cloudyn.png
Sunday September 25th, 2022 6:43AM

EXPLAINER: How health care for vets became fight in Congress

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

WASHINGTON (AP) — A bill that would enhance health care and disability benefits for millions of veterans exposed to toxic burn pits hit a snag in the Senate last week, angering advocates like comedian Jon Stewart who say help from the government is long overdue.

Lawmakers have been hearing increasingly from constituents with respiratory illnesses and cancers that they attribute to serving near burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan. The military used the pits to dispose of such things as chemicals, cans, tires, plastics and medical and human waste.

Veterans groups say servicemembers who were exposed to the pits have waited long enough for enhanced health benefits, and lawmakers largely agree. The Senate is ultimately expected to send the measure to President Joe Biden's desk. It's just a question of when.

Where the issue stands:

HOW WOULD THE BILL HELP IRAQ AND AFGHANISTAN VETERANS?

First, veterans who served near burn pits will get 10 years of health care coverage through the Department of Veterans Affairs upon their separation from the military rather than five.

Second, the legislation directs the VA to presume that certain respiratory illnesses and cancers were related to burn pit exposure. This takes the burden of proof off the veteran, allowing them to obtain disability payments to compensate for their injury without having to show the illness was a result of their service.

Roughly 70% of disability claims related to burn pit exposure are denied by the VA due to lack of evidence, scientific data and information from the Defense Department.

IS THERE HELP FOR OTHER VETERANS? Yes. For example, hundreds of thousands of Vietnam War-era veterans and survivors also stand to benefit. The bill adds hypertension, or high blood pressure, as a presumptive disease associated with Agent Orange exposure. The Congressional Budget Office projected that about 600,000 of 1.6 million living Vietnam vets would be eligible for increased compensation, though only about half would have severe enough diagnoses to warrant receiving it.

Also, veterans who served in Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Guam, American Samoa and Johnston Atoll will be presumed to have been exposed to Agent Orange. That’s another 50,000 veterans and survivors of deceased veterans who would get compensation for illnesses presumed to have been caused by their exposure to the herbicide, the CBO projected.

HOW MUCH WILL THE BILL COST?

The bill is projected to increase federal deficits by about $277 billion over 10 years, the CBO said. Lawmakers did not include offsetting spending cuts or tax increases to help pay for the spending.

WHERE DO THINGS STAND IN CONGRESS? Both the House and the Senate have approved the bill overwhelmingly. The Senate did so in June, but the the bill contained a revenue-related provision that must originate in the House, requiring a do-over to make a technical fix.

The House approved the fixed bill by a vote of 342-88. So, now the measure is back before the Senate, where the previous iteration had passed by a vote of 84-14. Biden says he will sign it.

SO WHY HASN'T THE SENATE APPROVED IT YET?

When the CBO scored the bill, it projected that nearly $400 billion slated to be spent on health services would move from discretionary spending to mandatory spending, which is mostly sheltered from the bruising battles that occur each year over where to spend money in appropriations bills.

The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, a nonpartisan fiscal watchdog, said a reclassification of nearly $400 billion from discretionary to mandatory would “both reduce the pressure to keep those costs under control and make it easier for appropriators to spend more elsewhere in the budget without offsets.”

Those dynamics also applied to the bill when the Senate approved it in June. Nevertheless, senators voted for the measure overwhelmingly.

But, last week more than two dozen Republicans who voted for the bill in June voted against advancing it this time. They sided with Republican Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, who is seeking a vote on an amendment that he says would not reduce spending on veterans but would prevent spending increases in other nondefense programs down the road.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has offered to let the Senate vote on the Toomey amendment with 60 votes needed for passage, the same number that is needed to advance the bill itself.

It's unclear how the delay will be resolved, though Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell predicted Monday that the bill will pass this week.

Advocacy groups for veterans, a key voting bloc in the upcoming midterm elections, are furious and ramping up the political pressure on lawmakers to act. At a Capitol Hill news conference the day after last week's procedural vote, speakers used terms such as “villains" and “reprehensible" to describe the Republican senators who voted against advancing the measure last week but voted for almost the exact same bill in June.

“Veterans are angry and confused at the sudden change from those they thought had their backs," said Cory Titus of the group Military Officers Association of America.

“You just screwed veterans yesterday," added Tom Porter of the group Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. “Now, we're going to hold them accountable."

  • Associated Categories: U.S. News, Associated Press (AP), AP National News, AP Online National News, Top U.S. News short headlines, AP Online Headlines - Washington, AP Online Congress News, AP Health, AP Business, AP Business - Economy
© Copyright 2022 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump face primaries
Three Republican U.S. House members who voted to impeach Donald Trump over the Jan. 6 insurrection are being challenged in Tuesday’s primary elections by rivals endorsed by the former president
12:18AM ( 5 minutes ago )
EXPLAINER: How health care for vets became fight in Congress
A bill that enhances health care and disability benefits for millions of veterans exposed to toxic burn pits has hit a snag in the Senate
12:13AM ( 11 minutes ago )
Stephen King set to testify for govt in books merger trial
Renowned author Stephen King is set to take the stand Tuesday at a federal antitrust trial in Washington
12:11AM ( 12 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
Watching al-Qaida chief's 'pattern of life' key to his death
The seeds of the U.S. counterterrorism operation that killed al-Qaida's leader were planted over many months
10:28PM ( 1 hour ago )
EXPLAINER: Who was al-Zawahri — and why did US kill him?
A U.S. drone strike in Afghanistan this weekend killed Ayman al-Zawahri, who helped Osama bin Laden plot the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States and helped ensure al-Qaida survived and spread in the years after
10:27PM ( 1 hour ago )
Biden: Killing of al-Qaida leader is long-sought 'justice'
President Joe Biden has announced that al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahri was killed in a U.S. drone strike in Kabul
10:22PM ( 2 hours ago )
AP Online Headlines - Washington
Democrat Sinema's views on economic bill remain shrouded
Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema's views remained a mystery as party leaders eye votes later this week on their emerging economic legislation
7:19PM ( 5 hours ago )
Dems allege cover-up on Secret Service texts, demand records
Top congressional Democrats have requested sit-down interviews and internal documents from the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general
7:15PM ( 5 hours ago )
What to watch in primaries in Arizona, Michigan, elsewhere
Primary elections are being held in six states on Tuesday
7:11PM ( 5 hours ago )
AP Online Congress News
Brewers trade All-Star closer Josh Hader to Padres
The San Diego Padres have acquired All-Star closer Josh Hader from the Milwaukee Brewers in exchange for recently benched closer Taylor Rogers and three other players
8:15PM ( 4 hours ago )
UN chief warns world is one step from `nuclear annihilation'
The United Nations chief is warning that “humanity is just one misunderstanding, one miscalculation away from nuclear annihilation.”
8:02PM ( 4 hours ago )
Browns QB Watson suspended 6 games, NFL weighs appeal
Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson was suspended for six games after being accused by two dozen women in Texas of sexual misconduct during massage treatments, in what a disciplinary officer said was behavior “more egregious than any before reviewed by the NFL.”
6:53PM ( 5 hours ago )
AP Business
Stocks waver to start August after best month since 2020
Stocks wavered in afternoon trading on Wall Street Monday as investors face another busy week of earnings and economic reports
2:42PM ( 9 hours ago )
Stocks waver in August start after best month since 2020
Stocks wavered in afternoon trading on Wall Street Monday as investors face another busy week of earnings and economic reports
1:33PM ( 10 hours ago )
Dems seem headed for climate, health win after ups and downs
In a story published July 30, 2022, The Associated Press reported that the Congressional Budget Office estimated that an insulin bill would increase the price of the drug
12:33PM ( 11 hours ago )
AP Business - Economy
Stephen King set to testify for govt in books merger trial
Renowned author Stephen King is set to take the stand Tuesday at a federal antitrust trial in Washington
12:11AM ( 12 minutes ago )
World one step from `nuclear annihilation,' UN chief warns
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is sounding the alarm over the war in Ukraine, nuclear threats in Asia and the Middle East, and other tensions
12:07AM ( 17 minutes ago )
Arizona House speaker who rejected Trump pleas faces voters
Arizona's Republican House speaker is facing the anger of supporters of former President Donald Trump after he rejected pleas to help overturn the 2020 election results and testified before Congress about the efforts
12:05AM ( 19 minutes ago )
Pelosi arrives in Malaysia, tensions rise over Taiwan visit
U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has arrived in Malaysia for the second leg of an Asian tour that has been clouded by an expected stop in Taiwan, which would escalate tensions with Beijing
12:04AM ( 20 minutes ago )
Norman says Tiger Woods turned down $700-800M Saudi offer
Tiger Woods turned down a Saudi offer Greg Norman says was in the neighborhood of $700 million to $800 million
12:03AM ( 21 minutes ago )