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Working with Congress.

Much has been made of the mid-term election which gave Democrats a majority of the seats in both houses of Congress while the White House remains in Republican hands. Just what impact that shift in power will have on veterans issues is not clear.

But in many of the congressional races, veterans issues seemed to gain more prominence than at any other time in recent memory. And that is no wonder, considering that veterans tend to vote in larger numbers than other constituent groups.

But now that the election is over and the 110th Congress gets down to business, you can be sure the DAV is working with lawmakers--regardless of political affiliation--on legislation to improve benefits and services for disabled veterans and their families. Of course, much of our focus is on members of the Senate and House Veterans' Affairs Committees. But there are 435 members of the House and 100 Senators who will have a vote on legislation important to veterans. And while your legislative staff will be working to help them better understand veterans issues, DAV members and their families also play an important role in educating their Representatives and Senators as well.

As you know, one of the fundamental purposes of our organization is to advance the interests and work for the betterment of disabled veterans and their families. The DAWs legislative agenda is set forth each year in the resolutions adopted by the delegates to our National Convention. Those resolutions are intended to guide our government in its formulation of public policy for disabled veterans.

Many of those resolutions are long-sought goals to improve and protect veterans benefits and services. As in the past, the DAWs legislative priorities for the 110th include legislation to guarantee full funding for veterans health care.

We expect legislation will again be introduced to make VA health care funding mandatory and are optimistic that congressional hearings will finally be held on the proposal. In a recent meeting with the DAV, Rep. Bob Filner (D-Calif.), Chairman of the House Veterans' Affairs Committee, reaffirmed his support for mandatory funding for veterans health care.

But we still have our work cut out for us. So, it is absolutely vital that DAV members and their families continue urging their elected representatives--Republicans, Democrats and Independents alike--to support mandatory funding for veterans health care and our other legislative priorities.

And as former Congressman and Marine Corps veteran Lane Evans said, honoring America's obligation to our veterans should never be subjected to the whims of politics or partisan gain.

The following are some of the major objectives our organization will pursue during the 110th Congress.

Disability Compensation & Other Benefits

* Oppose any change that would redefine service-connected disability or restrict the conditions or circumstances under which it may be established.

* Oppose any proposal that would offset payments of Social Security Disability Insurance benefits or any other federal benefits by the amount of VA compensation.

* Oppose any change in law to provide for lump-sum payments of VA disability compensation.

* Support legislation to provide service connection to atomic veterans for all recognized radiogenic diseases.

* Support legislation to remove the prohibition against concurrent receipt of military retired pay and VA disability compensation for all longevity retired veterans.

* Support compensation of Persian Gulf War veterans for illnesses circumstantially linked to their service in the Persian Gulf War.

* Support an expansion of POW presumptions.

* Support presumption of exposure to traumatic stressors for veterans who served in a war zone and suffer from posttraumatic stress disorder.

* Oppose any scheme to means test disability and death compensation.

* Increase disability compensation.

* Oppose changes in current law so as to redefine or restrict service connection.

* Restore protections against unwarranted awards of veterans' benefits to third parties in divorce actions.

Medical & Health Care Services

* Support legislation to make VA health care funding mandatory.

* Ensure that timely quality health care services are provided to service-connected disabled veterans.

* Support service-connected veterans' priority access to VA medical.

* Support equal medical services and benefits for women veterans.

* Support legislation to extend the period of eligibility for free health care for combat veterans for conditions potentially related to their combat service from two years to five years after discharge or release.

* Support the repeal of VA and Department of Defense co-payments for medical care and prescriptions.

* Support repeal of beneficiary travel pay deductibles for service-connected disabled veterans and support increased benefit travel reimbursement rates.

General issues

* Support adequate funding for all VA programs and services.

* Support increases in grants for automobiles or other conveyances available to certain disabled veterans and to provide for automatic annual adjustments based on the increase in the cost of living.

* Provide an increase in the specially adapted housing grant and automatic annual adjustments based on increases in the cost of living.

* Support legislation to reduce premiums for Service Disabled Veterans' Insurance consistent with current life expectancy.

* Increase the face value of Service Disabled Veterans' Insurance.

* Support the American Veterans Disabled for Life Commemorative Coin Act.

* Extend eligibility for Veterans' Mortgage Life Insurance to service-connected veterans rated permanently and totally disabled.

* Seek the immediate release of any American who may still be held captive following World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Persian Gulf War, and Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom, and seek immediate return of the remains of any Americans who died during those wars.

* Provide educational benefits for dependents of service-connected veterans rated 80% or more disabled.

* Encourage all disabled veterans, their families and friends to become registered voters and to vote.

* Increase the burial allowance for service-connected disabled veterans.

* Extend military commissary and exchange privileges to service-connected disabled veterans.

* Extend space-available air travel aboard military aircraft to 100% service-connected disabled veterans.

* Condemn public desecration of the flag of the United States.

* Construct a memorial to commemorate the sacrifices of America's disabled veterans.

* Eliminate the delimiting date for eligible spouses and surviving spouses for benefits provided under chapter 35, title 38, United States Code.

* Support legislative measures assisting disabled veteran-owned businesses.

Joseph A. Violante, National Legislative Director
COPYRIGHT 2007 Disabled American Veterans
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Author:Violante, Joseph A.
Publication:DAV Magazine
Date:Jan 1, 2007
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