Velázquez Works to Extend Health Benefits for Veterans
Introduces Two Bills on Eve of Veterans Day
Washington, D.C. – On the day before Veterans Day, Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez (D-NY) has introduced two new bills that extend health care benefits to veterans who suffered blast injuries and hearing impairment while in the line of duty, helping close a gap in our medical care system for those who served in conflicts abroad.
“Our veterans made a choice to put their lives on the line for our country,” said Velázquez. “It is morally incumbent on us to honor their service with not just lip service, but tangible actions. Service members who place their lives on the line for our freedoms often carry psychological and physical wounds for the rest of their lives. Congress must work to ensure our veterans receive the care they deserve.”
Currently, a veteran receiving benefits through the Veterans Administration (VA) must have documented proof that an injury was obtained in the line of duty. This creates a devastating coverage gap for those who develop service-related injuries or illnesses later in life. Unfortunately, blast victims are likely to suffer repercussions like PTSD throughout their lives. Velázquez’s first bill, H.R. 4321 the Blast Exposure Protection Act of 2017 would extend health care coverage for illnesses that blast victims experience later in life.
“It is our duty to help veterans make the transition to civilian life as smooth as possible,” said Velázquez. “By cutting off health care benefits, we are doing the opposite. I am taking legislative action to close this coverage gap and take care of veterans, whether their injuries manifest right away or years later when they return to civilian life.”
Velázquez’s second bill, H.R. 4320 the Hear our Heroes Act of 2017 will extend service connection benefits to veterans who suffered hearing loss or tinnitus and were diagnosed after a discharge. In 2011, nearly 8% of all American veterans receiving government compensation suffered from hearing loss. Both bills have been endorsed by the Blinded Veterans Association and Veterans of Foreign Wars.
“The Blinded Veterans Association (BVA), welcomes the introduction of the Blast Exposure Protection Act of 2017 and the Hear our Heroes Act of 2017,” said Melanie Brunson, Director of Government Relations at Blinded Veterans Association. “This legislation addresses a serious need experienced by a significant number of our nation’s veterans whose injuries, though severe and life altering, are not discernable until months or even years after they occur. We urge Congress to support these bills, and give the men and women who are exposed to blasts and other battlefield trauma while serving our country, access to the essential healthcare they need.”
“Every day, the men and women of our armed forces willingly put themselves in harm’s way in defense of our nation and its interests,” said Bob Wallace, Executive Director at Veterans of Foreign Wars. “At any given moment, service members can be exposed to environmental hazards that often times will not manifest until years after they transition out of the military. This is especially true during wartime when roadside bombs and sustained gunfire are an everyday occurrence. It is because of this that the Veterans of Foreign Wars is proud to support the Blast Exposure Protection Act of 2017 and the Hear our Heroes Act of 2017, which would ensure that our service members and veterans are able to receive the care that they have earned after they are exposed to acoustic trauma.”
“As our country prepares to recognize Veterans Day, we should go beyond ceremonies and kind words,” said Velázquez. “We must honor our veterans each and every day by welcoming them back into civilian life with the utmost care, dignity and respect.”