7-26-2013

Senate Panel Moves Veterans’ Legislation

The Senate Veterans Affairs Committee (SVAC) approved legislation (S. 944) this week that would authorize veterans attending college to pay in-state tuition rates, even if they have not established residency in the state.  The measure, sponsored by Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (Vt.), also seeks to improve education benefits for survivors of service members killed in combat and was extensively amended in committee to include provisions from other related bills.  Amendments include:

  • Expanding eligibility for the Family Caregiver Program to veterans of all eras; (This program currently provides a monthly stipend and reimbursement for travel to post-9/11 veterans only.)
  • Streamlining post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) claims resulting from sexual assault;
  • Expanding employment opportunities for veterans through new programs that will encourage employers to hire veterans and by renewing the Veterans Retraining Assistance Program, which is part of the VOW to Hire Heroes Act;
  • Requiring the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to make quarterly reports to Congress on its progress to reduce the backlog of unresolved disability claims;
  • Improving veterans’ health care through increased access to complementary and alternative medicine, chiropractic care and transportation services;
  • Expanding eligibility for those exposed to toxic drinking water at Camp Lejeune Marine Corps Base; and
  • Authorizing “Veterans Status” to Reserve Component members who were never deployed, but served for 20 or more years and earned military retirement at age 60, but are not considered veterans under current law.(For more information on Reserve veteran status, read Tom Philpott’s Military Update column.)

FRA staff attended the mark-up, where concerns were expressed about the cost of several provisions.  The bill will now be considered by the full Senate.

 

Members are urged to use the Action Center to ask their Senators to support this important legislation at:

http://www.capwiz.com/fra/issues/alert/?alertid=62787336.