 Veterans call to remove provisions of tax reform bills that will hurt veterans employment and education:

Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), the leading Post-9/11 veterans organization along with other veteran service organizations, , raised concerns that two proposals within the current tax reform bills on Capitol Hill will hurt veterans. One proposal would remove the Work Opportunity Tax Credit, which incentivizes employers to hire veterans. The other proposal removes the student loan interest tax deduction, which allows individuals to deduct interest on student loans that they took out while pursuing their studies. These proposals, if passed, would undoubtedly hurt veterans at a moment when our nation must be investing in veterans and ensuring that any proposed changes to our tax code help, not hurt, veterans. While the tax bill may be a partisan issue, veterans employment and education should not.

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 Committee approves bipartisan legislation to improve veterans’ community care:

U.S. Senators Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., and Jon Tester, D-Mont., chairman and ranking member of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, today applauded the overwhelming committee passage of bipartisan legislation to streamline and strengthen veterans’ healthcare services at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and in the community to ensure efficient, timely and quality care.
The Caring for Our Veterans Act of 2017 as amended was passed 14-1 by the committee. The legislation now goes to the full Senate for a vote.

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 Senate bill would expand caregiver benefits to veterans of all eras

If enacted, recently introduced Senate legislation would strengthen and reform the Department of Veteran’s Affairs health care system and create a new integrated community care program.
Sponsored by Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Johnny Isakson and Ranking Member Jon Tester, the bipartisan “Caring for our Veterans Act of 2017” also includes a critical provision that would extend comprehensive VA caregiver benefits to veterans severely injured during and prior to the Vietnam War. Following a two year period, the program would expand to include veterans of all eras.

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 VA suspends applications for new ID cards:

The Department of Veterans Affairs has suspended applications for its new veteran identification card program due to a large number of applicants, according to a notice on its website. According to outside sources, the VA immediately faced technical errors when attempting to issue new ID cards to eligible veterans.

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Senate Bill 2193 is a “Double Fix”

Last week, the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee approved S. 2193, a comprehensive VA health care bill, which includes provisions to overhaul the agency’s community care program, provide additional funds to improve the VA health care system and extend VA’s comprehensive family caregiver program to veterans of all eras.

On December 7, 2017 DAV joined with 25 other service organizations asking all Senators to push for approval of this landmark legislation (click here to read the letter), and we need everyone who cares about veterans make sure their voice is heard.

VA has been purchasing care in the community through the Choice Program, but this program has been troubled since its rocky implementation.  S. 2193 contains numerous provisions DAV supports based on our resolutions, including one that would leave the decision to receive community care between veterans and their clinicians.  To avoid implementation challenges, Choice would continue to operate as the new program is phased in and would provide additional funds for VA to fill thousands of clinical vacancies across the country.

One of DAV’s top legislative priorities for the past few years is addressing the inequity in access to VA’s comprehensive family caregivers’ assistance program, currently limited to veterans severely injured on or after September 11, 2001.  Veterans of other eras and their family caregivers have been left to their own devices without the critical and comprehensive support from VA’s caregiver program.

Please help DAV and our allies convince the Senate to move this important legislation forward.  We ask you to send the prepared email now.

As always, thank you for your support of the Commander’s Action Network.

Click the link below to log in and send your message:

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 Post 9/11 veterans demand Congressional action for military sexual assualt survivors:

U.S. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), John Kennedy (R-LA), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Richard Blumenthal (D- CT), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), survivors, veteran advocates, and bipartisan leaders in support of the Military Justice Improvement Act (MJIA). A campaign to recognize and support women troops and veterans continued, as male and female veteran leaders addressed the bill’s importance, noting that not enough is being done to protect survivors of military sexual assault or to prevent these egregious crimes from happening in the first place. The chain of command is too often failing service members, and it’s appalling that this remains a problem.
Many veteran service organizations are demanding congressional action regarding military sexual trauma and the
need to take care of all veterans who suffer from this trauma. With our reliance on an all-volunteer force that comes from less than 1% of America, we have to ensure that men and women know that their commanders will have their backs.

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 Gulf War syndrome:

Of all that was revealed by a government watchdog this year about how the Department of Veterans Affairs treats Persian Gulf War veterans, the most shocking discovery was that most doctors aren’t trained about illnesses specific to veterans of that era.
Thousands of the 700,000 service members who deployed for Operation Desert Storm and Desert Shield suffer from an amalgam of chronic, unexplained illnesses including fibromyalgia, fatigue and gastrointestinal disorders. The VA dedicated a research team to Gulf War illness, and it has initiated dozens of clinical trials, the agency has spent millions of dollars to fund studies, and officials at VA headquarters in Washington are involved in biweekly calls and quarterly meetings on the issue. Dr. Peter Rumm, director of the VA’s pre-9/11 environmental health program, described some of their research as “cutting edge.” But the information gathered by researchers and VA officials isn’t always translated to health care providers who work with veterans.
I know you are getting tired of me sayinbg this but, we need to let your representatives know our thoughts. Those who served in the Gulf War need to recogtnized and care for.

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Help Protect Veterans who are unable to work

On November 9, 2017, Representative Maxine Waters (CA), introduced H.R. 4369, the Protecting Benefits for Disabled Veterans Act of 2017.  The bill would codify regulations on Individual Unemployability (IU) into federal law. Furthermore, H.R. 4369 would provide additional protections for IU and prohibit the VA from considering the age of the veteran or their eligibility to any retirement benefit, including Social Security, in making such determinations. The DAV supports this legislation in accordance with DAV Resolution No. 034.

In May 2017, the Administration’s budget proposal contained a proposal that would have eliminated eligibility for VA’s IU program for thousands of disabled veterans. If enacted, it would have terminated existing IU ratings for veterans when they reach the age of 62-the minimum retirement age for Social Security benefits–as well as cut off IU benefits for any veteran already in receipt of Social Security retirement benefits. In the face of staunch opposition from DAV and other VSOs, the Administration subsequently backed away from this measure; however, the threat remains that this proposal or something like it could resurface in the future.

As we testified to Congress earlier this year, DAV is vehemently opposed to limiting disability compensation benefits, including IU, due to a veteran’s age. Many disabled veterans may not have income replacement available-especially those who have been on IU for an extended period in advance of reaching retirement age. Cutting off IU eligibility for veterans who turn 62 would compel many disabled veterans to take Social Security benefits early which significantly reduces the value of the benefit. The disabled veterans affected could thus be “doubly” penalized because they cannot work and save for retirement as do many peers of their age.  Eliminating their eligibility for IU would be grossly unfair.

H.R. 4369 would place regulations for eligibility for IU directly into law and protect IU benefits from any ill-conceived cost-saving measures in the future. We are calling on all DAV members and supporters to contact their Representatives and urge them to co-sponsor and support H.R. 4369 to protect veterans and their families now and in the future, from these harmful proposals.

Thank you for standing with us and participating in the DAV Commander’s Action Network.

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• Women vet health risks ► greater than civilians:

Women who’ve served in the military are more likely to suffer from suicidal thoughts, cardiovascular disease, arthritis, and other problems according to a new study looking at the health of female veterans. Female vets report higher rates of cancer, mental illness, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and depression when compared to women with no military experience, the United Health Foundation Health of Women Who Have Served Report found. MOAA teamed with United Health Foundation to produce the report.
More than 8 percent of the female veterans surveyed over a four-year period reported having suicidal thoughts in the past year – nearly twice that of their civilian counterparts. About a third reported arthritis, compared to about 26 percent of civilian women.

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• VA Blue Water claims update ► expansion proposal sidelined:

The failure again raises problematic questions for lawmakers about how to balance federal costs with government
responsibilities. Critics noted that on the same day lawmakers offered a massive tax reform measure expected to cost $5.8 trillion over 10 years, they could not find a way to cover a small fraction of that total to help sick veterans. “We’re absolutely appalled at Congress’ inability to reach bipartisan support to take care of it’s blue water veterans,” said Mike Little, director of legislative affairs at the Association of the
United States Navy. A plan to extend disability benefits to nearly 100,000 war veterans potentially exposed to Agent Orange on ships off the Vietnam coastline were sidelined 31 OCT over the ongoing dispute about how to pay for it.

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