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Comprehensive vets bill heads to the White House

WASHINGTON — Congress finalized work on the “The Honoring America’s Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act” on Tuesday, sending the measure to the White House to be signed into law. Most of the focus on the legislation has centered on provisions to provide for the first time VA health care to families who were exposed to contaminated well water at the North Carolina military facility.

 But the sweeping legislation also includes other provisions that could provide new benefits to a wide range of veterans, and represents one of the few major pieces of legislation to work its way through Congress this year. Highlights:

  • Rural veterans: Co-payments for veterans using using online or other remote health care programs would be eliminated. The department will also look into the providing travel reimbursements to veterans seeking care at distant vet centers.
  • Sexual assault: Creates new tracking and reporting policies to monitor sexual assaults that occur at VA facilities.
  • Traumatic brain injury: The bill creates new individualized rehabilitation and reintegration services for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans with TBI.
  • Adaptive housing: VA’s program for specially adapted housing will be expanded to include housing grants for veterans with lower limb loss and vision problems, and the VA will revise how additional monies are counted against those veteran’s grant maximums.
  •  VA home loans: Surviving spouses will be eligible for VA home loan guarantees for 10 years after the death of a veteran. Also, the fee for the home loan program will be waived for disabled servicemembers.
  • Funeral protests: Prohibits demonstrators from picketing any military funeral two hours before or after the service, and requires those protestors be at least 300 feet away from the grieving families.

The president is expected to sign the bill into law later this month.

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