The American Legion has focused much of the past few months gathering support and co-sponsors for H.R. 2519 and S. 1182, The American Legion 100th Anniversary Commemorative Coin Act. Both bills were introduced on May 18 and would require the U.S. Mint to produce a centennial coin in celebration of The American Legion turning 100 and proudly representing and supporting millions of veterans.
H.R. 2519 was introduced with 102 co-sponsors and currently has 322 while S. 1182 was introduced with 28 co-sponsors and currently has 75. The Senate measure passed the chamber on Aug. 3 by a voice vote.
There is still much work to be done on these bills, but The American Legion is working tirelessly to get the bills passed and onto the president’s desk.
Veterans’ measures signed by the president
During the month of August, President Trump signed into law three bills:
P.L. 115-46, the VA Choice and Quality Employment Act of 2017. This legislation will provide $2.1 billion to the Veterans Choice Program, which allows veterans to seek health care outside of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) if the needed care is not available through VA. It will also invest $1.8 billion into hiring more health care providers (VA currently has about 49,000 vacancies) and authorizes leases for 28 new VA clinics, many of which are badly needed for local care in rural areas.
Without congressional action, the Choice Program was expected to run out of money by mid-August, which VA leaders said would have led to layoffs and interrupted medical care for thousands of veterans.
P.L. 115-55, the Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act of 2017. This legislation was signed into law by the president on Aug. 23 at The American Legion’s 99th national convention in Reno, Nev.
The new law creates three lanes for appeals, including a Local Higher Level Review Lane where an adjudicator reviews the same evidence considered by the original claims processor; the New Evidence Lane where the veteran could submit new evidence for review and have a hearing; and the Board Lane where jurisdiction for the appeal would transfer immediately to the Board of Veterans Appeals.
P.L. 115-48, the Harry W. Colmery Veterans Education Assistance Act of 2017 – known as the “Forever GI Bill.” This legislation would make significant changes to the Post-9/11 GI Bill. These changes include eliminating a requirement that veterans use their benefits within 15 years of leaving active-duty service; expanding benefits for reservists, Purple Heart recipients and surviving dependents; retroactively restoring benefits to veterans affected by school closures; and providing additional funds to GI Bill users pursuing degrees in science, technology, engineering and math.
Many of the provisions of this law do not go into effect until next year, with others becoming effective in 2-4 years.