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PRESIDENT SIGNS HEALTH CARE ENHANCEMENT


Vietnam Veterans of America - January 25, 2002

President Signs Smith Veterans‚ Health Legislation Adding $1.4 Billion in Expanded Medical Benefits

Becomes Smith’s Fifth New Law Enacted Since Becoming Chairman

(Washington, DC) – President Bush today signed legislation (H.R. 3447) authored by Congressman Chris Smith (NJ-04) that adds $1.4 billion to expand and strengthen health care programs for the nation’s 25 million veterans, including almost 700,000 who live in New Jersey.
The new law, H.R. 3447, the Department of Veterans Affairs Health Care Programs Enhancement Act is the fifth major piece of veterans legislation sponsored by Smith, Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans‚ Affairs, to be enacted into law during the 107th Congress.

“Perhaps most important for New Jersey is a provision which could provide significant relief for thousands of lower-middle income veterans, said Smith.” Under Section 202 of the new law, the VA will lower co-payments for hospital inpatient care by 80 percent for veterans meeting a new regional means test. This could translate into an out-of-pocket savings of over $600 for each hospitalization, he said.”

Since national formulas to determine financial need often fail to take into account the regional differences in the cost of living, this provision is a pivotal step towards ensuring full equity for New Jersey’s veterans, who live in one of the most expensive regions of the country, Smith said.”

“Another innovative new program will allow the VA to provide trained service dogs to veterans who are paralyzed, suffer severe immobility problems, loss of hearing or other conditions that would benefit from a service dog, said Smith.” Similar to guide dogs for the blind, trained service dogs can provide vital assistance -- such as listening for door bells, retrieving food or medicines from other rooms, or physically moving people -- that could allow many disabled veterans to lead more independent lives, he said.”

Other provisions of H.R. 3447 will establish a National Commission to enhance recruitment and retention of nurses at VA facilities; establish chiropractic services within the VA health care system on a nationwide basis; and require the VA to maintain specialized medical programs --such as for mental illness, spinal cord injuries and prosthetics -- in each of the VA‚s 22 health care networks.

The four Smith laws previously enacted during the 107th Congress are:

H.R. 1291 – Veterans Education and Benefits Expansion Act (P.L. 107-103)
Increasing educational, housing, burial and disability benefits by $3.1 billion

Signed by President Bush on December 27, 2001


Boosts the MGIB college education benefit amount by a record 46% within 2 years, increasing the lifetime college benefit for qualified veterans from $24,192 to $35,460.

The GI Bill is among the most successful government programs ever passed by Congress, helping create the middle class and serving as the military’s top recruiting tool.H.R. 2716 – Homeless Veterans Comprehensive Assistance Act (P.L. 107-95)

Authorizes $1 billion to aid homeless veterans and prevent at-risk veterans from becoming homeless.

Signed by President Bush on December 21, 2001


H.R. 2540 – Veterans‚ Compensation Rate Amendments of 2001 (P.L. 107-94)
Boosts compensation payments for disabled veterans by $2.4 billion over five years.

Signed by President Bush on December 21, 2001


H.R. 801 – Veterans‚ Survivors Benefits Improvements Act (P.L. 107-14)
Adds $100 million in new health care benefits for surviving spouses of veterans and extends life insurance coverage to spouses and children of service members.

Signed by President Bush on June 5, 2001


In addition, two other Smith veterans’ bills have passed the House and are in the Senate awaiting action:

H.R. 3423 – Reforming Burial Rules at Arlington National Cemetery Reforms Arlington National Cemetery burial regulations for Guard and reserve.

Passed the House on December 20, 2001 – Pending in the Senate


H.R. 811 – Veterans Hospitals Emergency Repair Act
Authorizes $550 million to repair and renovate dilapidated VA medical facilities.

Passed the House on March 27, 2001 – Still pending in the Senate
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