|TRAFICANT, James A., Jr.,|
Tuesday, October 13, 1998
Washington, D.C. – U. S. Rep. James A. Traficant, Jr. (D–OH) is urging Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R–MS) to act on House-passed legislation to improve veterans' benefits. The bill, which the House passed last Saturday, includes a cost of living adjustment (COLA) for certain veterans and their dependents, calls for expanded Gulf War syndrome studies, extends housing entitlements for reservists, expands transitional housing for homeless veterans and increases educational aid under the Montgomery G.I. Bill program. "This bill is vitally important to America's veterans," noted Traficant in a letter sent this morning to Majority Leader Lott.
The bill, the Veterans Benefits Improvement Act of 1998, allows veterans with service-connected disabilities and the survivors of veterans killed in the line of duty to receive the same COLA afforded Social Security recipients. The legislation also directs the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to work with the National Academy of Sciences to determine whether there is scientific evidence of an association between illnesses experienced by Gulf War veterans and their service in Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. The bill extends the VA's authority to provide high-priority medical treatment to Gulf War veterans through 2001, mandating that the VA establish a national center to study all war-related afflictions, educate doctors about them and provide better care.
Other provisions in the bill include renaming the Court of Veterans Appeals to the U.S. Court of Appeal for Veterans Claims, additional assistance to states for the construction of veterans' cemeteries, and allowing terminally ill veterans with a life expectancy of less than a year to receive 50 percent of their life insurance policies as accelerated death benefits.
In addition to urging Senate approval of the veterans' benefit bill, Traficant has been able to get two key veterans' amendments included in legislation sent to the President over the past week. The final version of the fiscal year 1999 defense authorization bill includes a Traficant-authored amendment to require that flags provided by the VA for use at U.S. veteran burials be wholly-produced in the U.S. Earlier this year Traficant had received complaints from several people that foreign-made U.S. flags were being used in veteran burials. After an initial investigation, Traficant was able to confirm from the VA that foreign-made flags were, in some instances, being used in veteran burials.
In addition, the final version of the fiscal year 1999 VA-HUD appropriations bill includes a Traficant-authored amendment to extend to veterans a HUD housing counseling program Traficant had established in the late 1980s. Under the program, veterans that are having problems paying a VA-mortgage will receive timely notification about available counseling services -- well before any foreclosure proceedings. Housing counseling programs have been highly effective in preventing foreclosures and saving the family home. The Traficant amendment will ensure that a veteran receives the timely counseling necessary to keep their home.2009