Bills Take on Health Issues, Death Benefits

NGAUS Washington Report

(Nov. 5, 2013) Bills now or soon to be introduced in Congress address emergency-room reimbursement and dental care for veterans, as well as the permanent funding of death benefits in case of another government closure. The legislative efforts were reported in Army Times.

Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, is sponsoring a bill that would allow reimbursement for emergency room visits by veterans even if they have not had a recent appointment with a Department of Veterans Affairs provider. Current law requires a VA appointment within 24 months of the ER visit before reimbursement can be made. Her office estimates that 144,000 Afghanistan and Iraq veterans would benefit from the law.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., the chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, is pushing to expand VA dental care. Draft legislation would propose a three-year pilot program of dental care for veterans. He said fewer than half of the 6.5 million veterans cared for by the VA are eligible for dental care.

Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., and Rep. Tom Rooney, R-Fla., are co-sponsors of a bill that would ensure death benefits be paid even when the government is closed, as it was for more than two weeks in October. The Defense Department was prevented from making burial benefit payments and other benefits related to the death of a service member. The bill would provide permanent appropriations for such payments.