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Source: United States House of Representatives – Congressman Jack Bergman (MI-1)

Today, the House passed H.R. 7105, the Johnny Isakson and David P. Roe, M.D. Veterans Health Care and Benefits Improvement Act of 2020.This legislative package featured Rep. Jack Bergman’sGI Bill Planning Act of 2019,as well as other Bergman-led bills including theTransparency for Wounded Warriors Actand the Reducing High Risk to Veterans and Veterans Services Act.,

Additionally, the bill expands access and resources for key programs to address the impact of the pandemic on the military community, including the Grant and Per Diem Program to fight Veterans homelessness and the VET TEC Program to train Veterans in high-demand technology fields.

Rep. Bergman issued the following statement:

“I’m proud of the bipartisan effort made to send this important legislation to President Trump’s desk. Keeping our promises to our Nation’s Veterans and Servicemembers should unify all of us – regardless of political party. This critical legislative package will help promote accountability and transparency within VA, ensure new recruits are given the time to make the best choices for their futures, and create an action plan to fix VA’s financial statements.”

Background on the GI Bill Planning Act:

In August of 2019, Rep. Bergman and Rep. Rice introduced the GI Bill Planning Act to save military enlistees hundreds of dollars and streamline Veterans’ education benefits for the future.

Today, a small and further declining number of student Veterans use the 1984 Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB) to earn a degree. A 97% majority instead choose the newer, more effective Post 9/11 GI Bill. However, about 70% of military recruits still make the decision to keep their MGIB eligibility and pay a mandatory $1,200 for this benefit which they will likely never use.

The GI Bill Planning Act would give enlistees six months – instead of just two weeks – to decide whether to pay the $1200 or opt out of their MGIB benefit. Additionally, the bill responsibly ends new enlistee enrollments in the outdated MGIB by October 2029.

The six month buffer proposed in this legislation would give them enough time have a clearer understanding of this choice since most will have completed basic training by this time.

In 2015, the congressionally-authorized Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission determined that the Post 9/11 GI Bill amounted to a monetary benefit that was nearly 58% higher than that of the MGIB.

This legislation has received support from Student Veterans of America, Veterans of Foreign Wars, The American Legion, and Veterans Education Success.

Background on the Transparency for Wounded Warriors Act:

In September, Reps. Bergman and Kildeeintroduced theTransparency for Wounded Warriors Actto ensure that VA decisions are clear with respect to a service member’s ability to receive certain benefits earned through service to our country.

The TraumaticServicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (TSGLI)provides financial support to help eligible servicemembers recover from severe injuries. At times, servicemembers have been denied from receiving these benefits due to a lack of transparency and bureaucratic hurdles in the process.TheTransparency for Wounded Warriors Actwould make theTSGLI benefits process more transparent and minimize the potential for bureaucratic errors.

Specifically, the bill would require the U.S. Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA) to provide the servicemember, if they are denied TSGLI benefits, a report with the reasons for the denial and a list of the evidence considered. Additionally, this provision would ensure that positive evidence, referred to as favorable findings, are binding on a subsequent appeal, unless there is clear and convincing evidence to the contrary.

Background on theReducing High Risk to Veterans and Veterans Services Act:

This legislation, introduced by House Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations Chairman Chris Pappas and Ranking Member Jack Bergman, would increase congressional oversight of VA programs most vulnerable to fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) publishes a “High Risk List” identifying federal activities and programs most susceptible to these issues. GAO has included “Managing Risks and Improving VA Health Care” on its list since 2015. To hold the VA accountable and ensure it is working to fully address the issues GAO identified, this bill would:

•Establish a three-year plan for addressing the High-Risk List and submit it to Congress;

•Provide semi-annual updates to Congress from the agency on the plan’s progress; and

•Describe any needs for congressional action, such as specific funding or new legislative authority.