2017-04-19 / Op-Ed

Veterans’ Affairs & Benefits

By David Miller

Bills to expand caregivers program introduced

The Military and Veteran Caregiver Services Improvement Act” (H.R. 1472/S. 591) has been introduced in the House and Senate to expand the Department of Veterans Affairs Caregivers program to include veterans catastrophically disabled before Sept. 11, 2001. The current program applies to veterans disabled on or after Sept. 11, 2001. A 2014 RAND study commissioned by the Elizabeth Dole Foundation estimated the services caregivers provide veterans, saves our nation $13.6 billion annually. These caregivers too often pay a price by suffering from physical stress, emotional stress and illnesses. They have difficulty maintaining employment and can suffer from financial or legal problems, family strains and isolation. These military caregivers shoulder the everyday responsibilities of providing care for those who suffered the emotional and physical tolls of war. These individuals make many sacrifices to care for their loved ones and they deserve support. This bill will expand access to services for caregivers and help ensure they have the resource they need to care for severely disabled veterans.

Activated reservists should receive benefits during deployment

Many Reserve Component members (National Guard and Reservists) who have been activated since 2013 may not realize that they are no longer eligible for certain benefits. This was due to a provision inserted into the FY 2012 National Defense Authorization Act during the Obama administration. It wanted to continue to mobilize Reserve Component personnel while also trimming costs from the Defense budget. Congressman Steven Palazzo (Miss.) and Senator Al Franken (Minn.) have introduced H.R. 1384 and S. 667 respectively, the “Reserve Component Benefits Parity Act,” in an effort to ensure these individuals receive the benefits due to them while they are called up to active duty. This legislation addresses the areas of healthcare (pre and post-mobilization), retirement age reduction, education eligibility for the 9/11 GI Bill, vocational training and pay differentials.

Legislation creating Vietnam Veterans Day signed into law

President Donald Trump recently signed legislation into law. The “Vietnam War Veterans Recognition Act” (S. 305) sponsored by Senators Pat Toomey (Penn.) and Joe Donnelly (Ind.) establishes March 29 as Vietnam Veterans Day. The date was selected because March 29, 1973 was the date that the last combat troops were ordered out of Vietnam. The bill passed the Senate and House unanimously. The law makes March 29 an official day “the flag should be displayed.”

My Note: Vietnam veterans did not receive the warm welcome when they came home. In the years following the Vietnam War, people and organizations across the country took it upon themselves to right this wrong, but most of the veterans I know think it is too little too late. Many remain bitter over how they were treated and how the news media and Hollywood portrayed them.

Coast Guard misses out on funding boost

It has been reported that the Trump Administration will substantially increase the Armed Services (Navy, Marine Corps, Army, and Air Force) spending by nine percent in their soon-to-be-released FY 2018 budget request. The U.S. Coast Guard which falls under the Department of Homeland Security, will not get a similar budget increase.

David Miller is a resident of Lexington Township. He is retired Navy and a member of the Fleet Reserve Association, Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion. He provides an occasional column here in the Irregular on veterans’ benefits and concerns. (#145)

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