Compiled by Frank Matranga

Recipients of the post-9/11 GI Bill, Chapter 33, currently have a 15-year time frame in which to use their benefits.

Legislation to eliminate the current limit on using those benefits, and to improve the overall benefit for veterans discharged after Jan. 1, 2013, was signed into law by the president on Aug. 16.

While the Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2017 (Public Law 115-48) also known as the Forever GI Bill, removes the time eligibility restriction for service members and veterans discharged after Jan. 1, 2013, the 15-year time restriction still applies to veterans separated from military service before 2013.

The Forever GI Bill also allows guard and reserve members who spent time recovering from battlefield injuries to have that recovery time counted toward GI Bill eligibility.

Future national Guard veterans called to active duty by their governor for federal assistance will qualify for the Forever GI Bill benefits effective Aug. 1, 2018.

Prior to this new law, National Guard veterans who are receiving vocational rehabilitation and employment benefits will now be allowed to “pause” their eligibility so their time under the VR&E program is not negatively affected while called up on active-duty orders.

Through this new law, Purple Heart recipients will be awarded full post-9/11 GI Bill benefits no matter how long they served and without time restraints.

This allows those veterans who were injured prior to the minimum service requirement to utilize the full program, effective Aug. 1, 2018.

The legislation also increases Dependents’ Educational Assistance monthly payments by about 40 percent.

However, the maximum number of months a dependant can now receive that benefit decreases from 45 to 36, effective Aug. 1, 2018.

You can find out more about what the Forever GI Bill means for you by going online to va.gov/gibill.

Source: Department of Veterans Affairs

Lawmakers pass
emergency funding to extend Choice Program

The Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act of 2014 — commonly referred to as the Choice Act — was passed as a temporary solution to the veterans health care access crisis that was negatively affecting veterans across the country.

The Choice Program allowed veterans to see a local private provider if they were waiting more than 30 days for care or lived more than 40 miles from a VA facility. The goal was to give lawmakers, the Department of Veterans Affairs and veterans service organizations time to come up with a long-term, effective and sustainable solution to the access problems many veterans encountered when trying to get care through the VA.

Soon after taking office, President Trump signed a law that removed the Aug. 7, 2017, expiration date of the law and authorized the VA to use funding dedicated to the Veterans Choice Program until it was exhausted. But that came more quickly than the VA anticipated, and the program was set to run out of money before the August deadline.

Before the August recess, lawmakers scrambled to pass legislation that would provide additional resources for Choice services and prevent a disruption in care for veterans using the program. However, there was disagreement over the proposal that granted emergency resources for Choice but authorized no additional funding investment for the VA to address crucial employment and infrastructure needs. In a joint letter sent to Congress from major veterans service organizations — DAV, AMVETS, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, Military Officers Association of America, Military Order of the Purple Heart, Veterans of Foreign Wars and Wounded Warrior Project — advocates called on Congress not to pass such “unacceptable funding legislation.”

“In order to ensure that veterans can receive necessary care without interruption, we call on House leaders to take the time necessary to work together with Senate leaders to develop acceptable ‘Choice’ funding legislation that not only fills the current funding gap but also addresses urgent VA infrastructure and resource needs that led to creation of the ‘Choice’ program in the first place,” says the letter.

The push back from DAV and fellow veterans service organizations, along with strong grassroots action, was successful, and a new bipartisan bill passed Congress on Aug. 2

The legislation signed by the president appropriates $2.1 billion — without having to meet offset requirements — to continue funding the current Choice Program for approximately another six months. Equally important, this final compromise version of the bill authorizes 28 urgently needed, community-based VA outpatient facility leases to expand veterans’ access to health care, as well as provide the VA with new tools and authorities to recruit, hire and retain high-quality medical professionals.

“We are particularly appreciative that, in crafting the final agreement on this important legislation, they worked closely with DAV and other veterans service organizations who are accredited by VA to represent the interests of America’s 21 million veterans,” said DAV Washington Headquarters Executive Director Garry Augustine. “We look forward to continuing our work with the House and Senate Committees on Veterans’ Affairs to reform and modernize the VA health care system so that all veterans have timely access to high-quality, veteran-focused health care, regardless of where they live.”

Source: DAV Magazine, September/October 2017

Military women in the 1990s

Newly elected National Commander Delphine Metcalf-Foster served during the Gulf War. An Army-trained combat medic, Metcalf-Foster was assigned to the graves registration unit in Saudi Arabia.

Like many reservists serving at that time, Metcalf-Foster was recalled to active duty. She was one of more than 40,000 servicewomen deployed to Southwest Asia during operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. In 1990, women only made up 11 percent of active-duty military personnel, 13 percent of the reserve forces and had limited job opportunities based on gender.

But that was about to change. Media covered women at war working side by side with their male colleagues, often in command roles. The Gulf War proved that servicewomen risked their lives just as their male counterparts did, regardless of being assigned to non-combat positions. Thirteen servicewomen were killed, and two became prisoners of war.

As a result of the Gulf War, women made strides in breaking down the gender barriers in the military.

Combat aviation opened to women in 1991, and two years later, women could serve aboard combat ships.

Source: DAV Magazine, September/October 2017

Frank Matranga, of Sonora, served in the U.S. Air Force for nearly 40 years and is a past commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3154, post commander of the Disabled American Veterans Chapter 119 and is a life member of the American Legion Post 58. If you have veterans’ information, call him at (209) 588-1926.

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