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VFW Washington Weekly, June 12, 2009

Posted at 03:26 PM on Friday, June 12, 2009 by Dept MO-VFW

In This Issue:
1. VA Committees Hold Hearings on CARES

2. House Committee Clears Advanced Funding/Other Vet Bills
3. Defense Bill Update
1. VA Committees Hold Hearings on CARES:  This week, VFW testified before both House and Senate Veterans' Affairs Committees on the future of VA's health infrastructure. VFW has been supportive of VA's Capitol Asset Realignment for Enhanced Services process (CARES). The CARES model is a systematic, data-driven assessment of VA's facilities designed to evaluate present and future demands for health-care services.  We testified that the strength of CARES is in the decision making framework that it created enabling VA to reassess annually their construction priorities and veterans' needs. Currently VA has a large number of projects underway and some still in the planning and design phase. One of the challenges remains the funding issue. We stressed the need for Congress and the Administration to provide full funding for major construction accounts to reduce the backlog and to begin funding future construction priorities. Another difficulty has been communication between VA and the veteran communities affected by the changes to the CARES process. We believe that VA needs to do a better job of explaining what their plans are for every location based on the facts so as to not create a sense of urgency among veterans that there care is being taken away.  Access to care for all involved, especially those in rural areas, is a major challenge and we believe that many of the answers lie outside of the construction process.
To read our testimony visit the VFW website at: http://www.vfw.org/index.cfm?fa=caphill.leveld&did=3702
For more on both hearings, visit the House and Senate VA websites at:
2. House Committee Clears Advanced Funding/ Vet Bills. The House Veterans' Affairs Committee approved 23-0, VFW-supported legislation that would fund VA medical care one year in advance.  The committee also included VA's IT accounts in the bill (HR 1016) as an amendment. HR 1016, The Veterans Health Care Budget Reform and Transparency Act of 2009, will allow VA to better plan for the future, attract and recruit high-quality health care professionals, and allow them to better target gaps in care. The Senate passed their version (S.423) in May.
Other VFW-supported bills cleared by the committee include:
HR 952 would expand the meaning of combat with the enemy to mean active duty service in a combat theater during a time of war not just during actual combat. The bill aims to shorten the claims process for many veterans suffering from psychological injuries. 
HR 2270 would establish a compensation fund for certain WWII veterans who were not eligible for readjustment benefits.  Those eligible would receive a monthly payment of $1000
HR 1037 would authorize $10 million annually to implement a five-year pilot program to expand work-study activities for veterans on campuses.
HR 1098, The Veterans' Worker Retraining Act of 2009 would increase educational assistance for veterans pursuing internships or on-the-job training. It also increased the monthly training assistance for eligible veterans and their dependents under the Survivors and Dependents Educational Assistance program.
HR 2180 would waive housing loan fees for veterans with service-connected disabilities called to active duty.
HR 1821, The Equity for Injured Veterans Act of 2009 would extend VA's Vocational Rehabilitation program to 15 years following discharge or release from active duty. It also authorizes single parents participating in the program up to $2000 a month for child care services.
HR 1211, The Women Veterans Health Care Improvement Act is a comprehensive bill that will improve health care services for female veterans.
For more information on any of the bills cleared visit the House VA website at: http://veterans.house.gov/
OR type the bill # into the box at http://thomas.loc.gov/
 3. Defense Bill Update: The House Armed Services Subcommittee on Military Personnel, this week, approved the subcommittee's markup of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010. For the first time ever, the Department of Defense (DOD) will have the statutory mandate to account for all the missing from World War II, Korea, the Cold War, the Vietnam era, the Persian Gulf War and other conflicts designated by the Secretary of Defense.  Furthermore, the DOD will be tasked to significantly increase the number of identifications from the current 70 per year to 200 by 2015 and subsequently to 350 per year by 2020.
Other initiatives included in the markup are:
**Expanding chiropractic health care to all active duty military members;
**Extending TRICARE Reserve Select to members of the Retired Reserve who are qualified for a non-regular retirement but are not yet age 60 otherwise known as "gray area retirees;  and,
**Requiring a medical examination prior to the involuntarily separation of service members with post-traumatic stress disorder or traumatic brain injury. 
The subcommittee's markup will be forwarded to the House Armed Services Committee for approval.

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