
· Indexes the home loan guarantee to the Freddie Mac conforming home loan rate.
· Allows adjustable rate mortgages and certain hybrid mortgages.
· Permits disabled servicemembers to receive fee-free VA home loans.
· Extends the Native American home loan program for three years.
· Amends the qualifications, responsibilities and penalties for fiduciaries in charge of veterans.
· Designates the POW/MIA National Cemetery in Riverside, CA.
· Authorizes the National Cemetery Administration to lease out unused land and buildings to non-profit organizations and to transfer property.
· Improves protections under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act.
· Allows the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims to be located in the Washington DC area.
· Extends the POW Advisory committee through 2009.
· Requires a report on VA outreach activities.
P.L. 108-363, Veterans' Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment Act
· Authorizes a cost-of-living adjustment of about 2.7% in the rates of disability compensation, clothing allowance and DIC.
Other Important Legislation
S. Res. 444 & H.J. Res. 108, VFW Anniversary Recognition
· Recognizes the 105th Anniversary of the Founding of the VFW and commends our members for their service to other veterans and to the U.S.
P.L. 108-236, D-Day Commemoration Resolution
· Recognizes the 60th Anniversary of the Allied landing at Normandy and requests a Presidential Proclamation commemorating the anniversary.
P.L. 108-432, Battle of the Bulge Commemoration Act
· Recognizes the 60th anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge and honors those who served during the battle.
P.L. 108-291, USMC Coin and Heritage Center Act
· Calls for the minting of commemorative gold coins in honor of the 230th birthday of the Marine Corps and uses the proceeds to fund the Marine Corps Heritage Center.
P.L. 108-227, Ronald Reagan Federal Building Act
· Renames the Federal Building in Harrisburg, PA, after the late President, Ronald Reagan.
P.L. 108-255, General Pershing Post Office Act
· Names the Post Office in Laclede, MO, after General John J. Pershing.
P.L. 108-258, Rhode Island Veterans Post Office Act
· Names the Post Office in Middletown, RI, in honor of all Rhode Island Veterans.
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