A vow to fight for veterans’ benefits | NevadaAppeal.com

A vow to fight for veterans’ benefits

Congressman Dean Heller

Veterans Day is the day Americans honor our nation’s heroes who defended liberty and gave their lives for freedom. I want to thank every veteran for their service to our country. As we all know, the people who make the greatest sacrifices for our country are the brave men and women of our Armed Forces. Generations of Nevadans will enjoy greater peace and security because of the tireless sacrifices of our service members.

As our country celebrates Veterans Day, we should take a moment to discuss important issues for Nevada’s veterans. Some of the most pressing matters for veterans and their families are critical veterans’ benefits and access to healthcare.

When I talk to veterans throughout Nevada, one of the issues I hear about most is the financial difficulty some veterans are having during this tough economy. Recently, with my support, Congress passed S. 2617, the Veterans’ Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment Act. This important legislation would require the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to increase the rates of veterans’ disability compensation, additional compensation for dependents, and dependency and indemnity compensation for surviving spouses and children. This legislation will help Nevada’s veterans in these difficult economic times.

One of the most pressing matters for veterans and their families is the burden and cost of travel to VA health facilities to receive critical health care. Many veterans throughout Nevada travel more than an hour and over great distances in poor health in order to receive primary health care. Because I am extremely concerned about the cost to veterans who must travel, I introduced the Veterans Travel Tax Relief Act. This legislation would allow a veteran who lives farther than 25 miles from the nearest VA Medical Center to receive up to $400 in tax deductions that will help compensate for travel expenses when receiving treatment for their service connected disability. I continue to work with my colleagues to pass this important legislation.

To help address healthcare for our veterans, the House also passed record level of funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs for the 2009 fiscal year. This funding level is the highest in the history of the VA at $72.9 billion in total funding. I voted for this important legislation, which has already been signed into law.

I believe Congress also needs to remain committed to our newest veterans who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Since World Way II, our country has a tradition of offering educational assistance to returning veterans, including a veterans’ tuition, books, fees, a monthly stipend, and other costs. Unfortunately, with the increasing cost of higher education, the G.I. Bill has not provided enough assistance. To correct this I supported increasing G.I. Bill benefits. Congress enacted legislation that expanded the G.I. Bill to restore the promise of a full, four-year college education to veterans. Also, this legislation would allow some service members to transfer educational benefits to their spouses and dependent children.

As Congress finishes its business this year, I will continue to fight for veterans’ benefits and support all of our men and women in uniform, whether they bravely served in World War II or are currently serving in Afghanistan or Iraq. From the Middle East to Fallon Naval Air Station and Nellis Air Force Base, our troops are doing an excellent job of protecting Americans from threats around the world. Recognizing the sacrifices our troops have made in the past and continue to make today, I will continue to work to ensure our veterans receive their well-deserved benefits, both now and in the future.