Newsbytes June 21, 2024

In this issue:
Senate NDAA Approved by SASC
VA Adds 3 new Cancers to PACT Act Presumptive List
VA Benefits will likely not Cover All Funeral Costs


Senate NDAA Approved by SASC
The Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) approved an $878.4 billion FY 2025 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), an amount that surpasses the White House request and the cap set as part of debt-ceiling negotiations by about $25 billion. The panel voted 22-3 behind closed doors to advance the legislation, with Chairman Jack Reed (D-R.I.) voting against his committee’s bill because the topline authorization increase goes against the spending caps in law. The bill does the following:

  • No TRICARE fee increase;
  • Provides a 4.5% annual active duty pay raise;
  • Increases junior enlisted (E-1 through E-3) pay by an additional 1% (totaling 5.5%);
  • Authorizes service members without dependents who live in military unaccompanied housing to be paid higher rates of partial BAH;
  • Increases funding to repair and improve barracks;
  • Requires the registration of women for Selective Service;
  • Establishes the Commission on Quality of Life for the All-Volunteer Armed Force to assess quality of life considerations for the military and civilian workforces.

The bill will now go to the Senate floor for further consideration. Members can refer to last week’s Newsbytes for the provisions of the House-passed bill. The SASC bill is woefully inadequate compared to the House-passed bill pertaining to active duty pay and benefits. Members are urged to use the FRA Action Center to weigh in on this legislation at:

VA Adds Three New Cancers to Its PACT Act Presumptive Conditions List
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) added three new cancer types to its list of service-connected disabilities presumed to be caused by military toxic exposure. Presumptive service connection ensures VA automatically assumes a disease is service-connected, making the disability compensation claims process more seamless for veterans. VA’s move was done under the FRA-supported PACT Act, which created a framework that enables VA to further expand presumptive service connection benefits for toxic-exposed veterans. Before the PACT Act, VA’s ability to establish presumptive conditions was slow, cumbersome, and often required Congressional action.

The cancers VA added to its presumption of service connection list include male breast cancer, urethral cancer, and cancer of the paraurethral glands for eligible toxic-exposed Gulf War and Post-9/11 veterans deployed to Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Djibouti, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Yemen, Uzbekistan, and the entire Southwest Asia theater of operations.

The PACT Act passed Congress and was signed into law in 2022. This law provides health care for Post-9/11 combat veterans, expands VA’s list of health conditions presumed to be caused by toxic exposures, opening the door to additional benefits for veterans, and improves resources to support claims processing. Under this law, VA recently granted its one-millionth PACT Act disability claim. Toxic-exposed veterans and survivors can apply today for health care and benefits at or by calling 1-800-MYVA411.


VA Benefits Likely Will Not Cover All of a Veteran's Funeral Costs
Many military veterans want to be buried in military-related cemeteries. One common misconception when planning the burial of a veteran is that the Department of Veterans Affairs will cover all the costs of the funeral. While burial in a VA cemetery or state veterans cemetery may eliminate many of the expenses, quite a few costs are not covered by the VA. A veteran's surviving family members may be caught off guard if they expect these costs to be covered. The VA offers a burial allowance that it pays to the designated survivor. The amount varies depending on the cause of death, date of death, and whether there are expenses for the burial plot. For example, for a non-service-connected death of a veteran who died on or after Oct. 1, 2023, the burial allowance is $948. An additional allowance of $948 is available if the veteran is not buried in a national or state veterans cemetery and there are expenses for a burial plot. If applicable, a headstone or marker allowance is $231 if the veteran died on or after Oct. 1, 2021. For a service-connected death on or after Sept. 11, 2001, the maximum allowance is $2,000. The VA may pay some or all of the transportation costs if the veteran is buried in a national cemetery.

The VA allowance may help cover burial costs such as a casket, transfer of the remains, embalming, cosmetic services, the cost of the funeral service, use of the funeral home facilities, cremation, urn, use of a hearse and/or limousines, funeral cards and other printed materials, and flowers. If the veteran is not buried in a veterans cemetery, burial costs include the burial plot, opening and closing the burial plot, and any additional services at the cemetery. If the veteran was married and the spouse was listed in VA records, the VA will typically send the payment automatically after being notified of the veteran's death. In all other situations, a claim is filed with the VA. There is a two-year deadline to file claims for non-service-connected deaths. There is no deadline to file claims for service-connected deaths.

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.


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