2009-04-15 / Seniors

Crowley Cheers Increase In Vets' Benefits And Homeless Services

Our fighting men and women, past and present, will benefit from three bills passed by the House of Representatives recently that are presently being considered by the U.S. Senate.

Passed unanimously by the House, the bills will enhance services for millions of vets across the nation by increasing outreach for homeless veterans, such as those housed in the Borden Avenue Shelter in Long Island City, expand reimbursement of emergency medical care and boost disability benefits for wounded vets and their beneficiaries.

Congressmember Joseph Crowley (D- Queens/The Bronx) commented: "The Democratic-led Congress is continuing its commitment to our nation's veterans by investing and expanding the benefits they earn while serving our country. I am proud to support these critical bills to expand veterans' services in honor of the men and women of the armed forces and their families across Queens and The Bronx who have sacrificed so much for our nation.

"Watching over how the federal government cares for our veterans is truly one of the most rewarding responsibilities I have as a member of Congress. I am committed to making sure we honor their service, not only with words, but with deeds; this package of bills does exactly that by helping millions of veterans across the nation access medical care and modernize their benefits."

The bill dealing with homeless veterans reauthorizes the VA's homeless veterans reintegration programs, such as job training, counseling and placement services to expedite their entrance into the labor force. It directs the Secretary of Labor to make grants to programs and facilities that provide dedicated services for homeless women veterans and homeless veterans with children.

A second bill expands the VA's ability to reimburse a veteran for the cost of emergency care provided in a non-VA facility. Crowley said the VA will now be able to act as a "secondary payer" for veterans, paying the difference between the amount paid by the third party insurer and the VA allowance amount.

Crowley added that veterans would not be liable for any remaining balance due to the provider after the third party insurer and the VA have made their payments.

The final bill passed directs the VA as of Dec. 1, 2009 to increase the rates of veterans' disability compensation, additional compensation for dependents, the clothing allowance for certain disabled adult children and dependency and indemnity compensation for surviving spouses and children to provide local veterans a cost-of-living allowance on their compensation for service to our country.

OBAMA EYES BETTER VET HEALTH CARE, TOO: President Barack Obama also had veterans' health care on his mind last Thursday as he announced a plan to computerize healthcare records, which holds the promise of better record retention and fewer bureaucratic delays.

Under the president's plan, medical records of a servicemember that originate during active service will flow directly from the military branch to the Department of Veterans Affairs. Presently, servicemembers must hand carry their health records to VA facilities once they leave the service and need medical attention. Records are easily lost under this system and delays in treatment often occur.

The president also indicated his support for approving the VA budget a year in advance so that money for veterans' medical care is always on hand. Congressional budget passage is generally late, creating delays in having funds on hand to pay for urgently needed medical and surgical services for veterans.

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