It's not often I write about legislation directed toward helping Veterans as most of the time it's been flawed in one way or another.
But there are so many pieces now that will help not only Veterans but Blue Water Navy and widows too!
They can use all the support they can get, so as you read further there are several pieces of legislation and each has it's own link to a pre-written letter. All you need to do is fill in the blanks and click SEND. And each letter will be sent to either your Rep. in the House or your Senators, and in some cases both.
Please keep in mind, you don't need to be a Veteran or even active duty Military to send off these letters, all are welcome and encouraged to help show your support to all those who have served in the past and are serving today.
So please, take a few moment's and read through each piece of legislation, click on the link and send off those letters. Help Veterans-For-Change to help all our Veterans, Active Duty and widows.
SUPPORT SBP/DIC OFFSET REPEAL LEGISLATION
Senator Nelson (FL) has introduced legislation (S. 339) and Congressman Joe Wilson (SC) has introduced identical legislation in the house (HR 846) that repeals the SBP/DIC offset for survivors, sometimes referred to as the "Military Widows Tax.". Please use this action center contact your legislators to ask them to support this important legislation.
Widows are currently losing on average between $1,200.00 to $1,700.00 per month of lawfully earned benefits, so please think of yourself and being forced to live on an extremely limited income and help!
SUPPORT MILITARY RETIREE SURVIVOR COMFORT ACT” (H.R. 3011)
At the request of FRA, Rep. Walter Jones (NC) has introduced the "Military Retiree Survivor Comfort Act” (H.R. 3011) which would authorize the retention of the full final month’s retired pay by the surviving spouse (or other designated survivor) for the month in which the member was alive for at least 24 hours.
Surviving spouses who are unaware that the Defense Finance and Accounting Services (DFAS) should be notified immediately on the death of the military retiree are surprised to learn of this requirement. Those who had joint bank accounts, in which retirement payments were made electronically, gave little if any thought that DFAS could swoop down and recoup any overpayments of retirement pay from such accounts. This action could easily clear the account of any funds remaining whether they were retirement payments or money from other sources.
Please contact your U.S. Representative to ask them to support this important legislation.
SUPPORT BLUE WATER VIETNAM VETERANS
Rep. David Valadao (Calif.) has introduced the “Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act” (H.R. 299) that would 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. FRA believes Congress should recognize that so-called “Blue water” veterans were exposed to Agent Orange herbicide and authorize presumptive status for VA disability claims associated with this exposure.
Please use the Action Center to ask your Representative to support this important legislation.
ASK VA SECRETARY TO HELP "BLUE WATER" VIETNAM VETERANS
FRA supports the “Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act” (H.R. 299 & S. 422) that would 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. Studies demonstrate that the desalinization process used on Australian and U.S. Navy ships off the coast of Vietnam magnified the exposure of the Agent Orange in the water.
The VA Secretary could help these veterans by implementing a regulation. FRA has met with the VA Secretary and we have been informed that he is reviewing the policy. Please use the Action Center to ask the VA Secretary Dr. David Shulkin to implement a regulation giving these veterans a presumption for filing disability claims with the VA for ailments associated with exposure to the Agent Orange herbicide.
SUPPORT BLUE WATER VIETNAM VETERANS
The “Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act” has been introduced in both the House and Senate (H.R. 299 & S. 422 respectively). These proposals would 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. FRA believes Congress should recognize that so-called “Blue water” veterans were exposed to Agent Orange herbicide and authorize presumptive status for VA disability claims associated with this exposure.
Please use the Action Center to ask your legislators to support this important legislation.
SUPPORT HOUSE AND SENATE CONCURRENT RECEIPT BILLS
Senators Dean Heller (NV) and Jon Tester (MT) have introduced comprehensive concurrent receipt legislation, the “Retired Pay Restoration Act” (S. 66). This legislation would authorize the immediate payment of concurrent receipt of full military retired pay and veterans’ disability compensation for all disabled retirees.
Rep. Gus Bilirakis (Fla.) also introduced the “Retired Pay Restoration Act” (H.R. 303), which would expand the eligibility of retirees with less than 50 percent disability rating to receive service-connected disability from VA and their full retirement pay for retirees eligible for Concurrent Retirement and Disability Payments (CRDP). Currently, only CRDP disability disabled retirees with a rating of 50 percent or more are eligible for concurrent receipt.
Rep. Sanford Bishop (Ga.) has also introduced comprehensive concurrent receipt reform (HR 333) that includes disabled retirees with CRDP less than 50 percent and CRDP (Chapter 61) medically retired (less than 20 years of service). Rep. Sanford’s bill is similar to the Senate bill and would have the same impact.
Members are urged to use the FRA Action Center (action.fra.org/action-center) to contact their Senators and representative to ask their support for these proposals.
SUPPORT FLAG DESECRATION AMENDMENT (HJRES. 61)
Rep. Steve Womack (Ark.) has introduced a proposed constitutional amendment (H. J. Res. 61) to allow Congress to pass a law to prohibit the physical desecration of the flag of the United States. Many brave men and women who serve and have served in the Armed Services feel deeply about the honor and dignity of “Old Glory,” and the physical desecration of this symbol of democracy and freedom is an affront to them and the memory of those who died in the defense of this Nation.
Please use the Action Center to ask your Representative to support this proposed constitutional amendment.
HELP THE SO-CALLED ATOMIC VETERANS (HR 632/S283
Representative Grace Meng (NY) and Senator Al Franken (MN) have introduced legislation (H.R. 632 & S. 283 respectively) to bring important health care benefits to “Atomic Veterans” who were exposed to high levels of harmful radiation when assigned to clean up nuclear testing sites during the late 1970s.
The bipartisan legislation “Mark Takai Atomic Veterans Healthcare Parity Act” named after the late Congressman Mark Takai of Hawaii – would designate veterans who participated in the nuclear cleanup of Enewetak Atoll on the Marshall Islands as “radiation-exposed veterans,” and make them eligible to receive the same health care benefits given to other service members who were involved in active nuclear tests. Many Navy Seabees were involved in this effort.
Please use the Action Center to urge your legislators to support this important legislation.
ELIMINATE VA CHOICE PROGRAM EXPIRATION
The House Veterans Affairs Committee (HVAC) has approved the “Eliminating the Sunset Date of the Choice Act” (H.R. 369), legislation that eliminates the sunset (expiration date) on the VA Choice law. The bill now goes to the House floor for further consideration.
FRA supports this act because the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) first priority must be to ensure that all veterans currently waiting for treatment are provided timely access. This law gives veterans who have waited more than 30 days for an appointment—or who live more than 40 miles from a VA medical facility—the choice to seek VA-funded care outside of the VA system.
Please use the Action Center to ask your U.S. Representative to support continuing the VA Choice program.
EXPAND VA CAREGIVERS PROGRAM (HR 1472/S.591)
The "Military and Veteran Caregiver Services Improvement Act” has been introduced in the House and Senate (H.R. 1472 and S. 591 respectively) to expand the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Caregivers program to include veterans catastrophically disabled before September 11, 2001. The current program applies to veterans disabled on or after September 11, 2001.
Members can use the Action Center to ask their legislators to support this important legislation.
IMPROVE VA PROGRAMS FOR WOMEN (S. 681)
Sen. Jon Tester (MT), Ranking Member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, has introduced the “Deborah Sampson Act” (S. 681) that seeks to improve and expand VA's programs and services for women veterans.
members are urged to use the FRA Action Center to ask their Senators to support this important legislation.
SUPPORT BILL TO OVERHAUL VA APPEALS PROCESS (S. 712)
Senator Richard Blumenthal (Conn.) has introduced legislation, the “Department of Veterans Appeals Modernization Act” (S. 712) to overhaul the broken appeals process at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
The VA has more than 450,000 disability claims on appeal for service-connected disability benefits filed by veterans who are dissatisfied with claims decisions written by the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) can appeal first to VBA, and then to the Board of Veterans' Appeals. The Government Accountability Office recently released a report (GAO-17-234) warning that, if no action is taken, veterans may have to wait an average of 8.5 years by 2026 to have their claims resolved because of redundancies and inefficiencies in the VA appeals process. The legislation would give veterans clear options after receiving an initial decision by consolidating the current appeals process into three distinct tracks.
Members can use the Action Center to ask their Senators to support this legislation.
RESERVE COMPONENT BENEFITS PARITY ACT
Congressman Steven Palazzo (Miss.) and Senator Al Franken (Minn.) have introduced H.R. 1384 and S. 667 respectively, the "Reserve Component Benefits Parity Act", in an effort to ensure that National Guard and Reservest receive all benefits due to them when they are called up to active duty.
Please use the Action Center to ask your legislators to support these bills.
SUPPORT QUICKER VETERANS BENEFITS
The “Quicker Veterans Benefits Delivery Act” (H.R. 1725) introduced by Rep. Tim Walz (Minn.). The bill requires (current law allows) the VA to accept, for purposes of establishing a claim for veterans disability benefits, a report of a medical examination administered by a private physician. If the report is sufficiently complete it no longer requires confirmation by a Veterans Health Administration (VHA) physician.
The bill has been approved by the House Veterans Affairs Committee and members are urged to use Action Center to contact their Representatives
VA DISABILITY APPEALS REFORM
Rep. Mike Bost (IL) introduced the “Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act” (H.R. 2288) to address the growing number of backlog disability appeal cases ( more than 470,000) awaiting appeal.
The bill would create three “lanes” for veterans’ appeals, and would give the Secretary the authority to test the new system prior to full implementation and would allow some veterans already going through the appeals process to opt into the new system. It would also require VA to provide a comprehensive plan for processing legacy appeals (appeals filed before the effective date of the bill).
The bill has been approved by committee and is awaiting action on the House floor. Members are urged to use the Action Center to ask their Representatives to support this bill.
INCREASE COAST GUARD BUDGET LIKE THE ARMED SERVICES BUDGET
The Trump Administration's FY 2018 budget request substantially increases the Armed Services (Navy, Marine Corps, Army, and Air Force) spending. The U.S. Coast Guard does not get a corresponding increase in the budget request.
Members are urged to use the Action Center to ask the their legislators to provide U.S. Coast Guard funding parity with the Department of Defense (DoD).
STOP TRICARE FEE INCREASE
The proposed budget would increase some health care fees. Last year, Congress passed substantial TRICARE Reform that merged TRICARE Standard/Extra into TRICARE Select. Among the changes, service members entering the military after January 1, 2018, would have to pay higher out-of-pocket costs for healthcare. But current service members and retirees were grandfathered into the new TRICARE program without any cost increase. These changes are supposed to go into effect on January 1, 2018. But the DoD request proposes new TRICARE changes that will lead to higher out-of-pocket costs, including:
Elimination of the grandfathering provision, directly causing higher out-of-pocket costs for all working age retirees;
premiums, co-pays, deductibles and catastrophic caps for beneficiaries under age 65 would dramatically increase annually based on the increases in health care costs as measured by the growth in National Health Expenditures (NHE);
Increasing copays, deductibles, and the catastrophic cap for currently serving TRICARE Standard/Select families;
Increasing pharmacy copays 300% over 10 years for retirees under age 65, including introducing a new copay for mail order generics that are currently available at no out-of-pocket cost; and
Allowing larger annual increases to TRICARE out-of-pocket fees that would impact all working age retirees and currently serving TRICARE Standard/Select families. Their participation fees, deductibles, copays, and the catastrophic cap would have higher annual increases.
DON'T REDUCE DISABLED VETS BENEFITS
The Trump Administration's FY 2018 budget request reduces some VA benefits.
The proposed budget eliminates the Individual Unemployability benefit payments to retirement-age disabled veterans. Under current policies, the Individual Unemployability program allows VA to award payouts at the 100-percent disabled rate to veterans who cannot find work due to service-connected injuries, even if they are not deemed 100-percent disabled. The Administration has proposed stopping those payouts once veterans are eligible for Social Security retirement benefits. This cut would impact more than 225,000 veterans currently receiving this benefit.
Veterans receiving benefits checks from the VA would also have their annual cost-of-living-adjustment (COLA) reduced or “round down” to the nearest dollar.
Members are urged to use the FRA Action Center to ask their legislators to oppose these benefit cuts.
SUPPORT FASTER VETERANS BENEIFTS
The “Quicker Veterans Benefits Delivery Act” (H.R. 1725) introduced by Rep. Tim Walz (Minn.) has passed the House. The bill requires (current law allows) the VA to accept, for purposes of establishing a claim for veterans disability benefits, a report of a medical examination administered by a private physician. If the report is sufficiently complete it no longer requires confirmation by a Veterans Health Administration (VHA) physician.
The bill now goes to the Senate for further consideration. Members are urged to use Action Center to contact their Senators to ask them to support this bill.
EXCLUDE DEFENSE FROM SEQUESTRATION
STOP Automatic Defense Budget Cuts
Both the House and Senate versions of the FY 2018 Defense authorization bills (NDAA) violate the spending caps of the Budget Control Act (BCA) which sets strict caps on both defense and non-defense spending. In the past Congress managed to make short-term compromises, lifting the caps for a couple of years at a time, but no such agreement applies to FY 2018 NDAA.
Budget cuts mandated by the Budget Control Act (BCA) of 2011 pose a threat to national security and will substantially impact member pay and benefits. These automatic cuts, known as Sequestration, require that 50 percent come from Defense even though Defense only makes up 17 percent of the federal budget. These cuts were intended to be so punitive that Congress and the Administration would be forced to work together to find reasonable alternatives. Unfortunately, this has not occurred and Congress and the White House have been consumed with partisan bickering and have been unable to come to a long term agreement on the budget without sequestration cuts.
Please use the Action Center to ask your legislators to exclude Defense from Sequestration (automatic budget cuts) in the upcoming Budget resolution.
EXTEND ASSISTANCE FOR MILITARY WIDOWS (S. 1411)
Senator Bill Nelson (FL) has introduced a bill (S. 1411) to extend the Special Survivor Indemnity Allowance (SSIA) benefit that expires in May 2018. The bill provides a five year extension of the SSIA payments. The Association supports this bill and, FRA is also working to increase the payments of SSIA.
FRA has long sought to eliminate the Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP)/Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) offset for widows and widowers of service members. In 2008, Congress enacted the Special Survivor Indemnity Allowance (SSIA) which increased gradually and now pays approximately 25 percent ($310) of the offset. Unfortunately the SSIA sunsets in May 2018.
Please use the Action Center to ask your Senators to support this important legislation.
INCREASE COAST GUARD BUDGET LIKE THE ARMED SERVICES BUDGET
It has been reported that the Trump Administration will substantially increase the Armed Services (Navy, Marine Corps, Army, and Air Force) spending ( nine percent)in their soon-to-be-released budget request for FY 2018. Apparently the U.S. Coast Guard will not get a corresponding increase in their budget request.
Members are urged to use the Action Center to ask the Trump Administration to provide U.S. Coast Guard funding parity with the Department of Defense (DoD).