Velazquez Works to Extend Health Benefits for Veterans
Washington, D.C. –Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez (D-NY) has authored legislation, the Blast Exposure Protection Act, to 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 risk their lives for the rest of us,” said Velázquez. “We must honor their service with not just lip service, but tangible actions. Congress must work to ensure our veterans receive the care they deserve.”
Until recently, a veteran receiving benefits through the Veterans Administration (VA) was required to provide documented proof that an injury was obtained in the line of duty. This created a devastating coverage gap for those who developed service-related injuries or illnesses later in life. Unfortunately, blast victims are likely to suffer repercussions like PTSD throughout their lives.
The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2020 took steps to close this coverage gap in the future by requiring that, going forward, blast exposures in the line of duty be documented to ensure coverage of health problems that arise in the future. Unfortunately, this change does not address health problems from veterans who previously experienced blast exposures and whose health problems are only now beginning to manifest. Velázquez’s legislation would assist veterans suffering from previous blast exposures.
“While NDAA made important strides for veterans who encounter this hurdle to care in the future, we cannot afford to leave behind veterans who were injured in Afghanistan, Iraq or other conflicts,” Velázquez noted. “I’m proud to introduce this bill and will be working with my colleagues for its advancement.”
“Traumatic brain injury and other conditions associated with blast exposure are very serious health issues,” Matthew Doyle, Associate Director National Legislative Service, Veterans of Foreign Wars said. “Many service members go untreated for blast injuries while in service, which makes it difficult to prove that these conditions were caused by an event in service. The VFW is proud to support the Blast Exposure Protection Act of 2020, which would ensure that veterans who were exposed to blasts during military service receive the care and benefits they desperately need.”
Velázquez’s bill has been referred to the House Veterans Affairs Committee for consideration.