Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committe Clears Putting Veterans Funding First Act

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The Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee cleared several  bills that will improve access to healthcare and shield veterans from any budget or shutdown uncertainly that may occur in the future.  The senate version of The Putting Veterans Funding First Act (S. 932) was cleared and sent for consideration on November 19th.  The bill will fund all VA programs a year in advance.

Currently, only VA medical care accounts are provided an advance appropriation.  The House cleared a similar bill (H.R. 913) in August which calls for advance funding beginning with the 2016 budget.  The House version currently has a 74% chance of being enacted. The Senate’s version currently has 40% chance of being enacted.

The Putting Veterans Funding First Act of 2013 – Authorizes the provision of advance appropriations for the following discretionary (under current law, medical care) accounts of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA):
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Other bills cleared by the Senate include:

S. 1604 Veterans Health Care Eligibility Expansion and Enhancement Act of 2013

  • Expands the period of eligibility to enroll in VA healthcare for Post 9/11 combat veterans to include Guard and Reserves from 5 to 10 years. It also simplifies VA method in determining eligibility based on income thus allowing more veterans to enroll in VA.

S. 1593 Servicemember Housing Protection Act of 2013

  • Extends protections for service members with regards to sales contracts, mortgage penalties and provides further improvements under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act or SCRA. All of the bills now move to the Senate floor for debate.

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VA Issues Toll-Free Number Fraud Alert

Phone ScamThe Department of Veterans Affairs has issued a fraud alert about a marketing scam that is targeting veterans who incorrectly dial the

VA National Call Center (800-827-1000) or the GI Bill Call Center (888-442-4551)

A marketing company created two phone numbers that differ from the real VA numbers by one digit.

If a veteran calls the bogus number by accident, the answering party will offer a gift card and try to obtain sensitive personal data, to include credit card information.

Please note that the VA will “never” ask for credit card or banking information over the phone.

The two bogus numbers are:

  • 800-872-1000 and
  • 888-442-4511

Do NOT dial the above numbers. Law enforcement officials have been notified.  For future safety, please Bookmark this list of valid toll-free VA phone numbers: 

Toll Free Numbers for Contacting VA

 

Government Chooses Foreign Aid Payments over America’s Veterans and Grieving Families

VFW Disgusted with Elected Leadership and Steps in to Help Military Families

Military Aid Groups Step Up to Help Military FamiliesWASHINGTON (October 9, 2013) — The nation’s oldest and largest war veterans’ organization is disgusted with the partisan bickering and government paralysis caused by a White House and Congress who will not budge from their ideological extremes in order to properly take care of America’s true heroes.

“Monday’s news that the government will not transport or make a death assistance payment to grieving military families was the last straw. It is absolutely appalling and nothing short of a travesty that elected officials continue to receive paychecks and benefits while not providing for those who deserve it most,” said William A. Thien, the national commander of almost 2 million members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States and its Auxiliaries.

Since the shutdown started, 17 servicemen and women have been killed in combat. Normally their families would receive $100,000 from the military within 36 hours to help pay for immediate needs. But now, those payments are not going out and, like everything else associated with this shutdown, they’ve gotten caught up in a partisan feud.

Military death benefits enable grieving family members to travel to Dover Air Force Base to greet their loved one’s flag-draped casket returning from overseas. The money also helps them pay for the funeral.

“Because of failed leadership, we have 56 closed Department of Veterans Affairs regional offices, 7,000 furloughed employees, and more than 4 million disabled veterans and survivors who were told next month’s disability or survivor benefits check will be delayed,” he said. “We also have a hypocritical National Park Service that closes our nation’s war memorials to veterans and a federal government that continues to make foreign aid payments while our own national security is threatened because Congress has failed to pass a defense budget or put an end to the sequester.

“This is totally unacceptable and disgraceful that our elected leaders in Washington would allow this to happen,” said Thien. “We need leadership, not more rhetoric, and if the government is unable to take care of veterans, then the government should quit creating us,” he said. “And should another military family crisis arise like yesterday’s failure, I can guarantee the VFW will provide whatever financial assistance necessary to those families.”

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ABOUT THE VFW: The Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. is a nonprofit veterans’ service organization composed of combat veterans and eligible military service members from the active, Guard and Reserve forces. Founded in 1899 and chartered by Congress in 1936, the VFW is the nation’s largest organization of war veterans and it is also the oldest major veterans’ organization. With nearly 2 million VFW and Auxiliary members located in more than 7,000 Posts worldwide, “NO ONE DOES MORE FOR VETERANS.” The VFW and its Auxiliaries are dedicated to veterans’ service, legislative advocacy, and military and community service programs worldwide. For more information or to join, visit their website at http://www.vfw.org.

Boy Died to Give Us Our Freedom

VA Gives $300 Million in New 2013 Grants to Help End Veterans’ Homelessness

Find Your Local Homeless Shelter

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Initiative Targets 120,000 Homeless and At-Risk Vets and Families.

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Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki announced the award of nearly $300 million in grants last week that will help approximately 120,000 homeless and at-risk Veterans and their families.

Support Our Homeless Veterans

The grants have been awarded to 319 community agencies in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands.

“With these grants, we are strengthening our partnership with community non-profits across the country to provide Veterans and their families with hope, a home, and a future,” said Shinseki.  “The work of Supportive Services for Veteran Families program grantees has already helped us prevent and end homelessness among tens of thousands of homeless Veterans and their families, but as long as a single Veteran lives on our streets, we have work to do.”

Under the Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) program, VA is awarding grants to private non-profit organizations and consumer cooperatives that provide services to very low-income Veteran families living in — or transitioning to — permanent housing. The SSVF program supports VA’s efforts to prevent at-risk Veterans from becoming homeless and rapidly re-house those who have recently fallen into homelessness.

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If you are a Veteran in need of help,

Thanks to the SSVF grants, those community organizations (printable  PDF list here) will provide a range of services that promote housing stability and play a key role in connecting Veterans and their family members to VA services such as mental health care and other benefits. Community-based groups can offer temporary financial assistance on behalf of Veterans for rent payments, utility payments, security deposits and moving costs.

This is the third year SSVF grants have helped Veterans and their families find or remain in their homes. Last year, VA provided about $100 million to assist approximately 50,000 Veterans and family members.

In 2009, President Obama and Secretary Shinseki announced the federal government’s goal to end Veterans’ homelessness in 2015. The grants are intended to help accomplish that goal.  According to the 2012 Point-in-Time Estimates of Homelessness, homelessness among Veterans has declined 17.2 percent since 2009.

Through the homeless Veterans initiative, VA committed over $1 billion in fiscal year 2013 to strengthen programs that prevent and end homelessness among Veterans. VA provides a range of services to homeless Veterans, including health care, job training, and education.

More information about VA’s homeless programs is available at www.va.gov/homeless.  Details about the Supportive Services for Veteran Families program are online at www.va.gov/homeless/ssvf.asp.

Do Your Part To End Veterans Homelessness

VA Seeks Veterans Comments for Burn Pit Registry Assessment Questionnaire

Burn PitSEC. 201 of the Dignified Burial and Veterans Benefits Improvement Act required the VA to establish a burn-pit registry by January of 2014.

To better ascertain and monitor the health effects of the exposure of members of the Armed Forces to toxic airborne chemicals and fumes caused by open burn pits, the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) and Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), have announced an opportunity for public comment on the proposed collection of certain information by the agency.

Federal Register

Under the Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA) of 1995, Federal agencies are required to publish notice in the Federal Register concerning each proposed collection of information, including each proposed new collection, and allow 60 days for public comment in response to the notice.

Now is your chance to get in on the discussion and be heard….

Submit a Comment

The comment period for the  Open Burn Pit Registry Airborne Hazard Self-Assessment Questionnaire ends 08/05/13

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US House Veterans Affairs Committee Pushes Key Veterans Bills Forward

Veterans Affairs Committees in both the U.S. House and U.S. Senate have been focused on packaging Veteran-related bills to get them on the floor.  They’ve heard testimony from many experts from a number of well-respected veterans support groups, and have moved some bills forward to the next phase of action.

The House VA Committee cleared six Veterans bills this week. The following bills will now move to the House floor for consideration and debate:

Ruth Moore

This bill was amended to include more stringent reporting requirements for VA which the committee hopes will pressure VA to update and improve its sexual trauma regulations. Unfortunately the bill still does not require a much-supported law change that would align Military Sexual Trauma claims with combat PTSD regulations.

Veterans in the ClassroomThis bill included the original provision which requires public universities to charge only what is equal to in-state tuition for veterans, and includes a controversial new amendment banning bonuses for senior VA executives for the next five years. It also contains provisions of 6 other bills including:

  • HR 1405, To amend title 38, United States Code, to require the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to include an appeals form in any notice of decision issued for the denial of a benefit sought.
  • HR 1453, Work-Study for Veterans Act seeks to extend the authority to provide work-study allowance for certain activities by individuals receiving educational assistance by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs.

Search and track all government legislation and bills in Congress at govtrack.us

 

VA Establishes New Help Hotline for Lady Veterans

eBenefits   HomepageAlthough women make up nearly 15 percent of today’s active duty military and 18 percent of National Guard and Reserve forces, lady veterans comprise only 6 percent of the total number of veterans currently seeking VA healthcare.

So, the VA launched a new hotline,

  • 1-855-VA-WOMEN or
  • 1-855-829-6636, to help respond to questions from women veterans, families and caregivers about the many VA services and resources available to women veterans.

Even though the number of women using VA healthcare has doubled over the past decade to more than 350,000, “Many women who served don’t self-identify as veterans and therefore don’t think they qualify for VA benefits,” said Irene Trowell-Harris, director of VA’s Center for Women Veterans. “We need to correct existing misinformation and misperceptions so we can serve more women veterans with the benefits they’ve earned.”

The new hotline joins numerous other VA hotlines that provide critical information and assistance to all veterans, such as those in crises or in danger of becoming homeless. Learn more at www.eBenefits.va.gov and MyHealtheVet.va.gov.

My HealtheVet   The Gateway to Veteran Health and Wellness