NewsBytes October 18, 2019

In this issue:
House Passes Veterans Bills
Caring on the Home Front
Disabled Vets get VA Loan Refunds
Happy Birthday Navy!

House Passes Veterans Bills
The House recently passed several FRA-supported bills to help homeless veterans with children find transitional housing, help veterans with disabilities access important information from the VA’s website, help preserve the legacies of those interred in veterans’ cemeteries, allow veterans to use specialty adaptive housing grants six times, and create a pilot program through FY2020 to give female veterans more information about VA care available to them. The bills are: 
• The Homeless Veterans Families Act (H.R.95).
• The VA Website Accessibility Act (H.R.1199). 
• Permitting the Department of Veterans Affairs to establish a grant program to conduct cemetery research and produce educational materials for the Veterans Legacy Program (H.R.2385).
• The Ryan Rules Specialty Housing Improvement Act (H.R.3504). 
• The HEALTH for Women Veterans Act (H.R.2942). 
These proposals will be sent to the Senate for further consideration. 

Caring on the Home Front
The Director, Legislative Programs John Davis and Assistant Director, Veterans Programs Brian Condon attended a panel discussion titled Caring on the Homefront, which discussed the difficulties and priorities of military caregivers. The panel was comprised of representatives from the Department of Veteran Affairs, the National Military Family Association (NMFA), the RAND Corporation and the Elizabeth Dole Foundation. There are approximately 5.5 million caregivers in the United States and an overwhelming majority of them are women. It is estimated that more than half of the post-9/11 caregivers do not have a sufficient support system. The VA representative Deputy Chief Patient Care Services, Lisa Page acknowledged that the implementation of the MISSION Act, which in part, expands the caregivers act, has been delayed until the summer of 2020. She noted that the VA needs partners from the VSOs, MSOs and other organizations, to ensure success with the caregiver program. 

NMFA wants to ensure that there is help for not only the caregiver but also support for the family of the caregiver. Often times it is a group effort to care for those injured and family members often give up career opportunities and time with their own children. There is a significant financial and emotional commitment to caring for an injured service member. The Elizabeth Dole Foundation spokesperson, Jennifer Mackinday, wants the veteran community to be aware of caregiver burnout. The stress that caregivers can endure will take its toll over the years. It was pointed out that a service member may sign a contract for a four-year commitment, but a caregiver may have to sign up for a forty-year commitment. 

Proper care for an injured service member will take a combined effort of many people. The panelists also discussed expanding the Family Medical Leave Act to include caregivers. It was noted that there are employer tax credits for hiring military spouses, veterans and disabled veterans, but no tax credits for hiring a caregiver.  

Disabled Veterans with VA Home Loans will get Refunds
As a follow-up to the Aug. 23, 2019 NewsBytes story, the Department of Veterans affairs (VA) has refunded more than $400 million in VA home loan funding fees to tens of thousands of veterans who were improperly accessed extra costs when applying for VA home loans.

Auditors found it “troubling” that senior Veterans Benefits Administration officials were aware in October of 2014, that thousands of exempt veterans were owed refunds, but didn’t take adequate action to issue refunds. The auditors estimated nearly 73,000 exempt veterans were incorrectly charged an estimated $286 million in funding fees for their VA home loans from 2012 through 2017.  During that period, the VA issued approximately $97 million in refunds to 19,700 of the veterans—leaving an estimated 53,200 who may be eligible for refunds. Based on a sample of 200 home loans made from 2012 to 2017, auditors found overcharges that averaged $4,483.  

VA officials said they consider their review of the issue now complete, but veterans who believe they may be entitled to a refund for mistaken fees can contact the department’s regional loan center office at 877-827-3702 or visit the VA’s website for more information.

Happy Birthday Navy!
The FRA, this week, saluted the U.S. Navy’s 244th birthday on October 13th. 

The United States established its Continental Navy Oct. 13, 1775, with the procurement, manning and dispatch of two armed vessels assigned to interrupt munitions shipments to the British Army in America. Over the course of the Revolutionary War, the Continental Navy amassed 50 ships, with approximately 20 active warships at its maximum strength. 

The FRA acknowledges all sailors for their important role in our nation’s history and their ongoing devotion to the Navy’s core values of honor, courage and commitment. 

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