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Author Topic: VFW WASHINGTON WEEKLY, October 9, 2008  (Read 1970 times)

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VFW WASHINGTON WEEKLY, October 9, 2008
« on: October 10, 2008, 08:25:19 am »
110th Congress Wrap-Up

In This Issue:
1. President Signs VA Funding Bill
2. Congress Clears Veterans' Health and Benefit Bills
3. Vet Accomplishments for 110th Congress
4. Election Day Coming - Get Out the Vote

1. President Signs VA Funding Bill
President Bush signed the FY 2009 VA funding bill which is $4.5 billion more than last year. Some of the highlights in the VA funding package, which was passed as a part of the $634 billion Continuing Resolution, include $3.8 billion for mental healthcare, $584 million for substance abuse programs, $510 million for medical and prosthetic research, and additional funding for homeless grants. It allows the Veterans Benefits Administration to hire 2,000 additional claims adjudicators to help reduce the disability claims backlog, raises the mileage reimbursement rate to 41.5 cents per mile, and provides an additional $750 million in funding for the construction of VA medical facilities. It was the first time in well over a decade that the VA was able to begin a new fiscal year with an on-time budget. VFW national commander Chief Glen Gardner thanked Congress and the president, and said, "We hope the delivery of an on-time budget is the start of a trend that will continue into the next administration and Congress."
Read the VFW Press Release at: http://www.vfw.org/index.cfm?fa=news.newsDtl&did=4772. For a summary of the bill, visit the House Appropriations Committee website at http://appropriations.house.gov/pdf/MCFY09CONFSummary09-22-08.pdf.

2. Congress Clears Veterans' Health and Benefit Bills
Congress cleared two large veterans' bills that will enhance and update an array of VA programs.
S. 2162, The Veterans' Mental Health And Other Care Improvements Act of 2008, will expand mental health care, substance use disorder, and readjustment and transition programs, as well as improving access to health care for veterans in rural areas. The bill also addresses a comprehensive policy on pain management, and authorizes $150 million to VA's homeless grant and per diem program. It also would close a loophole that forced many veterans to pay out-of-pocket expenses for emergency treatment they received at non-VA facilities.
S. 3023, The Veterans Benefit Improvement Act of 2008, expands claims assistance and veterans housing, increases access to the VA court system, and updates USERRA and other veterans' employment programs. One provision will also increase the maximum home loan guarantee to $730,000, bringing it line with recent changes to FHA during this unstable housing market. The change is effective through the end of 2011. Another provision allows deploying servicemembers to terminate or suspend cell phone and other contracts without penalty.
Both bills have been sent to the president for signature.
For a complete breakdown of both bills, visit the Senate VA Committee website at http://veterans.senate.gov/public/.

3. Vet Accomplishments for the 110th Congress
As the 110th Congress wraps up it is fair to say that the needs of veterans were at the forefront in both the House and Senate's agenda. VA received two years of historic increases in funding including $47.6 billion for FY2009 which is $4.5 above last year's levels. Collectively, the House and Senate VA Committees held more than 140 hearings on healthcare, the disability claims backlog, education, vocational rehabilitation, traumatic brain injuries, PTSD, and DOD-VA seamless transition efforts, among many others. With strong advocacy from our membership and thousands of veterans who called, emailed and visited their legislators we accomplished great things for veterans and our active duty, guard and reserve members - here are a few that YOU made happen:
Annual Cost-of-Living Adjustment (PL 110-234) increases the rates of disability compensation for veterans with service-connected disabilities and for dependency and indemnity compensation (DIC) for survivors of service-connected disabled veterans. Effective December 1, 2008.
Post 9/11 GI Bill (PL 110-252) overhauls of the current Montgomery GI Bill that covers tuition at the highest in-state college, books, fees and a cost of living stipend for veterans - for more information on the new benefit and complete coverage of our lobbying efforts go to: http://www.vfw.org/index.cfm?fa=vets.levelc&cid=4639
The Joshua Omvig Veterans Suicide Prevention Act (PL 110-110) increases mental health screening and authorizes a 24-hour suicide hotline for veterans and their families.
The Heroes Earnings Assistance and Tax Relief Act (PL 110-245) expands homeownership opportunities for veterans by helping them to qualify for low-interest loans.
Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008 (PL 110-289) prohibits foreclosure on property owned by servicemembers for nine months following deployment and increases the maximum home loan guaranty for mortgages backed by VA.
The Veterans Disability Benefit Claims Modernization Act (included in Veterans Benefit Improvement Act of 2008) provides critical reforms to bring the claims processing system up to date so veterans and their families receive more accurate and timely delivery of their benefits.

Thank you for all you did to make the 110th Congress successful for our veterans and active duty military and guard and reserve members - we look forward to continuing the fight in the 111th Congress.

4. Election Day Coming- Get out the Vote
The election is fast approaching (Nov. 4), so now is the time to make sure you are registered to vote and to encourage others to register. It is also a great time to volunteer to work at your local polling place or to volunteer to pick up individuals who may need extra help getting to the polls on Election Day. The VFW encourages everyone to be educated on the issues and to exercise their constitutional right to vote. The October 2008 issue of VFW Magazine covered both presidential candidates and their positions on issues important to veterans. That link is at http://www.vfw.org/resources/pdf/partyplatforms.pdf. In addition, a nonpartisan website with information on voter registration by state and candidate issue positions is Project Vote Smart at http://www.votesmart.org/index.htm.

NOTE: The next VFW Washington Weekly will be published after Election Day - We will update you on the new Congress and what we plan to advocate for in 2009.

 

 
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