Hundreds of bills relating to veterans were authored and introduced in 2019. Here is a look at a few and how each could impact veterans.
HR 4285 became Public Law 116-61 – Department of Veterans Affairs Expiring Authorities Act of 2019 extended to Sept. 30, 2020, in part: authority for financial assistance for supportive services for very low income veteran families in permanent housing; payments and allowances for beneficiary travel in connection with veterans receiving care from vet centers.
HR 299 became Public Law 116-23 – Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019, in part, requires that the Veterans Affairs office conduct outreach informing veterans who served offshore of the Republic of Vietnam about their potential for filing a claim for disability. It amends title 38, clarifying presumptions relating to exposure of certain veterans who served in the vicinity of the Republic of Vietnam.
“Not knowing how many veterans filed for ‘blue water’ previously, it is hard for me to state any kind of impact, (however) this bill also allows surviving spouses to claim dependency and indemnity compensation based on veterans who passed away from their previously denied claim,” said Chele Beretz, Calaveras County Veteran Services officer.
SB 2966 – Rural Veterans Travel Enhancement Act of 2019 – Currently in the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, the bill, introduced by Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., on Dec. 3, 2019, extends the timeline for transportation of rural veterans to VA facilities for the purpose of rehabilitation, counseling and other needs.
Tester requested that an amendment be made to the existing bill in Section 4 – Reauthorization of grants for veterans service organizations for transportation of highly rural veterans.
HR 269 – Gold Star Families Remembrance Day – Currently in the House Military Personnel Subcommittee, this bill was introduced by Rep. Robert Latta, R-Ohio, in March 2019. The House Resolution expresses support to designate March, 2, 2020, as Gold Star Families Remembrance Day to honor Gold Star families who have lost a loved one in uniform in the line of duty. The text reads, in part, “the sacrifices of the families of the fallen members and veterans of the Armed Forces of the United States should never be forgotten,” and encourages Americans to observe Gold Star Families Remembrance Day with “… acts of service and good will in their communities.”
HR 734 – Purple Star Families Week – This resolution, introduced by Rep. Denver Riggleman, R-Va., is a resolution supporting the designation of the week of September 20 through September 26, 2020, as Purple Star Families Week in honor of military families who suffer the loss of a loved one who was a service member or veteran who died by suicide.
HR 3495 – Improve Well Being for Veterans Act – Currently in the House of Veterans Affairs, the bill introduced in June 2019 by Rep. Jack Bergman, R-Mich., would require the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to provide financial assistance to eligible entities to provide and coordinate the provision of suicide prevention services for veterans at risk of suicide and veteran families through the award of grants to such entities, and for other purposes.
HR 729 – Expansion of the list of the Department of Veterans Affairs of presumptive medical conditions.
Currently in the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee and the Committee on Armed Services, the bill was introduced November 2019 by Rep. Josh Harder, D-Calif. The resolution, if passed, would expand the list of presumptive conditions identified by the Department of Veterans Affairs where Agent Orange exposure is concerned.
The text of the bill acknowledges that the U.S. military “sprayed millions of gallons of Agent Orange, a tactical herbicide, and other tactical herbicides on trees and vegetation during the Vietnam War, from 1962 to 1975.”
This affected more than 80,000 service members. The bill seeks to add conditions to the list including hypothyroidism and bladder cancer, Parkinsons-like symptoms and hypertension.
HR 4574 – Veterans’ Right to Breathe Act – Currently in the Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs, the bill introduced October 2019 by Rep. Raul Ruiz, D-Calif., would recognize a presumption of service connection for certain diseases for veterans making VA claims who were exposed to burn pits; serving on or after Jan. 1, 1990, and based or stationed at a location where an open-air burn pit was in use.
HR 4991 – Currently in the Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity, the bill introduced by Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, would amend title 38 to establish a pilot program under which eligible individuals may elect to receive financial assistance in lieu of educational assistance under the Post-9/11 Educational Assistance Program.
“This ... would allow (veterans) to take certain entrepreneurship training – business training – classes from the Small Business Administration,” Beretz said.
To inquire about veteran benefits, contact Calaveras County Veteran Service Office at 498-2246.