Office of Congresswoman Shea-Porter - Shea-Porter Applauds Passage of the Combat Veterans Debt Elimination Act of 2008

Measure Introduced by Congresswoman Shea-Porter to Protect the Estates of Combat Veterans Passes as Part of the Emergency Supplemental bill

Washington , DC – The Emergency Supplemental spending bill that passed the United States House of Representatives today included a measure introduced by Congresswoman Shea-Porter that prohibits the Veterans Affairs Department from collecting certain debts owed by veterans killed in combat. H.R. 5155, the Combat Veterans Debt Elimination Act, was included as Section 1303 of the domestic spending package in H.R. 2642, the Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2008, which also included increased GI Benefits and an extension of unemployment benefits. The measure passed the House by a vote of 416 – 12 this evening.

The Combat Veterans Debt Elimination Act of 2008 would remedy the current policy that requires the government to recover certain debts owed by the estates of soldiers killed in combat, or who have died as a result of wounds suffered in combat. The bill would explicitly prohibit the Secretary of the Veterans Administration from collecting these debts from any servicemember killed after September 11, 2001.

“There is something terribly wrong when the government seeks money from families whose loved ones have given their lives in service to our country. This is a moral issue and a simple matter of respect,” Shea-Porter said. “I am happy to stand up for these military families, and proud that the House passed this legislation today.”

Rep. Chet Edwards, Chairman of the House Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Subcommittee, said, “Congresswoman Shea Porter is a true friend to America’s veterans and her leadership on this issue ensures that our veterans and their families receive the benefits they earned when they put on the uniform.”

The Veterans Administration is supportive of the change. It also requested a provision that allows it to retroactively reimburse debts collected after September 11, 2001.

Last week, Congresswoman Shea-Porter testified before the House Veterans Affairs Committee in support of H.R. 5155. The bill will now be considered by the Senate and then must be signed by the President. Its inclusion in the Emergency Supplemental nearly ensures that the bill will be signed into the law.