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LEGISLATIVE UPDATES

UPDATE: JUNE, 2001

Senator Wellstone's letter to Togo West. An effort is again made to explain to the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, the unequal treatment granted to the nuclear test and nuclear plant victims of radiation exposure.

UPDATE: MAY, 2000

President Must Address Veteran's Side of Nuclear Nightmare
A U.S. Newswire release from Al Lance, national commander of the American Legion. He addresses the ineguities of Atomic Veterans compensation programs versus those included in the proposed compensation program for nuclear plant workers.

Nuclear Exposure Compensation Plan Ignores Atomic Veterans
A Disabled American Veterans' news release also covers the same inequalities as noted in the previous Plant worker compensation program.

UPDATE: MARCH 24, 2000

Lane Evans' News Release -- (Includes his website URL)
News Release from Congressman Lane Evans of Illinois, Democratic Leader of the House Veterans Affairs Committee. He provides an explanation and details of the VA's latest stonewalling tool, the requirement of veterans to first prove a "well-grounded" claim before a claim will even be processed. His Bill would clarify and reinforce the VA's duty to assist veterans in developing "well-grounded" claims.

UPDATE: MARCH 1, 2000

Address to the US Senate/House Veterans Affairs Committee seeking approval of legislation presently being considered by the committee.

Included are comments urging Congress to add certain conditions to the list of presumptive disabilities for veterans exposed to ionizing radiation—a position consistent with statements made by the IOM study director, Dr. Susan Thaul. She alluded to the crucial missing data on the levels of radiation received by veterans, inequalities shown to Atomic Veterans and the need for justice.

[ This includes only a partial list of veteran bills that passed in January 2000.]

UPDATE: JANUARY 27, 2000

Listed below is legislation passed by Congress as a result of your dedication and commitment to enhancing and protecting veterans benefits and services.
From Mr. Joseph A. Violante -- DAV National Legislative Director

H.R. 2116
Veterans' Millennium Health Care and Benefits Act
Public Law 106-117, enacted on November 30, 1999

The Veterans' Millennium Health Care Act was enacted to enhance programs providing health care, education, memorial, and other benefits for veterans, and to authorize major medical facility projects for the VA. The law includes:

  • Adding the presumption that bronchiolo-alveolar carcinoma is service connected for atomic veterans.
  • Restoring CHAMPVA medical coverage, educational assistance and housing loan benefits to eligible surviving spouses reinstated to the DIC rolls under Public Law 105-178
  • Long-Term Care
      Provisions for a four-year pilot program to provide institutional care, such as nursing home services, to enrolled veterans with a 70% or higher service-connected disability rating, or if the care is needed for a service-connected disability.

S. 1059

National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2000
Public Law 106-65, enacted on October 5, 1999

Special Compensation for Severely Disabled Retirees - Authorizing "special pay" for certain retirees who received non-disability retirements after a minimum of 20 years active service and who received a disability rating of 70% or more from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) within four years of military longevity retirement. Eligible disabled retirees who are rated 100% disabled will receive $300 per month (including ratings for individual unemployability); retirees rated 90% will receive $200 per month; and retirees rated 70% or 80% will receive $100 per month.

DoD has not provided any official notification regarding the implementation of "special pay" for disabled, career retirees. However, we understand that you do not need to file an application or call anyone at this time; retirees will be centrally identified through payroll systems. Informed sources indicate that DoD will issue the taxable benefit and that all payments, when they begin, will be retroactive to October 1, 1999. We will provide updated information concerning the special pay benefit as it becomes available. Attached is a copy of VA's Fast Letter on Special Compensation.

Honor Guard Details - Requiring the military services, upon request, to provide honor guard details for veterans' funerals. At least two members of the honor guard detail will be active duty or active reserve personnel. A funeral honors detail shall, at a minimum, perform at the funeral a ceremony that includes the folding of the United States flag and presentation of the flag to the veteran's family and the playing of Taps. Persons who wish to request an honor guard detail for a deceased veteran should notify their funeral director.

Persons seeking to participate in a funeral honors ceremony conducted on behalf of the Secretary of Defense must be trained and recognized as an authorized provider by the Secretary of the Military Department.

This provision also includes language that the Secretary of a military department may provide reimbursement for transportation, expenses, material, equipment costs and training for members of a veterans' organization participating in the honor guard detail. Policy to implement this provision of law has not been finalized and will be published by the (DoD) at a later date.

Retirement Pay Reform - Repealing the reduction of retired pay for military retirees employed in federal civilian positions, effective October 1, 1999.

UPDATE: NOVEMBER 23, 1999

MORTON V. WEST: UPDATE

Recently, as most of you are aware, the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (the Court) held that the VA is prohibited from developing claims found not well grounded. The Court concluded in Morton that "under section 5107, [title 38, United States Code,] absent the submission and establishment of a well-grounded claim, the Secretary cannot undertake to assist a veteran in developing facts pertinent to his or her claim." In so holding, the Court rejected the argument that the provisions in the manual, M21-1, and VA policy that claims should be fully developed were controlling. The Morton opinion holds that VA must decide whether a claim is well grounded before undertaking any development.

The IB, in its fiscal year 2001 Critical Issues Report, urged Congress to enact legislation to correct the judicial misinterpretation of the meaning of "well-grounded" claim. The IB veterans service organizations (IBVSOs) urged Congress to consider that, although it has always been the VA's duty to assist a claimant in developing the facts pertinent to the claim, these court decisions have radically changed the VA claims process from one that is simple, informal, and helpful to veterans to one filled with complex procedural hurdles. As a consequence, the system now works against veterans rather than for them as intended by Congress.

The Morton v. West decision resulted in the introduction of legislation in the Senate and House to correct the problems resulting from the Court's misinterpretation of the rule on "well-grounded" claims and the duty to assist. Legislation has been introduced by Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) (S. 1810) and Representative Lane Evans (D-IL) (H.R. 3193). Grassroots efforts are underway to encourage other members of Congress to cosponsor and support these bills. Prepared e-mail messages urging members of Congress to cosponsor and support these bills.Prepared e-mail messages urging cosponsorship of these bills are available on DAV's website at www.dav.org, by selecting "Write to Congress" under the "Legislative Action" section.


LEGISLATION PASSED BY 106TH CONGRESS DURING 1ST SESSION

S. 1059

On October 5, 1999, President Clinton signed the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2000, S. 1059, Public Law 106-65. The bill contains a number of provisions that are beneficial to veterans, including:

  • Authorizing "special pay" for veterans with a minimum of 20 years active service and a disability rating of 70% or more within four years of military longevity retirement (this includes a total rating for individual unemployability). Eligible disabled retirees who are rated 100% disabled will receive $300 per month; retirees rated 90% will receive $200 per month; and retirees rated 70% or 80% will receive $100 per month.

  • Expanding Arlington National Cemetery to extend availability of burial space with a transfer of approximately 36 acres, known as the Navy Annex of the Pentagon, to the cemetery.

  • Requiring the military services, upon request, to provide honor guard details for veterans' funerals. At least two members of the honor guard detail will be active duty personnel. This provision also includes reimbursement for transportation and equipment costs for members of a veterans/military organization participating in the honor guard detail.

  • Repealing the reduction of retired pay for military retirees employed in federal civilian positions, effective October 1, 1999.

H.R.2116

On August 16, 1999, the House approved the conference report on H.R. 2116 . House and Veterans' Affairs Committee conferees earlier agreed to the legislation that would expand long-term care for veterans. The measure passed the Senate on November 19, 1999 and will be sent to the White House. At this time, the legislative staff is in the process of completing a thorough review of the conference report. The legislation includes:

  • Exempting compensably rated service-connected veterans and low-income veterans from co-payment on long-term care services.

  • Expanding non-institutional care for all enrolled veterans.

  • Authorizing VA to provide reimbursement for emergency care not provided in a VA facility to certain enrolled veterans who have received VA care within a two-year period prior to the emergency care and who have no other health care coverage.

  • Waiving the otherwise-applicable co-payment obligation for VA health care for military retirees eligible for care under the TRICARE program.

  • Restoring CHAMPVA medical coverage, educational assistance and housing loan benefits to eligible surviving spouses reinstated to the DIC rolls under Public Law 105-178.

  • Restoring CHAMPVA medical coverage, educational assistance and housing loan benefits to eligible surviving spouses reinstated to the DIC rolls under Public Law 105-178.

  • Adding the presumption that bronchiolo-alveolar carcinoma is service connected for atomic veterans.


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