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New GI Benefits..........

Discussion in 'Veteran's Forum' started by WINGS, Dec 27, 2006.

  1. WINGS


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    May 20, 2006
    New Hampshire


    $3.2 billion measure will improve health
    delivery, overturns historic ban on attorneys, and expands benefits

    December 24, 2006
    Media contact: Jeff Schrade (202)224-9126

    (Washington, DC) On Friday President George Bush
    signed into law a $3.2 billion comprehensive
    benefits and health care bill for veterans
    sponsored by U.S. Senator Larry Craig, the
    outgoing chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs.

    "I hope veterans will rest a little easier this
    Christmas knowing that Congress did its job. We
    passed legislation that will enable this country
    to move forward with major construction projects
    for veterans and also will make some significant
    changes that will benefit veterans and their
    loved ones for generations to come," said Sen.
    Craig from his home near Boise, Idaho.

    The bill the President signed is>S.
    3421, the Veterans Benefits, Healthcare, and
    Information Technology Act of 2006.

    Among its many provisions, the new law partially
    overturns a policy dating back to the Civil War
    era that has prohibited veterans from hiring
    attorneys to help them seek veterans' benefits
    until they have spent months - sometimes years -
    exhausting the administrative process. The
    original policy came during a time when lawyers
    were often self trained and notoriously
    unscrupulous. As signed into law, this bill will
    now allow veterans or other VA claimants to hire
    attorneys during VA's appeal process.

    "The old law may have made sense in 1866, but 140
    years later it was time to reexamine that
    outdated policy. Veterans will still have the
    option of utilizing the representation services
    provided without charge by many veterans
    organizations, but in addition they will have the
    option of hiring an attorney if they so choose," Craig said.

    The legislation will also require VA to establish
    an Office of Rural Health. "For rural states like Idaho, the addition of
    this office should ensure that VA continues to
    focus on the needs and challenges of veterans who
    live in outlying areas," Craig said.

    The new law should also help rural states by
    allowing VA to create a pilot program which makes
    non-VA facilities - such as private nursing homes
    or community hospitals - eligible for state veterans' home per diem

    "This change will allow veterans to stay closer
    to home and loved ones. I think that's important," Craig said.

    Among its many provisions, the bill adds $65
    million to increase the number of clinicians
    traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and $2 million
    for additional
    rehabilitation specialists and increases the
    number of facilities where the specialists will
    be located. It also authorizes VA to designate
    six Parkinson's Disease Research, Education, and
    Clinical Centers of Excellence, and at least two
    Multiple Sclerosis Centers of Excellence.

    The bill contains provisions that will provide VA
    with additional tools to help it contract with
    veteran and disabled veteran-owned small businesses.

    "We want to make sure that veterans who do
    business with VA get high priority," Craig said.

    The new veterans' law authorizes the replacement
    of the VA facilities in New Orleans, which were
    wiped out during Hurricane Katrina, and move
    forward with new hospital projects in Denver, Las Vegas, and Orlando.

    The bill also includes a provision sought by Sen.
    Craig which requires the removal of the remains
    of a double murderer - Russell Wayne Wagner -
    from Arlington National Cemetery. Wagner brutally
    murdered Daniel Davis, 84, and Wilda Davis, 80,
    in Maryland in 1994. Their son,
    Davis, is a veteran and he had sought help from
    Sen. Craig and Maryland Senator Barbara Mikulski
    to have his parents' killer removed from that hallowed ground.

    The new law will also enable the spouse or child
    of a servicemember who is hospitalized or
    receiving outpatient medical care to begin
    receiving financial help through VA for their
    education. Sen. Craig crafted that portion of the
    legislation earlier this year after meeting with
    Sgt. Jeff Mittman who was blinded during an attack in Iraq.

    The new law will also enable tribal organizations
    to obtain grants from VA to help them establish,
    expand, or improve veterans' cemeteries on trust lands.

    "We accomplished a lot for veterans with this
    bill. It's a great way to finish the year," Craig said.