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Home News American Legion testifies on president's proposed VA budget

American Legion testifies on president's proposed VA budget

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American Legion Senior Legislative Associate Larry Lohmann testified April 3 before the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs on issues pertaining to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) fiscal year 2020 budget.

“Inherently,” he said, “an adequately funded VA budget provides care to veterans and that makes it a paramount objective in The American Legion’s mission.”

In his testimony before the committee, Lohmann focused on key issues highlighted in the budget, including implementation of the VA MISSION Act, Appeals Modernization, and Cost of Living Adjustment round-downs.

The MISSION Act is a comprehensive law that overhauls how veterans receive their health care through the VA. The law also includes provisions to consolidate community care programs into a single, streamlined service; reforms the VA health-care infrastructure; and expands VA’s Caregiver Support Program to eligible veterans who were injured prior to Sept. 11, 2001.

One of the American Legion’s concerns regarding the president’s proposed budget, said Lohmann, is that the resources are sufficient to ensure these programs are successful and that Congress must address these appropriation needs.

“Under the president’s proposed budget, we are concerned with the ability of VA to expand its comprehensive caregiver support program to severely injured World War II, Korean and Vietnam War veterans and their family caregivers under the statutorily mandated timetable,” he said. “VA MISSION Act will require more resources than have been provided through regular appropriations in Fiscal Year 2019 and it will cause care appropriation needs by the VA for future fiscal years.”

The Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act (AMA) is one of the most significant changes made to VA and transforms how VA reviews disputes with VA claims decisions. Signed into law by President Trump at The American Legion's 99th national convention in Reno, Nev., the AMA became effective February 2019.

Noting that The American Legion hold powers of attorney for 1.3 million claimants and the vested interest of The American Legion in defending veterans during the claims and appeals process, Lohmann emphasized that working together with VA and Congress is vital to ensuring the success of the new appeals system.

“The American Legion supports the funding in the president’s budget as it applies to VA programs and urges Congress to appropriate this money and use its oversight authority to make sure stakeholder voices continue to be heard," Lohmann testified. “In addition to funding newly implemented laws, care for veterans means making sure long existing programs continue to operate as they were intended to.”

Cost of living adjustment (COLA) round-downs under the president’s proposed budget would impact Dependency and Indemnity Compensation recipients as well as Education Programs — something The American Legion opposed through resolution.

“The effect of these proposed round-downs would serve as a tax on disabled veterans and their survivors, decreasing the amount of money they receive each year,” Lohmann testified. “The administration and Congress should not seek to balance the budget on the backs of veterans who have served their country.

“We understand with creative solutions that have been made possible with innovative legislation enacted by the last Congress, come new questions to be answered. Together with cooperation and by remaining flexible, we will make these programs work and answer those questions for America’s veterans.”

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Did you know?

A veteran’s family must request a United States flag.

A flag is provided at no cost to drape the casket or accompany the urn of a deceased veteran. Generally, the flag is given to the next of kin. Only one flag may be provided per veteran. Upon the request of the family, an “Application for United States Flag for Burial Purposes” (VA Form 21-2008) must be submitted along with a copy of the veteran’s discharge papers. Flags may be obtained from VA regional offices and most U.S. Post Offices.