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Fall Action on PVA's Policy Priorities for Paralyzed Veterans
October 12, 2021 by Heather Ansley

PVA continues its advocacy to strengthen benefits for catastrophically disabled veterans as we ease into the final months of the first session of the 117th Congress. In late July, the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee approved H.R. 4625, the VA Caregiver Transparency Act. PVA expressed concern with the legislation because it would prohibit the Board of Veterans’ Appeals from reviewing VA decisions on applications for its Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers. We also expressed concern with the wording of a provision that could accelerate the start date for phase II of the program expansion, but could also mean that no actual acceleration would take place. We support expediting expansion of the caregiver program to all eligible veterans. The House has yet to take action on the bill. 

In support of our women veterans, PVA is advocating for H.R. 4794, the Making Advances in Mammography and Medical Options (MAMMO) for Veterans Act. This legislation would ensure access to breast imaging services for veterans with spinal cord injuries and disorders. Specifically, these provisions would require a study on the accessibility of breast imaging services within VA and require VA to update its policies and directives for community care to ensure that those sites are accessible and have information on best practices for screening paralyzed and disabled veterans. The legislation will be the subject of a hearing on October 13.

Support for legislation that would increase the number of times veterans can access the Automobile Allowance grant and ensure veterans receive much needed Automotive Adaptive Equipment has, for the most part, plateaued. The AUTO for Veterans Act, H.R. 1361/S. 444, which would provide additional auto grants for service-connected veterans, have 36 and 10 sponsors/cosponsors (respectively). H.R. 3304, the CARS for Vets Act, which would not only provide additional auto grants for service-connected veterans buts also codify existing VA support for ingress and egress assistance for non-service-connected veterans, remains steady with just four sponsors/cosponsors. We have been working steadily with the bill’s authors and staff from the House and Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committees on this legislation. The main barrier is the cost of the improvements and the need for the Committees to locate a spending offset to pay for them. 

We are also working to promote new legislation that would raise rates for VA’s Home Improvements and Structural Alterations (HISA) grant program and tie them to a formula that will help keep this program’s payments relevant in years to come. It has been a dozen years since HISA rates were last raised; so, the program’s grants often fall short of what veterans need to make medically necessary modifications to their homes. 

Finally, the Justice for ALS Veterans Act should be reintroduced soon. This legislation would extend increased Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) benefits commonly known as the “DIC Kicker” to the surviving spouse of a veteran who dies from ALS regardless of how long the veteran had the disease prior to death. Under current law, the higher rate of DIC is only payable if the veteran was rated totally disabled for a continuous period of at least eight years immediately preceding death. 

We need your help to make these policies become a reality for paralyzed veterans. Please join PVAction Force to see how you can help!
 

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