The Legislative Report

By Joe Lewis – VietNow National Legislative Committee Chairman

The start of the 111th Congress has so far been interesting to say the least. We have a new president, and new Secretary, not so new though, of the Department of Veterans Affairs. So far there have been limited bills presented that actually do affect veterans.

111TH CONGRESS CURRENT LEGISLATIVE BILLS

H.RES.111 – A bill to Establish a House of Representatives Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs. This bill was reintroduced on the 3rd of February 2009. At its introduction there were 54 co-sponsors. This bill has been reintroduced in the 111th Congress with the hopes that it might make it out of the rules committee this time. During the 110th Congress, the Speaker of the House would not let the bill out of the rules committee even though there were 258 co-sponsors. If there is anything you can do to help this to move forward, please do so.

H.R.593.IH – To amend title 10, United States Code, to expand the amount of authorized concurrent receipt of DoD disability severance pay, and DVA disability compensation. What the heck is this all about? When a person leaves the military with a medical disability caused while in the line of duty they receive “severance pay.” The veteran can also apply for disability pay through the Department of Veterans Affairs. By law a veteran can not receive more than a certain percentage of the DVA Compensation concurrent to their DoD severance pay. Then once the DoD runs out, their DVA comp can be up to 100% if there are so rated.

I know my feelings on this, if a person is rated at 100% disabled, then that is what they should be compensated at. Not at a lower level. Here is a real-life example to illustrate what I am talking about. There is this person who has retired from the Army reserves, the USPS, and has over 20 years into the state Municipal Retirement Fund, and has a 50% DVA disability rating. This person can draw each of these pensions and compensations without penalty.

However, if he receives DoD severance and tries to receive DVA compensation, the DVA can be reduced to a level that has been established by Congress. To me, this is kind of like speaking with a forked tongue. But that is me.

S.67.IS – This is a bill to Amend title 10, United States Code, to authorized certain disabled former prisoners of war to use Department of Defense commissary and exchange stores. This bill should be passed without any thought being given to it. That is with one exception, instead of “certain” they change it to “all.” No brainer to me.

S.66.IS – To amend title 10, to permit former members of the Armed Forces who have a service-connected disability rated as total to travel on military aircraft. While in the interest of this bill, the idea does sound good. But, at the current time I do believe that the only non-retired military personnel who has this privilege is a Recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor, and they have to fly “stand-by.” Others may think that this sounds good on the outside, I do not endorse this bill as it is currently written.

H.R.32.IH – Homeless Women Veterans and Homeless Veterans with Children Reintegration Grant Act of 2009. This is a bill to amend Title 38, of the United States Code, to authorize the Department of Labor to provide grants to homeless veterans with children so that they can get back on their feet. This is a good showing of how the various departments of the United States government can work together in addressing the needs of veterans and specifically the homeless veterans. This bill has my vote.

There are several bills that have been introduced to study whether to purchase land to either build or add on to existing parcels of land for veteran cemeteries. To me this should be a no brainer, but Congress does have to find the monies to do this.

Another interesting bill to read is to rename existing medical centers around the country. OK, that is good to hear. However, these medical centers should be renamed after a veteran from that vicinity and not after some politician who has done nothing to better the quality of life for our veterans and their health care.


 

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