The veteran community saw a lot of movement concerning service member legislation in 2010.
December was an especially busy month for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs with a couple of new bills introduced. The VA’s focus seems to be on creating a faster benefits compensation system and larger monetary rewards for active duty service members and veterans.
More needs to be done, but the VA brings in the New Year strong with a since of fulfillment as they reflect on the steps taken to improve in previous months.
Here is a summary of veteran-related legislation passed in 2010.
May 2010 – Health Care
Families with injured loved ones returning from war face a difficult monetary and emotional uphill battle. The House of Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Bob Filner highlighted the purpose of the bills approved in May.
“Memorial Day will take on a more profound and personal significance for many American families this year – those who are mourning the loss of one of their own and those who have loved ones far from home,” stated Chairman Filner. “As a way to honor these heroes, I ask that we recommit ourselves to caring for and serving our veterans. The bills that were passed by the House reinforce our commitment to ensure that the contributions of our brave veterans are never forgotten.”
In effect, families will see amendments to H.R. 1017, which hopes to give more veterans access to chiropractic care at local VA facilities. The changes to this bill were spurred on due to numerous reports of musculoskeletal ailments from soldiers who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to a VA press release.
H.R. 5145 and 3885 also received approval from the House. 5145 deals with reimbursement increases for VA health care professionals. 5145 will only cost each American citizen less than $1.
3885 requires the VA to begin a 5-year pilot program, which would utilize training service dogs to help alleviate post-deployment mental health and post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms. “The program would be available in at least 3 and up to 5 VA Medical Centers for veterans who volunteer to participate in training and suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder or post-deployment mental health issues,” the press release said. The program will cost an estimated $7 million for the five-year duration.
June 2010 – Honoring the Brave
The VA honored a few of the nation’s bravest through legislation H.R. 4307 and 4505 and H.Res 1446 and 1228.
H.R. 4307 honors Alejandro Renteria Ruiz, a World War II veteran, for his heroic service of the country in a chaotic time. Ruiz received a Congressional Medal of Honor from President Truman in 1946, according to a VA press release. H.R. 4307 sees to it that Ruiz has a clinic named after him—“Alejandro Renteria Ruiz Department of Veterans Affairs Clinic” to be exact. The outpatient clinic is in Artesia, New Mexico.
“Naming this VA facility after Sergeant Major Ruiz is a fitting tribute to preserve the memories of these brave service members,” Chairman Filner said in the press release. “Our grateful nation joins the community of Artesia, New Mexico, in honoring the memories and saluting the bravery of this Medal of Honor recipient. This country has a proud legacy of appreciation and commitment to the men and women who have worn the uniform in defense of this country and I urge my colleagues to vote to honor this hero.”
H.Res. 1446 recognizes a unique community of people in Tracy, CA. The city houses over 40,000 veterans from the last century. Camp Tracy, located near the town, contributed to World War I intelligence operations. Nov. 11, 2008, Tracy Press released an analysis, which showed that Tracy has one the country’s highest per capita casualty rates in the Iraq war. They have a memorial devoted to soldier losses over the century, including recent fallen active duty service members. The bill shows the government’s gratitude towards the veterans and residents of Tracy for their sacrifices of family members and friends.
H.R. 4505 helps parents who have lost children in the war, giving them expanded access to state veteran homes that provide nursing home care.
H.Res. 1228 “honors the service, courage and sacrifice of the veterans of Helicopter Attack Light Squadron Three, a Navy squadron performing helicopter gunship and rescue operations during the Vietnam War,” a VA press release said. Chairman Filner said in the press release that the bill shows gratitude for families who have made sacrifices in the name of freedom.
September 2010 – Employment and Housing
Chairwoman Stephanie Herseth Sandlin reinforced the significant need of vocational rehab and on-the-job training for America’s veterans. Therefore, the Herseth Sandlin bill brought about six new legislations that address issues of employment and housing. All six received approval on Sept. 15, 2010.
“While service members and veterans all have unique career goals, it is critically important that all federal agencies continue to work hand-in-hand to provide the best employment assistance available to our men and women who have answered our Nation’s call to duty,” said Chairwoman Herseth Sandlin.
The first bill, H.R. 6132-The Veterans Benefits and Economic Welfare Improvement Act of 2010, is a comprehensive bill establishing transition programs for new veterans not eligible for other aid programs and who had a military occupational specialty of limited transferability to the civilian job market, a VA press release said. The bill also extends the 120-day-limit for filing an appeal for benefits decisions in the Court of Veterans appeals. Medal of Honor recipients also have an increase in pension amounts under the bill.
H.R. 3685 promotes social networking website, VetSuccess. The website provides a networking database to veterans looking for jobs and employers looking to hire veterans. The bill grants VA to include a hyperlink of VetSuccess on the home page of the main Department of Veterans Affairs website.
H.R. 5360 – The Housing, Employment, and Living Programs for Veterans Act of 2010 (Herseth Sandlin) – focuses on improving the vocational programs the VA currently offers such as their rehabilitation, internship, work-study and on-the-job training programs. The bill also supports VA facilities devoted to homeless women veterans and their families, according to a VA press release. Specially adapted housing is also included as needing improvement under the bill.
Also approved in September 2010 was H.R. 3787 and 5993, the SAVINGS Act of 2010. The latter ensures that beneficiaries of veterans with Group Life Insurance receive financial counseling and disclosure information when it comes to life insurance payments.
October 2010 – The Veterans’ Benefits Act of 2010
The highly talked about bill finally received approval from President Obama in October. Veterans’ Benefits Act of 2010 caused a lot of debate and excitement because of the substantial improvements it could make to benefits.
The bill addresses benefits dealing with employment, preventing and caring for homeless veterans, increased insurance limits, protecting service members in combat, honoring the fallen, education benefits and housing.
December 2010 – Women’s Rights and Post-9/11 GI Bill
H.R. 5953 directs the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to display in each facility of the Department of Veterans Affairs a Women Veterans Bill of Rights and to display in each prosthetics and orthotics clinic of the Department an Injured and Amputee Veterans Bill of Rights, and for other purposes, according to govtrack.us. The bill tackles gaps that still sadly remain between men and women service members.
Also passed, H.Res. 1622 and 1644 both deal with recognizing all historic contributions of veterans and the possible designation a “National Veterans’ History Project Week.”
Also in December, the focus shifted to strengthening the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill, a bill that compensates veterans for their education.
The two bills building on the existing bill are S. 3447 and 3860. 3447 allows unused benefits to be transferred to spouses and children. Under the bill, VA officials are also concerned with fixing technical issues of the G.I. Bill. 3860 investigates troubling reports – burial errors – concerning the Arlington National Cemetery. Steps are being made to correct problems.
“Arlington National Cemetery is our most hallowed ground, the final resting place of many of our heroes,” Chairman Filner said in reference to S. 3860. “Every year, nearly 4 million people visit the cemetery. Because of the importance of Arlington to our national memory the American people expect Arlington to be run reverently and meticulously, but as we all know, this has not been the case. The Committee on Veterans’ Affairs has worked closely with our colleagues on the Armed Services Committee to get answers and find a way forward. We will continue to work closely with our colleagues on Armed Services, with the Administration, and with our Senate colleagues in the months ahead to fix what is wrong at Arlington and to ensure that the operation of this national shrine honors the men and women who lie at rest there.”
Photo thanks to IAVA under creative common license on Flickr.