Senator Jay Rockefeller, the longest serving member of the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs, today announced that he supported multiple bills that would protect veterans and make sure they get the support they deserve.
The bills, which passed in the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs, would increase the cost-of-living adjustment for veterans compensation, protect members of the military from facing foreclosure while on duty, protect the second amendment rights of veterans, and make sure veterans get important health care and education benefits.
"Standing up for our veterans has been my life's work," said Rockefeller. "This package of bills is part of our strong commitment to protecting our veterans once they return home. Supporting our veterans isn't a political issue, and it's something we should all stand behind.
"We need to fight for our veterans on fixed incomes, just as I have in past years, to make sure they get the benefits and increased cost-of-living adjustment to pay their bills. We also need to make sure that while the courageous men and women of our military are fighting for our country overseas, their homes and families are protected. This is an issue that I've been working on for some time, and we need to prevent some mortgage servicing companies from illegal actions that abuse our heroes."
The following bills passed in the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs:
Veterans' Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment Act -- This bill would increase the veterans' cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) for disabled veterans and their families. Under the bill, veterans' compensation payments would increase starting January 1, 2013 by the same amount as Social Security benefits. Rockefeller has worked to pass a similar bill each year, and cosponsored this bill. An estimated 3.9 million veterans across the country and about 30,000 veterans in West Virginia have received compensation benefits this year.
Servicemembers' Protection Act of 2012 -- This bill would protect the men and women of the armed forces from losing their homes to banks and other lenders while they are deployed. This legislation includes many of the same provisions as Rockefeller's bill, the Military Family Home Protection Act, which he introduced on June 20. Specifically, it would provide mortgage foreclosure relief, mandate a permanent 12 month stay of foreclosure proceedings, increase civil penalties, and improve compliance with the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act. Last summer, the Senate Commerce Committee, which Rockefeller chairs, held a forum on this issue where veterans and advocates told stories of problems under the current system, which has some protections for the military but not enough.
Veterans Second Amendment Protection Act -- This bill responsibly clarifies some of the narrow restrictions on some gun laws for veterans to enable some of them to purchase guns and still hunt. Rockefeller has supported similar legislation in the past.
Mental Health Access to Continued Care and Enhancement of Support Services (ACCESS) Act -- This bill would improve mental health care to members of the Armed Forces and veterans, particularly for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), expand assistance to homeless veterans, and provide better health care and benefits to veterans. Rockefeller cosponsored the bill.
Women Veterans Health and Other Care Improvement Act -- This bill would improve the reproductive assistance provided by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to severely wounded veterans and their spouses.
GI Bill Consumer Awareness Act -- This bill would make sure that veterans have the information and protections they require to make informed decisions regarding use of Post-9/11 Educational Assistance. Rockefeller cosponsored the bill.