Tuesday, June 2, 2015

S. 1982 (Comprehensive Veterans Health and Benefits and Military Retirement Pay Restoration Act of 2014 )

This actually was originally a facebook post and not really a scholarly work. I didn't use any of my research to directly support my findings, but rather, I went and did some research about the bill and just jotted down my generally feelings.

However, I felt as though this was useful in analyzing the decision of congress on S. 1982 (Comprehensive Veterans Health and Benefits and Military Retirement Pay Restoration Act of 2014 ) and so I figured I might as well add it here as well. Enjoy:

This seemed interesting so I went and found some information regarding the bill to summarize what was going on without jumping to conclusions or reacting purely from emotional response:

After doing some research and reading about the issues surrounding the bill, it seems like the biggest issue with the bill deals directly with funding. While there are a few veterans groups that do not support the bill, including some VA officials who are concerned for the impact the bill will have on the operations of the VA, there seems to be overwhelming support from most military and veterans groups.

One of the biggest concerns is that the bill will provide a huge increase in VA budget after several budget increases over the past few years with the VA rolling over their budget to the next fiscal year, but evidence seems to support that this budgetary surplus is diminishing each year and seems therefore irrelevant.

Although not all of the provisions of the bill are unanimously supported, it seems that there is generally an agreement that most of the provisions are necessary and that none of the provisions are erroneous or harmful, with the exception about the controversial iran sanctions amendment that was proposed which may incite more conflict with iran and make nuclear programs discussions more difficult to achieve.

I feel that in this case the sentators that voted down the bill were not acting in the best interest of the people (not intentionally, but based on some other principle not strong enough to support), and that their justification for voting down the bill was lacking in prudence.

"bill increasing funding for the VA by $20 billion -- even though the agency had failed to use all the money Congress had given it in the form of big budget increases in recent years."

"was a hodgepodge of several previous bills."

""The package would improve VA health care and dental care, expand educational opportunities, help the VA address a disability claims backlog and help veterans find jobs," Sanders' office said."

"The bill would essentially offer VA health care services to all veterans, including those who do not have service-related problems and have incomes above current cutoff levels."

"It would also greatly expand a program that pays caregivers of disabled veterans a monthly stipend. Congress originally passed the measure for veterans of post-Sept. 11 wars; Sanders would expand it to all veterans."

"The caregivers provision is one of the single most expensive features of the bill, and it was put into the legislation over the objections of the Department of Veterans Affairs itself, which believes it would cost even more than Sanders estimated."

"“Unfortunately, core health-care services to veterans would be negatively impacted without the additional resources necessary to fund the expansion.”" (VA agency)

The Congressional Budget Office estimated the bill would cost about $21 billion over the next decade.

"According to a Senate Republican analysis, the VA plans to carryover $450 million from Fiscal Year 2014 to Fiscal Year 2015. The year before, FY13 to FY14, it carried over $543 million. From FY12 to FY13, it carried over $636 million. From FY11 to FY12, it carried over $1.16 billion. And from FY10 to FY11, it carried over $1.45 billion."

"Sanders resorted to the now-familiar ruse of using money that won't be spent on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan"

}}}}}} http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/the-senates-failed-irrelevant-plan-to-throw-20-billion-at-veterans-affairs-problems/article/2549159 (source for above information)

"Specifically, this legislation provides for the expansion of the Comprehensive Caregiver Assistance Program to veterans of all eras (not just those injured after September 11, 2001).  This change represents one of the single biggest priorities for Paralyzed Veterans.  "

"the bill provides advance appropriations authority for VA’s mandatory funding accounts (compensation and pension, education benefits, dependency and indemnity compensation, etc.) to ensure that in the event of a future government shutdown, veterans’ benefits payments would not be delayed or put in jeopardy.  The need for this change was revealed during the partial government shutdown that occurred in October 2013.  "

"Another high priority for Paralyzed Veterans that this legislation addresses is repeal of the reduction in future cost-of-living adjustments (COLA) for all military retirees, not just service members who are retired due to disability.  The Senate and House shamefully approved a one percent reduction in the COLA for military retirees as a part of the Bipartisan Budget Agreement in December 2013.  "

"The legislation opens the VA health care system up to any veteran who wishes to enroll for care instead of entering into a health care exchange under the provisions of the Affordable Care Act.  Additionally, it sets up a mechanism to expand access to dental care for all veterans.  "

}}}}}} http://www.pva.org/site/apps/nlnet/content2.aspx?c=ajIRK9NJLcJ2E&b=6350111&ct=13607085 (source)

"Senate Republicans on Thursday blocked a bill that sought to provide veterans with greater access to health care and education over an amendment aimed at increasing sanctions on Iran. "

}}}}} http://thinkprogress.org/world/2014/02/27/3343681/gop-kills-vets-iran-sanctions/

"Republicans objected to several components of Sanders’ bill, including its funding mechanism. Sanders would pay for his bill with money that would have gone toward the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Republicans said those savings were already expected, so it wasn’t a real source of money."

"Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., the ranking Republican on the Veterans' Affairs committee, said he was concerned about the costs and the expansion of the VA when there were already considerable problems with wait times."

"Sen. David Vitter, R-La., and Sanders went back and forth on the status of the veterans bill. On March 11, Vitter offered an amendment to to the House bill that would pay for the new VA clinics through price controls for prescription drugs purchased by the Defense Department. Sanders said he supported the new clinics, but also wanted other provisions included in the comprehensive legislation."

}}}} http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2014/jun/16/bill-cassidy/bill-cassidy-said-senate-democrats-only-moved-fund/

"Twenty veterans and military service organizations stood behind sponsor Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., on Tuesday in support of the legislation, S 1982, a nearly 400-page bill that Sanders described as having bipartisan appeal, addressing issues raised previously by legislators on both sides of the political aisle."

"In the bill are provisions authorizing fertility services for severely wounded veterans, extending access to Veterans Affairs Department health care for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans from five years to 10, broadening care for military sexual assault victims and expanding the VA dental program, among others."

"On Tuesday, two veterans groups came out against the bill, citing concerns about its proposed funding source — diverted war appropriations — and comprehensive nature, which they described as “everything but the kitchen sink.”

Representatives of AMVETS and Concerned Veterans for America said their groups support the bill’s provision to repeal caps on annual cost-of-living increases in military retired pay, but feel the broader legislation would burden a VA that still has a backlog of 400,000 benefits claims and faces problems providing timely, adequate health care for its current beneficiaries.

“We’re opposed to the bill basically because it’s bad for veterans and bad for VA. It increases mission creep and reduces VA’s ability to properly serve veterans,” said Darin Senick, VA adviser for Concerned Veterans Of America."

"Sanders said the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that $1.025 trillion will be needed for overseas contingency operations in the next 10 years. But the Obama administration has projected that just $260 billion will be needed, meaning nearly $800 billion could be available for other purposes."

"Numerous veterans’ groups stood by Sanders to support the legislation, including the Military Officers Association of America, the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, Disabled American Veterans and others"

}}}} http://archive.militarytimes.com/article/20140204/NEWS/302040027/Senate-vote-come-soon-massive-veterans-bill

"Section 101: would require additional dependency and indemnity compensation (DIC) paid to the surviving spouses of veterans with children to be increased for each month occurring during a three-year period beginning on the date of entitlement. Currently, additional DIC is only paid for each month during the two year period following the date of entitlement.

Section 102 would provide that remarriage after age 55 of a surviving spouse of certain veterans shall not bar the furnishing of DIC, medical care for survivors and dependents of certain veterans, educational assistance and housing loans.

Section 103 would extend the marriage delimiting date for surviving spouses of Persian Gulf War veterans to qualify for death pension from January 1, 2001, to the date that is 10 years and one day after the date on which the Persian Gulf War ends.

Section 104 would make effective date provisions consistent with provisions for benefits eligibility of a veteran’s child based upon termination of remarriage by annulment.

Section 105 would expand the Marine Gunnery Sergeant John David Fry Scholarship to include surviving spouses of members of the Armed Forces who die in the line of duty.

Section 106 would expand eligibility for the Yellow Ribbon Program to beneficiaries of Marine Gunnery Sergeant John David Fry Scholarship. BAG14053

Section 107 would authorize VA to provide, to any spina bifida-affected child of a veteran who served on active duty in Thailand beginning on January 9, 1962, and ending on May 7, 1975, and was exposed to a herbicide agent during such service, the same health care, vocational training and rehabilitation, and monetary allowance required to be paid to a similarly-affected child of a Vietnam veteran."

}}}} http://www.usmcra.org/page-1820859/1513579

"NSPE particularly commends S. 1982 for incorporating the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, which acknowledges the need to protect the professional licenses of uniformed services members. NSPE strongly supports Section 802 of this legislation, which states that if a professional license issued by a state or local licensing authority to a service member would otherwise lapse during a period in which such service member is eligible for hostile fire or imminent danger special pay, the state licensing authority shall delay the expiration of the license at least 180 days. Moreover, NSPE endorses Section 802 of the legislation for applying the 180-day cushion to continuing education requirements."

}}}} http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=24&ved=0CDIQFjADOBQ&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.nspe.org%2Fsites%2Fdefault%2Ffiles%2Fresources%2FNSPE%2520Letter%2520of%2520Support%2520for%2520S%25201982.pdf&ei=UlJtVeiCKoHBgwTg9YLwCQ&usg=AFQjCNEQwwWuGGrGEiSNxqF5tO9AuNWLlQ&sig2=WzXK_OUxeEvL3dNdSQU4yw&bvm=bv.94455598,d.eXY&cad=rja (couldn't figure out how to get the actually web page)

"The bill contains 135 provisions (separate bills that have been combined into one vehicle).  There are provisions that we support because we had something to do with writing them, and some provisions we aren’t too crazy about.  But the provisions that we wouldn’t otherwise endorse, like the establishment of different studies and commissions, aren’t egregious enough to be deal-breakers. - See more at: http://www.legion.org/legislative/qa/218330/q-what-provisions-are-included-comprehensive-veterans-health-and-benefits-and#sthash.OFQorEwm.dpuf"

"Some of the provisions (with section numbers) we are specifically interested in seeing enacted are:

   201 – Require schools that participate in the GI Bill program to offer in-state tuition to veterans
   325 – Require the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to report infectious disease outbreaks to local authorities
   327 – Improve rural healthcare access for veterans
   328 – Improve the VA telemedicine program
   331 – Support for alternative medicines at VA
   362 – Increased support for Military Sexual Trauma victims
   381 – Immediate authorization for the group of Community Based Outreach Clinics (CBOCs) that are currently unfunded due to Congressional Budget Office scoring conflicts
   401 – Extend the Veterans Retraining Assistance Program (VRAP)
   701 – Increase VA program awareness
- See more at: http://www.legion.org/legislative/qa/218330/q-what-provisions-are-included-comprehensive-veterans-health-and-benefits-and#sthash.OFQorEwm.dpuf"

"he American Legion also appreciates the many areas in which this bill addresses needed attention regarding Military Sexual Trauma counseling, additional training and assistance for Traumatic Brain Injury victims, improvements and much-needed updates to the Dependency and Indemnification Compensation program,  VA’s Work-Study program, and its On-the-Job Training program.

Additionally, the Legion fully supports section 801, which repeals harmful effects of the Bipartisan Budget Agreement of 2013 that impose an unfair tax on military retirees below the age of 63, by reducing their Cost of Living Allowance by 1 percent each year for a decade.

The Legion fully supports the provision in Section 302 that would open VA health-care access to all priority groups, and looks forward to working closely with Congress and VA on a practical implementation plan that addresses co-pay schedules, premiums, and prescription drug costs.
- See more at: http://www.legion.org/legislative/qa/218330/q-what-provisions-are-included-comprehensive-veterans-health-and-benefits-and#sthash.OFQorEwm.dpuf"

}}} For whatever reason citation automatically gets attached to any copied text so no need to post again here.

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