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Sunday, August 03, 2008

Military Construction and VA Appropriations, Disability Claims Modernization, Veterans Compensation Cost of Living Adjustment

As Congress begins their annual August break, a look at some of their pre-recess veterans-related work:

  • The U.S. House of Representatives passed [409-4] the 2009 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations bill that would eclipse President Bush's budgetary request by $3.4 billion and gives the green light on construction of a new replacement VA hospital in Louisville, Ky. It still has to pass the Senate -- and the president's veto pen -- before the full $118 billion can be doled out.

  • The House also rushed through another eight veterans' benefits bills, including the unanimous approval of the Disability Claims Modernization Act, which would speed up claims processing for those veterans recovering from disabilities clearly (i.e., serious physical combat wounds) connected to their military service. Senators Charles Schumer [D-NY] and Hillary Clinton [D-NY] have agreed to introduce Rep. John Hall's [D-NY] legislation it in the Senate in the "hopes of improving the delivery of compensation to veterans, their families and survivors."

  • Meanwhile, the Senate passed the Veterans Compensation Cost of Living Adjustment Act, which would provide the nation's 3 million veterans drawing service-connected disability benefits the same cost-of-living increases Social Security recipients receive today. The legislation will have to pass the Senate and be signed into law before it can go into effect on December 1, 2008.

  • The new GI Bill, dubbed "a GI Bill for the 21st century," officially went into effect on Friday, more than doubling the educational benefit each Afghanistan and Iraq veteran earns to $90,000 from $40,000. "The Post-9/11 GI Bill will cover full tuition at the most expensive public college in a veteran's home state, grant up to $1,000 for books and supplies, and provide a monthly living stipend."

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