March 2, 2010

VA Appropriations for FY 2011 -- The American Legion agrees with the majority of the funding levels proposed for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) within the President's budget request of $125 billion in FY 2011, as they are consistent with the recommendations offered by National Commander Clarence Hill before a joint session of the Committees on Veterans' Affairs. With the enactment of Public Law 111-81, advance appropriations for VA medical accounts are now included in the budget request.

VA Claims and Adjudication Process -- The American Legion intends to continue working with VA to improve the timeliness and accuracy of VA disability claims. Congress has provided additional funding to hire and train more claims representatives and adjudicators in order to aggressively meet the challenging claims backlog. The American Legion believes quality initial training of new hires, continuing education of qualified adjudicators, and retention of trained adjudicators are the key elements in achieving timely and accurate claims decisions. The American Legion feels that critical to the process is a renewed focus on credit for quality work rather than volume of work by adjudicators. Another critical component is making sure claims are properly developed before they are given to VA for a decision. This is an important role for our Department Service Officers when assisting veterans with their initial claims.

Medicare Reimbursement for VA -- The American Legion supports legislation to authorize VA to collect third-party reimbursements from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) for the treatment of allowable, nonservice-connected medical conditions of enrolled Medicare-eligible veterans within VA medical facilities. VA is a national integrated health care delivery system authorized to collect third-party reimbursements from private health insurers, to include Medicare supplemental coverage, for veterans receiving treatment in VA medical facilities. Medicare is a Federally-mandated, public health insurance program. Unlike the Department of Defense (DoD) Medical System and Indian Health Services, VA is prohibited from collecting reimbursements from CMS. In essence, scarce discretionary appropriations are being expended by VA to provide timely access to quality health care for Medicare-eligible veterans without receiving any reimbursement from the nation's largest health care insurer.

Enhancements for the Post-911 GI Bill Educational Benefits - The American Legion supports legislation to expand the benefits of this landmark legislation to include those veterans opting for vocational education, rather than attending a public or private institute of higher education, with appropriate financial assistance to achieve their employment goals. Not all veterans want to attend college; however, they do want to obtain marketable job skill sets that require extensive vocational training. The American Legion supports providing these veterans with tuition, housing allowance and annual book-stipend to cover the cost of vocational training.

Repeal of the Disabled Veterans' Tax (Concurrent Receipt) - The American Legion supports a complete repeal of the Disabled Veterans' Tax. Service-connected disabled military retirees should not have their retiree pay offset, dollar-for-dollar, by their VA disability compensation.

Repeal of the Military Widows' Tax (Survivors Benefit Program Offset) - The American Legion supports legislation to repeal this current injustice that offsets a military retiree's surviving spouse's monthly annuity payment by the amount, dollar-for-dollar, of VA's awarded Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) to surviving spouses of service-connected disabled veterans who died due to their service-connected medical condition(s). The Survivors Benefit Program (SBP) is an optional annuity insurance program available to military retirees because when military retirees die, their retiree pay is terminated. Military retirees, who opt to participate in SBP, make monthly payments in order to participate in this annuity program. This personal financial investment should not be offset by a Federal benefit awarded to the survivors of service-connected disabled veterans.

VETS Appropriations for FY 2011 - The American Legion supports increased funding for programs administered by the Department of Labor's Assistant Secretary for Veterans' Employment and Training Services (VETS) to better serve veterans facing unemployment or underemployment. Meaningful employment is the key to fulfilling the American dream and the eradication of homelessness within the veterans' community. The American Legion strongly recommends congressional oversight hearings to evaluate the achievements and shortcomings of VETS.

Fully Fund and Increase the Size of the Armed Forces -- The American Legion recognizes that a strain exists on many service members in the Active Duty, National Guard and Reserve, as well as on their equipment and training needs, which is caused by the continuing overseas contingencies conducted against global terrorism. The American Legion urges Congress to fully fund the Armed Forces; to reset units with new equipment and replacement parts; and to provide training for specific skills that are required for critical mission performance across the full spectrum of conflict. The American Legion urges an increase in military personnel endstrengths to levels that reduce the frequency of deployments on service members, to reduce the stress on service members and their families, and to reduce the risk to national security that results from conventional warfare missions being relegated to a lower priority for training, planning and resourcing purposes.

Quality of Life for Service Members, Military Retirees and their Military Families -- The American Legion supports recent initiatives and funding provided to improve military quality of life for the All Volunteer Armed Forces. The American Legion urges Congress to provide full funding for:

  • achieving civilian equivalency in military salaries,
  • quality military health care,
  • TRICARE and TRICARE for Life without fee increases,
  • quality military housing on well maintained military installations,
  • wounded warrior care,
  • effective transition assistance programs,
  • the Military Family Readiness program, and
  • fairness and timeliness in the DoD Disability Evaluation System.