The 114th Congress came to a close in December, but only after passing a short-term Continuing Resolution (CR) for fiscal year (FY) 2017 to fund the federal government through the spring. Most Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) programs, health care services and benefits for FY 2017 were already funded through advance appropriations.
The House and Senate finished the year by passing a number of modest veteran-related bills, particularly omnibus legislation H.R. 6416 that includes provisions related to veterans’ claims processing, education, employment, entrepreneurship, homelessness, health care and burial benefits. The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017 (S. 2943) also received final Congressional approval. This bill includes several items pertinent to DAV members, including an evaluation of the feasibility of expanding the categories of passengers eligible for space-available travel to include members or former members of the Armed Forces who have a disability rated as total, if space-available travel is provided to such members on the same basis as such travel is provided to members of the Armed Forces entitled to retired or retainer pay.
However, critical legislation addressing several of DAV’s key legislative priorities—including provisions to modernize the appeals process, extend caregiver assistance to veterans of all eras and provide women veterans equitable benefits and health care services—were not included in (H.R. 6416) the final veterans bill approved by Congress.
“The last session of the 114th Congress was extremely busy, but unfortunately not very productive. Congress introduced legislation on all of DAV’s key legislative priorities, including 10 bills on women veterans alone, so it was very disappointing that so few were enacted into law before adjournment,” said DAV National Legislative Director Joy Ilem. “With the 115th Congress underway and DAV’s Mid-Winter conference just around the corner we will renew our efforts to ensure these and other critical priorities are effectively addressed this year.”