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Waters Introduces Two Bills to Improve Lives of U.S. Military Veterans

July 27, 2021
Press Release

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For Immediate Release: 
July 27, 2021

Media Contact: Marcus Frias
Marcus.Frias@mail.house.gov 

Waters Introduces Two Bills to Improve Lives of U.S. Military Veterans

Washington, D.C. – Today, Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA), Chairwoman of the House Committee on Financial Services, announced the introduction of the Protecting Benefits for Disabled Veterans Act of 2021 and the Veterans Service Organization Modernization Act of 2021. Both of Congresswoman Waters’ bills take significant action to honor her commitment to veterans in her district and across the country. Each bill is supported by the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Disabled American Veterans, and the American Legion.

“As a Member of the United States Congress, I take seriously my commitment to our nation’s veterans and I am pleased to have introduced two bills that increase support for veterans with a service-connected disability and create funding for the renovation and modernization of veterans service organization facilities,” said Congresswoman Maxine Waters. “Too often, the needs of our veterans are cast aside, but my bills take long-overdue action. To address this, my Protecting Benefits for Disabled Veterans Act makes permanent the Department of Veteran Affairs’ Individual Unemployability program so that we can ensure all veterans who are unable to secure a job due to a service-related disability receive benefits. It also ensures that veterans are not kicked out of the program simply because they’ve earned other benefits, like retiree benefits.”

“Further, my Veterans Service Organization Modernization Act creates a facility renovation grant program for veterans service organizations operating local services so that they can better support the 20 million veterans who have been promised healthcare, educational opportunities, and a decent quality of life,” continued Congresswoman Maxine Waters. “As a longtime advocate for those who have served our country in the military, I will continue to work tirelessly in support of our veterans and their needs.”

Over three and a half million veterans live with a disability connected to their service to the United States. For many, these disabilities make obtaining and maintaining employment difficult, if not impossible. Although the Department of Veterans Affairs Individual Unemployability Program has assisted veterans with disabilities since 1934, it is not authorized in statute and it has consistently been the target of cost-cutting proposals, such as proposals to kick veterans out of the program if they happen to receive other benefits they rightly earned.

The Protecting Benefits for Disabled Veterans Act of 2021:

  • Codifies and makes permanent the Department of Veterans Affairs' (VA) Individual Unemployability (IU) program.
  • Ensures that veterans, who are unable to maintain employment due to a service-connected disability, can continue to have access to the IU program as it currently exists.
  • Guarantees that veterans applying for the IU program will not be denied based on their age or eligibility for retirement benefits.

There are approximately 20 million veterans in the United States today who rely on assistance from the VA to secure care, housing, education, and much more. Veterans service organizations (VSOs) operate throughout the country and serve millions of veterans. The VSOs endorsing this legislation—American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), and Disabled American Veterans (DAV)—collectively serve 4.5 million veterans.

The services VSOs provide are practically limitless, yet the physical buildings where VSOs serve the community are often dilapidated and in dire need of updates and repair.

The Veterans Service Organization Modernization Act:

  • Creates a ten-million-dollar grant program at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development specifically for VSOs that are classified by the Internal Revenue Service as 501(c)(19) non-profit organizations and hold a designated mission to serve the needs of veterans and their families, as well as the VSOs created by Congressional Charter.
  • Provides renovation and modernization specific grants of up to $100,000 to VSOs for the purpose of maintenance and refurbishment to already existing infrastructure.

The Protecting Benefits for Disabled Veterans Act of 2021 would codify VA's authority to grant individual unemployability disability ratings for veterans who are unable to maintain gainful employment due to their service-connected disabilities,” said Kristina Keenan, National Legislative Service Associate Director for Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. “The VFW supports this legislation to protect this important benefit for veterans who truly need it. The VFW supports the Veterans Service Organization Modernization Act of 2021 which would allow local chapters of eligible veterans service organizations (VSOs) to apply for grants to improve and modernize their facilities. Local VSO chapters, like VFW posts, are an important part of the community and this legislation would provide an opportunity to improve existing facilities and upgrade necessary technologies to better serve the veteran population.”

“DAV strongly supports the Protecting Benefits for Disabled Veterans Act as it will ensure that Total Disability based on Individual Unemployability (TDIU) benefits will remain available for all veterans unable to work due to their serious service-connected disabilities, regardless of their age or receipt of any other earned federal benefits,” said Shane Liermann, Deputy National Legislative Director for Disabled American Veterans. “We thank Representative Maxine Waters for introducing this legislation as well as the Veterans Service Organization Modernization Act to support local veterans organizations. DAV applauds Rep. Waters for her steadfast commitment to the men and women who have been wounded, injured, or made ill during their military service.”

Co-sponsors of the Protecting Benefits for Disabled Veterans Act of 2021 include Representatives: Julia Brownley (D-CA), Danny K. Davis (D-IL), Veronica Escobar (D-TX), Grace F. Napolitano (D-CA), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), Chris Pappas (D-NH), Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-DE), and Bobby L. Rush (D-IL).

Co-sponsors of the Veterans Service Organization Modernization Act include Representatives: Jamaal Bowman (D-NY), André Carson (D-IN), Judy Chu (D-CA), David N. Cicilline (D-RI), Vicente Gonzalez (D-TX), Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ), Jahana Hayes (D-CT), Al Lawson (D-FL), James P. McGovern (D-MA), Michael F.Q. San Nicolas (D-GU), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), and Thomas R. Suozzi (D-NY).

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Pictured from left to right: Commander Roger Morrissey, Congresswoman Maxine Waters

Congresswoman Maxine Waters is a fierce advocate for the United States military veterans in her district and around the country. In addition to her introduction of the Protecting Benefits for Disabled Veterans Act and the Veterans Service Organization Modernization Act, Congresswoman Waters recently helped secure over $3.3 billion in funding in the House Appropriations Committee for FY 2022. This funding would assist veterans with healthcare, housing, and mental health resources. While this legislation is yet to be passed by the House or Senate, Congresswoman Waters will continue fighting for the inclusion of this funding and the passage of the legislation. Congresswoman Waters is also working to secure community project funding in the amount of $235,127 for the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post #2075 Rehabilitation Project. Her work on behalf of veterans does not end there: for years, Congresswoman Waters has advocated for, and introduced bills such as the For-Profit Fraud Act to close a regulatory loophole that made veterans a target of for-profit colleges, which often left veterans with unusable degrees and exorbitant debt. After years of the Congresswoman’s leadership, the loophole was finally closed this year.

Congresswoman Waters has also always prioritized the needs of veterans living in the district: in 2018, Congresswoman Waters successfully brought “The Wall That Heals,” a traveling replica of the Vietnam War Memorial, to Gardena, and hosted an event honoring local Vietnam War veterans. Congresswoman Waters also shares thanksgiving celebrations with homeless veterans in CA-43 every year and has many close relationships with many of the veterans in her district like Commander Roger Morrissey of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post #2075, Commander Patricia Jackson-Kelley of the Jackie Robinson American Legion Post #252, Commander Steve Moriyama of the Gardena Nisei Memorial VFW Post #1961, Commander Gerry Blake of Inglewood VFW Post #2122, and Commander David Fuller of the Chappie James American Legion Post #578.

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