Senate To Consider Burr Amendment To Veterans Bill

Measure prevents establishment of foreign pension program and shifts money back to America’s veterans

U.S. Senator Richard Burr, the ranking member on the U.S. Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs, introduced an amendment last night that would prevent the creation of a controversial foreign pension program would improve benefits for America's veterans. The Senate will take up the measure today beginning at 10:30 A.M. Burr's amendment addresses a provision in the Veterans' Benefits Enhancement Act of 2007 (S.1315) that would establish a $221 million pension fund for Filipino veterans who have no service related injuries, live in the Philippines, and already receive a pension from the Philippine government. The measure would remove the pension provision and use the money to increase grant programs that help disabled veterans modify their homes and cars, and enhance burial benefits.

"The creation of a new foreign pension benefit is unacceptable when the needs of our disabled veterans are so great," Burr said. "My amendment is a fair compromise that honors the service of Filipino veterans but ensures veterans from the United States remain our top priority. I respect the Filipinos who served during World War II, but this special pension is the wrong priority at the wrong time. We must focus on the needs of American veterans, including those who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan," Burr added.

The Burr amendment would remove the controversial pension measure and use the $221 million offset to:

• Provide more money to help severely disabled veterans modify their home to better accommodate their disabilities, such as wheelchair ramps and accessible bathrooms. Burr's amendment increases this benefit by 10% and indexes future benefits to the residential cost-of-construction index, so payments keep up with inflation automatically.

• Increase auto grants for severely disabled veterans from $11,000 to $15,000. Like the housing benefit, this program helps veterans by giving them mobility to help them live independently and provides an automatic annual increase in benefits.

• Provide an automatic annual increase in burial benefits for the families of veterans who die due to service or service-related injury.