House panel votes to expand veterans' benefits

A House Veterans Affairs subcommittee passed a catchall bill to expand veterans' benefits Wednesday.

But Democrats on the panel, especially Rep. Vic Snyder, D-Ark., expressed concern that the Bush tax cut would make it difficult to pay for the additional benefits. Subcommittee Chairman Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, sympathized with the Democrats' concerns, but noted that the Bush Administration had requested a 12 percent increase in veterans' funding for 2002.

A Congressional Budget Office cost estimate for the bill was unavailable, but a committee aide indicated it would be "in the tens of millions per year."

The draft measure, cleared by the Benefits subcommittee on a voice vote, combines elements of seven separate pieces of legislation. The full Veterans Affairs Committee could mark up the legislation as early as next week, according to a committee aide.

The bill's first part would add diabetes mellitus (Type 2 diabetes) to the list of diseases that Vietnam veterans exposed to herbicides like Agent Orange could have contracted. This provision was originally H.R. 862.

The draft bill also expands the definition of undiagnosed illnesses for Persian Gulf veterans to include fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, and chronic multisymptom illness. This is similar to H.R. 1406.

The panel's ranking Democrat, Rep. Silvestre Reyes of Texas, said 2,000 veterans have been denied assistance because chronic fatigue syndrome was not covered.

The legislation also authorizes the secretary of veterans affairs to protect the grant of service connection of a Gulf War veteran who participates in VA sponsored medical research.

The measure's second part provides a cost-of-living increase for payments to disabled veterans, and their dependents and survivors. The increase, which would be linked to the rise in Social Security payments, was contained in H.R. 2361.

The draft also makes adjustments in procedures at the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims. The changes were apparently at the request of the Bush Administration, and were originally in H.R. 2359.

The final part of the measure allows the VA to pay unclaimed National Service Life Insurance and U.S. Government Life Insurance to alternative beneficiaries if the first beneficiary cannot be located in three years (also in H.R. 2359). It would also extend until 2005, a VA loan program on Native American trust lands, make technical changes in the language on loan assumption in loan documents, eliminate one requirement for Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims appeals, and establish a two-year pilot program for a national VA toll-free 1-800 number.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

  • Cyber Risk Report: Cybercrime Trends from 2016

    In our first half 2016 cyber trends report, SurfWatch Labs threat intelligence analysts noted one key theme – the interconnected nature of cybercrime – and the second half of the year saw organizations continuing to struggle with that reality. The number of potential cyber threats, the pool of already compromised information, and the ease of finding increasingly sophisticated cybercriminal tools continued to snowball throughout the year.

  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

  • GBC Issue Brief: The Future of 9-1-1

    A Look Into the Next Generation of Emergency Services

  • GBC Survey Report: Securing the Perimeters

    A candid survey on cybersecurity in state and local governments

  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.

  • eBook: State & Local Cybersecurity

    CenturyLink is committed to helping state and local governments meet their cybersecurity challenges. Towards that end, CenturyLink commissioned a study from the Government Business Council that looked at the perceptions, attitudes and experiences of state and local leaders around the cybersecurity issue. The results were surprising in a number of ways. Learn more about their findings and the ways in which state and local governments can combat cybersecurity threats with this eBook.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.