— Veterans For Bernie (@vets4bernie) April 9, 2016
No one has had our backs like Bernie. No one. When you look at the candidates for President and Commander-in-Chief, he is the only one who has consistently stood up and said, “If you can’t afford to take care of Veterans, then don’t go to war.”
As chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs, he was our outspoken leader in the fight to improve what’s broken at the VA. In taking the time to meet us and our families and to hear our stories, there’s no question that Bernie genuinely appreciates the sacrifices we make. That’s why he fights so hard for us.
Bernie’s record speaks for itself. Like my grandma used to say, “The proof is in the pudding.” He is the only candidate who has continually spoken out about the ‘true costs of war.‘ Unlike so many others, Bernie doesn’t just talk. He walks the walk. He gets shit done. While other politicians are out giving Veterans Day speeches and using us like props, Bernie is working hard to get us results and do what’s right.
In 2014, Bernie sponsored the most comprehensive veterans legislation in decades, S.1982. Unfortunately, Senate Republicans blocked the Veterans bill because they said it was too expensive. (Check HERE to see the list of Veterans Organizations that supported Bernie’s bill)
Over the next several months as the VA scandal became public, Republicans were ultimately forced to reconsider passing Bernie’s Veterans bill.
That’s when Bernie partnered with Sen. John McCain to get his bill passed into law. The bill, known as the Veterans CHOICE Act, greatly improved VA dental and healthcare by expanding access. It hired more doctors and nurses to see us, created more VA hospitals for more convenient appointments, and improved transparency and accountability in the VA. It expanded educational opportunities by preventing states from denying in-state college tuition to military members, and guaranteed those same benefits to surviving spouses. Bernie’s bill also created new measures to put veterans back to work.
Without question, Bernie would be the first to acknowledge that more must be done, but his bill was a major step in the right direction. As President, we know Bernie will fight to fix what’s broken at the VA and ensure Veterans are taken care of when we return home.
— The Hill (@thehill) March 11, 2016
Scroll down to read more about some of the provisions of the Veterans CHOICE Act, and watch Bernie explain in his own words the importance of what his bill seeks to accomplish. A comprehensive list of every veterans bills sponsored by Bernie can be found at the bottom of this page (links included).
Restoring Military Retiree Benefits. Congress recently reduced the annual cost-of living adjustments for all military retirees under the age of 62. Full retirement benefits were eventually restored, but only for service-members and veterans who joined the military after January 1, 2014. Bernie’s bill restored full cost-of-living adjustments for all military retirees.
Expanded Access to Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Given concerns over access to mental health care and treatment for chronic pain, including overmedication, Bernie’s legislation increased access to complementary and alternative medicine such as acupuncture and yoga.
Extension of Health Care Access for Recently Separated Veterans. Bernie’s legislation also extended, from five to 10 years, enrollment in VA health care for individuals who served on active duty, including members of the National Guard and Reserves, to address their health care needs early.
Expanding the Caregivers Program. “Wives, husbands, mothers, fathers and other loved ones have put their own lives on hold to care for those who are unable to fully care for themselves as a result of their service to this nation,” said Sanders. His bill rectified an inequity by giving the same additional services and benefits to caregivers of pre-9/11 veterans, such as Vietnam veterans, that were previously available to only caregivers of post-9/11 veterans.
Improvement and Expansion of Dental Care. A critical aspect of health care, which is all too often overlooked, is dental care. According to the National Institute of Health, dental health and general health should not be interpreted as separate entities. Bad dental health impacts overall health, including, but not limited to, increased risk of diabetes, heart disease, and adverse birth outcomes. According to Bernie, “The men and women who have sacrificed to defend us deserve access to comprehensive health care, including dental care.” To that end, his legislation included groundbreaking provisions meant to improve and expand VA dental care.
Ending the VA Backlog. According to Bernie, “The disability claims backlog is one of the most significant challenges presently facing the Department of Veterans Affairs. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have presented legislative solutions incorporated in this bill that would support VA’s ongoing efforts and make needed improvements to the claims system. VA is making progress on this complex issue, but much more remains to be done. Among a number of claims-related provisions, this bill, for the first time, requires the Department to publicly report on both claims processing goals and actual production.” In other words, Bernie’s bill allows Congress and the public to closely track and measure VA’s progress on this issue.
Educating Veterans. Before Bernie’s bill, many states required transitioning veterans to meet stringent residency requirements before they could be considered in-state residents. Only a few states assisted all or certain veterans by recognizing them as in-state students for purposes of attending a public educational institution, regardless of length of residency in the state where the veteran was attending college. Bernie’s bill remedied this problem to ensure that veterans and our spouses receive a fair shot at attaining our educational goals without incurring an additional financial burden.
Hiring Veterans. Bernie’s bill reauthorized provisions of the VOW to Hire Heroes Act of 2011, including a two-year extension of the popular Veterans Retraining Assistance Program that allows veterans age 35-60 to gain additional training in high-demands fields.
Addressing Sexual Assault. Bernie’s bill contained important provisions to improve the delivery of care and benefits to veterans who experienced sexual trauma while serving in the military.
According to Bernie, “While the Pentagon, Congress and other stakeholders continue to work to end sexual assault within the military, we must do everything we can to ensure VA is a welcoming place for survivors like Ruth Moore. A veteran who struggled for 23 years to receive VA disability compensation, Moore is the inspiration for provisions in the bill that would expand access to VA counseling and care to members of the Guard and Reserve who experience sexual assault during inactive duty training. Servicemembers should be able to receive the care and counseling they need regardless of when the assault occurred.”
Bernie’s bill also created ways of improving the adjudication of disability compensation claims related to military sexual trauma. It also give the VA additional tools to provide survivors with the care and benefits needed to confront and overcome the emotional and physical consequences of their ordeal.
Reproductive Health for Veterans. Iraq and Afghanistan veterans know all about the widespread use of improvised explosive devices in those countries. IED blast exposure creates an increased risk for spinal cord, reproductive, and urinary tract injuries. Many of us dream of one day starting a family, but injuries like these can seriously complicate conception. The CHOICE Act seeks to help wounded veterans start a family.
Specifically, the bill directs the Department of Veterans Affairs to furnish counseling and treatment, including treatments that use assisted reproductive technology, to veterans and the spouses or surrogates of severely wounded, ill, or injured veterans who have an infertility condition incurred or aggregated in the line of duty. The bill also authorizes the VA to help disabled veterans adopt children.
Funding Veterans First. Last year, as a result of the government shutdown, we veterans and surviving spouses were just days away from not receiving our compensation, pension and educational benefits. The legislation ensured that veterans receive consistent access to the benefits we have earned by establishing advance appropriations for the mandatory accounts at VA. Thanks to Bernie’s bill, never again will we be in jeopardy of not receiving our earned benefits.
Watch the VA video on Sanders’ CHOICE Act.
In addition to the CHOICE Act, Bernie has sponsored more veterans bills than any other legislator in the last three decades. Bernie’s veterans bills include:
● HR 695 (1991) Guard and Reserve Family Protection Act of 1991.
● HR 2304 (1991) To restore reductions in veterans benefits made by the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1990
● HR 1791 (1991) To restore reductions in veterans benefits made by the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1990
● HR 1964 (1995) To authorize the President to award the Medal of Honor to the unknown Vermonter who lost his life while serving in the Continental Army in the War of Independence and who has been selected by the people of Vermont to represent all Vermont unknown soldiers.
● HR 3444 (1995) To amend section 818 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 1995 to repeal certain provisions and to revise certain reporting requirements relating to payment of restructuring costs under defense contracts.
● HR 3512 (1995) To amend Title 10, United States Code, to establish limitations on taxpayer-financed compensation on defense contractors.
● HR 2279 (1997) To amend Title 10, United States Code, to establish limitations on taxpayer-financed compensation on defense contractors.
● H.Amdt.289 (1997) Amendment increases funding for the National Guard Starbase program by $2 million.
● H.Con.Res.189 (1997) Revising the congressional budget for the United States Government for fiscal year 1998 with respect to the appropriate budgetary levels for Social Security and national defense for fiscal years 1999 through 2002 in order to maintain the level of administrative expenses for Social Security by taking into account anticipated inflation.
● HR 4708 (1998) Veterans Burial Benefits Act of 1998
● HR 652 (1999) Veterans Burial Benefits Act of 1999
● H.Amdt.442 to HR 2684 (1999) An amendment to specify that the House supports efforts to implement improvements in health care services for veterans in rural areas.
● HR 5231 (2002) To amend title 10, United States Code, to repeal the required offset of certain military separation benefits by the amount of disability benefits paid by the Department of Veterans Affairs.
● HR 5305 (2002) To authorize the disinterment from the Lorraine American Cemetery in St. Avold, France, of the remains of Private First Class Alfred J. Laitres, of Island Pond, Vermont, who died in combat in France on December 25, 1944, and to authorize the transfer of his remains to the custody of his next of kin.
● HR 2970 (2003) To authorize the disinterment from the Lorraine American Cemetery in St. Avold, France, of the remains of Private First Class Alfred J. Laitres, of Island Pond, Vermont, who died in combat in France on December 25, 1944, and to authorize the transfer of his remains to the custody of his next of kin.
● S.Con.Res.13 (2007) A concurrent resolution expressing the sense of Congress that the President should not initiate military action against Iran without first obtaining authorization from Congress.
● S.1326 (2007) Comprehensive Veterans Benefits Improvements Act of 2007
● S.Amdt.2664 to HR 2642 (2007) To prohibit the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, with respect to increases in dollar amounts for the payment of disability compensation and dependency and indemnity compensation, from rounding down such dollar amounts to the next lower whole dollar.
● S.Amdt.2902 to S.Amdt.2011 on HR 1585 (2007) To provide for an enhancement of the utility of the Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty of members of the Armed Forces.
● S.Amdt.2905 to S.Amdt.2011 on HR 1585 (2007) To require a pilot program on military family readiness and servicemember reintigration.
● S.Amdt.3082 to S.Amdt.2011 on HR 1585 (2007) To provide, with an offset, and additional $15,000,000 Research, Development, Test, and Evaluation, Army, for a program of research on Gulf War illnesses.
● S.Amdt.3130 to HR 3222 (2007) To increase, with an offset, the amount appropriated for Operation and Maintenance, Army National Guard, by $10,000,000.
● S.2398 (2007) Stop Outsourcing Security Act
● S.Amdt.4384 to S.Amdt.4387 on HR 3221 (2008) To provide an increase in specially adapted housing benefits for disabled veterans.
● S.821 (2009) A bill to amend Title 38, United States Code, to prohibit the Secretary of Veterans Affairs from collecting certain copayments from veterans who are catastrophically disabled, and for other purposes.
● S.820 (2009) Veterans Mobility Enhancement Act of 2009
● S.Amdt.2559 on HR 3326 (2009) To make available from Research, Development, Test, and Evaluation, Army $12,000,000 for the peer reviewed Gulf War Illness Research Program of the Army.
● S.Amdt.2601 on HR 3326 (2009) To make available from Overseas Contingency Operations $20,000,000 for outreach and reintegration services under the Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program.
● S.1753 (2009) Disabled Veteran Caregiver’s Assistance Act of 2009
● S.1752 (2009) A bill to amend Title 38, United States Code, to direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to provide wartime disability compensation for certain veterans with Parkinson’s Disease.
● S.1798 (2009) Automatic Reserve Component Enrollment Act of 2009
● S.3023 (2010) Stop Outsourcing Security Act
● S.Amdt.3353 to S.Amdt.3336 on HR 4213 (2010) To provide an emergency benefit of $250 to seniors, veterans, and persons with disabilities in 2010 to compensate for the lack of cost of living adjustment for such year, and for other purposes.
● S.1017 (2011) Disabled Veteran Caregiver Housing Assistance Act of 2011
● S.1428 (2011) Stop Outsourcing Security Act
● S.Amdt.3183 to S.3254 (2012) To require public availability of the database of senior Department officials seeking employment with defense contractors.
● S.Res.48 (2013) An original resolution authorizing expenditures by the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.
● S.Amdt.198 to S.Con.Res.8 (2013) To establish a deficit neutral reserve fund to protect the benefits of disabled veterans and their survivors, which may not include a chained CPI.
● S.735 (2013) Survivors Benefits Improvement Act of 2013
● S.851 (2013) Caregivers Expansion and Improvement Act of 2013
● S.825 (2013) Homeless Veterans Prevention Act of 2013
● S.852 (2013) Veterans’ Health Promotion Act of 2013
● S.893 (2013) Veterans’ Compensation Cost of LivingAdjustment Act of 2013
● S.928 (2013) Claims Processing Improvement Act of 2013
● S.927 (2013) Veterans’ Outreach Act of 2013
● S.922 (2013) Veterans’Equipped for Success Act of 2013
● S.944 (2013) Veterans’Health and Benefits Improvement Act of 2013
● S.Res.233 (2013) A resolution authorizing expenditures by Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.
● S.Res.243 (2013) A resolution authorizing expenditures by Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.
● S.1564 (2013) Protecting Those Who Protected Us Act of 2013
● S.1584 (2013) A bill to amend Title 38, United States Code, to provide replacement automobiles for certain disabled veterans and members of the Armed Forces, and for other purposes.
● S.1583 (2013) Mental Health Support for Veteran Families and Caregivers Act of 2013
● S.1581 (2013) Survivors’ of Military Sexual Assault and Domestic Abuse Act of 2013
● S.1585 (2013) A bill to amend Title 38, United States Code, to update the Service Disabled Veterans Insurance program to base premium rates on the Commissioners 2001 Standard Ordinary Mortality Table instead of the Commissioners 1941 Standard Ordinary Table of Mortality.
● S.1578 (2013) A bill to authorize the Secretary of Veterans’ Affairs to cover the costs associated with the care of veterans at medical foster homes.
● S.1582 (2013) Improved Compensation for Hearing Loss Act of 2013
● S.1586 (2013) Enhanced Dental Care for Veterans Act of 2013
● S.1579 (2013) SCRA Enhancement and Improvement Act of 2013
● S.1604 (2013) Veterans’ Healthcare Eligibility Expansion and Enhancement Act of 2013
● S.Amdt.2023 to S.287 (2013) Relative to extension of authority for program of referral and counseling services for veterans at risk of homelessness who are transitioning from certain institutions.
● S.Amdt.2146 to S.1471 (2013) Relative to authority to reconsider decisions of Secretary of Veterans Affairs or Secretary of the Army to inter the remains or honor the memory of a person in a national cemetery.
● S.1950 (2014) Comprehensive Veterans Health and Benefits and Military Retirement Pay Restoration Act of 2014
● S.1982 (2014) Comprehensive Veterans Health and Benefits and Military Retirement Pay Restoration Act of 2014
● S.2413 (2014) Restoring Veterans Trust Act of 2014
● S.2422 (2014) Ensuring Veteran Access to Care Act of 2014
● S.2450 (2014) Veterans’ Access to Care through Choice, Accountability, and Transparency Act of 2014
● S.2782 (2014) A bill to amend Title 36, United States Code, to improve the Federal Charter for the Veterans’ of Foreign Wars of the United States, and for other purposes.