09.17.08

Burr Praises Passage of Veterans’ Benefits

Burr provisions for improvements in veterans’ benefits bill included

U.S. Senator Richard Burr (R-NC) applauded today's Senate passage of S. 3023, the Veterans' Benefits Improvement Act of 2008. This bill would improve a wide variety of benefits programs for our veterans including employment, education, and updates to the disability rating schedule.

"Our nation's veterans have bravely sacrificed in order to protect the freedoms we enjoy as Americans," Burr said. "This bill will go a long way to improve the lives of our Veterans by helping them receive the benefits and assistance they need. I hope our colleagues in the House will pass this bill without delay."

Another provision included in the bill would extend from 10 to 20 years the time which spouses of severely disabled veterans are able to receive education assistance, allowing spouse members to focus on their first priority of caring for their injured loved ones while leaving them ample time to pursue their educational goals.

Additionally, the bill includes a provision that would require the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to provide Congress with a plan for updating its disability rating schedule to keep in closer step with modern medical advances and to provide Congress a list of actions the VA plans on taking and a timeline for implementation. The current rating schedule, which is the cornerstone of the VA claims process, was developed in the early 1900's and, as many studies and commissions have reported, is riddled with outdated criteria.

Several provisions in the bill were introduced by Senator Burr, including a provision that addresses the problem of returning service members not being entitled to resume their employment in the federal government when they return from active duty, which is a violation of the law established under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA). This provision would require that the head of each federal executive agency provide training for their human resources personnel on the rights, benefits, and obligations under USERRA in order to ensure that veterans are able to resume their employment when they return from service.