Politics House Sends Veterans' Appeals Bill to Trump's Desk

02:14  12 august  2017
02:14  12 august  2017 Source:   Roll Call

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House Veterans Affairs Chairman Phil Roe, R-Tenn., right, seen here earlier this year with Speaker Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., left, and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., applauded passage of the veterans' measure Friday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)© Provided by CQ Roll Call, Inc. House Veterans Affairs Chairman Phil Roe, R-Tenn., right, seen here earlier this year with Speaker Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., left, and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., applauded passage of the veterans' measure Friday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The House during a pro forma session Friday cleared a bipartisan bill aimed at paring down a massive backlog of appeals for veterans’ disability benefits.

Passage of the measure brings to three the number of major veterans’ bills that now await President Donald Trump’s signature. In addition to the appeals bill, Congress before leaving for the August recess cleared a $2.1 billion funding patch for a private medical care access program, and the “Forever GI Bill,” which extends education benefits to future veterans for an entire lifetime instead of the current 15-year window.

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House Veterans Affairs Chairman Phil Roe praised the House action: “When it comes to putting our nation’s heroes first, there can be no doubt that Congress has been hard at work,” the Tennessee Republican said in a statement shortly after the bill was passed, following a unanimous consent request from Rep. Barbara Comstock, R-Va.

“With the House’s passage of legislation to modernize the appeals process this morning, three bills to reform and improve VA are now on the brink of becoming law,” Roe said.

The bill as amended would essentially create three “lanes” for veterans’ appeals as a strategy to reduce the time a former service member needs to wait for a decision on benefit claims. It was introduced by Rep. Mike Bost, R-Ill., with original cosponsor Rep. Elizabeth Esty, D-Conn.

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“Once President [Donald] Trump signs this into law, I predict we will see the culture change at the VA, and our veterans will get the care we promise them and they deserve,” said House Majority Report: Trump fumed about Afghanistan in tense meeting. Senate sends ‘Forever GI Bill ’ to Trump ’ s desk .

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Veterans’ appeals are a major issue facing the Trump administration. From fiscal 2015 to 2017, pending appeals shot up from approximately 380,000 to 470,000, according to the House veterans’ panel. And while Congress has spent hundreds of millions to try to pare down the appeals, the Department of Veterans Affairs has estimated the current backlog will take five years to clear through just the appeals currently pending.

It’s possible the bill could become law quicker than expected.

VA Secretary David Shulkin said during an interview on Fox News earlier Friday that Trump will sign the Veterans Choice Program extension bill on Saturday in Bedminster, N.J., and Shulkin will attend the signing.

Veterans’ groups have been working hard to get the bill passed Friday across the finish line.

“We have been working closely with the VA Board of Veterans Appeals and the Court, the VA Central Office, and both committees for over a year on this effort and are satisfied that this bill will enhance veterans’ rights, modernize and expedite the appeals process, and ultimately reduce costs through greater efficiency,” said Joe Plenzler, director of media relations for the American Legion, in a statement.

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Officials: Exhumation of killers from vet cemeteries is rare .
The recent exhumation of an Army Vietnam veteran's body from the Connecticut State Veterans Cemetery was a rare invocation of federal laws aimed at keeping murderers and rapists out of veterans burial grounds, federal and state officials say. The remains of Guillermo Aillon were disinterred from the Middletown cemetery July 3, after state veterans' affairs officials learned that he had been serving a life prison sentence for stabbing to death his estranged wife and both her parents in North Haven in 1972. It's not clear where the remains were taken.Only one other person appears to have been exhumed from a U.S.

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