Shea-Porter Votes Again to Expand Health Care for Veterans

WASHINGTON - Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter cosponsored and voted this week for four bills that expand veterans health insurance and healthcare benefits.

"Passing this legislation on the eve of Memorial Day shows our commitment to all who have served," said Shea-Porter. "As we commemorate the lives of those fought and died for our country, we are also expressing our commitment to those who served and returned home."

The Congresswoman's support for the legislation is part of her larger efforts to work on behalf of veterans. During her five months in office, she has cosponsored or voted for over 18 bills that extend veterans benefits. (A complete list of this legislation follows.)

One of the bills passed this week, the Returning Service Member VA Health Care Insurance Act (HR 612), addresses the current situation in which returning service members are only eligible for veterans medical services for a period of two years. The act would extend that period to five years and would cover hospital care, general medical services, and nursing home care. The coverage is also retroactive so it extends coverage to those who left active duty up to five years ago.

"The current two-year window is too short," said Shea-Porter. "When soldiers put their lives on the line, they should know that they will be taken care of when they get home."

The Traumatic Brain Injury Health Enhancement and Long-Term Support Act (HR 2199) is designed to address the increasingly large number of brain injuries due to the widespread use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs). The following is a partial list of key provisions in the bill:

  • Provides funding for up to five new centers across the country for traumatic brain injury research, education and training for VA health care
  • Establishes a program to screen veterans for symptoms of traumatic brain injury
  • Establishes a comprehensive program of long-term care for traumatic brain injury rehabilitation at four sites across the country
  • Funds a pilot program of mobile VA centers in rural areas to improve access to readjustment benefits and mental health services
  • Establishes a registry of service members with brain injury symptoms who apply for care or file a disability claim

"Our troops serving in Iraq have suffered from the extensive use of roadside bombs in Iraq. We can only imagine the pain suffered by those who survive and their families. We must give these soldiers the best medical care available."

The third piece of legislation, the Early Access to Vocational Rehabilitation Benefits Bill (HR 2239), addresses the current problem in which disabled soldiers are not eligible for vocational rehabilitation until they are formally discharged from service. The bill extends vocational rehabilitation to current members of the armed services with at least a 10% disability incurred on active duty.

The fourth bill, Chiropractic Care for All Veterans Act (HR 1470), requires the Veterans Administration to provide chiropractic care at 75 of its medical facilities by December 31, 2009, and all medical centers by December 31, 2011.

All four of the veterans bills passed the House of Representatives.



Primary Sponsor

The Homecoming Enhancement Research and Oversight (HERO) Act, companion legislation to Senate bill S. 1271, which requires the Department of Defense (DOD) and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to contract with the National Academy of Sciences to launch a comprehensive national research effort focused on the physical and mental health of returning Iraq and Afghanistan service members, veterans, and their families. The bill is endorsed by Veterans for America, Iraq and AfghanistanVeterans of America, the Coalition to Salute America's Heroes, and the Brain Injury Association of America.

Primary Cosponsor

H.R. 1354, the Lane Evans Mental Health and Benefits Act, which provides US service members and veterans better access to medical treatment. The bill also requires the Department of Defense to conduct mandatory physical and mental health exams for every returning service member. Soldiers would be eligible for treatment for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder for up to five years. Finally, it guarantees National Guardsmen and Reservists equal access to medical services. The bill is pending a vote on the House floor.

Congressional Inquiries

Sent a letter with 25 co-signers to House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton, requesting an investigation into reports that injured troops are being re-deployed to Iraq. The House Armed Services Committee subsequently ordered the General Accountability Office to begin an investigation.


H.R. 1428, National Guard and Reserve Retirement Modernization Act , which improves service incentives for guardsmen and reservists.

H.R. 718, the National Guard Empowerment Act of 2007, which provides the National Guard with more clout in the defense establishment, assuring its security requirements receive appropriate attention.

H.R. 243, the Combat Military Medically Retired Veterans Act of 2007, which allows those combat medically-retired veterans who received the Purple Heart to collect their prorated military retirement pay.

H.R. 333, Disabled Veterans Tax Termination Act, which permits retired members ofthe Armed Forces who have a service-connected disability rated less than 50 percent to receive concurrent payment of both retired pay and veterans' disability compensation, to eliminate the phase-in period for concurrent receipt, to extend eligibility for concurrent receipt and combat-related special compensation to chapter 61 disability retirees with less than 20 years of service.

H.R. 1426, Veterans Access to Local Health Care Options and Resources Act , which gives veterans in the Department of Veterans Affairs health care system the option of seeking healthcare outside of the VA system.

H.R. 23, Belated Thank You to the Merchant Mariners of World War II Act of 2007, which provides benefits to those who served in the Merchant Marine during WWII.

H.R. 579, the Military Retirees' HealthCare Protection Act, which blocks Pentagon attempts to pass health care costs on to military retirees through fees.

H.R. 1222, the Keep Our Promise to America's Military Retirees Act, which allows retirees to opt out of TRICARE military health care system and into FEHB (Federal Employees Health Benefit) plan.

H.R. 1223, the Keeping Faith with the Greatest Generation Military Retirees Act, which waives Medicare Part B premiums for retirees who entered services before Dec. 7th,1956

H.R. 1330, which amends title 10, US Code, to extend the time limit for the use of education assistance by members of the Selected Reserve and members of the reserve component supporting contingency operations and certain other operations.

H.Res.326, commemorating the 25thanniversary of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

Legislation Supported on House Floor

H.R. 1538, the Wounded Warrior Assistance Act, which establishes a new system of case managers, advocates and counselors for wounded military personnel returning from combat to help them get the medical care they need and to navigate the military's health care bureaucracy. It also sets up a toll-free "hotline" for reporting problems in military medical facilities.

H.R. 1591, the U.S. Troop Readiness,Veterans' Health, and Iraq Accountability Act, which provides $124.3 billion to primarily cover costs relating to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which is $21.3 billion more than the President's request; includes a number of benchmarks the Iraqi government must meet to prevent the rapid withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq, though even if the benchmarks are met, U.S. troops would have to leave Iraq by August 2008; and contains a number of"readiness" benchmarks the Pentagon would have to meet before U.S.troops could deploy to Iraq, including having received full training and proper equipment and having at least one year's break between deployments to Iraq. This legislation was vetoed by the President.

H.R. 1284, Veterans Compensation Cost of Living Act , which provides an increase in the rate of compensation for disabled veterans and in the rates of dependency and indemnity compensation for their families.

H.Con.Res.99, Budget Resolution for Fiscal Year 2008, which provides $43.1 billion for veterans health care (above the President's request), including increases for mental health and traumatic injuries, speeding up the disability claims processing system, and preventing certain veterans from having to pay increased fees for their health care.

H.R. 797, Veterans Vision Equity Act, which changes current law to provide that veterans who receive disability compensation because of blindness in one eye, will receive additional benefits if they are visually impaired in the second eye.

H.R. 327, Veterans Suicide Prevention Act , which requires the Veterans Affairs Department to develop and implement a comprehensive program to reduce the incidence of suicide among veterans.

H.R. 1470, the Chiropractic Care Available to All Veterans Act , which requires that chiropractic care and services be provided to veterans at all Department of Veterans Affairs medical centers within four years.

H.R. 2239¸ the Early Access to Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Benefits Act, which extends the eligibility for rehabilitation benefits from the VA to current members of the armed forces who are hospitalized or are receiving outpatient medical care, have a disability of at least 10 percent incurred or aggravated while on active duty, and who are likely to be discharged from the service due to that disability.

H.R. 2199, the Traumatic Brain Injury/RuralVeterans Outreach , which ensures that our veterans are properly screened for Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and, if diagnosed,receive the appropriate treatment. More than half of combat casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan have associated brain injuries, often due to improvised explosive devices.

H.R. 612, the Returning Service Member VA Health Care Insurance Act, which extends the period of eligibility for health care for combat service in the Persian Gulf War or future hostilities from two years to five years after discharge or release. The bill is meant to address mental health conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder, which may not be evident right after a veteran's discharge from service. This will also provide veterans who might be denied healthcare due to the Bush Administration enrollment ban policy, an additional period of time to gain access to VA health care.

H.R. 67, the Veterans Outreach Improvement Act ,which allows the VA to partner with state and local governments to reach out to veterans and their families in ensuring they receive the benefits for which they are eligible and assist them in completing their benefits claims. Federal grants would be directed to states with large and growing populations of veterans. This measure is supported by: Veterans of Foreign Wars, Paralyzed Veterans of America, Military Officers Association of America, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, and takes another step in fulfilling ourpromises in the GI Bill of Rights for the 21st Century.

H.Res.413, recognizing the service of United States Merchant Marine veterans.

H. Con. Res. 42 , which honors the heroic service and sacrifice of the glider pilots of the United States Army Air Forces during World War II.

Additional Letters

To Major General George Weightman, former commander of Walter Reed, concerning the condition of the facilities and treatment of troops at Walter Reed.

To Comptroller General David Walker requesting an investigation into the condition of the facilities and treatment of troops at Walter Reed.