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Posted at 01:40 PM on Saturday, October 6, 2007 by post1856
In This Issue:
1. Disability Commission Releases Final Report
2. House VA Committee Hearings
3. Senate Passes NDAA
4. Senate Includes Wounded Warrior Bill in NDAA
5. Predatory Lending Regulation
1. Disability Commission Releases Final Report: The Veterans’ Disability Benefits Commission issued its final report this week. The commission, established by Public Law 108-136 (FY2004 Defense Authorization Act) held hearings for more than two years on VA and DOD’s disability benefits systems. They were tasked to study a wide-array of issues with respect to disabled veterans, disabled service members, their survivors and families. The VFW applauded the commission’s work and its 113 recommendations, 14 of which were considered to be priorities. VFW Commander-in-Chief George Lisicki said that some in the veterans' community were initially skeptical because they thought the commission was formed to cut programs and benefits. "But there is no doubt from the report that the skeptics were wrong," he said. "The commission kept its promise to care for those who have borne the battle."
For the VFW Press release, go to: http://www.vfw.org/index.cfm
2. House VA Committee Hearings: The House Veterans Affairs Committee held two hearings this week:
- On Wednesday, the full committee heard from several panels on “Funding the VA of the Future.” DAV testified on behalf of the Partnership for Veterans Health Care Reform, of which VFW is a member. Our testimony pressed the need for mandatory funding or some sort of funding mechanism that provides adequate levels of funding predictably and consistently on time. Again this year, Congress had failed to pass a VA funding bill by the time the government's new fiscal year began on Oct. 1, demonstrating that the current funding process does not adequately serve veterans.
- On Thursday, the VA Subcommittee on Health held a hearing on VA Research Programs. The hearing examined current VA research programs as well as collaboration between VA and DOD, academic partners, and other public and private entities on how to better evaluate effective research for today’s veterans. Some of the ongoing research includes prosthetics, pain-management, eye-care, traumatic brain injuries and amputations. Subcommittee Chairman Michael Michaud (D-ME) stated that continued research is vital to improving healthcare, saving lives and improving the quality of life of the sick and injured, and he said it should remain a core mission of VA.
For more information on either hearing, visit the House VA Committee website at: http://veterans.house.gov
3. Senate Passes NDAA: On Monday, the Senate passed the FY2008 National Defense Authorization Act by a vote of 92-3 Record Vote Number: 359. Many VFW-sponsored initiatives were adopted; including a 3.5% military pay increase, a provision to lower the Reserve Component retirement pay age, GI Bill portability for Guard and Reserve members, and mandating no TRICARE fee increases. You can view the entire summary of the Act as passed by the Senate at: http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin
4. Senate Includes Wounded Warrior Bill in NDAA: The Senate passed their version of the National Defense Authorization Act late Monday night by a 92-3 vote. Included in the large authorization bill is VFW-supported legislation that addresses the care and treatment of wounded warriors. Originally passed as a stand-alone bill by both the House and Senate, The Dignified Treatment of Wounded Warriors Act is now a part of the Senate Defense bill. Some of the key provisions include extending eligibility for VA healthcare to combat veterans from two to five years after discharge, establishing a DOD/VA program to speed up implementation of a joint electronic medical record, $50 million for treatment and rehabilitation of Traumatic Brain Injury and PTSD, and ending the inconsistencies in ratings awarded for the same disabilities by DOD and VA.
For Wounded Warriors Provisions in the NDAA, visit the Thomas website at:
5. Predatory Lending Regulation: On Oct 1, the Department of Defense put into effect a new regulation that protects servicemembers and their families from high-cost, short-term loans. The regulation limits the fees and interest that creditors can charge on three specific types of loans: payday loans, vehicle title loans, and tax refund anticipation loans. These three products were targeted because they have high interest rates, coupled with short payback terms. Payday loan and vehicle title loans can often lead to a cycle of ever-increasing debt. Refund anticipation loans provide seven to 14-day advances on tax refunds, but at a high cost to the borrower.The financial stress servicemembers and their families suffer in turn causes a decline in military readiness. The regulation limits the annual percentage rate charged to military servicemembers and their families on payday loans, vehicle title loans, and tax refund anticipation loans to 36 percent. The method for calculating the annual percentage rate encompasses all fees required at the time of obligation, with very few exceptions. All financial institutions – without exception – are subject to the new regulation. The regulation also requires that servicemembers and their covered family members receive both a written and oral disclosure statement informing them of their rights before they become obligated on a consumer credit transaction. The VFW supported this initiative as it made its way through Congress.