In This Issue:
1. COLA Passes House
2. House VA Committee Hearings
3. FY2009 NDAA
4. Wounded Warrior Resource Center Established
1. COLA Passes House:
The House cleared a cost-of-living bill Wednesday that would provide an increase for veterans with service-connected disabilities, as well as dependency and indemnity compensation (DIC) for families of deceased veterans.
The Senate passed the veterans' COLA measure in July. The COLA bill, S 2617, provides for a Dec. 1 increase in disability compensation, dependency and indemnity compensation, and pensions that will match whatever increase is provided in Social Security benefits. The increase, which applies to about 2.8 million veterans and survivors, would first appear in January paychecks. The Social Security increase won't be known until mid-October, but is expected to be a minimum of 6 percent. The Social Security COLA automatically applies to military and federal civilian retired pay, but veterans' disability and survivor benefits and pensions increase only through the enactment of new legislation. The COLA bill now awaits the President's signature.2. House VA Committee Hearings
On Tuesday, the Subcommittee on Health held a legislative hearing to review three bills. VFW provided testimony for the record and supported HR 3051, The Heroes at Home Act and HR 6153, The Veterans' Medical Personnel Recruitment and Retention Act.
-HR 3051 would provide much needed relief for those suffering from TBI by creating a family caregiver program to train families or friends of veterans suffering from the effects of severe brain injuries. It also requires VA to conduct outreach to educate veterans and the public about PTSD and TBI, as well as promoting the range of services VA can provide for their treatment.
-HR 6153 would improve VA's ability to recruit and retain nurses and other health care practitioners by improving pays for various health care specialties. VFW has called on VA to improve and adapt its policy in order keep up with the ever competitive and changing marketplace of high-quality health care providers.
To read our testimony, visit the House VA website at: http://veterans.house.gov/hearings/hearing.aspx?newsid=299
On Thursday, the Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity held an oversight hearing on current GI Bill implementation. VA representatives were the only witnesses called to discuss the Post 9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act and how it will be administered. The VFW was one of the leading advocates on the legislation which became public law (PL 110-252) in July 2008.
For information on the new GI bill benefit visit the VA website at: http://www.va.gov/3. FY2009 NDAA:
The Senate has been working on its version of the FY2009 National Defense Authorization Act (S.3001) all week, and many amendments are being offered. A few priority issue amendments the VFW is supporting have been offered by:
-Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL), to repeal the SBP-DIC offset for military widows (approved by a vote of 94-2).
-Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), to provide earlier reserve retirement date credit to all Reserve Component members who were activated in support of a contingency operation since 9/11.
-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), to accelerate by five years the phased-in eligibility for concurrent receipt for military retirees with service-connected disabilities, from Dec. 31, 2013, to Sept. 30, 2008.
Once the Senate finishes its work on the bill, a conference committee will convene to iron out the differences between the two bills. The House-passed version does not contain similar provisions.
4. Wounded Warrior Resource Center Established:
The Department of Defense announced that the Military OneSource service has established a Wounded Warrior Resource Center telephone number and e-mail address for service members and their families.Service members and their families can now call toll-free (800) 342-9647 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
24/7 to request support.
Assistance provided by the resource center will not replace the specialized wounded warrior programs established by each of the military services, but it will offer another avenue of assistance for military facilities, health care services and/or benefits information. The Wounded Warrior Resource Center meets the requirements of Section 1616 of the 2008 National Defense Authorization Act to ensure wounded families and caregivers have a central number to call at any time.