VFW Washington Office

 

Veterans Win Despite a Divided 106th Congress

 
 The VFW and its Ladies Auxiliary were instrumental in the passage of significant veterans’ legislation.  Our grassroots efforts ensured that our voices were heard via our letters, in town-hall meetings, congressional offices, at political fund-raisers and debates, in the media, and in our personal visits with lawmakers on Capitol Hill.  
You can be sure that the 107th Congress will be even tougher.  We must redouble our efforts on behalf of America’s veterans. 
What follows is just some of the major legislative accomplishments we achieved in the 106th Congress.  With your continued hard work, we can achieve even more in the future. 

VFW Priority Goal #1: Increase the VA Budget

         
The VA-HUD Appropriations Bill FY 2000, PL 106-74
  • Provides a historic $1.7 billion increase in funding for VA Medical Care—far more than Congress has ever provided for this purpose in one year.  Total funding is $19.6 billion
  • Allows VA to expand access to outpatient care to an estimated 3.6 million veterans in need of VA care
  • Provides additional funding to cover the cost of emergency care of veterans
  • Permits the expansion of health services for aging veterans, and more than doubles the President’s request for Veterans State Extended Care Facilities
  • Provides an extra $50 million for the Veterans Benefits Administration
  • Increases funding for the National Cemetery Administration to $97 million
The VA-HUD Appropriations Bill FY 2001, PL 106-377
  • Increases the VA budget by $2.6 billion including $20.7 billion on health care, a $1.4B increase, and $24.7 billion for benefits, a $1.2B increase 
  • Provides an additional $73 million for the VBA to expedite claims processing
  • Includes an additional $100 million for Veterans State Extended Care Facilities
  • Increases, by $13 million, the budget for the National Cemetery Administration
  • Veterans Benefits and Health Care Improvement Act of 2000, PL 106-419
  • Authorize the Secretary to construct and authorize appropriations of $120.9 million in fiscal year 2001 or 2002 for major construction
  • Authorize annual "national" comparability pay raises for VA nurses on par with that of other federal employees
  • Eliminates sole discretion vested in facility directors to make pay decisions; clarify that absence of nurse recruitment or retention problem not be a basis for failure to provide pay increases; prohibit "negative pay adjustments"
Veterans Claims Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment Act of 2000, PL 106-413
  • Directs the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to increase by 3.5%, as of December 1, 2000, the rates of veterans' disability compensation, additional compensation for dependents, the clothing allowance for certain disabled adult children, and dependency and indemnity compensation for surviving spouses and children.
 
 
 

VFW Priority Goal #2: Provide Long-Term Care Needs for Veterans

 
The Veterans’ Millennium Health Care and Benefits Act, PL 106-117
  • Guarantees nursing home care for veterans who are 70% service-connected and above or in need of such care for a service-connected condition
  • Provides that all veterans who are enrolled for VA care must be provided non-institutional long-term care when needed
  • Requires VA to operate and maintain extended and alternative care programs as the Secretary considers reasonable and appropriate
  • Authorizes VA to cover the cost of emergency care for uninsured veterans at non-VA facilities.  The veteran must be enrolled in the system and have received VA medical care within a two-year period of the medical emergency to be eligible
  • Restores eligibility for CHAMPVA medical care, education, and housing loans to surviving spouses who lost eligibility for these benefits as the result of remarriage
  • Requires the Secretary of the VA to establish a co-payment policy for a non-service-connected veteran whose income is above the pension level for VA extended care of more than 21 days in a year
  • Authorizes payment of dependency and indemnity compensation to surviving spouses of certain former prisoners of war who were totally disabled due to a cause related to their military service for a period of one or more years immediately prior to death
Veterans Benefits and Health Care Improvement Act of 2000, PL 106-419
  • Provide compensation and health care benefits to veterans injured as a result of participation in a VA compensated work therapy program.
  • Provide that a stroke or heart attack that is incurred or aggravated by a member of a reserve component in the performance of duty while performing inactive duty training shall be considered to be service connected for purposes of benefits under laws administered by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs.
  • Make women veterans eligible for special monthly compensation under section 1114(k) of title 38, United States Code, due to the service-connected loss of one or both breasts, including loss by mastectomy.
  • Increase the maximum amount of coverage available through the Service members’ Group Life Insurance program and the Veterans’ Group Life Insurance program from $200,000 to $250,000.
  • Authorize VA to furnish veterans and others accompanying veterans with temporary lodging (such as "Fisher Houses") in connection with treatment or other services.
  • Require that VA enter into a contract with an appropriate entity to carry out a new study on post-traumatic stress disorder independent of VA, to follow up the study conducted under section 102 of PL 98-160.
Veterans Claims Assistance Act of 2000, PL 106-475
  • Eliminates the requirement that a claimant first submit a well-grounded claim before receiving assistance from the VA
  • Reinforces the traditional VA duty to assist by requiring the VA to make all reasonable efforts to obtain records that would help a veteran establish entitlement to a benefit
 

VFW Priority Goal #3: Enact a GI Bill for the 21st Century

 
The Veterans Millennium Health Care and Benefits Act, PL 106-117
  • Extends Montgomery GI Bill education benefits to include preparatory courses for college and graduate school entrance examinations
  • Extends MGIB eligibility to individuals whose obligated period of services is interrupted in order to accept a commission following successful completion of Officer Training School
  • Requires the Secretary of the VA, in consultation with the Departments of Defense, Labor, and Education to provide a report to Congress on veterans’ education and vocational training benefits provided by the States
 
Veterans Benefits and Health Care Improvement Act, PL 106-419
  • Increases Montgomery GI Bill benefits to $650 per month three years of service and $528 per month for 2 years of service for a total of up to $23,400 for a full-time student pursuing a four-year degree
  • Increases the basic educational allowance for survivors and dependents to $588 per month, with annual cost-of-living adjustments.
  • Allow veterans’, survivors’ and dependents’ educational assistance to be used to pay for up to $2,000 in fees for civilian occupational licensing or certification examinations; establish requirements regarding the use of such entitlement and requirements for organizations or entities offering licensing or certification tests; and establish a seven-member, organization-specific, VA Professional Certification and Licensing Advisory Committee.
  • Permits service members to ‘buy up’ their MGIB benefit by making contributions of up to $600, which would provide up to $5,400 in additional benefits over 36 months of entitlement, or an additional $150 per month.  
 

VFW Priority Goal #4: Provide a Strong National Defense

 
The Defense Authorization Act for FY 2000, PL 106-65
  • Provides a 4.8% pay increase for all active duty personnel
  • Provides a special payment to veterans who rate 70% or more disabled within 4 years of their retirement
  • Allows service members covered by the 1986 Military Retirement Act to choose between retiring under the pre-1986 retirement plan or accepting a $30,000 bonus and remaining under the current plan
  • Provides honor guard details with a minimum of 2 uniformed military personnel and the playing of Taps upon request for a veterans’ burial.  Reservists participating in honor guard details receive a $50 stipend and retirement points credit

 

The Defense Authorization Act for FY 2001, PL 106-259
  • Provides a 3.7% pay increase for active personnel
  • Allows military retirees to remain in the Tricare insurance program for life rather than being forced to leave when they become eligible for Medicare
  • Earmarks $63.2B for weapons procurement, $109.7B for operation, training, and maintenance, $75.8B for personnel and $38.9B for research
  • Creates a new subsistence allowance for low-income service members and their families
  • Improves recruiter access to High Schools
 
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