EDUCATION, JOBS, BENEFITS, AND PRESCRIPTIONS FOR OUR NATION'S VETERANS; Congressional Record Vol. 149, No. 83
(Extensions of Remarks - June 09, 2003)

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[Extensions of Remarks]
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 EDUCATION, JOBS, BENEFITS, AND PRESCRIPTIONS FOR OUR NATION'S VETERANS

                                 ______
                                 

                            HON. BOB FILNER

                             of california

                    in the house of representatives

                          Monday, June 9, 2003

  Mr. FILNER. Mr. Speaker and colleagues, I rise today to urge support 
for four bills that I have introduced to address several needs of our 
veterans and to ensure their well-being.
  The first bill (H.R. 1924) deals with education benefits. Last year, 
one very important piece of the Fiscal Year 2003 National Defense 
Authorization Act that Congress passed was a provision that extends the 
time limit for members of the Selected Reserve to use their Montgomery 
GI Bill (MGIB) education benefits from 10 years to 14 years. Prior to 
the passage of this law, these MGIB participants had only 10 years from 
their release from military service to use these earned education 
benefits.
  Many times, veterans with families, work commitments, and economic 
difficulties are unable to fulfill all their requirements to receive a 
degree or certification within this 10 year period. In passing last 
year's Defense Authorization Act, Congress recognized this difficulty 
for members of the Selected Reserve. Also recognizing that 10 years may 
not be long enough for certain individuals, the VA Secretary has 
limited discretion to grant time extensions to those who are unable to 
use their benefits due to mental or physical handicaps.
  It is clear that life in 2003 can make it difficult to finish an 
education in the allotted time frame. I believe it is time to extend 
the time period for all the participants of the MGIB. Therefore, I have 
introduced H.R. 1924, ``The Montgomery GI Bill Flexibility Act'', which 
will allow all participants up to 14 years to complete their education. 
This bill will ensure that more of our veterans are able to avail 
themselves of the educational opportunity that the MGIB affords them--
the educational opportunity that they earned.
  A second bill, H.R. 1920, ``Let U.S. Veterans Rebuild Iraq Act'', 
does just what the title says. It would guarantee jobs to veterans with 
companies that are awarded government contracts to rebuild Iraq. We 
have all rallied to support our troops as they waged Operation: Iraqi 
Freedom. But often, after the troops come home, our veterans are not 
treated with the respect that they deserve. It is most important to 
ensure that there are jobs for our nation's veterans, both new veterans 
and older. We are still fighting homelessness among veterans, a 
national disgrace. One way to better the lives of many veterans is to 
include them in the job of rebuilding Iraq. They fought for freedom for 
Iraq. Let's get them involved with helping to secure the future for 
Iraq.
  My third bill, H.R. 1347, ``The Former Prisoners of War Equitable 
Dental Benefits Act'', is legislation that I introduced in the 107th 
Congress and that passed the House of Representatives, but not the 
Senate. This bill is supported by the Department of Veterans Affairs. 
It would eliminate the ``time of internment'' requirement for former 
prisoners-of-war (POWs) in order to be eligible for outpatient dental 
care benefits at the VA.
  No one can deny that former POWs have sacrificed greatly in defense 
of their country. Unfortunately, their sacrifices continue. Reports 
have shown that POWs are at higher risk for a number of disabling 
conditions associated with exposure to infectious disease, inclement 
weather, and malnutrition.
  Currently, the law states that eligibility for outpatient dental care 
benefits only applies to former POWs with 90 days or more of 
internment. As you can imagine, this time requirement has been 
difficult for the VA to administer and to justify to the veterans 
seeking dental care. Former POWs are often confused about this time 
requirement. Who could say that our POWs in Iraq did not suffer because 
they were not imprisoned for 90 days? H.R. 1347 eliminates the 
arbitrary distinction between former POWs who have all paid dearly for 
their service.
  Fourthly, I have learned that VA doctors are not allowed to prescribe 
more than a 1 month prescription for controlled drugs, such as pain 
killers used for chronic conditions. But many veterans who have these 
prescriptions have been treated with the same medications for years and 
show no signs of abuse. H.R. 1921, the ``Continuity of Care for 
Veterans with Chronic Conditions Act'', would allow VA doctors to write 
a three-months prescription for these veterans who demonstrate no sign 
of

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abuse of their medication. This bill would make it more convenient for 
sick veterans to get their medication and would ensure that no lag time 
exists when veterans are without their medication.
  Education, jobs, benefits, and prescriptions for our nation's 
veterans. I urge your support for this legislation!

                          ____________________