WASHINGTON - Congressman Raul Ruiz was in Washington D.C. Wednesday to announce a package of bills to address many of the issues facing veterans in Riverside County.
"This legislative package is the result of listening to the people I serve - the veterans in my district, as well as their families, friends, and the communities that care for them," said Dr. Ruiz.
"These bills aim to reduce the claims backlog at the VA - ensuring veterans and their families receive the benefits they have earned; improve the quality of life for wounded veterans; and make it easier for veterans to find jobs. Our veterans have stood up for us, and we need to stand up for them," Ruiz said.
The following is a summary from Congressman Ruiz' office regarding the bills announced Wednesday:
H.R. 2119, Veterans Access to Speedy Review Act
- This bill gives veterans the ability to use video conferencing during an appeals hearing as a substitute for being there in person. This relieves the burden on veterans having to travel for appeal hearings in person. Many times this travel comes at a great physical and financial cost to the veteran, particularly if the veteran resides a long distance from where the appeal hearing is being held. According to the VA, this will reduce costs for both the VA and veterans.
H.R. 3672, the Support our Services to Veterans Caregivers Act (S.O.S. Veterans Caregivers Act)
- Currently, only seriously injured veterans and their caregivers are able to benefit from the caregiver assistance programs established under the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act of 2010, leaving out thousands of seriously ill veterans who should have been included to begin with. This bipartisan bill seeks to fix this legislative error by including severe "illnesses" to the eligibility criteria and make sure that veterans who have become severely ill because of their service to our country are able to get the support they need.
H.R. 3976, the Wounded Veterans Recreation Act
- Makes all disabled veterans eligible for a no-cost, lifetime pass that would give them entry to the national parks and federal recreational lands managed by the National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, and the Bureau of Reclamation.
Disabled Veterans Workforce Opportunity Act
- This bipartisan legislation would provide veterans with a 70 percent or higher disability rating with a stronger preference when applying for employment in the federal government.
- Recently passed the House and as part of H.R. 2189. The bill requires the Secretary of the VA to include in an annual report to Congress the time it takes information requested by the Department of Veterans Affairs when it's received from other federal agencies. This legislation will provide oversight and evidence of the timeliness of other agencies in providing the VA with critical information needed to ensure veterans receive benefits in a timely manner.
Dr. Ruiz added, "I will continue to work with my Democratic and Republican colleagues, the VA, and veterans' organizations across the country to enact this legislation and work to find pragmatic solutions to their most pressing needs."