Major Upgrades to Veterans' Benefits Proposed by Senate Committee

Veterans may have heard that the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee voted on July 24 to send a bill to the full Senate that would improve veterans’ benefits in several areas, including Veterans Disability Compensation, education and survivor benefits. The Veterans Health and Benefits Improvement Act of 2013 consolidates some of the top proposals made in more than 30 other bills this legislative year. This bill could bring major upgrades to veteran benefits.

The proposed Senate bill represents significant improvements to benefits in a variety of areas. Veterans interested in furthering their level of education could find it to be more affordable based on the bill’s proposal to charge in-state tuition only to veterans who enroll in college within three years of leaving the military. Another education-related change is the proposal to provide scholarship money for the surviving spouses of fallen service members in addition to the scholarships already available to the children of fallen soldiers.

Veterans who are struggling with obesity might benefit from a trial program that would pay for vets who don’t live close to VA fitness complexes to join fitness centers in their area. In addition, service members who have been the victim of sexual trauma may benefit from a more streamlined and user-friendly process for getting needed treatments. In an effort to boost the level of employment among returning vets, targets would be set to boost veteran hiring in federal agencies over a five-year period, and veterans who own small businesses or surviving family members of veterans who owned small business would be granted preferred status when seeking federal contracts.

Individuals who have served in the military and their family members often make great sacrifices as part of their service to their country. Attorneys working in the area of veterans’ affairs could help to familiarize their clients with the benefits that are available for their military service and ensure that their rights are being protected during the process of applying for these benefits or if these benefits are denied.

Source: Military Times, “Senate panel votes for sweeping improvements to vets’ benefits”, Rick Maze, July 25, 2013.