The Veteran Benefit Programs Improvement Act of 2011

The Veteran Benefit Programs Improvement Act of 2011

Veteran Benefit Programs Improvement Act of 2011

by Robert Stretch on August 16, 2010

Presently, Congress is reviewing Secretary Shinseki’s proposed legislation called, “The Veteran Benefit Programs Improvement Act of 2011.” Most of the suggested revisions in the request confront issues of which the VA has yet to rectify. If approved, the bill could assist Veterans in receiving their benefits faster and with less hassle. Benefits being reconsidered are pension plans, education, appeals, insurance, and loans.

Pension Plans

The bill largely focuses on expediting the process in which Veteran’s receive compensation and other benefits.  Immediate pensions for disabled soldiers and their spouses seem like a logical demand. However, legal hurdles usually keep veterans and their families from understanding their rights, and therefore, delays their access to payments.  With the new act, the VA would be required to simplify the legal jargon used in the pension proceedings, helping disabled veterans get their due payment quickly and easily.

Education

People are going to college at older ages these days.  For active duty soldiers, time in the service or recovering from duty related injuries might have delayed going to school. So, it makes sense for the VA to extend the deadline for one to claim their education benefits.  Also, for veterans with disabilities, the VA will give rewards to employers who hire and train disabled veterans under this new act if passed.

Appeals

Under Title II of the legislation, it proposes something that might not go over too well with all the lawyers out there. It suggests that veterans not have to pay any legal fees until their case is won. On the one side, this could be good for veterans who are denied benefits and need to appeal the decision but have no funds to hire legal representation.  On the other hand, people argue that this could make it harder for veterans to get a lawyer because no legal council will want to work practically for free on a case that could take many months to resolve.  Maybe the Veteran seeking legal help could remind the attorney why he or she is a lawyer in the first place.

Insurance

This part of the act recommends extra life insurance for those not receiving full coverage.  It also ensures life insurance for veterans who are completely disabled.

Loans

Such programs as the VA loan and Basic Allowance for Housing program have been much wanted improvements for veterans in need of a home.  However, some veterans still continue to fall through the cracks.  The new act advocates the single parents’ right to use loan funds for their children’s homing requirements while on duty.  Veterans who have been misplaced due to disasters will receive aid from the VA.  This part of the bill will hopefully also start to make it more mandatory that the VA start taking other factors and lifestyles into consideration when approving or denying VA Benefits.

If passed, the legislation could mean a system that works faster for service men and women who do not time to wait.

Photo thanks to wallyg under creative common license on Flickr.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

melchor quitoriano October 28, 2010 at 1:41 pm

any increase for us, i am 100% and permanently disabled. any changes for next year.

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melchor quitoriano November 15, 2010 at 9:12 pm

please respond, ask help from President Obamit. Mr President, your word is your face. Never promise anything you cannot deliver thank you.v/r ENC(SW/AW) MELCHOR QUITORIANO.Medically retired in September 2007(just 2 months after a 6month deployment in Iraq, OEF/OIF Proud Navy.

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Brad November 30, 2010 at 9:20 pm

Freezing government employee wages…new news? Permanently disabled vets have had our income frozen for the last 2 years? Any word on if we’re getting a cost of living increase this year? I mean…it isn’t as though I can just go out and get a job! That is not only forbidden, but impossible. And I don’t work for Congress so I DO CARE!

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Robert Stretch December 1, 2010 at 3:13 pm

Brad, here is some information we published on Cost of Living Adjustments for this year: http://vabenefitblog.com/cost-of-living-adjustment-remains-zero/. Hopefully one of these days disabled vets will get the honor and integrity they deserve.

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Jeremiah June 15, 2011 at 9:02 pm

Robert,

The portion of the bill addressing legal fees has nothing to do with the regular attorney-client fee agreement as it attacks the current EAJA (Equal access to Justice Act) award system. Presently an attorney will take on a CAVC appeal case for no fee and if the court remands the matter back to the BVA the attorney is entitled to request a payment of legal fees by the government because of EAJA. Essentially the goverment is paying the legal fees because they screwed up the case. If attorneys know they might not get paid for several years where is the incentive to handle the case.This would only hurt veterans because there is already a major shortage of attorneys practicing in veterans law. As for your snotty comment about pro bono services I’d like to remind you that it isn’t cheap to get a law degree and people do have to eat. This may come as a shock but every attorney doesn’t have a six figuire income, in fact most of the people I went to law school with make less than $70,000 and have a student loan payment of more than $1,000 a month. I handle several vet cases every year pro bono but it really burns me how people expect attorneys to do tons of work for free but nobody asks a plumber or mechanic or roofer to offer up free services.

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Candace August 3, 2011 at 5:23 pm

My son was medically retired from USMC in 2006 at 70% disability. Ever since he’s been at home I have had to assist him in problems getting his retirement pay, his GI Bill money for school. Right now he’s full time at college but for the past few months he’s missed 2 months of retirement pay for no known reason. His GI Bill benefits have been delayed, which means rent and utilities are not paid up and today he got his electric turned off because he’s having to pay back loans before he’s taken to court. This has not been an easy road for someone who served his country and received two consecutive TBI’s within 2 months time in Iraq. Someone needs to delay the benefits and payrolls for our Congress and the “powers that be” for a month or so and see how fast they get things fixed!

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