Congress passes gutted veterans reform bill
WASHINGTON — In the last hours of the 114th Congress, lawmakers settled on a veterans reform bill that includes only pieces of what the Department of Veterans Affairs and several veterans groups were hoping to accomplish by the end of the year.
“[It] doesn’t accomplish enough for America’s veterans,” Sherman Gillums Jr., director of Paralyzed Veterans of America, said of the bill titled the Jeff Miller and Richard Blumenthal Veterans Health Care and Benefits Improvement Act of 2016.
Rene Campos, a leader within Military Officers Association of America, said it “scratches the surface.”
The legislation named for the leaders of the Senate and House veterans affairs committees — Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and retiring Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla. — was sent to President Barack Obama after the Senate approved it on Saturday morning.
Pieces of the 57-page bill were taken from the 400-page Veterans First Act, which the Department of Veterans Affairs and veterans groups collaborated to create. The Veterans First Act passed the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee unanimously in June, and then stalled.
“While we are pleased to see the 11th-hour movement, we are disappointed to see the most critical elements of the Veterans First Act stripped away,” Gillums said in an emailed statement.
One noted omission from the bill is a revamped appeal process for veterans’ disability claims.
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