Omnibus Veterans Bill Passed by House and Senate

On December 10, 2016, the Senate passed H.R. 6416, the Jeff Miller and Richard Blumenthal Veterans Health Care and Benefits Improvement Act of 2016. 

H.R. 6416 now heads to the President’s desk to be signed into law. The bill contains legislation consistent with several of DAV’s national resolutions. Highlights of the measure include provisions to: 

Benefits

  • Establish automatic entitlement to survivor benefit payments in certain cases;
  • Streamline the Board of Veterans Appeals video hearing process;
  • Enhance the Veterans Benefit Administration’s contract medical examination process;
  • Temporarily increase the number of judges presiding at Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims;
  • Require continuous review of the Transition Goals Plans and Success (GPS) program, its workshops, training methodology, delivery of services, collection and analysis of course critiques and VSO involvement;
  • Establish a three-year transition period for Service Disabled Veteran Owned Businesses following the non-service-connected death of the service-disabled veteran owner, rated less than 100 percent;
  • Express a sense of Congress that October 5 be recognized annually as American Veteran Disabled for Life Day; 

Health Care

  • Authorize advanced appropriations for VA’s Medical Community Care account;
  • Improve access to standard immunizations for veterans;
  • Provide priority services to Medal of Honor recipients within VA’s health care system;
  • Establish procedures for mental health treatment for veterans who performed classified missions while on active duty;
  • Provide examination and treatment by VA for emergency medical conditions and women in labor;
  • Authorize several major VHA medical facility projects;
  • Authorize research for descendant health conditions potentially related to veterans exposed to toxic substances during their service in the Armed Forces; 

Homeless

  • Expand the definition of “homeless veteran” to authorize access to VA services and benefits to this group of veterans;
  • Increase per diem payment rates for transitional housing assistance that later become permanent housing for homeless veterans;
  • Establish a program to improve retention of housing by formerly homeless veterans and veterans at risk of becoming homeless;
  • Establish a National Center on Homelessness Among Veterans and
  • Require VA to assess comprehensive service programs for homeless veterans. 

For detailed information about H.R. 6416, please click here. 

We would like to thank every DAV member and supporter for their efforts over the past two years during the 114th Congress. Your work helped these legislative proposals become law and will benefit our nation’s injured and ill veterans and their families. 

Your participation in the 115th Congress will be equally important to ensure that DAV’s more significant and fundamental legislative proposals are brought to fruition. Work begins with the 115th Congress on January 3, 2017.

http://bit.ly/2hL8aNV

Thank you to Patrick W. Welch, PhD, U.S. Marine Corps (Ret), Veterans Advocate & Educator, Buffalo Veterans Treatment Court – Senior Mentor for this article.