Military Servicemembers and Veterans
"We have a moral obligation to support those who have made great sacrifices for our nation. We owe an immeasurable debt to the brave men and women who have put themselves in harm’s way for our safety, as we are reminded by witnessing their sacrifices. I am committed to ensuring that benefits and health care are accessible and effective for veterans and their families." – Congressman Adam Schiff
Topics in this section:
As the son of an Army veteran, Congressman Schiff believes that Congress and the nation have an obligation to provide adequate health care for all our military personnel–whether they are currently serving or have served and are now retired.
The demographics of today’s veteran population have changed significantly from the veteran population of a decade ago. We have learned from the experiences of past generations of veterans about the traumatic injuries that can occur during war, both mental and physical. With this understanding, as a nation, we can improve upon the care provided to our veterans as they return from deployment. The Department of Defense (DoD) and the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA) face an ongoing challenge to decrease the historical stigma associated with mental health issues, while increasing the awareness and availability of treatment for mental health issues for our servicemembers.
The injuries resulting from the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts are significant, enduring and life altering, such as poly-trauma, multi-limb amputation, traumatic brain injury (TBI), toxic exposure from hazardous disposal sites and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The VA and DoD are working hard to provide necessary health care to treat these various issues, while continuing to study and gather data that will help prevent some of these injuries in the future.
In February 2011, Schiff co-signed a letter to the Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, urging DoD to allow servicemembers with mild to severe TBI to receive cognitive rehabilitation therapy under TRICARE coverage, if they desire access to that therapy.
Schiff was also a co-sponsor of the following legislation in the 112th Congress that will improve the health care available to our servicemembers and veterans of the armed forces:
TBI Treatment Act(H.R. 396): Sets up a 5-year pilot program that authorizes DoD/VA payments for certain treatments of traumatic brain injury and PTSD for veterans and members of the Armed Forces at facilities that are not VA medical facilities or military treatment facilities.
Chiropractic Care Available to All Veterans Act(H.R. 329): Amends the VA Health Care Programs Enhancement Act of 2001 (P.L. 107-135) to require a program under which the VA provides chiropractic care and services to veterans through VA medical centers and clinics. The bill also includes chiropractic examinations and services within required VA medical, rehabilitative and preventive health care services.
K-9 Companion Corps Act(H.R. 943): Establishes a joint DoD/VA program to provide competitive grants to nonprofit organizations that provide assistance dogs to covered members and veterans with one of the following disabilities: blindness or visual impairment; loss of use of a limb, paralysis, or other significant mobility issues; loss of hearing; TBI; PTSD; or any other disability that the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of Veterans’ Affairs consider appropriate.
Schiff knows that military retirees have made many personal sacrifices during their careers in order to defend our nation. Servicemembers heroic efforts while serving in the Armed Forces are just the beginning: Their family members serve as well, by picking up extra responsibilities when their loved ones depart for long deployments, adjusting to new jobs and schools as they move to new duty stations, and all the other stresses of the military lifestyle. When our servicemembers retire, Schiff believes we owe it these Americans to ensure that they and their families are well-cared for. In this endeavor, he is a co-sponsor of the following legislation that will provide fairness for our military retirees’ benefits Congress:
Military Surviving Spouses Equity Act(H.R. 178): Repeals the off-set of the Survivor Benefit Program (SBP) and Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) for military survivors. It also requires the payment of an annuity to a member's dependent children when there is no eligible surviving spouse. The VA pays DIC to a surviving spouse and dependent children if a member dies of a service-connected cause. If the surviving spouse is awarded DIC by the VA based on the death of the same member who provided the SBP coverage, current law requires the offset of amounts paid in DIC from SBP annuities for the surviving spouses.
Disabled Veterans Tax Termination Act(H.R. 333): Permits retired members of the Armed Forces who have a service-connected disability rated less than 50 percent to receive concurrent payment of both retired pay and veterans’ disability compensation. The bill also eliminates the phase-in period for concurrent receipt, and makes permanent the eligibility for concurrent receipt for chapter 61 disability retirees with less than 20 years of service.
Military Retiree Survivor Comfort Act(H.R. 493): Requires the United States to forgive any overpayment of military retired or retainer pay for any period after the death of the recipient through the last day of the month in which such death occurs, if such payment is electronically deposited to a joint account bearing the name of the decedent and the decedent's designated beneficiary. It also provides a special effective date for the first annuity payment to a survivor under the SBP when an overpayment is so forgiven.
Veterans Pensions Protection Act(H.R. 923): Amends section 1503(a) of title 38, US Code to exempt the reimbursement of expenses related to accidents, theft, loss, or casualty loss from being included into the determination of a veteran’s income. This bill is applicable to the VA’s service pensions (wartime veterans who have limited or no income, 65 and older), disability pensions (non-service-connected disabilities, permanently and totally disabled), and death pensions (surviving spouses and children).
Educational benefits for our servicemembers and veterans are important to ensure they have the opportunity to earn a graduate degree or a professional certification, or learn new skills to assist in their military career or their transition from the military to the civilian sector. During the 111th Congress, Schiff supported the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Improvements Act of 2010, which was signed into law (P.L. 111-377) on January 4, 2011. This legislation revised certain provisions of the Post-9/11 Veterans' Educational Assistance Program, to increase eligibility, including through National Guard service, revise assistance amounts and types of approved programs of education, expand the list of allowed educational programs, expand payments for licensing, certification, admissions and placement tests, and provide additional living allowance for veterans with service-connected disabilities.
During the 112th Congress, Schiff also co-sponsored the following legislation that will improve the educational benefits for our military servicemembers and retirees:
Post 9/11 GI Bill Dependent Coverage Improvement Act (H.R. 614): Allows transfers of Post-9/11 education benefits to eligible children up to age 26.
Puerto Rico Opportunity to Serve Act (H.R. 1000): Increases the number of appointees who can attend the service academies (U.S. Military Academy, U.S. Naval Academy, and U.S. Air Force Academy), from Puerto Rico, from 5 to 15. This bill will give Puerto Rico more equality with the states in the number of constituents who can attend the service academies, based on population.
According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), 131,000 veterans live on the streets, in shelters, or with community based organizations. Veterans comprise over 26 percent of the homeless population in the U.S. and nearly 300,000 veterans may experience homelessness at some point during the course of a year. Many more low income veterans and veteran families live at the margins, and are at risk of becoming homeless in the absence of permanent housing solutions and supportive services. An increasing number of veterans returning from the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan are becoming homeless after they leave the service.
Schiff supports the effort to reduce the homeless population In March 2011, he co-signed a letter to the House and Senate leadership, urging appropriators to support the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Department of Veterans’ Affairs efforts to end veteran homelessness by providing funding for 10,000 Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) vouchers in the Continuing Resolution. Schiff is also a co-sponsor of the Homes for Heroes Act(H.R. 287), which provides shelter for homeless veterans and homeless veteran families, and helps prevent low-income families from falling into homelessness.
During this difficult economic period, while all Americans are feeling the effects of the financial crisis, our military servicemembers, veterans, and their families are hit especially hard. The periodic relocations, mobilizations and deployments, and high unemployment rates throughout the country put a significant strain on our servicemember and veteran families. Schiff is dedicated to providing these families with economic assistance.
During the 111th Congress, Schiff supported the Military Spouses Residency Relief Act(S. 475), which was signed into law (P.L. 111-97) on November 11, 2009. This bill amended the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, revising specific provisions for spouses who relocate solely to accompany their servicemember serving under military orders. The legislation protects families from being disenfranchised or lose tax or other benefits due to moves that impact residency status.
Schiff was also a co-sponsor of the following legislation of the 112thCongress:
Homeowners Assistance Program for Servicemembers(H.R. 237): Expands access to the Homeowners Assistance Program (HAP) for qualified members of the Armed Forces permanently reassigned during a designated mortgage crisis, allowing the Secretary of Defense greater flexibility regarding the dates of the availability of such assistance. Due to the nature of military orders, servicemembers and their families do not have the ability to “wait out” low property values—a problem that HAP addresses by providing financial assistance to qualifying families.
Extend the Retroactive Stop-Loss Claim Period(H.R. 573): Extends the period of time during which claims for retroactive stop-loss special pay may be submitted until October 21, 2011. Stop loss is the DoD policy that retains servicemembers involuntarily beyond their established separation date, when needed. A 2008 bill (P.L. 110-329) required payments of $500 per month for servicemembers held under stop loss during fiscal year 2009. The 2009 Supplemental Appropriations Act (P.L. 111-32) expanded the stop loss payments to all servicemembers and veterans who served under stop loss orders since September 11, 2001.
Veterans Employment Transition Act(H.R. 865): Restores the work opportunity tax credit, which expired at the end of 2010, which provides a $2,400 tax credit for each veteran hired who has been discharged within the last 5 years, regardless of employment status. Allrecently discharged veterans with discharge paperwork showing 180 days of qualified active duty will be eligible, including men and women who were activated by their states as members of the National Guard.