Senators' Legislation To Act As Companion To Gillibrand Bill Requiring Departments of Defense And Veterans Affairs To Proactively Inform Veterans Of Benefits They Have Earned
U.S. Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton and Charles E. Schumer announced that they have introduced a bill that requires the Department of Defense (DoD) and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to notify servicemembers of their eligibility for their earned veterans' benefits when they separate from service. This legislation is the Senate companion to Congresswoman Gillibrand's PRO-VETS bill which was introduced in the House last week. Under the system as it now exists, the veteran is the one who is required to make contact with the VA to find out what benefits they are entitled to based on their military service. Many veterans are not aware of this procedure, and many do not receive the benefits they qualify for because of the complexity of the system. The legislation requires the VA to inform these new veterans as to what benefits they may be eligible to receive, and would require the VA to streamline the process by which veterans apply for benefits.
"Our men and women in uniform make remarkable sacrifices every day, and it is our duty to ensure that they receive the benefits they have earned through their service," said Senator Clinton. "It is time for the VA and DoD to take the steps necessary to educate and inform our veterans about their eligibility for these benefits; so that they are not forced to walk blindly into a system that can be confusing and difficult to navigate. I applaud Representative Gillibrand's leadership in introducing this legislation in the House, and I look forward to working with my colleagues to do all we can to ensure the VA works for our veterans, not against them."
"Our Veterans have been getting the short end of the stick when it comes to receiving their earned benefits," said Senator Schumer. "Until now, the burden has been on our veterans to actively seek out information about their benefits but many eligible veterans are unaware of this rule. Our war heroes put their lives on the line and it is our responsibility to make sure that they are taken care of now, and in the future. The bottom line is those that fight for our country shouldn't have to worry about how they are going to get their benefits. Our bill will eliminate that worry, easing the burden on our heroes."
The Senators' bill also puts the responsibility on the DoD to transfer electronic medical information and personnel data to the VA when a servicemember is identified for separation from service. The VA must then use this information to provide the separating servicemember with a list of VA benefits for which he or she may be eligible.
In addition, this legislation requires the VA to incorporate current veterans into the notification system over a five year period, thereby identifying benefits for which they may be eligible.