SHOW LOW, AZ -- Representative Ann Kirkpatrick announced that she successfully pushed two important measures on behalf of our Nation's Veterans through Congress last week, and they now await the President's signature. Her Veterans/Servicemembers Life Insurance Equity Act and her bill reauthorizing the Veterans' Advisory Committee on Education (VACE) both passed in the Senate and were approved by the House as part of a larger package.
These measures will help ensure that educational benefits for returning troops will remain of the highest quality and that life insurance options for current and former servicemembers can keep up with those in private sector plans.
"We have asked so much of our troops, and Washington must ensure that the programs we have in place to help them are as effective and comprehensive as possible," said Rep. Kirkpatrick. "Whether these brave men and women are just coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan or served in the military decades ago, our Nation simply has to keep its promises to them.
"I am proud to have successfully fought for measures that will help ensure service-related opportunities and benefits are not only protected but are top notch, and I am dedicated to continuing that fight. Members of America's armed forces have earned that much and more."
The Congresswoman's two most recent victories on behalf of military men and women will affect very different stages of their lives. The VACE is a select panel of educators, Veterans and experts in the field who advise the Secretary of Veterans Affairs on how to most effectively operate education and training programs for Veterans and their families and help Veterans embark on new careers. The Committee's charter would expire on December 31 if no action was taken. Rep. Kirkpatrick's legislation will enable it to continue providing its valuable input for five more years, while the VA continues to implement and improve the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act.
Some Veterans and current servicemembers will also benefit from the Veterans/Servicemembers Life Insurance Equity Act. Through Accelerated Benefits Options (ABO), many life insurance plans allow people to receive a portion of their total life insurance benefits if and when they are diagnosed with a terminal illness. Instead of going to beneficiaries after their death, a portion of the money can be used by the policy holders however they'd like. ABOs that are available to Veterans and to our men and women in uniform, however, often allow the amount paid out to be reduced based on market conditions--a practice that is not allowed under most private sector policies. The Veterans/Servicemembers Life Insurance Equity Act fixes this problem and specifies that ABO payouts must be consistent with common insurance industry practices and cannot be subject to market fluctuations.
"The Veterans' Advisory Committee on Education has the expertise needed to help ensure returning troops can get quality educational benefits during the economic downturn. My provisions on life insurance will mandate a change in the sloppy government contracts that companies have been exploiting to reduce payouts to terminally ill Veterans and active duty troops," said Rep. Kirkpatrick. "It is gratifying to see that they are both ready to be enacted into law, and Greater Arizonans will soon begin to see the benefits."
The measures passed as part of H.R. 3219, the Veterans' Benefits Act of 2010.
Congresswoman Kirkpatrick, the daughter and niece of soldiers and a Member of the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs, has repeatedly shown her dedication to making Washington keep its promises to our Nation's men and women in uniform and has authored several key wins for them in her first term in Congress. In addition to legislation to safeguard education and insurance benefits for military members, last week she also succeeded in passing through Congress a crucial bill to prevent Native American Veterans from being denied low-income housing assistance due to their service. Other provisions she sponsored in her first term that have been signed into law will improve access to health services for rural Veterans and assist disabled Veterans and their families with the rising costs of necessities like food and housing.