Congressman Faso's Weekly Newsletter
Veterans Edition
Friday, August 11, 2017
Table of contents

Save the Date! Veterans Assistance Fair

Next Thursday I will be hosting a Veterans Assistance Fair at SUNY Sullivan from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. On hand will be an array of experts to help our vets with everything from getting the healthcare they need to career and employment assistance. The importance of getting help to our veterans as they transition back into their communities cannot be overstated – if you are a veteran or you know a veteran who might benefit from an event like this, please encourage them to attend. Our office stands ready to help.

The event will include experts who can help veterans obtain access to: Benefits, Disability Claims, Education, Choice Card, Eligibility, Healthcare, Employment, Housing, and more.

What: Veterans Assistance Fair
Where: SUNY Sullivan Student Union, 112 College Road, Loch Sheldrake, NY 12759
When: Thursday, August 17, 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.
Who: Congressman Faso, his staff, and an array of experts to help our vets
Contact: Kathy Fallon (Kingston) – (845) 514-2322

In addition to our event in Sullivan County, my office will be on-site at the Delaware County Fair on August 15 to provide assistance and guidance for these resources for our veterans.

In this week’s edition of the newsletter I also want to point your attention to some of the work we have done in Congress this year to support our veterans. More information on that below.

115th Congress Veterans Bills

In the 115th Congress I have supported and the House has passed several pieces of legislation to directly benefit our veterans and make sure they get the care and services they deserve. Here are some examples:

H.R. 2288, The Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act 

The Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act addresses the VA’s broken appeals process – where there are close to 500,000 appeals pending – to deliver care to veterans who have been waiting far too long, by streamlining the process and allowing veterans to maintain the original claim date. Specifically, the bill:

  • Reforms the VA appeals process by giving veterans more options. Specifically, veterans could choose between three options: to waive a hearing and the ability to submit additional evidence, submit additional evidence and have a hearing, or transfer jurisdiction to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals.
  • The bill also authorizes the Board to maintain at least two dockets—one specifically for an expedited review for veterans who waive the hearing and chance to submit new evidence.
  • Allows veterans to maintain the original effective date of their claim, as long as the veteran submits new and relevant evidence at least once a year.
  • Allows certain veterans who have an appeal pending at the VA prior to the bill’s effective date, to opt-in to the new system.
  • Requires the VA to provide a comprehensive plan for processing of legacy appeals and implementing the reform proposal to Congress and GAO within 90 days of enactment.
  • Requires the Secretary to certify that the VA has sufficient resources to carry out the new appeals system and timely address to both new and legacy appeals.
  • Gives the VA the authority to either phase-in the new system or conduct a pilot program of the new system prior to full implementation.
  • Requires the VA to submit regular reports to Congress.

For full text of the legislation, click here.

H.R. 3218, Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act

The Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act makes much-needed improvements to the post-9/11 GI Bill, including an important expansion of benefits for our veterans pursuing degrees in the STEM field. Upstate New Yorkers understand well the need for more people with this kind of training, and there is no one better to fill this demand than the men and women who have served in our military. Specifically, the bill:

  • Removes time restriction to use the GI bill for future eligible recipients and those who were discharged on or after January 1, 2013.
  • Provides an increase in GI Bill funding for Reservists, Guardsmen, dependents, and surviving spouses and dependents.
  • Provides 100% GI Bill eligibility to Post-9/11 Purple Heart recipients.
  • Provides GI Bill eligibility to Reservists and Guardsmen who are currently being put on active duty and convalescent medical leave orders that do not currently accrue GI Bill eligibility.
  • Provides an extra academic years’ worth of Post-9/11benefits for over 3,300 veterans (per year) to help them finish a STEM degree.
  • Create a pilot program that would pay for veterans to take certain high technology courses (coding boot camps, IT certifications, etc.) and provide living stipends.
  • Make it easier and cheaper for veterans to use their GI Bill to take national test or licensing and credentialing tests.
  • Restore eligibility for service members whose school closes in the middle of a semester (e.g., ITT tech and Corinthian).
  • Authorize funding for IT improvements to ensure that GI Bill claims are processed quickly and accurately.
For full text of the legislation, click here.

H.R. 282, The Military Residency Choice Act

The Military Residency Choice Act is commonsense legislation that enables spouses of active military men and women to use the address of their military spouse – something that is important for reasons of voting and taxation, and will ease the burden of frequent relocation that military families must deal with. Specifically, the bill:

  • Under current law, active duty service members are allowed to maintain one state of legal residence for tax and voting purposes, even when service members receive military orders requiring them to relocate. Under this law, spouses are only granted the same benefit if the service member and spouse have established the same tax residence at the time of their marriage.
  • H.R. 282 amends the Service members Civil Relief Act to permit the spouse of a service member to elect to use the same residence as the service member for purposes of taxation and voting, regardless of the date on which the marriage of the spouse and the service member occurred.

For full text of the legislation, click here.

H.R. 1690, The Department of Veterans Affairs Bonus Transparency Act 

The Department of Veterans Affairs Bonus Transparency Act turns a spotlight on senior officials at the Department of Veterans Affairs to identify those who may have acted nefariously in terms of bonus pay. Specifically, the bill:

  • Department of Veterans Affairs, $177 million in bonuses were doled out in 2015, and $3.3 million went to 300 senior executives at the agency.
  • Aimed at increasing oversight and maximizing transparency, H.R. 1690 would require that the VA submit a report to Congress at the end of each fiscal year listing bonuses awarded to senior-level staff, including: VA Regional Office (VARO) directors, VA hospital directors, and Veterans Integrated Service Network (VISN). 
For full text of the legislation, click here.

H.R. 512, The Working to Integrate Networks Guaranteeing Member Access Now (WINGMAN) Act

The WINGMAN Act will greatly help streamline the claims process between our constituents and the VA. When our country needed these brave men and women, they answered the call and did not look back. We must support them. Specifically, the bill:
  • Creates a more streamlined process for congressional staff to access files - currently, certified congressional staff must work with a VA representative to gain access to the status of a pending claim, medical records, compensation and pension records, rating decisions, statement of the case, supplementary state of the case, notice of disagreement and Form-9 files.
  • Remove the middle man and allows congressional staff to access files in a more efficient and expedient manner so that they can provide a higher level of constituent service.

For full text of the legislation, click here.

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