Ask Senator Coburn to stop holding up Vet’s bills
Senator Coburn (OK) has placed “holds” on two significant pieces of veterans’ legislation in the U.S. Senate: S. 252, Veterans Health Care Authorization Act of 2009, and S. 728, Veterans’ Insurance and Benefits Enhancement Act of 2009.
Under the rules of the Senate a “hold” allows a Senator to prevent a bill from reaching a vote on the Senate floor. It appears Sen. Coburn is using this parliamentary procedure to prevent these two bills from going to the Senate floor and, as a result, VA is being deprived of essential tools to provide high quality care to those who have suffered in service to our nation.
VA faces a looming shortage of health care personnel. Without concerted and timely action, this situation will only worsen in the years ahead. This is especially true as more Iraq and Afghanistan veterans return home injured and in need of new and specialized care. In order to avert this problem, VA must be able to offer competitive salaries, work schedules, and benefits. The provisions in S. 252 will allow VA to recruit and retain nurses, home health aides, and specialty care providers.
S. 252 also contains measures that would improve the efficiency of health care delivery to veterans, including a number of pilot programs designed to help VA find new and innovative ways to deliver better, faster, and more comprehensive treatment.
Women make up an ever-growing percentage of the Armed Forces. As such, they are also making up an ever-growing percentage of the veterans’ population. While there have been efforts over the years to address the unique needs of women veterans, there is much more that VA might do. To that end, there are provisions in this bill to address current shortcomings and help VA better respond to the increased demand for care from women veterans.
One of the most troubling and difficult challenges of warfare, which can be seen particularly in the current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, is diagnosing and treating those who suffer from the invisible wounds of war. The lack of understanding of these injuries, the stigma associated with them, and many other factors make effective treatment difficult. Last Congress, the Veterans Mental Health and Other Care Improvements Act, was enacted as Public Law 110-387. This Congress must build on those advances and continue to provide accessible, cutting-edge care for those afflicted with invisible wounds. S. 252 would expand eligibility and authority for the Vet Centers to provide needed services, and would commission a comprehensive study on suicides among veterans so that we can improve efforts to prevent such tragedies.
S. 252 will also provide support for homeless veterans through a proposed series of innovative pilot programs. These programs are designed to significantly improve VA outreach to these veterans, in order to help them access the benefits and services provided by VA.
This comprehensive legislation, much of which was considered and passed by the Senate in the last Congress, would improve benefits and services for veterans both young and old.
S. 728, Veterans’ Insurance and Benefits Enhancement Act of 2009, addresses a broad range of veterans’ benefits. This legislation expands insurance programs, improves benefits for veterans with severe burn injuries, and secures cost-of-living increases for certain benefits, some of which have not been updated for decades.
Insurance enhancements include:
•A new insurance program for service-connected disabled veterans that would provide up to a maximum
of $50,000 in level premium term life insurance coverage. This new program would be available to
service-connected disabled veterans who are less than 65 years of age at the time of application. More
importantly, unlike VA’s Service-Disabled Veterans Insurance program, the premium rates for this
program would be based on an updated mortality table, meaning that premiums under this program
would be fairer to veterans;
•Expanded eligibility for retroactive benefits from traumatic injury protection coverage under the
Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance program; and
•A $10,000 increase to the amount of supplemental life insurance available to totally disabled veterans.
Many totally disabled veterans find it difficult to obtain commercial life insurance. This legislation
would provide these veterans with a reasonable amount of life insurance coverage.
Other benefits include:
•Extending eligibility for automobiles and adaptive equipment for servicemembers and veterans with
severe burn injuries;
•Significantly raising the benefit rate for parents whose children die either during military service or as
a result of a service-connected disability; and
•Securing indexed cost-of-living increases for certain additional benefits for veterans and their
Both of these important bills have passed the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee. Unfortunately, Senator Coburn has placed “holds” on them.
Please give a call to Senator Coburn’s office at (202) 224-5754 and urge him to lift his “holds” on both bills.