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Military Connection: Several Veteran Bills Pass in the House

veteran ID

By Debbie Gregory.

A slew of measures were recently passed in the House, including a bill that would allow for identification cards for all Honorably Discharged Veterans, and another bill pertaining to the accountability of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

The new accountability bill, H.R. 1038 – The Ensuring VA Employee Accountability Act, was sponsored by Congressman Ryan Costello from Pennsylvania.  This measure would require VA officials to maintain all written counsels, reprimands and punishments that employees receive as long as they work for the department. Under the current set of rules, records are erased after three years. Advocates for Veterans have argued that the current policy allows problem employees to continue to move around within the vast VA system, obtaining promotions with little consequence for any previous incidents of misconduct.

H.R. 1038 is in line with other efforts on Capitol Hill aiming to improve upon punishment and dismissal rules at the VA. Throughout the past year and a half, there have only been a handful of high-profile firings in the wake of nationwide scandals within the VA. Many members of Congress believe that the VA should have an easier time dismissing, demoting, or otherwise punishing its employees.

The Veteran’s I.D. Card Act– H.R. 91 was sponsored by Florida Congressman Vern Buchanan. This measure would direct the Secretary of the VA to issue official identification cards any Honorably Discharged Veteran, instead of only those who currently qualify for health care and financial benefits through the VA.

H.R. 91 calls for ID cards to be issued at the request of the Veteran, with the fee being paid for by the Veteran. The bill states that such identification would make it easier for all Veterans to receive special discounts and offerings provided by public and private institutions through standarized verification.

Other bills that were approved by the House on May 18, 2015 were: The Service disabled Veteran Owned Small Business Relief Act– H.R. 1313; The Homeless Veterans’ Reintegration Programs Reauthorization Act of 2015– H.R. 474; and The Vulnerable Veterans Housing Reform Act of 2015– H.R.  1816.

All of these bills have made it through the House and were introduced into the Senate on May 19th. These days, it seems as though passing Veteran legislation is the only legislation that politicians agree on. With any luck, these great provisions for Veterans make it through the Senate, and onto the president’s desk to be signed into law.

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the ArmyNavyAir ForceMarinesCoast Guard,Guard and ReserveVeterans 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 Boardinformation 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: Several Veteran Bills Pass in the House: By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: Companion Veteran Legislation

090430-N-2570W-001

By Debbie Gregory.

As a service member, you supported and defended the Constitution and the American way of life. As a Veteran, it’s important to continue that patriotism and citizenship by taking part in the processes that run your country. This means voting, being aware of current legislation and policies, and contacting your elected leaders and telling them how best to represent you, especially when it comes to Veteran-centric legislation.

On March 16, 2015, a pair of bills were introduced, one into each house of Congress, that are designed to provide Veterans with greater access to long-term care centers in their communities.

The Veterans Access to Extended Care Act has been introduced into the House as H.R. 1369 and into the Senate as S. 739. Together, this set of companion bi-partisan legislation is paving the way for improved programs for older Veterans and Veterans who need long-term care.

H.R. 1369 was introduced by Representative Jackie Walorski (R-Indiana) and co-sponsored by Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii),and  Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska), Rep. Ryan Costello (R-Pennsylvania).

S. 739 was introduced by Senator John Hoeven (R-North Dakota) and cosponsored by Joe Manchin (D- West Virginia).

The summary of both forms of the legislation read as:

Veterans Access to Extended Care Act of 2015

This bill modifies the treatment of Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) agreements with service providers to furnish veterans with nursing home care, adult day health care, or other extended care services.

Any such agreement shall:

  • not be treated as a federal contract for the acquisition of goods or services and shall be not subject to any provision of law governing federal contracts for the acquisition of goods or services, and
  • include specified requirements (such as for medical licensing and VA review of staff and facilities) to ensure the safety and quality of care furnished to veterans pursuant to such agreement.

The failure of a provider to comply with a provision of the agreement may result in VA termination of the agreement.

Such agreements are exempted from the application of certain public contract labor laws.

Both bills were read on the floors of their respective chambers, and referred to their houses’ Committee on Veterans Affairs. Be sure to frequent www.Congree.gov to check on the Veterans Access to Extended Care Act in both forms of the bill, H.R. 1369 and S. 739. Be sure to contact your representatives and senators and tell them how you want them to vote on these and other bills on your behalf.

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: Companion Veteran Legislation: By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: Bill to Improve Mental Health in the US Military

Mental Health

By Debbie Gregory.

In April, 2014, Senator Rob Portman (R-Ohio) introduced the Medical Evaluation Parity for Servicemembers (MEPS) Act, S. 2231, into the U.S. Senate. The bill was read twice and then referred to the Senate Committee on Armed Services. From there, the bill never gained traction and has remained buried within the committee.

On March 4, 2015 Sen. Portman teamed up with Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) to introduce the MEPS Act of 2015, a bipartisan bill that aims to improve mental health services for service members from the start of their enlistment.

The MEPS Act would call for the secretaries for each branch of the military to develop and maintain programs that would provide potential recruits with a mental health assessment before they join through enlistment or commission. The result of this initial assessment is to be used solely as a baseline for any mental health treatment that arises as result of their service. It is not intended to be used to disqualify recruits from joining, being promoting, or approved for military assignments.

If approved, the bill would also require the DOD to provide another mental health screening to each service member within 180 days of their separation from active duty. The DOD would be required to report the results to Congress. The DOD would also be required to give each service member an electronic copy of their entire treatment record at the time of separation.

Between 2000 and 2014, more than 300,000 service members, from every branch, were diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury. As many as twenty percent of Veterans from this same time period have been estimated to be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

“Too many of our men and women in uniform still suffer from the effects of Post-Traumatic Stress, Traumatic Brain Injuries, and behavioral health conditions,” Sen. Portman said in a statement. “While we’ve made great strides in the way we treat these invisible wounds of war, the steady persistence of this problem demonstrates the need for more action.”

The MEPS Act is reportedly being endorsed by many Veterans organizations, including the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Military Officers Association of America (MOAA) Reserve Officers Association, National Military Family Association, Association of the U.S. Navy, the National Guard Association of the United States, and the Enlisted Association of the National Guard of the United States.

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: Bill to Improve Mental Health in the US Military: By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: Clay Hunt SAV Act on to Senate Floor

Senate Floor

By Debbie Gregory.

Last week, the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee voted to send legislation, aimed to combat the high rate of suicide among Veterans, to the Senate floor.

The committee’s play comes just over a week after the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans (SAV) Act was reintroduced in the Senate, after overwhelmingly passing in the House twice within a month’s time.

The Clay Hunt SAV Act was named for a 28 year-old Marine Corps Veteran who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, and committed suicide in 2011.

The heavily publicized bill was headed for easy passage in December, 2014, when it failed due to a procedural maneuver by then-Senator Tom Coburn, who has since retired.  Coburn, who claimed that the bill merely duplicated existing VA programs and did not offer enough new resources for its $22 million price tag, essentially killed the bill with a legislative hold that prevented a Senate vote.

Several Veterans advocacy groups and military associations vowed to reintroduce the Clay Hunt SAV Act as soon as the new Congress convened in January, 2015.

And true to their word, the Clay Hunt SAV Act of 2015 was introduced in the House as H.R. 203 on January 7, 2015, virtually unchanged from the measure that failed just days prior. The 2015 bill was passed unanimously in the House on January 12th, and returned to the Senate the next day. So far, there appears to be no opposition to the bill.

On January 21st, the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee agreed to send the Clay Hunt SAV Act of 2015 to the Senate’s calendar under General Orders. The Senate could vote on the bill as early as this week.

There are over 8,000 Veteran suicides each year, which averages out to approximately 22 suicides each day.  Currently, the Clay Hunt SAV Act is the leading measure on the table for combating these numbers. Be sure to track this measure and how your elected leaders vote on it by frequenting MilitaryConnection.com and www.Congress.gov.

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: Paid Sick Days for Federally Employed Vets?

Bill for Paid sick days

Newly proposed legislation will make it possible for wounded Veterans, newly hired by the federal governmentto start their jobs with multiple weeks of paid sick leave.

On January 13, 2015, Massachusetts Representative Stephen Lynch introduced H.R. 313. The bill would amend Title 5, United States Code, providing paid leave to any new federal employee who is a servicedisabled Veteran, rated at a minimum of 30% disabled by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

The measure, if passed, would give service-disabled Veterans 104 hours of paid sick time after they enter the federal workforce. New federal employees who are not service-disabled Veterans begin their federal careers with zero hours of sick time, and accrue hours over time. The bill would also allow the Veterans to carry over any of the 104 hours they do not use in a given year.

“It is unacceptable that our wounded warrior federal employees, who are just starting out in the federal workforce, are often faced with the difficult choice of having to take unpaid leave to attend their VA appointments or miss their medical visits,” said Rep. Lynch.

Along with Lynch, six additional members of the House have signed on as co-sponsors: Representatives G.K. Butterfield (NC), Gerry Connolly (VA), Elijah Cummings (MD), Blake Farenthold (TX), Walter Jones (NC), and Delegate Eleanor Norton (DC).

“These men and women have made incredible sacrifices to defend our freedom and have been wounded as a result,” Rep. Jones said in a statement. “They deserve an adequate amount of time to tend to their wounds while beginning a new chapter in their careers after they leave the military.”

The proposed legislation has also been backed by the Federal Managers Association. Representative from the group have admitted to seeing first-hand the struggle that service-disabled Veterans have when trying to juggle the job with their necessary medical appointments. Compounding the problem is the narrow scheduling windows at VA medical facilities. The group feels that supporting this bill is the right thing to do.

Senators Jon Tester (MT) and Jerry Moran (TX) also plan to introduce similar legislation in the Senate soon.

You can keep track of H.R. 313 and other Veteran legislation at www.congress.gov or www.Govtrack.usYou are encouraged to contact your elected officials and let them know how you want them to vote on your behalf.

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the ArmyNavyAir ForceMarinesCoast Guard,Guard and ReserveVeterans 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 Boardinformation 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: Paid Sick Days for Federally Employed Vets? By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: Veteran Suicide Prevention Bill Back in Senate

Clay Hunt

For the second time in just over a month, legislation titled “The Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans (SAV) Act” has been overwhelmingly passed in the House and is once again on the floor of the U.S. Senate.

In December, 2014, the Clay Hunt SAV Act H.R. 5059 unanimously passed in the House and was sent to the Senate, only to be blocked by out-going Oklahoma Senator, Dr. Tom Coburn. Coburn, who retired after the conclusion of Congress’ final 2014 session,  has been blamed for single-handedly vanquishing the bill. But there are those who believe that the retiring senator, without voters to answer to for re-election, merely took a hit for others in the Senate.

On January 12, 2015, the Clay Hunt SAV Act, named for a Marine Veteran who committed suicide in 2011, was again unanimously passed in the House, this time as H.R. 203. The Clay Hunt SAV Act 2015 is virtually unchanged from its predecessor, which failed in the Senate less than one month ago.

The act, championed by Veteran groups such as the American Legion, the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) and the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) is viewed as legislation that would reduce the number of military and Veteran suicides, and improve access to quality mental healthcare for Veterans.

The $22 million legislation calls for an annual review of established DOD and VA suicide prevention programs in order to streamline the most effective practices. The bill also facilitates the VA’s partnering with mental health nonprofits, creates a website to consolidate the VA’s newly combined mental health resources, and expands established peer support networks. The Clay Hunt SAV Act  also allows the VA to recruit and retain psychiatrists by offering a student loan repayment incentive, up to $120,000, for mental health specialists that go to work for the VA.

With Dr. Coburn no longer in the Senate, supporters of the bill believe that the Clay Hunt SAV Act will pass this time around. Something must be done to reduce, and hopefully eliminate, the high rate of military and Veteran suicides, which have been estimated as high as 22 per day. Will others in this year’s Senate share Dr. Coburn’s sentiment on the legislation and its cost versus potential to effect change? We’ll just have to wait and watch the drama on Capitol Hill unfold.

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: Veteran Suicide Prevention Bill Back in Senate: By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: Why Would Senator Kill Suicide Bill? By Joe Silva

Sen Coburn

The failing of the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act in the U.S. Senate, and the fact that it seems as though one senator single handedly foiled the bill, has the Veteran community in an uproar.

The bill, originally introduced in the House as H.R. 5059 by Congressman Tim Walz, was named for Clay Hunt, a Marine Corps combat Veteran who committed suicide. If it had passed, the bill would have implemented several measures aimed at lowering the number of suicides by American Veterans. At times, that number has been as high as 22 suicides per day.

The $22 million legislation, championed by the Veterans Service Organization, the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) along with Hunt’s parents, would have called for an annual review of suicide prevention programs in the VA and DOD, in order to streamline the most effective practices. Additionally, the bill would have facilitated the VA’s partnering with mental health nonprofits, created a website to consolidate the VA’s newly combined mental health resources, and expanded peer support networks. It would also have allowed the VA to recruit and retain psychiatrists by offering student loan repayment incentives, up to $120,000, for mental health specialists to work for the VA.

Earlier this month, the bill passed unanimously in the House. When it reached the Senate floor, Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal proposed passing the bill by unanimous consent. But Oklahoma Senator, Dr. Tom Coburn, objected, blocking the bill. With the time remaining in this last session of Congress dwindling, the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act seems to have failed.

The internet is swarming with articles rebuking Senator Coburn, who is retiring after this session for health reasons, often referring to him as “Dr. No.” Some of the articles are really nasty, and it’s possible that Coburn may be the most disliked person by the Veteran community.

But why would a senator reject a bill that was promoted as being the possible final solution for ending suicide among Veterans? What patriotic person would do such a thing? Why indeed. In the interest of fairness, a thorough look into all aspects of the bill should be taken.

For example, here is one quote from Senator Coburn that many pro-Veteran news stories aren’t citing, but should be:

“I’m going to be objecting to this bill because it throws money and doesn’t solve the real problem,” Senator Coburn said on the floor of the Senate. He continued, “I object, not because I don’t want to save suicides, but because I don’t think this bill will do the first thing to change what’s happening.” Coburn also argued that “almost everything that’s in this bill has already been authorized and approved with the $10 billion [Veterans Choice Act] that we sent to the VA.”

It appears that the senator does not wish to give more money to the VA for a program that he feels should already be in-place with the funding already provided. This may be not the answer that many were looking for, and it might not be the correct answer, but it is a response to a question that many articles aren’t trying to answer.

Many Veteran advocates, including the IAVA and Senator Blumenthal, have vowed to revisit the bill, or hopefully an improved version of it, next session. Veterans deserve every available resource to prevent suicides and address other service-related mental health concerns. Let us hope that the failing of this bill will only pave the way for a better, more comprehensive and more effective measure to be passed next year.

Let us know your thoughts on the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act. Should it have passed? Would it have done enough? What should be in the next attempt to pass a bill geared to end suicide among Veterans?

Email your comments to [email protected]

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: Why Would Senator Kill Suicide Bill? By Joe Silva

Military Connection: Obama Signs Vet-Friendly Bill: By Debbie Gregory

Obama signs Tax Credits

On December 3, 2014, the Tax Increase Prevention Act of 2014 was passed in the House as H.R. 5771, by a vote of 378-46. On December 16th, the bill passed in the Senate by a vote of 76-16. On December 19th, the Tax Increase Prevention Act was presented to President Obama, who signed it into law.

The newly-passed bill approved a one year renewal for over forty tax provisions that expired at the end of 2013, extending them through the end of 2014. The law allows employers, energy users, and large corporations to claim a slew of tax breaks for 2014.

Among the programs extended by the passing of the bill were two Veteran employment tax credits. Both were previous government programs that offered employers an incentive to hire Veterans.

The Employer Wage Credit (EWC) allows businesses who employ members of the active duty military to claim a special tax credit.

The Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) is a federal tax credit made available to employers who hire individuals from specified target groups that have been recognized as having difficulty finding employment. Veterans make up one of these target groups, especially female Veterans and Veterans from the Global War on Terror era. Both have had consistent unemployment rates far above the national average.

Previous bills have been unsuccessful in getting long-term extensions approved for these same programs. Renewing the expired tax credits will create an incentive in the form of tax credits for employers who hire Veterans and members of other target groups, making them more desirable hires for businesses of all sizes.

There are close to fifty tax credits included in the Tax Increase Prevention Act of 2014, including tax extenders that will benefit both individual citizens and business owners. Individual tax extenders include deductions for mortgage insurance premiums, tuition expenses, contributions of property interests for conservation purposes, and expenses accrued by K-12 teachers. There are also exemptions for distributions from individual retirement accounts for charitable purposes. Individuals can also get energy tax extenders, including tax credits for residential efficiency improvements.There are also numerous tax extenders for the use of renewable and environmentally safer energy sources.

A full list of tax credits can be seen on the Tax Increase Prevention Act of 2014 Web portal at Congress.gov

MilitaryConnection.com has advocated for and promoted this specific legislation and several similar bills before it. We are thrilled that WOTC, the EWC and several other tax credits that benefit Veteran employment and regular citizens’ tax returns have been approved as components of the Tax Increase Prevention Act of 2014. We would like to commend our elected leaders for looking beyond party politics and getting this legislation passed.

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: Obama Signs Vet-Friendly Bill: By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: Veteran Tax Bill on to Senate: By Debbie Gregory

Tax Increase Prevention Act of 2014

On December 9, 2014, the Tax Increase Prevention Act of 2014 was introduced into the U.S. Senate and placed on the legislative calendar. By a vote of 378-46, the bill passed through the House as H.R. 5771 earlier in the month, and is expected to have little difficulty passing through the Senate. But the bill does have the potential to become a political football, vied for by both sides of the political aisle.

Veterans and employers who hire Veterans should be very interested in the outcome of this bill in the Senate. Two Veteran employment tax credits were included as part of the larger bill. Both were previous government programs that gave American employers incentives to hire Veterans.

The Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) is a Federal tax credit available to employers for hiring individuals from specified target groups who have consistently faced difficulty in obtaining employment. Veterans make up one of these target groups, especially female Veterans and Veterans from the Global War on Terror era, which have consistently had unemployment rates far above the national average.

The Employer Wage Credit (EWC) offers a tax credit to businesses that employ members of the active duty military.

The bill that the House passed, and that the Senate will now consider, approves a one-year renewal for these two tax credits, as well as over forty other tax provisions that expired at the end of 2013. Previous bills were unsuccessful in their attempts to get long-term extensions approved for these same programs. The extension of these programs now would allow further consideration for these programs in 2015.

Renewing the expired tax credits will do much to secure employment for Veterans and members of other target groups.  For businesses, renewing the measures could provide tax credits for hiring Veterans, promoting renewable energy, and even for their research and development expenses.

President Obama has supported many previous measures and programs that promote Veteran employment, including Joining Forces, a national Veterans initiative launched by Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden. The president had previously stated that he intended to veto similar measures that contained longer-term and permanent extensions for many of the tax credits contained in the Tax Increase Prevention Act. But it is believed that the president would not be against signing this short-term proposal, if it can make it through the Senate. We hope for the president’s continued support, specifically in relation to this legislation.

MilitaryConnection.com is a champion of promoting legislation that benefits Veterans and the military community. To that end, we continue to urge you to contact your Senators and tell them how to vote on YOUR behalf. For this bill, and with all upcoming bills, be sure that your legislators are aware of how their constituency wants them to vote. To locate how to contact your senators,  go to http://www.senate.gov/ (at the top right of the home page). If your legislators consistently vote against your wishes, you may want to remember that come election time.

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: Veteran Tax Bill on to Senate: By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: House Passes Four Veteran Bills: By Debbie Gregory

4 Veteran BillsThis week, the U.S. House of Representatives passed four bills that directly affect Veterans. The bills include:

H.R. 3593, the VA Construction Assistance Act of 2014. This bill will order the inclusion of an outside entity to manage the VA’s major construction projects. It will require the VA secretary to implement a series of measures for any major construction project on a medical facility, including utilizing a medical equipment planner as part of the architectural and engineering firm for the project, ensuring clear and concise communication among all involved with the project, subjecting projects to peer review, and closely monitoring change-orders. H.R. 3593 also directs the VA secretary to procure the services of the Army Corps of Engineers for appointing not less than one special project manager who has experience in managing construction projects that exceed $60 million. It prohibits additional funds from being authorized to be appropriated to carry out this act.

H.R. 5404, the Department of Veterans Affairs Expiring Authorities Act of 2014. This bill extends several government programs for Veterans, including provisions for health benefits, homelessness, employment and relief to be extended through 2015, and provisions for education and home loans to be extended through 2017.

The bill also makes miscellaneous amendments to the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014, involving access to care at non-VA facilities. Additionally, it clarifies the VA secretary’s authority to disapprove courses of education provided by a public institution of higher learning if the institution charges veterans living in the state higher tuition and fees than it charges in-state residents, regardless of the veteran’s state of residence.

H.R. 4276, the Veterans Traumatic Brain Injury Care Improvement Act of 2014, extends the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008 program to assess the effectiveness of providing assistance to eligible veterans with traumatic brain injury to enhance their rehabilitation, quality of life, and community integration.Other amendments include requiring Veterans to have a traumatic brain injury that is classified as complex-mild to severe in order to qualify, and the replacement of the term “assisted living” with “community-based brain injury residential rehabilitative care.”

S.2258, the Veterans’ Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment Act of 2014, directs the VA secretary to increase the rates of Veterans’ disability compensation, compensation for dependents, the clothing allowance for certain disabled veterans, and dependency and indemnity compensation for surviving spouses and children, affective December 1, 2014.

The bill requires each increase to be the same percentage as the increase in benefits provided under Title II (Old Age, Survivors and Disability Insurance) of the Social Security Act, on the same effective date. This should mean a higher COLA increase than the 1% that was given last year. Having already been approved by the Senate, S. 2258 will be sent to the president to be signed 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: House Passes 4 Veteran Bills: By Debbie Gregory