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Senate Gets Veterans Benefits Bill

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The U.S. Senate will soon take up a bill aimed at protecting health care benefits for members of the armed forces who are released from active duty.[@@]

The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, H.R. 2046, would entitle servicemembers released from active duty to reinstatement without any premium increase of health insurance coverage that was in effect the day before service began.

The proposed amendment to the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act would permit a health insurer to increase a servicemember’s premium if there were a general increase for similarly covered individuals during the period between the termination and reinstatement.

The House approved the bill Monday by a voice vote. Rep. Steve Buyer, R.-Ind., introduced the bill in early May with 30 sponsors.

Rep. Stephanie Herseth, D-S.D.., echoed the sentiments of many of her fellow lawmakers in asserting that those fighting battles abroad on behalf of the United States should not be short-changed at home.

Pushing for enactment of H.R. 2046 “has been a bipartisan effort,” Herseth said in a speech on the House floor, according to a written version of the speech printed in the Congressional Record. “Let us keep it that way, and get the job done for the veterans who deserve our help through the difficult times that they are facing.”

Other lawmakers have expressed reservations about the bill.

Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee, D-Texas, said she supported provisions of the bill but was concerned about its effect on private carriers.

“Private insurance should not carry the entire national burden of health care for our personnel,” she said. “I hope that as the agenda of the Veterans Affairs Committee continues to unfold, further legislation will be introduced to provide health care for our veterans through the federal government.”


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