Weekly newsletter of the Fleet Reserve Association

November 3 2017

In this issue:
Agent Orange Bill Stalls in Committee
Veterans May Qualify for Larger Disability Ratings
COLA for VA Approved
White House Complaint Line Gives Veterans Access
Applebee's Restaurant Provides Free Meals

Agent Orange Bill Stalls in Committee
The House Veterans Affairs Committee (HVAC) scheduled a Committee vote on the "Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act" (H.R.299) this week. It did not occur when HVAC members could not agree if the bill should be paid for by rounding down veteran's benefit checks to the nearest dollar. First reported in the July 28 Newsbytes, HVAC Chairman Roe (Tenn.) offered to have a committee vote if the bill could be amended to round down veteran's monthly benefits to pay for the bill.  Roe said, "We owe it to our brave veterans who served off the coast of Vietnam, to pass this bill. I have close friends who died in Vietnam. I can't go to another Veteran's Day ceremony without at least trying to get this bill approved."  Roe continued "I have spoken to many veterans who said they would be willing to give up less than a dollar a month to do right by Blue Water Navy veterans, and I imagine many veterans around the country feel the same way." 
HVAC Ranking Member Tim Walz (Minn.), one of the five original co-sponsors of the bill, argued that a round-down bill is bad policy. "Asking one group of veterans to pay for another group of veterans' benefits is not only bad policy, it is the wrong answer for all veterans. That is why finding the funds to pay for this bill outside the VA budget in is absolutely critical. I will continue to call on Chairman Roe to make that happen."  Walz claimed HVAC passed and the House approved veteran's legislation without spending offsets. He claimed the 2014 VA Choice program and the 2008 Post 911 GI Bill passed without spending offsets. He further argued we should not cut veterans benefits while we enact tax cuts for the rich. Due to the partisan split the Chairman did not call the bill for a vote. 
The committee did approve the following bills:
• H.R.1900 to designate a museum in Columbus, Ohio, as the National Veterans Memorial and Museum
• H.R.2123 to improve treatment of veterans through telemedicine
• H.R.1133 and H.R. 2601 to improve organ transplants at the VA
• H.R.3634 to ensure veterans using the Post 911 GI Bill can access documentation verifying monthly housing stipend
• H.R.3705 requires VA to use certified mail and plain language in debt collection activities
• H.R.4173 requires VA to do a study of the Veterans Crisis Line
FRA wants to thank Shipmates for calling committee members and using the Action Center to contact elected officials. The Association will continue to work for passage of "Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act."
Disabled Veterans May Qualify for Larger Disability Ratings
The U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims issued an opinion in a recent case Sharp v. Shulkin, (No.16-1385) that could make it easier for veterans with injuries to the back, neck and joints to obtain higher disability ratings. Even in cases where veterans are already receiving disability benefits for such injuries. This case reviewed the Department of Veterans Affairs' existing system for evaluating the origin and extent of a veteran's disability and clarified the responsibilities of Compensation and Pension (C&P) examiners and the Board of Veterans Appeals when giving an opinion on pain flare-ups caused by musculoskeletal disabilities. The court ultimately ruled the system was inadequate, because not all C&P examiners consider flare-ups and pain when determining what disability rating a veteran should receive.
COLA for VA Approved
The House and Senate approved the "Veterans' Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment Act" (H.R.1329), sponsored by Rep. Mike Bost (Ill.), to boost next year's veterans benefits by two percent. This is the same cost-of-living-adjustment (COLA) increase as Social Security, and military retirement pay starting in December.
The move is a routine annual step by lawmakers. Under current law, annual cost-of-living increases are automatic for Social Security benefits, and military retirees, determined by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) without intervention from Congress. Veteran's benefits, however, fall into a different category, one that requires lawmakers to approve a new adjustment every year.
President Trump is expected to sign the latest measure into law in the coming days.
White House VA Complaint Line Gives Veterans Access
During the 2016 Presidential election campaign Donald Trump promised to give veterans direct access to the White House. Veterans can express their concerns to the White House by calling 855-948-2311.  The telephone line was opened in June with the limited hours of 0800-1700 Eastern Time, but it's now available 24/7. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) will use the complaint line to collect data to improve service. Shipmates are encouraged to use the line to express their concerns or problems with the VA.
This line should not be confused with the VA Crisis Line.  The Crisis Line is for veterans who have feelings of suicide or feelings of depression can call for help at 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1.
Applebee's Restaurant Provides Free Meals
For a tenth consecutive year Applebee's Restaurant will honor veterans and active members of the United States military by offering each a free meal at any of the nearly 1,800 Applebee's restaurants in the United States on Veterans Day, Saturday, November 11, 2017. Applebee's is one of the first casual dining brands to honor America's heroes with a free meal and has donated more than 8.3 million meals to veterans and active-duty military since 2008. Applebee's restaurants nationwide expect to serve nearly one million meals this Veterans Day.
Applebee's special Veterans Day menu includes seven of its signature dishes. Complimentary meals will be for dine-in only. For more information click here. 

NewsBytes is FRA's weekly legislative update. If you received this through a forward and would like to subscribe, please e-mail newsbytes@fra.org with "Subscribe" in subject line and your name and address in the body. If you are a member of FRA or LA FRA, please include your member number as well. To unsubscribe, please respond to this email with "unsubscribe" in the message line.
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FRA has represented the interests of current, retired, reserve and veteran Sea Services personnel and their families for over 90 years. If you are not a member and are eligible, please join FRA at www.fra.org. The larger the membership base, the louder your voice is heard on Capitol Hill.





NewsBytes is FRA's weekly legislative update. If you received this through a forward and would like to subscribe, please e-mail us  and include your name and contact information in the body of e-mail. If you are a member of FRA or LA FRA, please include your member number as well.

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