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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

Bio

January 22, 2014 - 5:42 pm
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Sanders said he talked to Reid this morning and said the Democratic leader “wants to see this bill get up to the floor of the Senate as quickly as he possibly can.”

He acknowledged that the bill won’t get 100 percent bipartisan support, though he has the impression right now that “virtually all of the Democratic caucus” will be on board, as well as an unknown number of Republicans. Sanders stressed that the legislation includes provisions that have been introduced by GOP members, including Veterans Affairs Committee members Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and John Bozeman (R-Ark.).

“All of the Republicans as well as Democrats feel very strongly about veterans’  needs,” Sanders said.

And that should garner at least tepid support for the bill heading into a debate process. Though the expansive legislation, including many provisions that veterans groups testifying before Congress have asked for, has something for everyone, the greatest dilemma facing the most ardent supporters of men and women in uniform will be the pay-for.

“This is an expensive program, but Reid sees addressing many, many important issues facing the veterans community as a very high priority,” Sanders said. “These are ideas that these men and women have been talking about for years.”

The senator said the funding source is not completely up to him, and a “definitive decision” has not been made — though he expressed a desire to skim off the Overseas Contingency Operations fund as the war in Afghanistan winds down and funding exceeds current Congressional Budget Office estimates. “The final decision of the pay-for is not mine alone,” he added, noting the OCO is “a reasonable source.”

The second half of the 113th Congress could also see a battle of the veterans’ bills, as Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) plans to unveil his own “historic, comprehensive” veterans legislation Thursday at an American Legion post. Blumenthal’s office said his bill would “reduce the disability claims backlog, restore retirement benefits, improve health care services, and prevent discrimination against veterans among other reforms.”

Sanders said he’s just starting to reach out to colleagues on both sides of the aisle about supporting his bill. The senator lauded the work that Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.) has done at the helm of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, adding, “I’m optimistic we can work with our friends in the House.”

“Yeah, it costs money — but these are provisions that are sensible provisions,” and something to which veterans are entitled, Sanders said. “I think the majority of the American people would agree with me.”

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Bridget Johnson is a veteran journalist whose news articles and opinion columns have run in dozens of news outlets across the globe. Bridget first came to Washington to be online editor at The Hill, where she wrote The World from The Hill column on foreign policy. Previously she was an opinion writer and editorial board member at the Rocky Mountain News and nation/world news columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News. She is an NPR contributor and has contributed to USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, National Review Online, Politico and more, and has myriad television and radio credits as a commentator. Bridget is Washington Editor for PJ Media.

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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!



47 weeks ago
47 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".

46 weeks ago
46 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.
47 weeks ago
47 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!



47 weeks ago
47 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.
47 weeks ago
47 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.

47 weeks ago
47 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.
47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
Thanks for the info. How about these guys?
http://www.dva.wa.gov/claimsassistance.html
47 weeks ago
47 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.
47 weeks ago
47 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.
47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
SemperFi80, I think I agree with your post, however can you simplify it a little?
47 weeks ago
47 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.
47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
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