Issue Position: Veterans

Issue Position

By:  Adam Schiff
Date: Jan. 1, 2012
Location: Unknown

"I truly believe that we have a national obligation to support those who have made great sacrifices for our nation. We owe an immeasurable debt to the brave men and women who have put themselves in harm's way for our safety, as we are reminded by witnessing their sacrifices today. I am committed to working in Congress to make sure that benefits and health care are accessible and effective for veterans and their families." - Rep. Adam Schiff

Largest Increase in Veterans Health Care Funding in U.S. History

In 2007, Congressman Schiff voted for the Military Construction & Veterans Affairs Appropriations spending bill for Fiscal Year 2008 - legislation increasing health care funding for veterans by $6.7 billion over Fiscal Year 2007's budget, providing the VA the resources to ensure that veterans receive the quality care and attention they deserve. With the passage of this bill, the 110th Congress will have voted for historic increases in veteran's health care and benefit programs, totaling nearly $12 billion. The bill passed at a particularly urgent time when thousands of Americans have returned from Iraq with major injuries that require state of the art care.

The spending bill focuses primarily on the health needs of our veterans by increasing the hiring of more qualified doctors and nurses, reducing waiting times for appointments, and providing more assistance for veterans suffering from traumatic brain injury (TBI), Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and other mental health care issues: injuries which unfortunately have afflicted a large percentage of those returning from the war in Iraq.

The bill works to address critical needs within the Department of Veterans Affairs, including:

* Adding more than 1,100 claims processors to reduce the 400,000 disability and benefit claims backlog

* Providing for increased maintenance of VA health facilities to prevent a Walter-Reed type scandal from reoccurring.

* Introducing and operating a toll-free telephone and web-based hotline for veterans to report on deficiencies in VA medical facilities and care

* Making five polytrauma centers and three Centers of Excellence for Mental Health and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) fully operational this year.

* Providing $15 billion for assisting those veterans transitioning from the Defense Department to the VA system.

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Working to Repair the VA Care System

Congressman Schiff believes that providing veterans the best care possible is morally imperative. In light of the appalling conditions revealed at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Congressman Schiff worked to address deficiencies in VA treatment facilities. Congressman Schiff was a cosponsor of the Dignity for Wounded Warriors Act, which would mandate housing standards for the wounded, overhaul disability review boards, require one caseworker for every twenty recovering service members, extend job protections for service members to include family members who are at their side during recovery and demand that an ombudsmen be available around the clock by phone. The bill would also create a new independent review board that would be empowered to conduct inspections of military hospitals.

During the 110th Congress, Congressman Schiff voted for and the House passed the Wounded Warrior Assistance Act. This bill places a one year moratorium on hiring private contractors to perform Department of Defense duties at medical facilities, formalizes the transition of soldiers from active-duty to the VA system, increases the number of physicians at hospitals, and creates a Wounded Warrior Battalion within the Army to track outpatient soldiers who require medical care.

Assured Funding for Veterans Health Care

With the heavy influx of troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, the Department of Veterans Affairs was forced to operate under a $1 billion dollar shortfall in 2005 and a $2 billion dollar shortfall in 2006. Congressman Schiff believes that this sort of under-funding can have serious effects upon the quality of care which soldiers receive when returning from tours of duty. Congressman Schiff is an original cosponsor of the Assured Funding for Veterans' Health Care Act, which seeks to make funding mandatory for the VA. Instead of requesting emergency funds through spending bills to cover operational shortfalls, the act implements a formulaic mechanism which provides mandatory funding for the VA based on Veterans enrolled and those eligible for benefits.

Protecting Military Retirees

Congressman Schiff believes that Congress and the nation have an obligation to provide adequate health care for retired military personnel. Congressman Schiff is a cosponsor of the Military Retirees Health Care Protection Act which encourages the Department of Defense to pursue options to constrain health care spending without increasing fees to beneficiaries. The bill prohibits an increase to the premiums and co-payments for health care coverage for military personnel and limits charges for Department of Defense inpatient care from exceeding $535 per day.

Congressman Schiff feels that some disabled veterans are being penalized through no fault of their own and is a cosponsor the Disabled Veterans Tax Fairness Act. When military retirees are awarded retroactive disability compensation, for tax purposes their previously received taxable retiree pay is designated as nontaxable disability compensation. As a result, the IRS owes disabled military retirees a refund for the taxes paid on their pay. The current IRS statute limits refund claims to the prior 3 years, however some disability claims have been pending at the VA for 5 or more years. This bill adds an exception for the IRS statute of limitations that would allow disabled military retirees to receive back taxes for all the years their claim was pending.

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