On February 27, 2014, the Senate voted to table S. 1982, the “Comprehensive Veterans Health and Benefits and Military Pay Restoration Act of 2014.” The measure was tabled when a point of order raised against the legislation for exceeding mandated budget caps was sustained. The legislation was tabled on a virtual party line vote with only Republican Senators Jerry Moran (R-KS) and Dean Heller (R-NV) voting to move the legislation forward.
Paralyzed Veterans of America (Paralyzed Veterans), along with our counterparts in the veterans’ service organization community have made S. 1982 a high priority for this session of Congress. This comprehensive bill would create, expand, advance, and extend a wide array of VA health care and benefits services and programs that are important to Paralyzed Veterans and its members. Specifically, this legislation provides for the expansion of the Comprehensive Caregiver Assistance Program to veterans of all eras (not just those injured after September 11, 2001). This change represents one of the single biggest priorities for Paralyzed Veterans.
The legislation also addresses another high priority for Paralyzed Veterans. Specifically, the bill provides advance appropriations authority for VA’s mandatory funding accounts (compensation and pension, education benefits, dependency and indemnity compensation, etc.) to ensure that in the event of a future government shutdown, veterans’ benefits payments would not be delayed or put in jeopardy. The need for this change was revealed during the partial government shutdown that occurred in October 2013.
The legislation opens the VA health care system up to any veteran who wishes to enroll for care instead of entering into a health care exchange under the provisions of the Affordable Care Act. Additionally, it sets up a mechanism to expand access to dental care for all veterans.
Opposition to the legislation generally was based on only a few major concerns. First, opponents argue that the legislation expands too many programs (caregivers, Priority Group 8, dental care) without having sufficient and appropriate resources to meet projected new demand. Specifically, Republicans objected to the fact that the legislation is paid for with money that presumably would be used for Overseas Contingency Operations. This argument is amplified by the fact that this funding source would presumably dry up once combat operations in Afghanistan cease. Additionally, opponents of the legislation attempted to add provisions regarding sanctions on Iran that virtually guaranteed that the legislation would fail.
Paralyzed Veterans continues to work with other VSOs to build support for S. 1982. It is expected that the legislation will be brought back to the Senate floor for consideration later this year.
Learn more about Paralyzed Veterans of America on Capitol Hill