House Passes Landmark Legislation for Wounded Veterans, Women Veterans, and their Families

Posted on by Karina

By a vote of 419-0, the House passed amendments to the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act (S. 1963) this afternoon. The bill:

provides support to family and others who care for disabled, ill, or injured veterans

enhances health services for the 1.8 million women veterans, including care for newborns for the 1st time in history

expands mental health services for veterans and health care access for veteran in rural areas

prohibits co-payments for veterans who are catastrophically disabled

This new support to help meet the many hardships and sacrifices associated with lengthy recovery and rehabilitation from severe injuries of veterans is vital for the wounded veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan and their families–about 20% of active duty, 15% of reserve and 25% of retired and separated members have a family member or friend who has had to leave a job to care for a veteran full-time. Specifically, the bill provides for counseling and mental health services, respite care for family and other caregivers of all veterans, and health care and a stipend for caregivers living with severely wounded veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Senate passed its version of the bill on November 19th (by a vote of 98-0) after Sen. Tom Coburn held it up. The House passed the Caregiver Assistance and Resource Enhancement Act (HR 3155) by voice vote on July 27rd and Women Veterans Health Care Improvement Act (HR 1211) by a vote of 408-0 on June 23rd. Learn more about the legislation passed today»

Speaker Pelosi in support of the legislation:

The Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act is a landmark moment in the ongoing effort to give back to our veterans and their families.

It is a tribute to their service, and, in the words of the Paralyzed Veterans of America, it will 'provide valuable benefits for veterans and their families — benefits they need, have earned, and so richly deserve.'

This legislation will support family members and others who care for the disabled, ill, or injured veterans. This is very important to families, military families. Our wounded soldiers and their families have made a serious sacrifice for our country, and this bill will bring them some relief.

It will expand mental health services and health care access for veterans in rural areas, and prohibit co-pays for our most severely wounded warriors.

This bill marks a step forward for the 1.8 million women in uniform–thank you Chairwoman Herseth-Sandlin–removing existing barriers to female veterans seeking medical care.

In a sweeping change long overdue and with strong bipartisan support–and I see my friend Congressman Henry Brown there. Thank you Mr. Brown for your leadership as well, my friend.

In sweeping change, long overdue, we will provide care for newborns for the first time in history. Today's vote is one in a series of actions taken by this Congress to give back to America's veterans.

Our signature achievement remains our New GI Bill, providing those who serve with full four-year college educations. This is also transferrable to a family member and also, a new improvement that we made was that if a veteran — service member or woman dies in combat — that this opportunity is provided for their children or another family member.

Late last year, again, in a bipartisan way, we celebrated the passage of the Veterans Health Care Budget Reform and Transparency Act — ensuring that the VA has timely and predictable funding, and our veterans receive the high quality care they have earned. Working to make sure that our economic recovery truly benefits all Americans, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act offered a tax credit for hiring veterans and a $250 payment to disabled veterans.

Just this month, we passed the TRICARE Affirmation Act, stating explicitly that our health care reform legislation will not impact the excellent health coverage our veterans and service members already receive.

In the last three years, we have given our troops a pay raise, helped restore military readiness, and bolstered the support for our military families. Today, we strengthen the benefits our men and women in uniform receive.

Mr. Speaker, in the course of our meetings with the Veterans Service Organizations and with the families of our men and women in uniform and our veterans, we hear directly from them what their needs are and tried to establish their priorities, and to make it a priority in allocating resources of our country. And in the course of those conversations, we have heard from the families, that in a survey they took, of their own membership, the Blue Star Families, that they believe — 94 percent of them thought that most Americans did not have clear understanding of their needs. We promise them that in all that we do here, we will remove all doubt in anyone's mind among our military families, that we understand their needs, especially as they present them in a prioritized way. And we'll make them our priorities in the Congress.

In every action we strive to live up to our commitment. Just as the military on the battlefield has said, 'on the battlefield we will leave no soldier behind.' So too, when they come home, we will leave no veteran behind.

As the leaders of the American Legion have stated: 'This legislation offers bold solutions to major challenges facing service members, veterans, and their families.'

On behalf of every American who wears the uniform, I urge my colleagues to vote 'yes' on this bill.

Read the Speaker’s full remarks»

Today’s passage builds on the significant accomplishments for veterans, troops, and military families over the last three years under the Democratic-led Congress–including as the Speaker mentioned in her remarks, the New GI Bill, the building of more military child care centers and better military family housing, and historic investments to strengthen quality veterans' health care. Learn more about the legislation we’ve passed»

UPDATE: President Obama signed the bill into law on May 5th:

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