Clarence E. Hill

Legion praises passage of caregiver bill

The national commander of The American Legion applauds the Senate for overwhelming support of the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act of 2009 with a resounding 98-0 vote Thursday.  “This legislation would touch so many lives of veterans and their families, especially those with serious health care challenges,” said National Commander Clarence E. Hill.Although the bill’s primary focus is to address helping caregivers of severely injured veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, the measure tackles other serious issues, including health care for women veterans, dental insurance for certain veterans and their families, mental health-care services, veterans’ transition from military to civilian life, health-care issues facing veterans in rural areas, enhancement of VA medical services, and homeless among veterans and their families.“Since The American Legion has the largest number of Iraq and Afghanistan members of any veterans or military service organization, timely passage of this bill was absolutely critical,” Hill said. “This legislation addresses a number of concerns our newest generation of wartime veterans are talking about at Legion post meetings across the nation.”“This legislation now moves to the House, where I am confident Speaker Pelosi and her leadership team will take an aggressive approach toward timely passage. In my recent visit with the speaker, her commitment to veterans and their families was crystal clear.” Many provisions in the bill were blocked by a senator who exercised his “hold” privileges in order to closely review each provision and determine future costs to the federal government. “I have the utmost respect for Sen. Coburn and his concerns over fiscal discipline,” Hill said. “However, most Americans realizes that federal dollars associated with the medical care and treatment for service-connected disabled veterans and their families is the price of freedom and the ongoing costs of war.” Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., recently lifted his hold on S. 1963 and offered an amendment to expand the number of eligible caregivers and fund the bill by transferring federal appropriations going to the United Nations to the Department of Veterans Affairs. That amendment was soundly defeated 32-66 by his colleagues.