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Veterans' Insurance and Health Care Improvements Act of 2009

Location: Washington, DC

VETERANS' INSURANCE AND HEALTH CARE IMPROVEMENTS ACT OF 2009 -- (House of Representatives - July 27, 2009)


Mr. FILNER. I thank the Speaker, and I yield myself such time as I may consume.

I rise in strong support of passage of this bill, the Veterans' Insurance Health Care Improvement Act of 2009, H.R. 3219. This important legislation was assembled with the help of many members of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, without whose efforts this bill would not have been possible. I'm surprised to see my friend, Mr. Stearns, managing the bill, having just railed against nationalization of health care, which is not what the Obama plan has, but then he's a great supporter of the veterans' health system, which I think may come under his definition. So I'm pleased that he supports so strongly the Veterans Administration health care system, which is nationalized care, but I wish he would support Mr. Obama's health care plan, which has nothing to do with nationalization.

But I want to recognize and applaud the outstanding effort of especially two dynamic members on the committee who sponsored major insurance provisions of the bill under consideration. Mrs. Halvorson of Illinois sponsored the Families of Veterans Financial Security Act, H.R. 2774, which has become section 101 of this bill. And Mrs. Kirkpatrick of Arizona sponsored the Veterans and Service Members Accelerated Benefit Option Equity Act of 2009, H.R. 2988, which is now section 103 of this bill.

These measures represent commonsense yet critical insurance provisions intended to ensure that our veterans, servicemembers and their families who have insurance-related needs receive the full measure of the benefit offered and that the survivors have ample replacement income to meet their needs. All of the provisions would give veterans and servicemembers greater flexibility in their insurance choices, and, consequently, greater peace of mind.

Additionally, the Congressional Budget Office reports that none of the bills would increase Federal direct spending for veterans' insurance programs. And I want to applaud, also, the chairman of our Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs Subcommittee on these measures, Mr. Hall of New York, for his leadership on these measures.

The legislation further provides for a wide variety of health care improvements in recognition of veterans who have sacrificed so much for the safety and freedom of the Nation. It enhances the lives of the Nation's veterans, from World War II to the current conflicts.

Other members also contributed to the health care provisions of this, and I want to thank them for their efforts. For example, Mr. Mitchell of Arizona, who wrote H.R. 1197, the Medal of Honor Health Care Equity Act of 2009, which assigns a higher priority status for VA hospital care and medical services for veterans who are recipients of the Medal of Honor.

Another provision by Mr. Hare of Illinois, H.R. 1302, would establish a position of director of physician assistant services within the Office of the Under Secretary of Veterans Affairs for Health. And Mrs. Halvorson from Illinois also sponsored H.R. 1335, which would prohibit the Secretary of Veterans Affairs from collecting certain copayments from veterans who are catastrophically disabled from non-service-connected causes and have income above the means tested level.

Mr. McNerney from California sponsored H.R. 1546, the Caring for Veterans with Traumatic Brain Injury Act, and that has been incorporated to establish a committee on the care of veterans with traumatic brain injury to assess the VA's ability to treat and rehabilitate veterans with TBI--that is traumatic brain injury--and to provide recommendations on how to more effectively treat these veterans.

Mr. Nye of Virginia introduced H.R. 2926, which was incorporated into the bill to provide hospital care, medical services, and nursing home care for certain Vietnam-era veterans exposed to herbicides and also veterans of the Persian Gulf War.

Mr. Buyer's bill, H.R. 2270, would establish a compensation fund for all civilian groups who are given veteran status under the G.I. Bill Improvement Act of 1977, and that is also in the bill.

And finally, we have a bill introduced by Mr. Teague of New Mexico to waive the housing loan fee for certain veterans with service-connected disabilities called to active service.

So I want to thank all of the members of our committee who've worked so hard to put together the important legislation we are considering today, and I hope my colleagues will support H.R. 3219 as amended

Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.


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