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‘Most Comprehensive Veterans Legislation in Decades’ Aims to Fill in the Care Gaps

Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders talks about the likely bipartisan bill that includes everything but the pay-fors.

by
Bridget Johnson

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January 22, 2014 - 5:42 pm
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WASHINGTON — The chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee said he believes Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) will fast-track what he called “one of the most comprehensive pieces of veterans legislation that has been introduced in decades” to the floor for a vote.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) told reporters on a conference call today that his bill is close to gathering the support of most of the country’s major veterans organizations. Backers to date include Veterans of Foreign Wars, the Wounded Warrior Project, Disabled American Veterans, and Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.

Among the changes vets would see if the 352-page bill is passed are full dental coverage, the extension of the VA enrollment period from five years to 10 for newly separated service members, the restoration of full cost-of-living adjustments for retirees, and the extension of caregiver benefits — currently offered for post-9/11 veterans — to all wars.

“Within our lifetimes, millions of men and women have put their lives on the line to defend this country,” Sanders said. “These service members have paid a very, very high price for their service. The price is a lot higher than most people perceive.”

“We have got to do everything possible to give back to them and their families, do everything possible to make them whole.”

Sanders cited as some of the challenges the “hundreds of thousands” of service members coming back from recent wars with traumatic brain injury or post-traumatic stress disorder. “Your life is irreparably changed,” he said. “We’ve got to work as hard as we can protect those men and women.”

Under the massive bill, veterans without a service-related disability who can only get insurance through the Obamacare exchanges could enroll in the VA healthcare system instead. Veterans would get all immunizations recommended by the CDC, would be eligible for expanded chiropractic and alternative medicine treatments, and could get fitness center memberships paid for through a two-year pilot program.

Fertility treatment would be covered and veterans whose infertility is related to military service would receive adoption assistance. Comprehensive dental care, which is currently offered on a limited basis to certain veterans but doesn’t cover things like dentures, would be offered at 16 locations minimum, for starters.

“This is something I think veterans feel very strongly about,” Sanders said. “…If your teeth are rotting in your mouth and you can’t get into the system, we’re going to help.”

The bill would also activate an advanced appropriations process to ensure that budget tie-ups don’t keep disabled veterans from getting their checks. Sanders said veterans were about a week away from seeing these checks stopped during the government shutdown. “That is unacceptable, and I think there is no member of Congress that I think ever wants to see that happen,” he added.

Also unacceptable, the senator said, was throwing veterans into a 13 percent real unemployment rate in the civilian workforce without some assistance.

Sanders’ legislation requires federal agencies to develop plans to hire 15,000 veterans within five years, though he acknowledged that many departments have frozen positions due to budgetary woes. “The intent is for the agencies to do the best that they can and give preference to veterans,” he said.

Federal contractors who employ more veterans would get an edge on bids for projects valued at $25 million or higher.

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Top Rated Comments   
First priority should be to those that have been harmed and injured no matter how long ago that happened. There would be no need for organizations like Wounded Warrior Project if the VA did their jobs better.

While they're at it why can't they provide funds for those harmed by Agent Orange that served in the US Navy but never set foot in VN? Its already been proven that the ships that served close to VN waters have or had AO in their fresh water distillers. I drank lots of that contaminated water. I served on a WWII destroyer that spent a lot of time on the gun line within 1-5 miles of the VN coast - often closer than that. Most times we were near a river delta. I am personally affected by this policy of ignoring blue water vets. I have ailments that cannot be explained except by the exposure to AO.

And I can tell you that VA medicine sucks. Probably because its been 'Obamasized!



39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (11)
All Comments   (11)
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Helping our veterans should be one of our highest priorities.


But when a package is being sold by the likes of Bernie Sanders, and “virtually all of the Democratic caucus” will be on board, ", you'd better read the fine print.

Read it very carefully, and be very suspicious of the real motives, AND be very certain of the real results.

Beware of leftists bearing gifts, especially when it's "for the veterans".

38 weeks ago
38 weeks ago Link To Comment
It is very easy to pay for all of this, Stop paying for all those Illegal Aliens that are sucking up our tax dollars, Birthing their whelps in our hospitals paid for by the tax Payers, Educating their children in our schools paid for by the tax Payers, Feeding their anchor children as they grow up paid for by the tax Payers, Yes, why are we spending $18,000,000,000 Billion Dollars a year in welfare support to illegal criminals inside out boarders, Yet at the same time cutting $6,000,000,000 billion from the already underfunded V.A. and Military Retirees Pensions?

The liberal have no problem spending $18,000,000,000 billion in support and welfare to those who break our, Yet can't find $6,000,000,000 to short change our troops yet again in a National Budget.
38 weeks ago
38 weeks ago Link To Comment
First priority should be to those that have been harmed and injured no matter how long ago that happened. There would be no need for organizations like Wounded Warrior Project if the VA did their jobs better.

While they're at it why can't they provide funds for those harmed by Agent Orange that served in the US Navy but never set foot in VN? Its already been proven that the ships that served close to VN waters have or had AO in their fresh water distillers. I drank lots of that contaminated water. I served on a WWII destroyer that spent a lot of time on the gun line within 1-5 miles of the VN coast - often closer than that. Most times we were near a river delta. I am personally affected by this policy of ignoring blue water vets. I have ailments that cannot be explained except by the exposure to AO.

And I can tell you that VA medicine sucks. Probably because its been 'Obamasized!



39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
Paleo, I'm not certain I follow. In my prior work with homeless veterans, I had numerous clients who did gain ratings for Agent Orange, who had served offshore. All they had to do was show that the ship they were on was within 10 miles of the coast, and it was presumptive that their ailments were Agent Orange related.
39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
Too bad you weren't the one reviewing my claim. I also have a hearing problem from being exposed to a dual 5" gun going off near by - a 'prank' that some guys thought was funny. I don't find tinnitus funny at all. That claim too was disallowed. The VA claims process is broken - did not work at all for me.

39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
OK, now that the claim has been - improperly, in my view - disallowed (for the AO, hearing loss is separate), what you need is a lawyer. I would not necessarily go through a service organization, such as the DAV, as they are - in the words of one of those lawyers - involved in an incestuous relationship with the VA (as most service reps used to work for the VA).

Each state has a small handful of lawyers who are authorized to represent cases against the VA, usually they're pretty good. AO, simply based on time and location, is supposed to be presumptive - it's rare I have heard of any Viet Nam vet getting denied.

Hope that helps.
39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
Thanks for the info. How about these guys?
http://www.dva.wa.gov/claimsassistance.html
39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
State VA organizations are somewhat different, yeah. If you can get a Service Officer there to review your claim and help walk it through, that is a viable option.

Remember, as long as it takes, persistence is key. The informal motto of the VA is, "Delay and Deny, Until You Die." Myself, I have been fighting them for increases in my rating(s) for 13 years. That's not uncommon for an appeals process. Not to dismay you, now.
39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
I know I'm not alone when I say that if the price of obstructing a D-sponsored bill is running over a few vets, then so be it -- full speed ahead.

Priorities.
39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
SemperFi80, I think I agree with your post, however can you simplify it a little?
39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
Unless the picture is distorted, that bent-wrist Air Force General, or whatever he is suppose to be, doesn't even know how to render a proper salute.
39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
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