Veterans & Supporting Our Troops

Veterans are particularly close to President Biden’s heart. Biden’s son Beau served in the Delaware National Guard for 12 years and in Iraq for a year. In 2015, Beau died at age 46 from brain cancer which has been linked to the burn pits he was exposed to while in Iraq. Unlike his predecessor, President Biden understands the enormous sacrifice service members make to the US and his policies speak to that respect. The Biden-Harris Administration and Democrats have enacted landmark legislation to support and recognize veterans’ sacrifice and service. This includes the PACT Act for veterans exposed to toxic substances while in the military, as well as the American Rescue Plan which forgave $1B in medical debt and provided billions in funding for training, housing, healthcare, tuition and child tax credits to reduce the impact of the pandemic. The Biden-Harris Administration has also actively worked to improve services to veterans by reducing backlogs for VA benefits and expanding healthcare coverage; to help non-US citizens who served in the US military become citizens; and to provide legal and health support to LGBTQI+ military families. Finally, Biden made the difficult decision to end the 20 years war in Afghanistan – something none of the 3 prior presidents did.

 

What Have the Biden-Harris Administration and Dems Done?

 

  • Passed the PACT Act which provides more than 5M vets with healthcare benefits for diseases caused by toxic burn pits including:
      • Increased coverage for diseases associated with toxic exposure.
      • Made survivors of veterans eligible for death benefits.
      • Expanded health screenings for veterans.
      • Extended enrollment periods for VA healthcare.
      • Implemented a new evaluation process for determining veterans’ exposure and hard-to-prove diseases.
      • Funded health research for toxic exposure.
      • Invested in upgrading veteran hospitals.
      • Note: The House Democrats passed the PACT Act (88 House Republicans voted against it). Then, in a last minute play at political gamesmanship, 41 Senate Republicans voted against it despite having overwhelmingly voted for it (84-14) just a few weeks before. After a 3rd vote, enough Senate Republicans supported it to overcome the filibuster – 11 voted against it including: Romney (UT), Tillis (NC), Lankford (OK), Lee (UT), Crapo (ID), Lumis (WY), Paul (KY), Risch (ID), Shelby (AL), Toomey (PA), Tuberville (AL).
  • Ended the 20 year war in Afghanistan that was never once authorized by Congress, lost over 172K lives and cost $6.5T. As part of the exit, over 124K people were airlifted out of Afghanistan – one of the largest and most successful airlifts in US military history on a single runaway at an airport under constant attack from the Taliban. Christmas 2021 was the first Christmas in 20 years that there were no American soldiers at war.
  • Forgave $1B in medical debt and eliminated all out of pocket costs through the American Rescue Plan.
  • Provided healthcare, financial, and job training assistance through the American Rescue Plan, including:
      • Funding to get veterans back to work by paying for up to 12 months of rapid retraining assistance and a housing allowance for veterans who are unemployed as a result of the pandemic.
      • Up to 12 months of tuition, fees and monthly housing allowance payments for qualifying veterans between the ages of 22 and 67 participating in the Veteran Rapid Retraining Assistance Program.
      • 50% reduction in the backlog of veterans compensation and pension claims.
      • Increased 2021 Child Tax Credit for an estimated 2.6M veteran or active-duty families and their 5M children. The CTC tax cut allowed military families to keep more of their income, feed their children, buy school supplies, and pay for health care.
  • Simplified the process for claiming medical debt forgiveness.
  • Provided compensation for exposure to harmful chemicals and established a presumption for rare respiratory cancers.
  • Expedited the restoration of VA benefits.
  • Provided job transitioning for service members through DOD’s Skill Bridge for military members considering transitioning into the civilian workforce and provides career opportunities with employers – https://skillbridge.osd.mil.
  • Working to raise veterans’ awareness of VA military benefits for harmful exposures.
  • Passed and signed 9 bills for vets including: A bill that expands mammogram eligibility for veterans who may not have been exposed to toxic burn pits. A bill that requires the VA to overhaul its breast cancer screening and treatment services entirely. A bill that will extend a two-year program that compensates veterans who developed “cancer and medical conditions from the nation’s World War II-era nuclear programs.”
  • Helping 123,983 military veterans who are not U.S. citizens become citizens.
  • Provided 100% student loan forgiveness to vets with a permanent disability.
  • Provided legal and health support to LGBTQ+ families.

What Have the Biden-Harris Administration and Dems Done?

  • Passed the PACT Act which provides more than 5M vets with healthcare benefits for diseases caused by toxic burn pits including:
      • Increased coverage for diseases associated with toxic exposure. 23 toxic exposure illnesses will be added to the VA’s list of covered conditions. This significantly reduces the amount of paperwork and need for medical exams that veterans diagnosed with one of these conditions must complete before being granted access to health care and disability compensation, thereby speeding up their delivery of the benefits they have earned. This list includes 11 respiratory related conditions, along with several forms of cancer, including reproductive cancers, melanoma, pancreatic cancer, kidney cancer, and brain cancers.
      • Made survivors of veterans eligible for death benefits. Survivors of veterans who died due to one of the conditions associated with military toxic exposure may now also be eligible for benefits.
      • Expanded health screenings for veterans. Veterans can receive high-quality health care screenings and services related to potential toxic exposures.
      • Extended enrollment periods for VA healthcare. For post-9/11 combat veterans, the bill extends the period of time they have to enroll in VA health care from 5 years to 10 years post-discharge. For those combat veterans who do not fall within that window, the bill also creates a 1 year open enrollment period.
      • Implemented a new evaluation process for determining veterans’ exposure and hard-to-prove diseases. The PACT Act makes permanent the VA’s new process for evaluating and determining presumption of exposure and service connection for various chronic conditions when evidence of a military environmental exposure and related health risks are hard to prove on an individual basis. This new process has already expanded the care for veterans.
      • Funded health research for toxic exposure. The VA will conduct new studies of veterans who served in Southwest Asia during the Gulf War and analyses of post-9/11 veterans’ health trends.
      • Invested in upgrading veteran hospitals. The bill also invests in VA health care facilities by authorizing 31 major medical health clinics and research facilities in 19 states.
        • Note: The House Democrats passed the PACT Act (88 House Republicans voted against it). Then, in a last minute play at political gamesmanship, 41 Senate Republicans voted against it despite having overwhelmingly voted for it (84-14) just a few weeks before. After a 3rd vote, enough Senate Republicans supported it to overcome the filibuster – 11 voted against it including: Romney (UT), Tillis (NC), Lankford (OK), Lee (UT), Crapo (ID), Lumis (WY), Paul (KY), Risch (ID), Shelby (AL), Toomey (PA), Tuberville (AL).
  • Forgave $1B in medical debt and eliminated all out of pocket costs through the American Rescue Plan. ARP eliminated all out-of-pocket medical costs for veterans and provided much needed financial relief to veterans experiencing economic hardship during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Every Republicans voted against ARP)
  • Provided healthcare, financial, and job training assistance. The American Rescue Plan provided veteran health care services, funding for vet homelessness programs, rapid retraining assistance program, and financial assistance. (Every Republican voted against ARP.)
      • The ARP provided the following benefits to veterans:
        • Funding to get veterans back to work by paying for up to 12 months of rapid retraining assistance and a housing allowance for veterans who are unemployed as a result of the pandemic.
        • Up to 12 months of tuition, fees and monthly housing allowance payments for qualifying veterans between the ages of 22 and 67 participating in the Veteran Rapid Retraining Assistance Program.
        • 50% reduction in the backlog of veterans compensation and pension claims.
        • Provided the increased 2021 Child Tax Credit to an estimated 2.6M veteran or active-duty families and their 5M children. The CTC tax cut allowed military families to keep more of their income, feed their children, buy school supplies, and pay for health care.
  • Simplified the process for claiming medical debt forgiveness. VA has streamlined the request process and set a simple income threshold for receiving medical debt relief. The request process will include an online option for veterans and reduce the effort required by veterans to access relief.
  • Provided compensation for exposure to harmful chemicals. The Administration has proposed establishing a presumption for rare respiratory cancers, advocated for legislative efforts to expand access to health care services and benefits for veterans impacted by environmental exposures, and processing claims for new presumptive conditions (asthma, rhinitis, and sinusitis) based on presumed exposure to particulate matter.
  • Expedited the restoration of VA benefits. In partnership with the Social Security Administration and the Bureau of Prisons, the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Veterans Benefits Administration announced a new effort to automate information-sharing among these agencies to accelerate benefit restoration and reduce the administrative burden for veterans.
  • Provided job transitioning for service members. DOD has established Skill Bridge for military members considering transitioning into the civilian workforce and provides career opportunities with employers – https://skillbridge.osd.mil.
  • Raising veterans’ awareness of VA military benefits for harmful exposures. In November 2021, VA launched a proactive campaign to inform and encourage veterans to file claims related to military environmental exposures.
  • Signed 9 bills for vets. The bills include:
      • Expansion of mammogram eligibility for veterans who may not have been exposed to toxic burn pits. 
      • An overhaul of VA breast cancer screening and treatment services entirely.
      • An extension of a two-year program that compensates veterans who developed “cancer and medical conditions from the nation’s World War II-era nuclear programs.”
  • Helping veterans become US citizens. The Dept. of Veterans Affairs has begun contacting 123,983 military veterans who are not U.S. citizens about how to become citizens.
  • Provided 100% student loan forgiveness. Vets with a permanent disability can get 100% federal loan forgiveness.
  • Provided legal and health support to LGBTQ+ families.
      • The USAF has told its service members that military medical facilities are available to provide mental health support to them or their children if they need it in the wake of new laws in states like Florida, where schools are banned from talking about gender identity or sexual orientation, or Texas, where the governor is ordering state officials to investigate parents of transgender children for child abuse. They have also told service members that military legal personnel are available to provide free counsel to families trying to understand their legal protections in states targeting gay and transgender kids.
      • Families can also utilize the Exceptional Family Member Program if they need to be reassigned to a different state with a safer environment for their family or LGBTQ child. This kind of transfer could apply, for example, to an Air Force member who is stationed in Texas and raising a transgender child who needs gender-affirming treatment like hormone therapy.

LAST UPDATED ON SEPTEMBER 20TH, 2022