Veterans March Forward

With one of the most divided and closely contested Congresses ever, the VFW and our Ladies Auxiliary ensured that Capitol Hill heard the voice of the veteran. Your many phone calls, letters, emails, and visits had a huge influence on the legislative process. When Congress tried to impose a $1,500 deductible for VA Health Care, they heard your voice and removed the proposal. When Congress failed to appropriate funding for concurrent receipt, they heard your voice and for the first time, certain disabled military retirees will receive portions of their retirement pay while receiving their full disability compensation. Your voice does have an impact and it is up to us to see that it impacts Congress even more next year.

As the 107th Congress closes and the 108th begins, we must look forward and continue to fight for better health care, stronger benefits, an improved quality of life for our nation’s military, and a strong national defense. Despite our successes, our fight has not ended. Continue to let your legislators know how you and the VFW feel about these issues and what improvements you expect. With your continued hard work, we can be just as successful in the future.

Increase the VA Budget and Improve Veterans Benefits

FY 2002 Supplemental Appropriation Act, P.L. 107-206
· Increases the VA Health Care budget by $142 million
· Provides an additional $1.1 billion for Compensation and Pension

Veterans Compensation Cost of Living Adjustment Act, P.L. 107-247
· Grants a 1.4% Cost of Living increase for VA disability compensation, clothing, and DIC

National Defense Authorization Act, P.L. 107-314
· Creates a new category of Special Monthly Compensation that allows military retirees who received the Purple Heart or who were severely disabled in combat-related incidents to receive that corresponding portion of their retirement pay in addition to their full disability compensation

Veterans Benefits Act, P.L. 107-330
· Allows surviving spouses who remarry after age 55 to retain CHAMPVA benefits
· Clarifies the entitlement for veterans who have a service connected loss of breast tissue
· Increases Funding for State Approving Agencies, the organizations that supervise and monitor the GI Bill Program
· Ends the age limit eligibility for Veterans’ Mortgage Life Insurance
· Creates a pilot program to guarantee hybrid adjustable rate mortgages
· Raises the Medal of Honor Special Pension to $1,000 per month
· Extends Soldiers and Sailors Civil Relief Act benefits to National Guard members called up by the Governors on behalf of the President.
· Allows the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims to reverse factual findings of the Board of Veterans Appeals if its findings are “unsupported by substantial evidence of record”, instead of the current “clearly erroneous” standard.
· Creates a monument for the Battle of the Bulge in Arlington National Cemetery

Jobs for Veterans Act, P.L. 107-288
· Provides priority access to all Department of Labor job-training programs to veterans and spouses of service connected veterans who die or are totally disabled
· Authorizes performance incentive awards for quality veterans employment training and placement services.
· Creates a committee to promote the skills and advantages of hiring veterans.

Strengthen Our National Defense

FY 2003 Department of Defense Appropriation, P.L. 107-248
· Provides $355.1 billion for DoD, an increase of $37.5 billion
· Increases the operations and maintenance account by $9.7 billion
· Provides $72 billion for weapons procurement, a $11 billion increase
· Invests $58 billion in research and development
· Grants $14.8 billion to the Defense Health Program

FY 2003 National Defense Authorization Act, P.L 107-314
· Grants $148.2 million for efforts to develop technology to detect bio-warfare attacks and counter the effects of such an attack
· Provides $136.8 million, $15 million more than the President’s request) to accelerate efforts to develop and deploy a ballistic missile defense system

VA Emergency Preparedness Act, P.L. 107-287
· Creates four emergency preparedness centers at VA Medical Centers to research the diagnosis, prevention, and treatment for chemical and biological weapons.
· Trains federal, state, and local workers on treatment and diagnosis.
· Authorizes VA to provide hospital and medical care to those responding to or affected by National Emergencies
· Creates a new Assistant Secretary within VA to oversee operations, preparation, and security

Authorization for use of Military Force Against Iraq, P.L. 107-243
· Allows the President to use military force against Iraq to protect national security and to enforce all pertinent United Nations Security Council Resolutions.

Improve the Quality of Life for Our Active Duty Military

FY 2003 National Defense Authorization Act, P.L. 107-314
· Grants a 4.1% across the board pay raise for military personnel with targeted increases for certain career personnel
· Reduces the out of pocket housing costs to just 7.5% of actual costs
· Extends and creates additional special pays and bonuses for wide categories of personnel
· Grants commissary privileges to National Guard members called up for federal duty
· Creates a Korean Defense Service Medal for those who’ve serves since July 18, 1954
· Allows reservists an additional four years to use their GI Bill
· Increases DoD and VA health care sharing opportunities

FY 2003 Military Construction Appropriation, P.L. 107-249
· Provides $4.21 billion for family housing, including $1.34 billion for new family units and improvements and $2.87 billion for improvements to existing units
· Gives $151 million for hospitals and medical facilities
· Earmarks $18 million for child development centers

Help America Vote Act, P.L. 107-252
· Authorizes a study to facilitate easier voting for overseas service members
· Clarifies the requirements for a postmark on overseas ballots
· Requires voting assistance officers to provide information about deadlines and requirements to all eligible military voters
· Allows military voters to submit absentee ballots early without disqualification

Other Important Veterans-Related Legislation

VFW Charter Act, P.L. 107-242
· Extends VFW membership to those who have received Hostile Fire or Imminent Danger pays
· Clarifies one of the purposes of our organization as charitable

Persian Gulf War POW/MIA Accountability Act, P.L. 107-258
· Provides Asylum for any Iraqi or Mid-Eastern Citizen, and their family, who delivers a living POW/MIA

POW/MIA Flag Memorial Act, P.L. 107-323
· Requires the flag to be displayed at the World War II, Korean War, and Vietnam War Veterans Memorials

Pledge of Allegiance Reaffirmation Act, P.L. 107-293
· Reaffirms the complete text of the Pledge of Allegiance
· Declares that the National Motto remains “In God We Trust”

Bob Hope Veterans Chapel Act, P.L. 107-183
· Designates the Veterans Chapel in the Los Angeles National Cemetery, the Bob Hope Veterans Chapel

Robert J. Dole VARO Act, P.L. 107-184
· Names the VA Medical and Regional Office Center in Wichita, Kansas after Robert J. Dole

West Point Bicentennial Act, P.L. 107-152
· Congratulates the U.S. Military Academy on its 200th Anniversary and acknowledges its leadership development and commends its instructors and graduates

General Shelton Congressional Gold Medal Act, P.L. 107-127
· Awards a Congressional Gold Medal to General Henry Shelton, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff for his service and dedication to this country

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