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Keeping The Promise To Our Disabled Veterans

Location: Washington, DC

KEEPING THE PROMISE TO OUR DISABLED VETERANS -- (Extensions of Remarks - June 07, 2005)


* Mr. FILNER. Mr. Speaker and colleagues, I rise today to speak about two bills that I have introduced to better the lives of our Nation's disabled veterans. H.R. 1188, the ``Disabled Veterans Right to Commissaries and Space Available Travel Act,'' will extend commissary and exchange store privileges to service-disabled veterans with a rating of 30% or more and to their families. Congress must do all we reasonably can for the men and women who have become disabled in their service to our Nation. Our disabled veterans are important members of the greater military family, and they should be treated as such with every available opportunity.

* This bill will also authorize transportation on military aircraft on a space-available basis to service-disabled veterans with a rating of 50% or more. Currently, members and retirees of the uniformed services and the reserves may travel free on Department of Defense (DoD) aircraft when space is available. This benefit is allowed when it does not interfere with military missions, and it recognizes that military careers are filled with rigorous duty.

* But present policies do not extend this benefit to our disabled veterans. What more rigorous duty can be imagined than to become disabled in the service of our country? Why has the DoD chosen not to recognize the brave men and women who sacrificed their health and well-being while serving in uniform? This DoD policy needs to be corrected.

* Space-available travel for these disabled veterans would cost the Federal government nothing and would not interfere with active-duty personnel. Current military is always given priority, and H.R. 1188 would do nothing to change that. What my bill will do is allow seats that would otherwise go unused to be occupied by men and women who have been disabled when serving their Nation.

* I invite my colleagues to also support a second bill, H.R. 2747, the ``Disabled Veterans Life Insurance Enhancement Act.'' This legislation will make improvements in insurance for veterans who are disabled in their service to our country.

* When the Service-Disabled Veterans Insurance (SDVI) began in 1951, it was intended to provide service-disabled veterans with the ability to purchase life insurance coverage at ``standard'' rates. Unfortunately, these life insurance premiums are based upon mortality rates for 1940, while current standard life insurance policies have premiums based upon the 2001 mortality table. This means that service-disabled veterans are being charged high premiums based on a table that is 60 years out of date. The Independent Budget, prepared and endorsed by many veterans service organizations, has recommended that the mortality table be updated so that service-disabled veterans pay lower premiums for insurance. My bill would provide insurance comparable to standard policies, based on 2001 tables. Another change will increase the amount of insurance available to $50,000, purchased in increments of $10,000.

* Second, the VA provides mortgage life insurance (VMLI) to severely service-disabled veterans who qualify for specially adapted housing grants. Currently, this amount covers only about 55% of the outstanding mortgage balances at the veteran's death because the maximum amount has not been increased since 1992. We know how the cost of houses has skyrocketed since then in many areas of our country. In May, 2001, an evaluation by the Department of Veterans Affairs recommended that the coverage be increased, and The Independent Budget has also recommended that the coverage be increased. H.R. 2747 implements those recommendations by increasing the maximum to $200,000 to cover 94% of mortgage balances outstanding. Veterans can choose lower coverage, if they wish.

* These bills are the right steps to take for our disabled veterans. They have sacrificed their health and well-being for their country, and they have earned the right to these privileges. Please support these bills and work with me for their passage.


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