Military Servicemembers and Veterans
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.”
– Rep. Adam Schiff
Providing Quality Health Care for Those Who Served
As the son of an Army veteran, Rep. Adam 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. Schiff is a strong proponent of initiatives to increase access to quality health care services for our servicemembers and veterans. Specifically, Schiff is a cosponsor of the Veterans Mental Health Accessibility Act, which would necessarily increase the number of returning servicemembers eligible for hospital care, medical services, and nursing home care for treatment of a mental illness. Schiff also supports the Helping Veterans Exposed to Toxic Chemicals Act, which would direct the Secretary of Defense to establish three Centers of Excellence for the prevention, diagnosis, mitigation, treatment, and rehabilitation of health conditions caused by exposure to environmental conditions such as open burn pits.
Providing the Best Retirement Benefits
Rep. Adam Schiff knows that military retirees have made many personal sacrifices during their careers in order to defend our nation. The heroic efforts of servicemembers 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.
To support this goal, Schiff is a co-sponsor of the Military Surviving Spouses Equity Act, which would repeal the off-set of the Survivors 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 Veterans Affairs (VA) Department 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 V.A. 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. Schiff is also a cosponsor of the Disabled Veterans Tax Termination Act, which would permit retired members of the Armed Forces who have a service-related 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.
Ensuring Educational Benefits
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. Rep. Adam Schiff has supported the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Improvements Act of 2010, which was later signed into law. 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. Schiff also supported the GI Bill Tuition Fairness Act, which allows veterans to attend state-run higher education institutions at in-state tuition rates regardless of their residency status. Now signed into law, the legislation also prohibits senior executive service employees at the V.A. from receiving bonuses through the end of Fiscal Year 2018 and extends authorities for various educational, employment, and housing benefits for veterans.
According to the V.A., 131,000 veterans live on the streets, in shelters, or with community based organizations – and more than 6,300 homeless veterans reside in Los Angeles County alone. 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.
Rep. Adam Schiff supports the effort to reduce the homeless population. As a member of the Appropriations Committee, Schiff has continuously worked to fully fund the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of Veterans’ Affairs Supportive voucher program (HUD-VASH). The program provides rental assistance and case management and clinical services for homeless veterans. Schiff has also supported the Homes for Heroes Act, which could provide shelter for homeless veterans and homeless veterans’ families, and could help prevent low-income families from falling into homelessness.
Getting the Names of Those Lost on the U.S.S. Frank Evans on the Vietnam Wall
The USS Frank E. Evans collided with the Australian ship, the HMAS Melbourne, on June 3, 1969, while conducting a training exercise in the South China Sea. As a result of the collision, the bow of the American destroyer quickly sank and 74 sailors lost their lives. Unfortunately, the sailors do not meet the Department of Defense's geographic criteria for inclusion on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, since at the time of the collision, the USS Frank E. Evans was outside the area designated as the combat zone. The issue was first brought to Schiff’s attention several years ago by a constituent who had lost his father in the accident.
Congressman Schiff believes that the “Lost 74” of the Evans should be recognized with inclusion on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Schiff has been working for several years to petition the Secretary of Defense to grant an exemption to the criteria requirements for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, so that these men may join their 58,000 comrades on the Wall. Schiff was successful in getting language included in the 2015 National Defense Authorization bill urging that the Evans crew be added to the Wall. The ultimate disposition of the matter rests with the Secretary of Defense and Schiff will continue to press the issue with Secretary Hagel and, if necessary, his successor.
Reforming the V.A. Health Care System
In response to the deplorable delays reported at various Veterans Health Administration facilities across the country in 2014, the Administration launched a comprehensive face-to-face audit of VA facilities across the country. The audit revealed more than 100,000 veterans experiencing long wait times for medical appointments past the acceptable 14-day target observed by VA facilities. Rep. Adam Schiff called on the Department of Veterans Affairs to act quickly to address the chronic deficiencies and intolerable wait periods at VA hospitals around the country. The overhaul of the VA has begun in earnest, but there is much more to do. Schiff believes we must ensure that we honor our commitment to caring and providing for our nation's veterans. As the wounded from the nation's most recent wars continue to grapple with severe injuries and trauma, a robust VA health care infrastructure is needed now more than ever.
This is why Schiff supported numerous efforts to immediately begin addressing the underlying problems at the VA and to expand access to private health care for all veterans. Schiff supported the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014, which was signed into law on August 8, 2014. The law requires private medical care to be provided to those veterans who have have been unable to schedule an appointment with a VA medical facility within the Veterans Health Administration’s wait-time goals for hospital care and for veterans who have faced an unusual or excessive geographical burden in accessing a VA facility. The law also requires the VA to recruit additional health care providers and increases capacity for more VA facilities to be built.