VetsFirst believes that veterans must have access to high-quality Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) health care and benefits.

Fiscal fights in Congress were a recurring scene in 2013. By the end of the year, concerns over our nation’s debt extended to program costs at VA. In December, Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-VT) attempted to move a large veterans’ benefits bill; however, it was blocked by a Senate colleague who had concerns about the cost of the legislation.

Chairman Sanders is now intent on moving a comprehensive package of benefits through the Senate in the coming weeks. The Comprehensive Veterans Health and Benefits and Military Retirement Pay Restoration Act of 2014 (S. 1982) contains many key provisions that would provide needed benefits and supports for veterans living with disabilities. Some of these provisions include expanded access to caregiver benefits and services to help veterans grow their families.

Veterans living with significant disabilities often depend on the tireless support of their caregivers. Many family members have sacrificed for decades to provide that care. This legislation contains a key provision that would expand eligibility for VA’s enhanced caregiver program to include caregivers of certain veterans who were injured before September 11, 2001. This change would ensure that these caregivers have the supports that recognize their sacrifice and allow them to continue to provide the care that helps disabled veterans live independent lives.

Veterans who have sustained traumatic injuries on the battlefield also may have trouble starting or growing their families due to their injuries. This legislation provides reproductive treatment and services, including assisted reproductive technology, through VA. It also provides financial assistance for veterans who choose to pursue adoption. This is a critically needed provision for many disabled veterans who have few options in expanding their families.

Another important provision in this legislation provides advance funding for all of VA’s mandatory accounts. This advance funding would ensure that monthly disability benefits payments are not delayed in the event of a long-term government shutdown. This provision would assure veterans that their earned disability pay would not be impacted by budget fights in Washington.

VetsFirst believes this legislation goes a long way toward fulfilling many of the current and future needs of our disabled veterans.

02/27/2014: Senate Republicans blocked further consideration of S. 1982. Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has vowed to continue working on the legislation.

02/25/2014: VetsFirst was in the Gallery when the Senate voted to move forward in its consideration of S. 1982. The vote was 99-0 in favor of proceeding with debate on the legislation.

02/21/2014: VetsFirst participated in a conference call with Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-VT) regarding S. 1982. The Chairman expressed his appreciation for the support of the veterans service organizations for the legislation.

02/03/2014: Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-VT) introduced a revised version of the Comprehensive Veterans Health and Benefits and Military Retirement Pay Restoration Act. The new bill number is S. 1982.

01/17/2014: VetsFirst sent a letter in support of S. 1950 to Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-VT). Our letter singled out key provisions in the legislation including the provision to extend enhanced caregiver benefits available through VA to seriously injured veterans who served prior to September 11, 2001.

01/16/2014: Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-VT) introduced the Comprehensive Veterans Health and Benefits and Military Retirement Pay Restoration Act of 2014 (S. 1950).

01/15/2014: VetsFirst and other leading veterans organizations met with Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-VT) to discuss a proposed veterans bill that would include a number of VetsFirst supported provisions.

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