Government Affairs

Montana Legislative Issues


Blue Water Navy Veterans

ATTENTION!

BLUE WATER VIETNAM VETERANS OF MONTANA  AND SURVIVING SPOUSES

WITH THE RECENT PASSING OF

PROCOPIO v. WILKE

MONTANA VETERANS AFFAIRS DIVISION IS ENCOURAGING ALL BLUE WATER VETERANS

AND THOSE SURVIVING SPOUSES TO APPLY FOR VA BENEFITS.

ALTHOUGH THE VA WILL NOT ADJUDICATE BLUE WATER CLAIMS

UNTIL JAN 1, 2020  WE WILL HELP YOU FILE YOUR CLAIM NOW.

IN JANUARY 2020 CLAIMS WILL BE ADJUDICATED IN THE ORDER RECEIVED.

CONTACT THE OFFICE NEAREST YOU:

BELGRADE 406-388-4601

BILLINGS 406-656-0584

BUTTE 406-533-0910

GREAT FALLS 406-452-2265

HAVRE 406-265-4225

HELENA 406-495-2081

KALISPELL 406-755-3795

MILES CITY 406-232-1203

MISSOULA 406-542-2501

EVEN IF YOU HAVE BEEN DENIED IN THE PAST YOU NEED TO REFILE NOW.


Honor and Remember Medallion

During the 2017 Legislative Session, Gov. Bullock signed into Montana state law the Honor and Remember Act, which authorizes the Honor and Remember Medallion (HRM) for family members of servicemen or women who have passed in the service of their country while engaged against hostile military forces.  The Medallion – its appearance and presentation criteria – is based upon the Department of Defense and U.S. Congress’ determination of the Gold Star Family standard, and as adopted by Montana state statute.   As such, specific family relationships are authorized the Honor and Remember Medallion – as designated on its application form.  The Medallion’s presentation criteria honors previously relevant state laws that allowed for a Medallion, at no charge, for one family member; as well as, the recently passed legislation which expands the Medallion’s availability to all authorized family members (per Gold Star Family standards).  Expanding the availability was the right thing to do, but it also significantly increased the cost of the program; therefore, there is a cost of $20 for any additional family member to receive the Medallion.  While there was apprehension to include a fee, it was necessary for the greater good of the Honor and Remember Medallion program in that it could be, long-term, as financially self-sustaining as possible.  While the $20 does not cover all the costs of the Medallion, its presentation case, the engraving and other expenses; it does – as augmented by donations – ensure its perpetual availability.  Please visit the Montana Veterans Affairs Division website at mt.gov to obtain the application and instructions.


National Legislative Issues

Stay informed about the issues that affect Vietnam Veterans.

Blue Water Navy Veterans

ATTENTION!

BLUE WATER VIETNAM VETERANS OF MONTANA  AND SURVIVING SPOUSES

WITH THE RECENT PASSING OF

PROCOPIO v. WILKE

MONTANA VETERANS AFFAIRS DIVISION IS ENCOURAGING ALL BLUE WATER VETERANS

AND THOSE SURVIVING SPOUSES TO APPLY FOR VA BENEFITS.

ALTHOUGH THE VA WILL NOT ADJUDICATE BLUE WATER CLAIMS

UNTIL JAN 1, 2020  WE WILL HELP YOU FILE YOUR CLAIM NOW.

IN JANUARY 2020 CLAIMS WILL BE ADJUDICATED IN THE ORDER RECEIVED.

CONTACT THE OFFICE NEAREST YOU:

BELGRADE 406-388-4601

BILLINGS 406-656-0584

BUTTE 406-533-0910

GREAT FALLS 406-452-2265

HAVRE 406-265-4225

HELENA 406-495-2081

KALISPELL 406-755-3795

MILES CITY 406-232-1203

MISSOULA 406-542-2501

EVEN IF YOU HAVE BEEN DENIED IN THE PAST YOU NEED TO REFILE NOW.


VA Mission Act Implemenation Date is June 6, 2019

VA’s improvements to Veteran community care under MISSION Act on track for June 6 implementation

As the one-year anniversary of President Trump’s signing of the VA Maintaining Internal Systems and Strengthening Integrated Outside Networks (MISSION) Act of 2018 approaches on June 6, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is making significant strides in implementing major improvements to community care for Veterans.

“The Veteran is at the center of everything we do,” VA Secretary Robert Wilkie said. “Through the MISSION Act, Veterans will have more choices than ever in getting timely, high-quality care. Most important, Veterans will be able to decide what is important and best for them.”

The MISSION Act will strengthen VA’s health care system by improving both aspects of care delivery and empowering Veterans to find the balance in the system that is right for them.

For full press release click here.

For more information click here.


Senate Passes Tester Bill to Eliminate Tax on Gold Star Families

Bipartisan legislation eliminates Trump’s tax on Defense Department benefits for surviving children 

(U.S. Senate) – The Senate today unanimously passed legislation from U.S. Senator Jon Tester to eliminate the tax burden placed on Gold Star children and their families by President Trump’s disastrous tax bill. The bill’s passage comes on the same day Tester joined a bipartisan group of colleagues to call for passage of the Military Widow’s Tax Elimination Act, a push to help the more than 65,000 military widows and widowers nationwide receive the full survivor benefits they are due.

The Military Kiddie’s Tax Elimination Bill, also known as the Gold Star Family Tax Relief Act, amends a provision in Trump’s 2017 tax bill that substantially increased taxes on children receiving survivor benefits because they lost a parent in the line of duty. The legislation retroactively reverses the increase for Fiscal Year 2018 and permanently repeals the malicious provision inserted in the Tax Cut and Jobs Act.

“Gold Star families have endured the unimaginable on behalf of our nation,” said Senator Tester, Ranking Member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee. “In return for the life of a loved one, our country provides these grieving families with some basic financial support. But these families have been subjected to loopholes that have slashed these basic benefits—and today is a step in the right direction towards the fix they deserve.”

In Montana, there are about 3,500 military survivors affected by the “Widow’s tax” and about 200 affected by the “Kiddie Tax.”

  

 

 

 


Houses passes H.R. 299 Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veteran Act

Houses passes H.R. 299 Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veteran Act by a vote of 410-0
(Washington, D.C.) — “On the eve of the House vote on H.R. 299, the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019, VVA applauds Veterans Affairs Chair Mark Takano (D-CA) and Ranking Member Dr. Phil Roe (R-TN) for their leadership and their deep resolve in ensuring our Blue Water Navy veterans receive the healthcare and benefits they have earned by virtue of their service during the Vietnam War,” said John Rowan, VVA National President. “We expect that our Senators in the 116th Congress will do the right thing and pass the bill when it appears before them.”

H.R.299, the first bill introduced this Congress by Chair Takano, is similar to a bill that was passed unanimously in the House of Representatives last Congress but was stalled in the Senate by Sens. Mike Enzi (R-WY) and Mike Lee (R-UT), despite overwhelming bipartisan support. Members from both sides of the aisle will again vote to extend benefits to some 90,000 service members who served in the territorial waters off Vietnam and were exposed to Agent Orange.

“Contrary to the VA’s assertions, noted Rowan, “we have the science that shows the pathways of exposure to this insidious herbicide.” Earlier this year, VA Secretary Robert Wilkie voiced opposition to the legislation, reversing an earlier commitment by his predecessor, Dr. David Shulkin, to “do the right thing.” Secretary Wilke has now reversed his earlier position and has urged the administration not to appeal the U.S. Appeals Court decision in Alfred Procopio, Jr., V. Robert Wilkie, which will, in fact, restore healthcare and benefits to many veterans who served in the waters off Vietnam. It will also extend benefits to veterans who served in Thailand and those who served along the DMZ in Korea at any time. “We applaud Secretary Wilke for his support in moving forward to assist Blue Water Navy Veterans,” said Rowan.

In February 2002, the VA abruptly terminated benefits to the 534,300+ Blue Water U.S. Navy, Coast Guard, and FMF Marine veterans, thereby limiting the scope of the Agent Orange Act of 1991 to veterans who could provide proof of “boots on the ground” in Vietnam which encompassed ground forces and the inland rivers. Suddenly, offshore veterans stopped receiving VA health care and disability compensation. The Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act, when signed into law, will right this wrong.

Mokie Pratt Porter
Director of Communications


Senate Passes Veterans Benefits and Transition Act

The United States Senate passed Ranking Member Jon Tester’s 21st bipartisan bill, capping off a landmark Congress with numerous victories for America’s veterans.

 Tester’s Veterans Benefits and Transition Act contains 18 bipartisan bills, including the following six bipartisan Tester-authored bills to honor Native American veterans, better protect student veterans, and increase the transparency and accountability of the VA’s historic electronic health records transition.

The Servicemembers Improved Transition through Reforms for Ensuring Progress “SIT-REP” Act:Forces schools that receive G.I. Bill benefits to adopt a policy that it will not impose a late fee, restrict a student veterans’ access to campus facilities, or otherwise punish a student veteran due to a late payment of tuition or fees from the VA. 

 Tribal Veteran Burial Benefits Act:Authored by Tester and Senator Dean Heller (R-Nev.), the VA can now provide headstones or burial markers to a Native American veteran’s spouse and dependents who wish to be buried alongside their loved one in a tribal veterans’ cemetery.

 Veteran Debt Fairness Act:Following reports that the VA had been forcing veterans to repay benefits to the VA, Tester authored legislation with Senators Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) to require the VA to update its information technology systems so that affected veterans are able to review and revise information about their dependents electronically.

 Veterans Fair Debt Notice Act:Tester authored this legislation with Senator Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) to require the VA to notify veterans with a straightforward, easy-to-understand electronic or standard mail notification of any debt that veteran owes to the VA and the steps they can take to dispute that debt.

 Veterans’ Electronic Health Record Modernization Oversight Act:As the VA undertakes the largest electronic health records change in history, Tester and Blumenthal authored legislation to make the modernization program’s key planning and implementation efforts more transparent and hold the VA accountable by requiring the VA to notify Congress in the event of any significant cost increase, schedule delay, loss of veteran health data or breach of privacy.

 Veterans’ Dental Care Eligibility Expansion and Enhancement Act:The VA is required to report on the possibility of expanding veterans’ access to dental care. By analyzing access and affordability through VA dental care, oral health needs of eligible veterans, and the number of providers needed to provide such care.

“This legislation is the product of hard work, compromise and bipartisanship,” said Tester, Ranking Member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee. “Sending another VA reform bill to the President’s desk sends a clear message to our nation’s veterans: Serving our men and women in uniform is a responsibility that we should all take very seriously. I have been honored to work with Chairman Isakson this Congress to accomplish so much for our nation’s veterans.”