Oct 15, VCS Legislative Update: Congress Takes Bold Leadership

VCS promotes policies to improve veterans’ lives. Please celebrate with us all the veteran-friendly legislation VCS supported this year.

Our VCS mission is to raise the unique voices of veterans on issues related to caring for our service members and veterans, enhancing national security, and preserving our civil liberties. We accomplish this by publicizing veterans’ needs, by using the court-room when a lawsuit becomes necessary, and by working with our elected representatives to make legislative changes that will benefit hundreds of thousands of veterans nationwide.

Here is a comprehensive list of the veteran-friendly bills that have passed through Congress this year, compliments of Representative Bob Filner, the Chairman of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee. Filner worked closely with Senator Daniel Akaka, the Chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee to enact a truckload of veteran-friendly laws. These two fine gentlemen deserve our thanks and our support.

1. A G.I. Bill for the 21st Century. The Post 9/11 G.I. Bill is the greatest overhaul of the G.I. Bill in over 20 years, covering the cost of a college education at a public university.

2. Address the Housing Needs of Veterans. The Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008 prohibits foreclosure for nine months after military service and provides a much needed increase to the VA home loan limit. The Heroes Earnings Assistance and Relief Tax Act of 2008 expands homeownership opportunities by making thousands of veterans eligible for low-interest loans.

3. A Budget Worthy of Our Veterans.
The cost of the war must include the cost of caring for our warriors. Congress added $16.3 billion dollars worth of new money for veterans’ health care and services.

How does VCS accomplish all that we do? With the help of dedicated veteran advocates and supporters like you. VCS is largely member funded. Please, click here to give a contribution to VCS today.

4. Addressing Health Care Treatment & Access. More than 40% of our veterans of Operation Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom are entering the VA health care system. Of these veterans, 41% are seeking mental health care. The Joshua Omvig Veterans Suicide Prevention Act addresses the troubling increase of suicide in our veteran community. It offers comprehensive services to veterans and set up a 24-hour toll-free suicide hotline. The hotline already served more than 30,000 veterans and saved more than one thousand lives.

The National Defense Authorization Act provides an additional three years of VA health care eligibility for returning Iraq and Afghanistan veterans (for a total of five years) and improves and expands the VA’s ability to care for returning Iraq and Afghanistan veterans suffering from traumatic brain injury.

The Veterans’ Mental Health and Other Care Improvements Act of 2008 expands mental health services, increases research through the National Center for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and provides much needed counseling for families of veterans.

5. Increasing Benefits for Veterans. The Veterans’ Benefits Improvement Act of 2008 adds job protections for returning veterans, increases the opportunity for injured veterans to participate in independent living programs, and provides additional support to veteran-owned small business when contracting with the government.

6. Cleaning up the Benefits Backlog. The Veterans Disability Benefits Claims Modernization Act of 2008, sponsored by Representative John Hall of New York, provides essential reforms to bring the claims processing system up-to-date for more accurate and timely delivery of benefits to veterans, families, and survivors.

7. Oversight of the Department of Veterans Affairs. After rising rates of veteran suicide were reported, the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs held a series of explosive hearings to investigate the manipulation of suicide data and to hold VA senior leadership accountable for their handling of the issues. The Committee scrutinized a series of PTSD-related issues, including a volatile e-mail from a VA employee suggesting that VA providers downgrade the diagnosis of PTSD to “adjustment disorders.”

When Chantix, an anti-smoking drug, was linked to suicidal thoughts and aggressive and erratic behavior, the Committee investigated whether the VA adequately protected veterans during an on-going research study involving Chantix and veterans suffering from PTSD. Immediate action by Congress determined that the VA failed to immediately contact veterans participating in the study to discuss the increased risk.

Our challenge to you, our members, is this: Click here to make a $10 contribution right now. Pass this e-mail on to friends and family and challenge each of them to make a $10 contribution right away.

Each small contribution adds to the gift given before, and helps VCS send Paul to Washington one more time to testify. We still have work to do streamlining PTSD and TBI benefits, increasing reimbursement for travel to VA appointments, securing veteran voting rights, and making sure VA is ready to provide prompt and high-quality services for all our veterans.

Thank you,

Libby Creagh
Development Director
Veterans for Common Sense

VCS provides advocacy and publicity for issues related to veterans, national security, and civil liberties. VCS is registered with the IRS as a non-profit 501(c)(3) charity, and donations are tax deductible.

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