House passes two veterans bills

The House of Representatives passed two bills on May 21, the American Heroes COLA Act (H.R. 570) and the Improving Job Opportunities for Veterans Act (H.R.1412).

H.R. 570 would permanently tie annual increases in veterans’ disability compensation rates and other benefits to the cost-of-living (COLA) adjustment for Social Security benefits.

Disabled veterans would never have to depend on further congressional action to receive COLA adjustments; the increases would become automatic year to year.

The other bill, H.R. 1412, would help veterans to use their GI Bill benefits for apprenticeships and on-the-job training.

American Legion National Commander James E. Koutz said he appreciated these most recent efforts by Congress to help America’s veterans, and that it needs to keep moving in the right direction.

“The House also needs to pass its Integrated Mental Health Care Act,” Koutz said, “so that veterans won’t suffer because a contract for services has expired and VA hasn’t noticed. The difference between renewing the contract of a mental health provider on time, or letting it lapse, could be the difference between survival or suicide for one of our veterans.

Koutz also encouraged the House to pass its Veterans Timely Access to Health Care Act. This bill would ensure that veterans get access to VA health care within 30 days - instead of many months, which is often the case.

“We would much rather see a 14-day time limit, but we’ll take 30,” Koutz said. “Again, in many cases, we are talking about a matter of life and death. Veterans who are kept waiting too long for VA mental-health services will sometimes take their own lives in despair.”