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Military Connection: Obama Signs VA Reform Bill: By Debbie Gregory

VA reform billOn Thursday August 7, 2014, President Obama signed the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act of 2014 into law. The legislation, commonly referred to as the VA reform bill, is intended to give the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) the necessary funding and resources to improve the access to, and the quality of, care for Veterans.

The highly publicized legislation passed in the House on Wednesday, July 30th , and in the Senate the following evening.

Included in the bill are the means to expand survivor benefits and educational opportunities. It also contains provisions to improve care for victims of sexual assault and Veterans struggling with traumatic brain injuries.

In total, $16.3 billion has been allotted to expand the following programs and benefits for Veterans:

Ensuring that the VA healthcare system has the resources it needs: Earmarked $5 billion will allow the VA to hire more doctors and more nurses to staff more clinics. As Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans transition into civilian life, the VA system needs to keep pace with the increased demand and patient population. The bill also allots $1.3 billion more to finance 27 new VA facilities across the country.

Providing timely care: For Veterans who haven’t received timely care through the VA system, this bill will help them get the care they need through private healthcare providers. This is particularly important for Veterans living in remote areas. Under the signed legislation, Veterans who live more than 40 miles from a VA facility will be able to seek treatment outside the VA system. This allowance would also apply to Veterans who are unable to receive an appointment in a reasonable amount of time.

Accountability of VA employees: The measure grants the VA secretary the authority to remove senior executives who fail to meet the standards of conduct and competence that their position within the department requires. Specifically, the legislation facilitates the firing of employees who engage in an unethical practice, such as conspiring to cover up a serious problem.

In-state tuition for all Veteran students: Another section of the legislation calls for public schools that don’t offer the in-state tuition rate to Veterans and Veteran dependents, using education benefits, to lose access to all GI Bill tuition students. While not mandating that colleges and universities charge the in-state price, the provision makes it in the schools’ best interest to offer Veterans the lower tuition rate.

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Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard &amp, Reserve, Veterans and their Families. We are the go to site for Veteran Employment and information on Veteran education. Militaryconnection.com provides Veterans with and Directory of Employers, a Job Board, information on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and a blog that offers Veterans boundless information. Be sure to visit Militaryconnection.com, the go to site.

Military Connection: Obama Signs VA Reform Bill:   By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: VA Reform Bill Passes: By Debbie Gregory

VA reform billThe long awaited legislation designed to reform the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), has been passed by both houses of Congress, and is pending President Obama’s signature before it can be enacted.

The bill, known as the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act of 2014, is a compromise between the House and Senate bills. After being re-worked to include the best of both existing bills, it passed overwhelmingly in each house during separate votes last week. On Wednesday, July 30, 2014 the bill passed in the House by a vote of 420-5. Late Thursday evening, the bill was passed in the Senate by a vote of 91-3.

The bill earmarks $16.3 billion to expand programs and benefits for Veterans. Included in this amount is $10 billion to expand healthcare options for Veterans who are unable to receive timely appointments within the VA system. This provision allows these Veterans to seek care from providers outside the VA system. The bill also allots $5 billion to enable the VA to hire more doctors and nurses to handle a greater number of caseloads, and $1.3 billion to finance 27 new VA facilities across the country.

Also included in the act are improvements to Veteran education benefits. Under section 702 of the pending bill, there is an incentive for schools to charge the in-state tuition for Veterans, their spouses and children when they use VA education benefits such as the Post-9/11 GI Bill. Conversely, the legislation proposes to disapprove future benefits at public schools that charge tuition rates higher than in-state rates to any Veteran who served more than 90 days active service and separated no more than three years before enrollment.

There are provisions for Veteran students already enrolled in school, and a timetable for schools out of compliance to comply. If approved, public colleges and universities would be forced to charge all Veterans in-state tuition rates, *or* risk losing all of their GI Bill students. More than 30 states already require their public schools to make exceptions for out of state Veteran students using their education benefits.

The president is expected to sign the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act of 2014 into law.

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve, Veterans and their Families. We are the go to site for Veteran Employment and information on Veteran education. Militaryconnection.com provides Veterans with and Directory of Employers, a Job Board, information on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and a blog that offers Veterans boundless information. Be sure to visit Militaryconnection.com, the go to site.

Military Connection: VA Reform Bill Passes:  By Debbie Gregory