VFW Washington Weekly – June 8, 2007

In This Issue:
1. VA Appropriations Increase Clears House Committee
2. GI Bill Update
3. VA Subcommittee Examines Adaptive Housing

1. VA Appropriations Increase Clears House Committee
The House Appropriations Committee approved a $109 billion Military Construction and Veterans Affairs spending bill by a 56-0 vote. The Appropriation now moves to the full House, where a vote is expected next week. The bill includes $64.7 billion in discretionary funding, $43.2 of which is directed at VA. For VA, that is an historic, $6.7 billion increase, and meets what the VFW and the three other authors of the Independent Budget were calling for.
It includes funding for:

* Five polytrauma centers and three Centers of Excellence for PTSD and mental Health to care for those returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.

*Substantial increases in grants for homeless veterans.
* Maintenance and upkeep of VA facilities at a record funding levels.
*Increases prosthetic and medical research.
* Funding to hire 1,000 new disability claims adjudicators to help reduce the backlog of almost 850,000 claims.

The VFW salutes the strong leadership of those on the Appropriations Committee, especially Subcommittee Chairman Chet Edwards (D-TX). We urge those in the House to quickly pass this bill, and VFW members should call their representatives to urge them to support the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations.

Contact your House member at: http://www.house.gov/writerep. The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee is set to pick up their version of the bill next week

2. GI Bill Update
This week VFW called on senators to support legislation that would offer a WWII-like educational benefit. The bill, S.22, was introduced in January by Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA). The Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2007 would include the cost of tuition, room and board, and a monthly stipend of $1,000.

Current law under the Montgomery GI Bill provides educational support of up to $1,000 per month for 36 months, or approximately $9,000 per academic year. The legislation directly corresponds with VFW Resolution 625, which calls for a GI Bill for the 21st Century that would repeal the $1,200 enrollment fee and provide an educational benefit that covers the cost of tuition, housing, fees, books, and school related expenses, as well as a cost of living stipend.

Currently there are only 14 co-sponsors – we ask you to contact your senators and urge them to support this VFW priority goal. Contact your senators at: http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm.

For more information on the provisions of the bill, go to: http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/D?d110:2:./temp/~bdGKHo::|/bss/d110query.html| .

3. VA Subcommittee Examines Adaptive Housing
The House Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity held a hearing to examine VA’s adaptive housing program. Currently, veterans who apply for adaptive housing grants receive up to a maximum of $50,000 for the cost of building, buying or remodeling adaptive homes. VA may also approve a grant of up to $10,000 for the actual cost for adaptations to a veteran’s residence that are determined by VA to be necessary. The grant may also be used to help veterans acquire a residence that already has adaptations for the veteran’s disability.

Independent Budget representatives testified that increases and adjustments made to the program over the years were inconsistent, and therefore did not keep pace with construction costs. Congress needs to make annual adjustments so that veterans can properly benefit from this program.

For more on the hearing, go to the House VA Committee website at: http://veterans.house.gov/hearings/schedule110/june07/06-07-07/witness.shtml

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