In an effort to help Florida’s disabled veterans access needed medicine, Senator Janet Cruz (D-Tampa) and Representative Adam Hattersley (D-Riverview) have teamed up to file legislation which will allow service-disabled veterans to obtain or renew their medical marijuana card at no cost. [Read more…] about Tampa Bay Lawmakers File Legislation to Help Disabled Veterans Access Medical Marijuana
Amendment increases funding for the Wounded Warrior Program, which
provides two-year paid fellowships in U.S. House offices for disabled veterans
The U.S. House of Representatives today approved a bipartisan measure spearheaded by U.S. Representatives Brian Mast (FL-18) and Stephanie Murphy (FL-7) to help more disabled veterans transition to the civilian workforce. The measure, passed as an amendment to the Fiscal Year 2019 Legislative Branch appropriations bill, increases funding for the U.S. House’s Wounded Warrior Program, which provides two-year paid fellowships for disabled veterans to work in the Washington or district offices of Members of Congress. There are currently 47 disabled veterans working in House offices through the Wounded Warrior initiative, and this new funding will help the program reach its ultimate goal of supporting 110 paid fellowships.
“After I opened our Congressional office inside the West Palm Beach VA, we set out to hire a wounded warrior to help us because I know that veterans are among the most qualified applicants for any position thanks to the skills they learned in the military,” Rep. Mast said. “This amendment is a win-win: giving disabled veterans a great opportunity to transition into a new career while improving constituent services in Congressional offices across the country.”
The Mast-Murphy amendment increases funding for the Wounded Warrior Program by $250,000, from $2.75 million to $3.0 million. In addition to Reps. Mast and Murphy, U.S. Representatives Dan Kildee (MI-5) and Tulsi Gabbard (HI-2) co-led the amendment.
“Our veterans, especially those wounded in the line of duty, have fought hard to protect our nation, and Congress should fight just as hard for them,” Rep. Murphy said. “The Wounded Warrior fellowship program helps veterans succeed after they leave the military by affording them potentially life-changing personal and professional opportunities to gain experience in congressional offices. Veterans can use the valuable skills they honed in the military to help constituents, including fellow veterans, in congressional districts across the country. I’m proud to work with Congressman Mast to create more opportunities for disabled veterans to get the skills, training, and expertise that will help them succeed.”
Shortly after opening the first-ever Congressional office inside a VA facility, Rep. Mast announced that his office was seeking a wounded warrior or medically retired veteran for a fellowship working at the office. The office is in the final phases of selecting a fellow to handle military and veterans-related casework from a qualified group of candidates.
Wounded warrior fellowships enable disabled veterans to gain professional experience and develop their skills while they determine their long-term career interests and goals. Participating veterans perform a variety of duties, including legislative work and constituent advocacy. As a result of their military service, fellows provide invaluable support to Member offices, especially on defense and veterans issues. To qualify for the program, an applicant must be an honorably discharged veteran released from active duty within the last five years. The applicant must have a 20 percent or greater service-connected disability or be a Purple Heart recipient.
For more information on the Wounded Warrior Program, click here.
U.S. Congressman Brian Mast (FL-18)—along with Reps. Susan Davis (D-CA), Joe Wilson (R-SC), Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) and Jacky Rosen (D-NV)—introduced bipartisan legislation in the House of Representatives to increase healthcare opportunities for disabled veterans. The Fair Access to Insurance for Retired (FAIR) Heroes Act will allow veterans who were medically discharged to choose their healthcare coverage through Medicare or TRICARE.
“I know as well as anyone the bureaucratic healthcare maze that awaits injured veterans when they get home,” Rep. Mast said. It’s complex and not always in the best interest of our vets. Right now severely injured veterans can’t even access their TRICARE benefits without first dipping into Medicare money that could be going to care for our seniors. That’s the epitome of bad government bureaucracy. This bipartisan bill will make government more efficient and ensure our seriously injured veterans have access to the health care that best fits their needs.”
Disabled veterans lose access to TRICARE, the military’s health system, if they have filed for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits. They must instead enroll in Medicare Part B, where premiums are nearly five times higher than TRICARE. Allowing disabled veterans a choice could save them up to $1,300 a year.
“Considering the sacrifices veterans make on our behalf, we owe it them to ensure they are getting the care they deserve and in the manner that is best for them,” Rep. Davis said. “The FAIR Heroes act will give our veterans greater choices in where to get the healthcare plan that works for them.”
Senators Bill Nelson (D-FL) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) have introduced companion legislation in the Senate.
Along with the support of the Wounded Warriors Project, the FAIR Heroes Act has been endorsed by the Air Force Association, Association of the United States Army, Association of the United States Navy, AMVETS, Army Aviation Association of America, Chief Warrant & Warrant Officers Association of the U.S. Coast Guard, Got Your 6, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, Military Order of the Purple Heart, Military Officers Association of America, the National Military Family Association, Paralyzed Veterans of America, Service Women’s Action Network, Veterans of Foreign Wars, and Vietnam Veterans of America.
As the nation pauses this weekend to honor the brave men and women who served in our nation’s Armed Forces, U.S. Sens. Bill Nelson (D-FL) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) today filed legislation to ensure some of our most severely disabled veterans have access to the health care they need.
The legislation, known as the FAIR Heroes Act, would make disabled veterans who were medically retired from the military eligible for both Medicare Part B and TRICARE, a health care program for retired veterans and their families, and allow them to choose which health plan works best for them.
Under current law, severely disabled veterans who receive Social Security Disability Insurance benefits, or SSDI, for two or more years don’t have a choice. They are required, by law, to purchase Medicare Part B coverage – and, in some cases, maintain that coverage even if they return to work.
By giving these veterans the choice to enroll in TRICARE instead of the more costly Medicare Part B program, the lawmakers’ bill could save many veterans up to $1,300 a year.
“These brave men and women are American heroes,” Nelson said. “They have made tremendous sacrifices in service to their country and making sure they have access to the health care that best fits their needs is the least we can do.”
If these medically retired veterans fail to immediately purchase Medicare Part B coverage when they become eligible, or fail to maintain that coverage for at least eight years after returning to work, they are forced to pay a late enrollment fee and higher premiums if they try to enroll in Medicare later in life.
For some disabled veterans, the late-enrollment penalty and higher premiums make Medicare coverage unaffordable.
Nelson and Blumenthal’s legislation seeks to change that, not only by giving these disabled veterans the option to enroll in TRICARE instead, but also by eliminating the eight-year Medicare requirement and late-enrollment penalties for those who were medically retired from the military.
The legislation has been endorsed by several veterans organizations including the Wounded Warriors Project, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Got Your 6, Association of the U.S. Army and the National Military Family Association.
A copy of the legislation is available here.