The Official Voice of Vietnam Veterans of America, Inc. ®
An organization chartered by the U.S. Congress
BY H. AVERY TAYLOR, CHAIR, VVA
GOVERNMENT AFFAIRS COMMITTEE,
WITH VVA GOVERNMENT RELATIONS STAFF
In an attempt to legislate down the
long waits for appointments experienced by too many veterans,
Florida Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite introduced in September the
Veterans Timely Access to Health Care Act. Subcommittee
hearings have already been held on the bill, H.R. 3094,
which would make the standard for a veteran seeking primary care
from the VA 30 days from the date the veteran initially
contacted the VA. Care would be rendered at the appropriate VA
medical center or at non-VA facilities should the VAMC be unable
to accommodate the veteran within the specified time frame.
VVA testified in September before the Committee on Veterans'
Affairs Subcommittee on Health in support of this bill.
The goal of another piece of legislation, H.R. 2379, to
improve access to health care for veterans residing in rural
areas, faces a struggle. Language in the bill, introduced by
Nebraska Rep. Tom Osborne, the Rural Veterans Access to Care
Act of 2003 attempts to curb what some see as discrimination
in delivery of VA health care services to veterans residing in
The problems these bills address are at least in part a result
of inadequate resources. The Administration request for each
veteran using a VA medical facility is only 60 cents on the
dollar as compared to a Medicare patient. Until the veterans
health care funding base in restored, admirable solutions such
as those offered by Reps. Osborne and Brown-Waite cannot have
the desired effect in restoring equity and reasonable standards
for care at the VA.
Republican Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell introduced in May S.
1092, the National War Permanent Tribute Historical
Database Act. A companion bill was introduced in the House
by his Democratic colleague, Rep. Mark Udall. This legislation,
which was referred to the Committee on Energy and Natural
Resources, would authorize the establishment of a national
database for purposes of identifying, locating, and cataloging
the many memorials and permanent tributes to America's veterans.
Sen. Campbell is also the author of S. 330, a bill which
calls for severe criminal penalties for anyone who willfully
injures or destroys, or attempts to injure or destroy, any
structure, plaque, statue, or other monument on public property
commemorating service in the Armed Forces. A related bill,
H.R. 2076, sponsored by Rep. Christopher John of Louisiana,
called for grants to repair veterans memorials. In May, these
bills became Public Law 108-29.
Facets of several of the aforementioned bills have been rolled
into the Veterans Benefits Act of 2003. H.R. 2297 passed in the
House in October by 399-0; its Senate companion, S. 1132, passed
in the Senate on the last day of October by unanimous consent.
If signed into law by the President, the act would:
make permanent the State Cemetery
increase the specially adapted
automobile grant from $9,000 to $11,000, increase the specially
adapted housing grant from $48,000 to $50,000 for the most
severely disabled veterans and from $9,350 to $10,000 for other
add cirrhosis as a presumed
service-connected disability for ex-POWs;
eliminate the requirement that an
ex-POW must have been held in captivity for at least 30 days in
order to qualify for presumption of service-connection for
several specific disabilities;
make permanent the VA home loan
program for members of the Selected Reserve; and
expand eligibility for benefits to
children born with spina bifida of veterans who served near the
demilitarized zone in Korea between October 1, 1967 and May 7,
Finally, several bills have been
introduced with a common theme and goal: to ensure adequate
funding for veterans health care. These include S.50,
introduced by Sen. Tim Johnson of South Dakota; H.R. 2475,
the Veterans Health Care Full Funding Act, introduced by
House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Chris Smith; H.R.
2318, the Assured Funding for Veterans Health Care Act of
2003, introduced by Rep. Lane Evans, Ranking Member on the
House Veterans Affairs Committee. It is the position of VVA that
we must restore the funding base to at least parity with
recipients of Medicare and then move to ensure that reasonable
increases match increases caused by medical inflation and
greater demand on the system.
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