01.29.08

Burr Praises New Law Improving Veterans’ Benefits

Better Education Benefits And Improved Treatment For TBI

U.S. Senator Richard Burr (R-NC) today praised President Bush's signing of H.R.4986, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008, which contains several improvements to veterans' benefits. The legislation strengthens the relationship between the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the Department of Defense (DOD), enhances education benefits for National Guard and Reserve members, and expands benefits and research programs for veterans suffering from traumatic brain injury (TBI).

"I applaud President Bush and my congressional colleagues for getting the job done on this important piece of legislation," Burr said. "This law provides our troops with equipment like armored vehicles and body armor. I am particularly pleased with some of the important provisions designed to help those returning from combat, including improved education benefits for National Guard and Reserve members and improved TBI treatment programs for all of our returning heroes."

Under the new law, National Guard and Reserves who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan can now receive full education benefits after three total years of active duty service. They can also participate in the "buy-up" program, which provides up to $5,400 in additional education benefits. With these changes, Guard and Reserve members may receive over $37,000 in education benefits. Coupled with additional amounts paid from DOD for critical or hard to fill skills, their benefits may cover over 90% of the cost of a four-year public college education, including tuition, fees, room, and board. National Guard and Reserves may also participate in the Accelerated Payment Program, which pays for up to sixty percent of the cost of short term, high cost vocational training.

The new law also enhances services and benefits provided to veterans with traumatic brain injury. It requires the VA to develop individual treatment plans for all patients with TBI and develop a long-term care program for post-acute TBI patients. It also allows recently separated combat veterans to receive priority access to VA health care for five years following separation, up from the two years they currently receive.