Ensuring veterans receive top-quality care is a bi-partisan priority. The men and women of our armed forces have earned our support, and we should be doing everything in our power to meet their needs.
2014 reports of significant mismanagement at the Phoenix, Arizona Veterans Administration facility, and system-wide audit suggesting widespread failures with the services the VA offers are extremely concerning. They also present Congress with an opportunity to address these problems, and put the VA back on track. Veterans have given their blood, their tears, and their lives for us, and they have earned our support upon their return home.
The Senate has now confirmed Robert McDonald as the new Secretary of Veterans Affairs. I’m confident that he will continue Acting Secretary Sloan Gibson’s work reforming the system, and I look forward to working with him, and my colleagues in the House and Senate to ensure those who have fought for our nation receive the services they need now that they’ve returned home.
I recently voted in support of the Veterans’ Access to Care through Choice, Accountability, and Transparency Act of 2014, H.R. 3230 (link is external), which will provide added flexibility at the VA with $10 billion in funding to pay for veterans to get healthcare at private facilities, and another $5 billion for hiring additional doctors, nurses and other medical staff. President Obama has since signed this legislation into law. I look forward to working with my colleagues in the House to ensure that our veterans have all hat they need.
Since the112th Congress, I have sought comprehensive investigation into abuses by mortgage servicing companies, including an examination of illegal foreclosures against servicemembers. You may view my work on housing protections for our Veterans and Servicemembers here.
The New GI Bill
Our veterans have served our country with heroism and distinction, and we must honor their sacrifice as they transition back into civilian life. For this reason I cosponsored and voted in support of H.R. 5740, the Post 9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act, also known as the New GI Bill, which was later signed into law by President Bush as part of the 2008 Supplemental Appropriations Act. This bill provides our veterans with the ability to attend the college or university of their choice, and permits them to transfer benefits to family members in need. While I strongly support the benefits, I have been disappointed with VA’s difficulties in implementing the program.
Notwithstanding a slow start, I am pleased that not only are resources available for those struggling to receive payments, but that processing seems to be improving. Below are resources for veterans who need help with emergency payments while awaiting VA Educational Benefits and additional resources for those seeking to claim the benefits they have earned.
Post 9/11 GI Bill Resources:
Resources for Emergency Payments
Post 9/11 GI Bill Official Site
Eligibility Determination Tool
Checklist for Students
Family Member Benefit Transfer
Retroactive Stop Loss Special Pay
The Defense Department provides Retroactive Stop Loss Special Pay to service members who had their enlistment extended or retirement suspended due to Stop Loss between Sept. 11, 2001 and Sept. 30, 2009. Eligible personnel receive a payment of $500 per month for each month (or any portion of a month) that the member was retained on active duty due to Stop Loss.
Service members, including members of the Reserve components, former and retired members, are eligible if they served on active duty between Sept. 11, 2001 and Sept. 30, 2009, while their enlistment was extended, or whose retirement was suspended due to Stop Loss. Service members who were discharged or released from the Armed Forces under other than honorable conditions are not permitted to receive Retroactive Stop Loss Special Pay.
All applications must be submitted to the respective services no later than Oct. 21, 2011. Service members must provide documented proof they were Stop Lossed with their claim. Family members of deceased service members should contact the appropriate military service for assistance in filing their claim.
The payments will only be taxed for the period that was not served in a combat zone. For example: If a member was Stop Loss for 7 months and 5 of those months were served in a combat zone, then only 2 months of the pay will be taxed.
Retroactive Stop Loss Special Pay Resources:
Army: https://www.stoplosspay.army.mil (link is external)
Navy: send email to – NXAG_N132C@navy.mil (link sends e-mail)
Marine Corps: https://www.manpower.usmc.mil/stoploss (link is external)
Air Force: https://www.afpc.randolph.af.mil/stoploss (link is external)
Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD):
Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) are real concerns for many veterans today. According to the Congressional Research Service, as many as 20% of returning veterans suffer from TBI. According to RAND, up to 20% of veterans suffer from PTSD. Not only do these injuries directly affect our veterans, they also contribute to the broken marriages, mental illnesses and suicides that plague our veterans today.
TBI and PTSD injuries vary in their severity and duration, and as such, VA must employ a robust strategy to detect, treat and follow-up with injured veterans. Currently, the Department of Defense is required to screen veterans after return from, and six months after, deployment. Resources for veterans suffering from PTSD/TBI are listed below.
As a member of Congress, I am grateful for the sacrifices of all our veterans, and recognize the grave responsibility of the United States Government to provide first class care for its wounded. I have been and will continue to address these important issues and support our military veterans.
More on Veterans
The congressman who could become President Donald Trump’s recurring political nightmare has photos on his office walls of himself with anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela, pathbreaking boxer Muhammad Ali and civil rights activist Coretta Scott King.
Each were fighters of a sort, and Rep. Elijah Cummings says he is, too. The Baltimore Democrat’s battles usually involve pushing back as best he can on Trump administration policies and practices.
Washington, D.C. (May 27, 2016) — Today, Congressman Elijah E. Cummings (D-MD) issued the following statement recognizing Memorial Day:
“I feel a strong sense of gratitude when I think of the fallen soldiers who paid the ultimate price to defend our nation.
Today, I was pleased to present the Booze family with military awards earned by World War II veteran, Mr. Gordon Booze Sr., and Korean War veteran, Mr. Gordon Booze, Jr. Both were decorated veterans who served our country with valor.
These awards are long overdue, and I am proud that we have honored both men for their distinguished service to our country.
Cummings speaks on the House floor in support of his legislation to protect servicemembers, veterans, and their families from foreclosure, the language of which was included in the Veterans Economic Opportunity Act.
Washington, DC (Oct. 28, 2013)—Today, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 2481, the Veterans Economic Opportunity Act of 2013, which included provisions introduced by Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, top Democrat on the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, to significantly expand home foreclosure protections for servicemembers, their families, and disabled veterans.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Washington, D.C. – Today, Congressman Elijah E. Cummings, Ranking Member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, released the following statement in recognition of Memorial Day:
Commenting in a Baltimore Sun story which reported that the Baltimore VA Office is ranked as the worst performing in the nation for errors and the number of backlogged claims, Congressman Elijah E. Cummings said:
"It is our nation's sacred duty to take care of our veterans and when the VA fails, we all fail," the Baltimore congressman said in a statement. "It is critical that the Baltimore VA now examine its procedures and implement processes that will ensure the needs of our veterans are met with the sense of urgency our veterans have earned."