National WWII Memorial Washington DC *********************************
State Veteran's Benefits & Discounts ► Rhode Island 2015 The state of Rhode Island provides several benefits to veterans as indicated below. To obtain information on these plus discounts listed on the Military and Veterans Discount Center (MCVDC) website, refer to the attachment to this Bulletin titled, “Vet State Benefits & Discounts – RI” for an overview of the below benefits. Benefits are available to veterans who are residents of the state. For a more detailed explanation of each of the following benefits listed refer to http://www.vets.ri.gov and http://militaryandveteransdiscounts.com/location/rhode-island.html:
Rhode Island Veteran's Home
Rhode Island Veteran's Cemetery
Rhode Island Veteran's Benefit Counseling
Other State Sponsored Veteran Benefits
[Source: http://www.military.com/benefits/veteran-state-benefits/rhode-island-state-veterans-benefits.html Nov 2015 ++]
* Vet Legislation *
VA Family Caregiver Assistance Update 02:►H.R.2894 Introduced DAV has worked diligently for several years as a part of a larger coalition of veterans organizations that promoted the advent of family caregiver support services for severely injured and ill veterans. Congress finally responded five years ago by enacting Public Law 111-163, the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act of 2010. However, that act limited services and supports to family caregivers of veterans injured or who became severely ill in military service only on or after September 11, 2001. That omission left thousands of veterans' families without the level of caregiver support and services they have needed because those veterans' health challenges, many from war injuries, occurred before that effective date.
On 25 JUN, Representatives Elizabeth Esty and Ryan Costello introduced H.R. 2894, the "Caregivers Access and Responsible Expansion for All Veterans Act," or the "CARE for All Veterans Act." If enacted, this bill would responsibly and finally address these families' needs on the same basis as those of veterans injured after September 11, 2001. Ultimately, when fully implemented, the bill would improve the lives of tens of thousands of veteran families, and will save the federal government massive sums that otherwise would need to be spent to provide institutional solutions to these veterans' health challenges and health maintenance. Therefore, this bill is both beneficial to these families and a taxpayer-friendly measure.
Veterans can assist in getting this legislation passed by urging their Representative to co-sponsorship and support of passage of H.R. 2894. A letter has been prepared for this purpose or you may write your own to express your views. Go to http://www.dav.org/can/?vvsrc=%2fCampaigns%2f43357%2fRespond to review DAV’s editable letter which can automatically be sent to legislators by their constituency. [Source: DAV Commander’s Action Network | November 14, 2015 ++]
VA Bonuses Update 29 ► H.R.1338 | 2016 $2M Senior Exec Cap The House on 16 NOV unanimously passed legislation capping fiscal 2016 bonuses for Veterans Affairs senior executives at $2 million. The measure amends the 2014 Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act to specifically limit the total amount of performance awards and bonuses given to top career executives at the department in fiscal 2016. The language in the Choice Act required the department to cap the aggregate amount of award and bonuses doled out to all VA employees at $360 million in each of the fiscal years 2015 through 2024. The VA had nearly 360,000 employees as of June 2015, according to data from the Office of Personnel Management’s Fedscope; of that total, 335 were listed as career senior executives. The provision was inserted into H.R.1338, which requires the department to study the burial of veterans’ unclaimed remains in national cemeteries run by the National Cemetery Administration. House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller (R-FL) praised lawmakers for “reining in VA’s outrageous, everyone-gets-a bonus culture,” calling on the Senate to follow suit.
The Senate companion bill to H.R.1338 was folded into a larger measure aimed at improving VA’s disability compensation claims backlog, which the Senate passed last week. Neither one of those bills contained a provision that would cap senior executive bonuses in fiscal 2016, as H.R.1338 does. Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV) unsuccessfully offered an amendment earlier this month to the fiscal 2016 Military Construction-VA spending bill that would have prohibited senior executives at the Veterans Benefits Administration from receiving bonuses. A Nov. 11 USA Today report found that the VA paid out more than $142 million in performance-based bonuses in 2014 to senior executives and other employees despite the department’s wide-ranging management problems. “Among the recipients were claims processors in a Philadelphia benefits office that investigators dubbed the worst in the country last year,” the report said. “They received $300 to $900 each. Managers in Tomah, Wis., got $1,000 to $4,000, even though they oversaw the over-prescription of opiates to veterans – one of whom died.”
The newspaper’s editorial board on 16 NOV criticized the department for rewarding employees involved in mismanagement with bonuses. “Misbegotten bonuses are not the VA’s most vital concern, but they're a troubling sign of ongoing dysfunction,” the piece stated. “If the agency can’t even stop handing out rewards to employees implicated in scandals, prospects seem poor that it can fix its far more complex problems.” VA has argued that performance awards and bonuses are an important way the department recruits and retains a talented workforce. "We are making every effort to recruit more quality people to help us care for those who 'have borne the battle,' particularly health care professionals," wrote VA Secretary Bob McDonald, in a separate op-ed published in USA Today on Monday. "We need every tool to compete and attract exceptional people to serve veterans as well as they served our nation."
McDonald pushed back on the criticism over the newspaper's report on performance awards, saying that "severely curtailing" such incentives only at the VA would be a "mistake." He also noted that the bonuses mentioned in the story were "more than a year old" and adhered to Office of Personnel Management standards. "They are based on performance during that period, not on events occurring after it. The majority who received awards were rank-and-file workers," he said. [Source: GovExec.com | Kellie Lunney | November 17, 2015++]
NDAA for 2016 Update 17 ►Obama Signs Into Law After an extra month wait, the annual defense authorization bill is finally law. President Obama signed the budget and policy bill on 25 NOV, marking the 54th consecutive year the measure has survived Washington political fights to become law. The most significant result for troops is the renewal of dozens of specialty pay and bonus authorities, and a massive overhaul of the military retirement system. Starting in 2018, newly enlisted troops will no longer have the traditional 20-year, all-or-nothing retirement plan. Under the changes, it will be replaced with a blended pension and investment system, featuring automatic contributions to troops' Thrift Savings Plans and an opportunity for government matches to personal contributions. The new system is expected to give roughly four in five service members some sort of retirement benefit when they leave the military, as opposed to the current system which benefits only one in five.
The $607 billion authorization bill also includes comprehensive defense acquisition reform and language designed to stop Obama from closing the detention facilities at Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. White House officials had objected to that language and hinted at a possible veto. But similar language in the measure each of the last six years didn't stop the president from signing past authorization measures into law Obama did veto an earlier draft of this fiscal 2016 authorization bill, but over broader fiscal fights that were resolved last month when lawmakers approved a new two-year spending plan that goes around mandatory budget caps for both defense and nondefense programs.
The legislation is only half the annual budget process for Congress. Lawmakers still need to pass a defense appropriations bill for fiscal 2016 to start new programs and acquisition plans. Congressional leaders are hopeful that can be done before Dec. 11, when a short-term budget extension expires. But finalizing the annual defense authorization bill is a significant step forward in that larger process, and gives Pentagon planners a host of other policy updates as well:
Allowing personal firearms on stateside bases — Lawmakers are requiring Defense Secretary Ash Carter to develop a plan by the end of this year that would allow stateside base commanders to decide whether to allow their service members to carry personal firearms on duty, or in areas where that is currently restricted by the military. Any such plan would not supercede local laws.
A pay freeze for general and flag officers — Troops will see a 1.3 percent pay increase in January, lower than the rate of expected private-sector wage growth but more than their senior officers will get. General and flag officer pay will stay at fiscal 2015 levels.
Another ban on a new BRAC round — Like in past years, the measure includes a prohibition on defense officials starting another base closing round. But lawmakers did include language allowing military officials to conduct studies on how much excess capacity exists in their stateside footprint, which could ease the path to such a move in the future.
A ban on "paid patriotism" with sports leagues — The bill includes language that would prohibit the department from entering into contracts "making payments for honoring members of the Armed Forces at sporting events," in response to congressional reports that several professional sports teams were given tens of thousands of dollars to conduct on-field military appreciation events.
Easier rules for military animal adoption — The measure changes the rules on adopting military dogs and other animals to make it easier for former handlers and families of injured handlers to adopt them following their military service.
Developing "gender-neutral" standards for military jobs — In response to a push to open more military specialties to female troops, lawmakers want Pentagon leaders to craft "gender-neutral occupational standards" that would allow "decisions on assignments (to) be based on objective analysis."
[Source: NavyTimes | Leo Shane | November 25, 2015 ++]
SSA COLA 2016 ►S.2251 | One Time Payment in Lieu of COLA On October, 15, 2015, the Social Security Administration (SSA) announced that due to low inflation this year, no cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) would be made in 2016 for Social Security beneficiaries. Since that decision would also apply to veterans receiving financial benefits, Senator Elizabeth Warren and 18 of her colleagues have jointly introduced a bill, S. 2251, the Seniors and Veterans Emergency Benefit Act. The bill would provide veterans and others in receipt of VA financial support a one-time payment of about $580 (calculated based on 3.9 percent of the average annual Social Security payment). This one-time payment would soften the financial blow associated with the lack of an increase through a COLA, and the payment would be tax free. Payments would be disbursed to beneficiaries beginning 120 days after enactment. Even if eligible for multiple federal benefits payments, individuals could receive only one payment under this bill.
A one-time payment is not comparable to an annual COLA, and a one-time payment becomes less valuable to more seriously disabled veterans because of their higher cost of living. However, in absence of a COLA or other viable alternative, NCOA calls upon its members and supporters to contact their elected officials in Congress and urge their support, co-sponsorship and passage of S.2251. A letter for this purpose has been prepared for your use, or you may write a personalized message to inform your House Member and Senators of your support for this bill. Go to http://ncoausa.org/index.php/legislation/legislative-action-center/?vvsrc=%2fCampaigns%2f43433%2fRespond and complete the contact data to forward the editable letter via email to your Senators. [Source: NCOA DC msg | November 18, 2015 ++]
Vet Employment/Education/Healthcare Improvement Act ►H.R. 3016 As ordered reported by the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs on 17 SEP H.R. 3016 the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has submitted their report which is available at https://www.cbo.gov/sites/default/files/114th-congress-2015-2016/costestimate/hr3016.pdf. In summary:
H.R.3016 would modify certain mandatory veterans’ programs, including those that provide educational benefits and mortgage loan guarantees. On net, CBO estimates that enacting H.R. 3016 would decrease direct spending by $815 million over the 2016-2025 period.
In addition, H.R. 3016 would expand the types of medical care provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA); reorganize the administration of several job training, readjustment benefits, and other benefit programs; transfer certain employment training and placement programs from the Department of Labor (DOL) to VA; and modify the processing of benefit claims. In total, CBO estimates that implementing the bill would cost $234 million over the 2016-2020 period, assuming appropriation of the necessary amounts.
Pay-as-you-go procedures apply because enacting the legislation would affect direct spending. Enacting the bill would not affect revenues.
CBO estimates that enacting H.R. 3016 would not increase net direct spending or on-budget deficits in any of the four consecutive 10-year periods beginning in 2026.
H.R. 3016 contains no intergovernmental or private-sector mandates as defined in the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act (UMRA) and would impose no costs on state, local, or tribal governments. State agencies that serve veterans would benefit from contact and service information about veterans provided electronically by VA.
[Source: CBO | November 19, 2015 ++]
Vet Bills Submitted to 114th Congress ► 151115 thru 151130
Refer to this Bulletin’s “House & Senate Veteran Legislation” attachment for a listing of Congressional bills of interest to the veteran community introduced in the 114th Congress. The list contains the bill’s number and name, what it is intended to do, it’s sponsor, any related bills, and the committees it has been assigned to. Support of these bills through cosponsorship by other legislators is critical if they are ever going to move through the legislative process for a floor vote to become law. A good indication of that likelihood is the number of cosponsors who have signed onto the bill. Any number of members may cosponsor a bill in the House or Senate. At https://beta.congress.gov you can review a copy of each bill’s content, determine its current status, the committee it has been assigned to, and if your legislator is a sponsor or cosponsor of it by entering the bill number in the site’s search engine. To determine what bills, amendments your representative/senator has sponsored, cosponsored, or dropped sponsorship on go to:
https://beta.congress.gov/search?q=%7B%22source%22%3A%5B%22legislation%22%5D%7D, Select the ‘Sponsor’ tab, and click on your congress person’s name. You can also go to http://thomas.loc.gov/home/thomas.php. Grassroots lobbying is the most effective way to let your Congressional representatives know your wants and dislikes. If you are not sure who is your Congressman go to https://beta.congress.gov/members. Members of Congress are receptive and open to suggestions from their constituents. The key to increasing cosponsorship support on veteran related bills and subsequent passage into law is letting legislators know of veteran’s feelings on issues. You can reach their Washington office via the Capital Operator direct at (866) 272-6622, (800) 828-0498, or (866) 340-9281 to express your views. Otherwise, you can locate their phone number, mailing address, or email/website to communicate with a message or letter of your own making at either:
FOLLOWING IS A SUMMARY OF VETERAN RELATED LEGISLATION INTRODUCED IN THE HOUSE SINCE THE LAST BULLETIN WAS PUBLISHED
H.R.3988 : Military and Veterans Education Protection Act. A bill to count revenues from military and veteran education programs toward the limit on Federal revenues that certain proprietary institutions of higher education are allowed to receive for purposes of section 487 of the Higher Education Act of 1965, and for other purposes.
H.R.3991 : Department of Veterans Affairs Veterans Education Relief and Restoration Act of 2015. A bill to amend title 38, United States Code, to provide veterans affected by school closures certain relief and restoration of educational benefits, and for other purposes.
H.R.4011 : Delivering Opportunities for Care and Services for Veterans Act of 2015. A bill to increase the number of graduate medical education positions treating veterans, to improve the compensation of health care providers, medical directors, and directors of Veterans Integrated Service Networks of the Department of Veterans Affairs, and for other purposes.
H.R.4012 : SAVE Benefits Act. A bill to provide for a supplementary payment to Social Security beneficiaries, supplemental security income beneficiaries, and recipients of veterans benefits, and for other purposes.
H.R.4039 : Veteran Small Business Tax Credit Act of 2015. A bill t amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to establish a small business start-up tax credit for veterans.
H.R.4053 : VA Repair/Remodel Grants to Facilities Serving Veterans. A bill to authorize the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to make grants for repair and remodeling of community centers, clinics, and hospitals that serve veterans.
H.R.4054 : Ensuring Quality Education for Veterans Act. A bill to revise the 90-10 rule under the Higher Education Act of 1965 to count veterans' education benefits under such rule, and for other purposes.
H.R.4071 : Give our Seniors and Veterans the COLA they Deserve Act. A bill to direct the Administrator of General Services to establish a program to sell Federal buildings that are not utilized to provide revenue for increases in social security benefits and military retirement pay, and for other purposes.
H.R.4080 : Veterans Mental Health Accessibility Act. A bill to amend title 38, United States Code, to provide for unlimited eligibility for health care for mental illnesses for veterans of combat service during certain periods of hostilities and war.
H.R.4087 : Fair Treatment for Families of Veterans Act. A bill to amend title 38, United States Code, to adjust the effective date of certain reductions and discontinuances of compensation, dependency and indemnity compensation, and pension under the laws administered by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs.
H.R.4118 : Veterans Legal Support Act of 2015. A bill to authorize the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to provide support to university law school programs that are designed to provide legal assistance to veterans, and for other purposes.
H.R.4125 : Veteran Medical Facility Access in Densely Populated Communities. A bill to direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to conduct a study on the feasibility of the Secretary entering into public-private partnerships to improve the access of veterans to medical facilities in densely populated communities and rural communities.
FOLLOWING IS A SUMMARY OF VETERAN RELATED LEGISLATION INTRODUCED IN THE SENATE SINCE THE LAST BULLETIN WAS PUBLISHED
S.2263 : HIRE Vets Act. A bill to encourage effective, voluntary private sector investments to recruit, employ, and retain men and women who have served in the United States military with annual Federal awards to private sector employers recognizing such investments, and for other purposes.
S.2265 : Improve Rural Area VA Health Care. A bill to improve the provision of health care by the Department of Veterans Affairs to veterans in rural and highly rural areas, and for other purposes.
S.2268 : Dust Off Crews of the Vietnam War Congressional Gold Medal Act. A bill to award a Congressional Gold Medal to the United States Army Dust Off crews of the Vietnam War, collectively, in recognition of their extraordinary heroism and life-saving actions in Vietnam.
S.2273 : STARTUP Vets Act of 2015. A bill to require the Administrator of the Small Business Administration to establish an incubator and accelerator grant program for veterans and members of the Armed Forces.
S.2277 : Veterans Homebuyer Accessibility Act of 2015. A bill to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to allow a credit for veteran first-time homebuyers and for adaptive housing and mobility improvements for disabled veterans, and for other purposes.
S.2291 : VA Patient Protection Act of 2015. A bill to amend title 38, United States Code, to establish procedures within the Department of Veterans Affairs for the processing of whistleblower complaints, and for other purposes.
S.2316 : Reissuance Of Veterans Benefits Requirements. A bill to amend title 38, United States Code, to expand the requirements for reissuance of veterans benefits in cases of misuse of benefits by certain fiduciaries to include misuse by all fiduciaries, and to improve oversight of fiduciaries, and for other purposes.
S.2331 : Amend Servicemembers Civil Relief Act. A bill to amend the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act to make invalid and unenforceable predispute arbitration agreements with respect to controversies arising under provisions of such Act and to preserve the rights of servicemembers to bring class actions under such Act, and for other purposes.
[Source: https://beta.congress.gov & http: //www.govtrack.us/congress/bills November 30, 2015 ++]