On Thursday, May 12, the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee unanimously approved a major, yet controversial, veterans omnibus bill - meaning the bill is now headed to the Senate floor.
Veterans who receive disability and other VA benefits will soon receive their payments electronically. Effective March 1, 2013, vets will get their disability benefits via direct deposit to a bank account or by using a debit card available from a number of sources. In addition to affecting veterans who receive disability checks, this change will also apply to recipients of Social Security, SSI, Railroad Retirement Board and federal employee pensions.
The VA has announced that it will begin operations at three sites nationwide to address the backlog of veterans' disability claims. The announcement was made by Veterans Affairs Secretary Gen. Eric Shinseki on February 15.
The Department of Veterans Affairs has requested a significant increase in its funding because of an increase in all claims and growth in the severity of disabilities among veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. The severity of disabilities means higher ratings and larger benefit checks for recipients.
This story about a WWII veteran falls into the Better Late Than Never category. A southern Ohio veteran who fought at the Battle of the Bulge finally got his full disability benefits. He almost froze to death in January of 1945 and sat out the remainder of the war. His daily reminder of that time is the severe stiffness and skin disorders caused by extensive frostbite. And he fought for 60 years to get benefits for his injuries, finally receiving full disability benefits in 2005.
A TV station in Biloxi, MS, WLOX, is reporting on its investigation into challenges experienced by veterans who are seeking disability benefits. The station began working on the story in part because of many phone calls and emails from frustrated and confused veterans.
Congress presented the Department of Veterans Affairs with a holiday bonus - a 3.6 percent increase in discretionary funding for 2012. Although not as much as the White House requested, this appropriation for veterans' benefits represents a greater increase than many other federal agencies received.