FRA NewsBytes December 12, 2014

FRA Newsbytes 12/12/2014

FRA Newsbytes 12/12/2014

In this issue:
Last Minute Budget Deal with Expanded VA Advanced Funding Moves Forward
NDAA Update
House Panel Discusses Expanding VA Caregiver Program

Last Minute Budget Deal with Expanded VA Advanced Funding Moves Forward
Federal funding is set to end today, December 12, when the present Continuing Resolution (CR) expires. Behind the scenes, key lawmakers have negotiated details of an omnibus spending bill to keep most of the government open for the remainder of the current fiscal year, which ends on September 30, 2015. The Department of Homeland Security (which includes the U.S. Coast Guard) will be funded only until March 1, 2015. The bill expands advanced (two-year) funding for VA mandatory spending that includes the GI Bill, survivor, pension, and disability benefits. FRA supports two-year funding of the VA; currently, only VA health care accounts have two-year funding. The spending bill also provides the VA with $505 million more than requested by the Administration for FY 2015. In addition, the spending bill restores commissary funding, eliminating the proposed cuts. The House and Senate must pass another CR (H. J. Res 130), to keep the government open until tomorrow, December 13, 2 014. The Senate vote is expected to be close.
NDAA Update
Later today or tomorrow, the Senate is expected to pass the scaled-down National Defense Authorization Bill (NDAA-H.R. 3979) that passed the House last week. The bill will then go to the president to be signed into law. A list of provisions is provided in last week’s NewsBytes. The new Senate leadership for the next Congress has promised to return to “regular order;” allowing Senators to offer floor amendments to the Defense Authorization, which has not occured the last two years. FRA’s Legislative Team will continue its efforts to advance FRA-supported provisions that were dropped from the final bill due to lack of time.
House Panel Discusses Expanding VA Caregiver Program
The House Veterans Affairs Committee (HVAC), Health Subcommittee recently held a hearing on expanding the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Caregiver Program. Currently, the program only covers veterans disabled in the line of duty since September 11, 2001. FRA supports the “Caregivers Expansion and Improvement Act” (S. 851/H.R. 3383) sponsored by SVAC Chairman Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vt.) and Rep. Elizabeth Esty (Conn.), respectively, which enables all veterans with a serious service-connected injury eligibility to participate in the family caregiver services program. The current program provides assistance to 18,000 caregivers each who provide care for a disabled veteran.

There are actually 5.5 million caregivers; including them all in the law would cost an additional $2.6 billion annually. Spouses make up 75 percent of all current caregivers. These family members and loved ones shoulder the daily responsibilities of bathing, feeding, dressing, managing medication and injections, arranging for rehabilitation, and more. A RAND study commissioned by the Elizabeth Dole Foundation estimates the services they provide save our nation $13.6 billion annually, yet these caregivers too often pay a price—suffering physical and emotional stress and illnesses; difficulty maintaining employment; financial, legal and family strains; and isolation. The Association appreciates the subcommittee holding a hearing on this important issue and will continue to work to raise awareness of the challenges facing the 5.5 million volunteer caregivers to America’s wounded warriors.