FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Monday, February 24, 2014
CONTACT: Jamie Serlin at 202-224-5042
Senate to vote this week on veterans benefits legislation cosponsored by Senator Coons
Bipartisan bill is most comprehensive veterans legislation considered in decades
WASHINGTON – The Senate on Tuesday will vote on comprehensive legislation cosponsored by U.S. Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.) to expand a wide range of veterans benefits and strengthen support for servicemembers and their families. The Comprehensive Veterans Health and Benefits and Military Pay Restoration Act includes numerous provisions supported by veterans organizations to improve health care options, secure access to benefits, eliminate backlogs, expand higher education and vocational training opportunities, and improve the delivery of care to military victims of sexual assault, among other measures.
“Our military is the greatest in the world because of the brave men and women who put their lives on the line every day to protect us,” Senator Coons said. “It is our duty, in return, to ensure they receive the benefits they have earned and the resources they need to succeed here at home. Millions of veterans saw their compensation jeopardized by the reckless government shutdown last year, and thousands are still struggling to access the quality health care, educational, and employment assistance they are due. This legislation would make critical reforms to the VA system to improve access, secure benefits, and expand opportunity for servicemembers and their families. We owe it to our veterans to provide a support system worthy of their sacrifice, and this bill would make important progress toward achieving that goal.”
Last year’s government shutdown nearly prevented the VA from issuing disability compensation, pension, and education payments to millions of veterans. The Comprehensive Veterans Health and Benefits and Military Pay Restoration Act would ensure veterans receive consistent access to the benefits they have earned by providing advanced appropriations for mandatory accounts at the VA.
The bill would also help more than 11 million veterans not currently enrolled in VA health care participate by simplifying the enrollment process and allowing the VA to enter into 27 major medical facility leases in 18 states and Puerto Rico.
Other key provisions in the bill include:
- Expansion of access to VA health care – including complementary and alternative medicine – and dental care, in a cost-effective and equitable way.
- Ending the benefits backlog by supporting the VA’s ongoing efforts and making needed improvements to the claims system.
- In-state tuition assistance for post-9/11 veterans.
- Extension from five to ten years of unfettered access to VA health care for recently separated veterans to address their health care needs early.
- Reauthorization of provisions from the VOW to Hire Heroes Act of 2011, including a two-year extension for the Veterans Retraining Assistance Program.
- Restoration of full cost-of-living adjustments for all military retirees.
- Provisions to improve the delivery of care and benefits to military victims of sexual assault.
- Reproductive health care for veterans who have suffered significant spinal cord, reproductive and urinary tract injuries and want to start a family.
- Provisions to enhance and improve the protections of the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, which are of particular importance to members of the Reserve Components during periods of active military service.
This legislation has been endorsed by virtually every veterans organization in the country including The American Legion, the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), the Disabled American Veterans (DAV), the Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) and the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA).