|May 20, 2019|
Inside this issue TREA “The Enlisted Association” Washington Update • Full House expected to vote this week on several Veterans-related bills TREA “The Enlisted Association” Washington Update Full House expected to vote this week on several Veterans-related bills LEGISLATIVE UPDATE
The House Committee on Veterans Affairs recently cleared several bills and sent them to the House floor for action. Summaries of each proposal are listed below.
H.R. 2045 – Veterans Benefits Agency
A new agency would be created at the Department of Veterans Affairs to manage veterans benefits programs under H.R. 2045. The current Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) mostly focuses on disability compensation and pension claims, which has resulted in a lack of attention to other benefits such as education, job training, and home loans, according to the Committee.
The bill would establish a “Veterans Economic Opportunity and Transition Administration” at the VA. Starting in fiscal 2021, the office would manage the VA’s vocational rehabilitation, education, employment, housing, and veteran-owned small business programs. The new agency would be led by an undersecretary appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate. If there’s a vacancy, the VA secretary would establish a commission to recommend appointees. The commission would include members representing the VA, veterans, and the private sector.
VA couldn’t transfer any functions to the new agency until it certifies to Congress that the transition wouldn’t harm veterans. It would have to issue the certification from April 1, 2020, to Sept. 1, 2020, or provide an explanation and estimated date to Congress. The VA would also have to report to Congress annually on the new office’s expenditures, number of employees, and administration of benefits claims.
The VBA would remain responsible for veterans’ pensions and disability payments. The bill would authorize $3.03 billion in fiscal 2020 for VBA general operating expenses, including efforts to reduce the backlog of disability claims. That would be a slight increase from the funding level provided in fiscal 2019 under Public Law 115-244.
Unlike a similar bill passed in the 115th Congress (H.R. 5693;), the measure wouldn’t cap the number of employees at the VBA and the new administration. It includes language that would preserve any labor rights, inclusion in a bargaining unit, and collective bargaining agreements of employees transferred to the new administration. The House passed H.R. 5693 in the 115th Congress by voice vote on July 25, 2018, while the Senate did not take action.
Implementing the bill would cost about $2.9 billion from fiscal 2019 through 2024, subject to appropriation, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Most of the $2.9 billion would go toward general operating expenses of the VBA, while it would cost $30 million to establish and operate the new benefits agency, including relocation, IT, and administrative expenses. CBO said the measure wouldn’t affect revenue or mandatory spending and doesn’t contain intergovernmental or private-sector mandates.
VA does not support the bill as they stated in testimony on April 9, that the current VBA structure adequately supports employment, education, and housing programs for veterans. The Senate has not acted on similar legislation (S. 1003) introduced by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.).
House leaders listed H.R. 2045 for possible floor consideration during the week of May 20 under suspension of the rules. A two-thirds majority would be required for passage.
H.R. 1812 – Expand Vet Center Eligibility
Additional veterans and service members, including those who served during a national emergency, would qualify to receive counseling at community-based Veterans Affairs Department facilities under H.R. 1812. Vet Centers provide social and psychological services to veterans, active-duty service members, and National Guard and Reserve members who meet certain criteria including: Serving in a combat theater or area of hostility. Experiencing military sexual trauma. Providing emergency care or mortuary services to a casualty of combat operations. Serving on an unmanned aerial vehicle crew in support of combat operations. The bill would allow additional veterans and members to access Vet Centers if they served: On active duty in response to a national emergency or major disaster declared by the president. In the National Guard under a governor’s order responding to a disaster or civil disorder. In the Coast Guard as part of a drug interdiction operation. VA would also have to submit a plan to provide Vet Centers in areas that don’t currently have them, including U.S. territories. Vet Centers plan an important role in reducing the number of suicides among those who served our country.
An average of 20 veterans die by suicide every day, according to the VA’s analysis of suicide data. That includes as many as four former National Guard or Reserve members who served but were never deployed, according to the Committee.
House leaders listed H.R. 1812 for possible floor consideration during the week of May 20 under suspension of the rules. A two-thirds majority would be required for passage.
H.R. 2372 – Study of Veterans Suicide Services
The Government Accountability Office would have to study the effectiveness of agreements between the Veterans Affairs Department and outside groups to provide suicide prevention and mental health services under H.R. 2372.
The assessment would have to cover: Each entity’s staffing, accreditation, and target population. Any limitations providers may face in carrying out their work. The VA’s oversight of service outcomes. A breakdown of how providers serve female and minority veterans, veterans older than 55 and between 18 and 34, veterans who live in insular areas such as Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands, and veterans’ families. GAO would have to conduct its study within 270 days of the bill’s enactment, and report to Congress within 270 days of completing it. An average of 20 veterans die by suicide every day, according to the VA’s analysis of suicide data.
The bill is estimated to cost $1 million from fiscal 2020 through 2024, subject to appropriation, according to the Congressional Budget Office. CBO said the measure wouldn’t affect revenue or mandatory spending and doesn’t contain intergovernmental or private-sector mandates.
House leaders listed H.R. 2372 for possible floor consideration during the week of May 20 under suspension of the rules. A two-thirds majority would be required for passage.
H.R. 2340 – Veterans Suicide Notifications
The Veterans Affairs Department would have to notify Congress about veterans who died by suicide at its facilities under H.R. 2340. VA would have to provide notice of each suicide or attempted suicide within seven days, along with the name and location of the facility. Within 60 days, the VA would have to provide the following information, if available: The veteran’s enrollment status in the VA’s health-care system and most recent encounter with the Veterans Health Administration. Whether the veteran had other medical insurance, including TRICARE, Medicare, or Medicaid. The veteran’s age, race, gender identity, and sexual orientation, as well as marital, employment, and housing status. Each notice would have to include a copy of VA guidance designed to deter the sensationalism of suicide, provide information on warning signs, and advertise resources such as the Veterans Crisis Line and readjustment counseling.
VA would have to respect the privacy and dignity of veterans and their families when collecting and reporting information.
House leaders listed H.R. 2340 for possible floor consideration during the week of May 20 under suspension of the rules. A two-thirds majority would be required for passage.
H.R. 2333 – Veterans Suicide Prevention
The Government Accountability Office would have to assess the Veterans Affairs Department’s support for its suicide prevention coordinators under H.R. 2333. Suicide prevention coordinators work at VA medical centers and are responsible for conducting outreach and identifying high-risk veterans to ensure they receive appropriate care.
The bill would require GAO to assess the coordinators’ responsibilities, workload, training, and vacancy rates. It would have to evaluate the VA’s oversight and determine whether the use of coordinators varies among department facilities. GAO would have to submit a report with its findings to Congress within one year of the bill’s enactment.
Many coordinators report being overworked and unable to keep up with their many responsibilities, according to a Committee. An average of 20 veterans die by suicide every day, according to the VA’s analysis of suicide data. Implementing the bill would cost $1 million from fiscal 2020 through 2024, subject to appropriation, according the Congressional Budget Office. The study would require four full-time GAO employees and take about one year, according to the estimate. CBO said the measure wouldn’t affect revenue or mandatory spending and doesn’t contain intergovernmental or private-sector mandates.
House leaders listed H.R. 2333 for possible floor consideration during the week of May 20 under suspension of the rules. A two-thirds majority would be required for passage.
H.R. 1947 – Veterans’ Education and Headstones
Educational benefits for veterans who receive flight training would be capped by H.R. 1947. The measure would also authorize the Department of Veterans Affairs Department (VA) to provide an inscription for spouses and children on veterans’ headstones.
Educational Benefits for Flight Training
The post-9/11 GI bill (Public Law 110-252) offers educational benefits to members who served for at least 90 days in active duty or in a reserve branch of the armed forces since Sept. 11, 2001. Payments can be used to cover tuition and fees, housing costs, and other expenses.
Members who served for at least 36 months – or who were discharged for a service-connected disability after serving for 30 continuous days – can qualify for full benefits over a 36-month entitlement period. Those who served for less time receive a smaller percentage of benefits. Spouses and children of service members who were killed on active duty since Sept. 11, 2001, can also receive full benefits.
The maximum benefits for the 2019-2020 academic year include the full amount of in-state tuition and fees at a public institution of higher learning, and as much as $24,476.79 a year at a private school. Under the Yellow Ribbon Program, VA and approved institutions can offer additional assistance for tuition and fees that aren’t covered by post-9/11 benefits.
Some public colleges have contracted with third-party schools for flight or helicopter training. Those programs can incur significant costs for aircraft purchases, equipment maintenance, aviation fuel, and insurance. As a result, VA has paid some veterans more than $100,000 for flight training programs, according to the Congressional Budget Office on a measure with similar provisions from the 115th Congress (H.R. 5649).
Under the bill, VA tuition payments for veterans who receive flight training at a public institution would be subject to the annual cap for tuition and fees at private institutions. The change would take effect for a quarter, semester, or term that begins after the bill is enacted. If a student is currently taking flight training at a public institution, the change would be delayed by two years.
The bill would also allow flight training students to receive as much as twice the capped amount for tuition and fees if they choose to receive payments for half as many months. They would be charged two months of benefits for every month they choose to receive an accelerated payment. Total payments couldn’t exceed the actual tuition and fees charged by the institution.
Monthly housing stipends under the post-9/11 program couldn’t be accelerated. Students who exhaust their tuition payments after 18 months would forgo their remaining stipends. Students who wish to receive accelerated payments would have to receive educational counseling. The bill would also repeal a requirement that flight training students have a valid private pilot certificate and meet the medical requirements for a commercial certificate.
The VA can provide a headstone or marker for eligible veterans, including those buried in private cemeteries. The bill would allow VA to replace government-issued headstones or markers in a private cemetery to add an inscription for a spouse or dependent child who died before or after the veteran. The provision would apply to veterans who die on or after Oct. 1, 2019.
The VA is authorized to establish nonprofit corporations within the department’s medical centers to provide a flexible funding mechanism to support research and education. Certain funds received by VA – such as public and private gifts, grants, and fees – can be transferred to the corporations. The bill would exempt transfers made after fiscal 2016 from a requirement to spend funds by the end of an appropriated period.
The Congressional Budget Office hasn’t published a cost estimate for the measure. Implementing similar flight training provisions from H.R. 5649 in the 115th Congress would have included the following effects on mandatory spending over 10 years, according to CBO’s cost estimate: A $246 million reduction from capping tuition and fee payments for flight training. A $55 million increase from some affected students qualifying for additional benefits from education institutions under the Yellow Ribbon Program, which the VA would match. A $54 million increase from allowing flight training students to receive accelerated payments over a shorter entitlement period. CBO said some students, such as those at two-year institutions, would be able to receive tuition and fee payments equal to a 36-month entitlement, even though they typically finish their courses in less time. VA supported some of the flight training provisions, though it opposed removing the requirement for flight training students to have a private pilot certificate and meet medical requirements, according to April 9 testimony. VA also opposed accelerated payments and that the tuition cap should be broadened.
VA generally supported the headstone language according to May 1 testimony.
House leaders listed H.R. 1947 for possible floor consideration during the week of May 20 under suspension of the rules. A two-thirds majority would be required for passage.
H.R. 2359 – VA “Whole Health” System
The Department of Veterans Affairs Department would have to report to Congress on an initiative to offer massage, acupuncture, yoga, and other services to veterans under H.R. 2359.
VA’s Whole Health System is designed to give veterans more control over their own care, taking into account their physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being. The department deployed the system at 18 “flagship” facilities and is planning to expand it to additional sites. The system is part of the VA’s campaign to reduce opioid abuse and veteran suicides. An average of 20 veterans die by suicide every day, according to the department’s analysis of suicide data.
The bill would require VA to report to Congress on implementing a Feb. 1 memorandum to expand the Whole Health System across the Veterans Health Administration (VHA). VA would have to analyze the accessibility and availability of existing services at its medical facilities, including massage, chiropractic care, acupuncture, healing touch, guided imagery, meditation, hypnosis, yoga, tai chi, and equine therapy.
The report, which would be due within 180 days of enactment, would also have to assess related health outcomes and the resources needed to expand those services throughout the VHA. It would have to include a plan to provide whole health services to veterans who don’t live near medical or community living centers. VA supported the draft measure, according to April 30 testimony.
House leaders listed H.R. 2359 for possible floor consideration during the week of May 20 under suspension of the rules. A two-thirds majority would be required for passage. Top
|Week Ending Sunday, May 19, 2019Volume 10, Issue 20|
|First off I’d like to thank Don M. for all the information and documentation he’s provided to us regarding Ionizing Radiation, TCE, AO and more. It will take a little time to get it all captured, prepped and posted to the website for all to have access to.I don’t know first hand, but through the information, stories I’ve been told, and some of the horror stories, it’s real bad.I did receive from a Veteran about three maybe 4 months ago four DVD’s packed full of information, and I’d appreciate if you would contact me again. My one volunteer who handles filing my documents away for me, daily mail, etc., accidentally threw the envelope away and I honestly don’t remember who sent them to me.We’ve been talking to a new hosting service, and hopefully will receive their final bid to host and provide us a webmaster sometime today. So if their final bid meets all our needs we will most likely make the transfer over on or around June 1, 2019.I look forward to making that announcement this next weekend.While many bills have come out of committee, been sent to the floor, some already voted on and passed, our job is still not over.We still need to continually push on both our Congressmen and Senators weekly to make sure these bills all get fully passed, sent to the President, and signed into law.So those of you who have been active, please keep it up, you’re doing a great job! Those of you who are still on the fence post, please, become pro-active, make the calls, send off all the pre-written E-Mails, and keep it going. We still do need all the help we can get for ALL Veterans.There are still so many other issues we need to get addressed, legislation drafted, put to the committees and sent to the floor for a vote and passage. I know all the bills listed all throughout this newsletter don’t cover everything, but all of us can only move to fast, and please do know, we’re trying.And we’ve also received assurances from several other organizations to help support VFC on legislation we need, so my best advice, as always, share these newsletters with friends and family and ask all of them to sign and send off all the pre-written E-Mails, to make the calls to their Reps in DC, they don’t have to be a Veteran or Active Duty Military, Civilians are more than welcome to help and join in the fight!On behalf of our Volunteers nationwide and myself, we wish you and your family good health!Respectfully, |
|VA Mission Act Implementation date is June 6, 2019|
|VA’s improvements to Veteran community care under MISSION Act on track for June 6 implementationAs the one-year anniversary of President Trump’s signing of the VA Maintaining Internal Systems and Strengthening Integrated Outside Networks (MISSION) Act of 2018 approaches on June 6, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is making significant strides in implementing major improvements to community care for Veterans.”The Veteran is at the center of everything we do,” VA Secretary Robert Wilkie said. “Through the MISSION Act, Veterans will have more choices than ever in getting timely, high-quality care. Most important, Veterans will be able to decide what is important and best for them.”The MISSION Act will strengthen VA’s health care system by improving both aspects of care delivery and empowering Veterans to find the balance in the system that is right for them,A key aspect of the MISSION Act is the consolidation of VA’s community care programs, which will make community care work better for Veterans and their families, providers and VA employees. When this transition is complete, the following will occur:• Veterans will have more options for community care. |
• Eligibility criteria for community care will be expanded, including new access standards.
• Scheduling appointments will be easier, and care coordination between VA and community providers will be better.
• Eligible Veterans will have access to a network of walk-in and urgent care facilities for minor injuries and illnesses.”Transitioning to the new eligibility criteria for community care should be seamless for Veterans,” Wilkie said. “Veterans will continue to talk to their care team or scheduler as they have been doing to get the care they need.”VA also has been working closely with community providers to ensure Veterans have a positive experience when receiving community care. For example, VA has developed education and training materials to help community providers understand some of the unique challenges Veterans can face.Going forward, community care will be easier to use, and Veterans will remain at the center of their VA health care decisions.In addition to information VA has made available digitally, Veterans enrolled in VA health care can expect to receive a letter in the mail providing details on where to go for more information.For more information about community care under the MISSION Act, visit HERE.
|Support Agent Orange Blue Water Navy Bill (HR 299 & S. 1195)|
|The House has passed (410-0) the FRA supported “Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act” (H.R. 299) sponsored by Rep. Mark Takano (CA). The bill now goes to the Senate for further consideration. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, (NY), and Sen. Steve Daines (MT) have introduced a similar bill in the Senate (S. 1195). These bills clarify that service members serving off the coast of the Republic of Vietnam during the Vietnam conflict have a presumption for filing disability claims with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) for ailments associated with exposure to the Agent Orange herbicide.The bills also extend the presumption of herbicide exposure for veterans who served on or near the Korean DMZ between September 1, 1967 and August 31, 1971. The legislation provides health care, vocational training, rehabilitation and monetary allowance to a child who was born with spina bifida, if at least one of the child’s parents served in Thailand between January 9, 1962 and May 7, 1975 and the VA determines that at least one of the parents had been exposed to an herbicide agent during that period. These bills make changes to the VA home loan program.The FRA believes Congress should recognize these veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange herbicide and authorize presumptive status for VA disability claims associated with this exposure. Now is the time to contact your Senators to urge them to support these proposals (HR 299 & S 1195).|
|The Veterans-For-Change website has been under construction since day one back in 2009 and every day since then. The looks pretty much stay the same, but in the background constant improvement and change is being done to make our website the most user friendly “One-Stop-Shop” website to find almost everything you might have tried to find searching the internet.Almost a hundred people have been involved; collecting web links to documents now houses on the VFC website, collecting thousands of web links for various issues, illnesses and benefits. Creating forums for all eras of service and two forums one just for men and one just for woman where you can go question, comment, share medical and personal concerns, what ever you’d like it to be.We also have a forum with for Mental Health and are currently seeking a new Licensed Mental Health Worker, where you can seek help or just ask questions.We average 2,726 hits per day, and downloads average 2,880 per day with a total 4,989,873 visitors as of Friday.If you subscribe you will have full access to the entire website and best of all it’s FREE of charge! You just need a valid E-mail address so the system can send you a confirmation E-Mail. Once received, click on the link to be authorized automatically.www.veterans-for-change.org• Documents Library with over 17,242documents on-line (Updated: 04/11/19) |
• FAQ’s with more than 1,600 FAQ’s and answers
• Multiple Forums
o Afghanistan Veterans
o FMP – Foreign Medial Program
o Gulf War & Desert Storm Veterans
o Iraq Veterans
o Korean Veterans
o Men Veterans Forum
o Mental Health for Veterans (Counselor Needed)
o Political Issues
o Suggestion Box
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• Job Postings
• Memorial Pages (Updated: 10/30/18) (37 Added)
• News (Articles On-Line: 8,533)
• Web Links, more than 4,926, Added 16 New Links (Updated: 05/07/19)If you have a submission for the memorial pages, E-Mail: Jim.Davis@veterans-for-change.org
|H.R. 1527, the Long-Term Care Veterans Choice Act|
|Representative Clay Higgins introduced H.R. 1527, the Long-Term Care Veterans Choice Act. This bill would provide veterans who are no longer capable of living independently an alternative to nursing home care, in which the veteran would continue to receive the care that they need in an intimate home-like environment through VA’s Home-Based Primary Care program, and the Medical Foster Home (MFH) attendant program.Started in 2000, VA Medical Foster Homes provide veterans who need nursing home level of care an alternative to being placed in a nursing home. VA Medical Foster Homes merge traditional adult foster care with comprehensive longitudinal care provided in the home by a VA interdisciplinary team that includes a physician, nurse, social worker, rehabilitation therapist, mental health provider, dietitian, and pharmacist. Since its inception, over 4,000 veterans have resided in Medical Foster Homes.However, many service-connected veterans who wish to reside in a VA Medical Foster Home are unable to do so because of substantial out-of-pocket costs of approximately $1,500 to $3,000 per month. Because VA does not have the authority to cover these costs, veterans are placed in nursing homes which VA pays for but cost more than twice as much.As the veteran population continues to age, the need for long-term care services will continue to grow. Home-based community programs like MFHs will enable VA to meet the needs of aging veterans in a manner closer to independent living than institutionalized care. With the passage of this bill, veterans would have the option of care that more closely aligns with their independence while maintaining their quality of life.This bill is in accordance with DAV Resolution No. 085, which calls for legislation to improve the comprehensive program of long-term services and supports for service-connected disabled veterans regardless of their disability ratings.Please use the prepared letter to write your Representative to cosponsor and support passage of H.R. 1527, the Long-Term Care Veterans Choice Act. Thank you for your efforts and support of the Commander’s Action Network.Take Action|
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|Action Alert: Tell Congress to End the Widow’s Tax Now!|
|Background: More than 65,000 surviving military spouses and dependents are unjustly penalized because their loved ones made the ultimate sacrifice for our country.Similar to life insurance, the Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) is purchased through DOD by military retirees to ensure their surviving loved ones can maintain a modest standard of living. When service members or veterans die from injuries or illnesses related to their military service, survivors are eligible for VA Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC). Despite the two payments being paid for two different reasons from two different federal departments, all monthly SBP retirement payments are reduced by $1,319 –– the current payout for DIC benefits. For many survivors, this offset completely eliminates their SBP payments and threatens their financial security. The recent tax law makes this situation worse by doubling the tax on dependents to whom parents transferred SBP benefits to avoid having to forfeit DIC benefits.Take Action: Contact your members of Congress and urge them to end the injustice now! The message these aptly termed “Widow’s Tax” and “Kiddie Tax” sends to service members, veterans, and their families is that our government salutes their service while in uniform, but they cost too much if they die on active duty or from service-connected conditions.CLICK HERE TO TAKE ACTION|
Thomas A. Kurbs 72 from Marlborough Post 1980 passed away May 15,2019 unexpectedly in a tragic garage accident. Thomas was a Vietnam Veteran and Past Commander of AMVETS District 5. There will be no wake but will have a funeral at a later date. There will be a reminiscence of Thomas life May 25,2019 Saturday between 12pm-4pm at the Moose Club, Fitchburg Street, Marlborough, Ma