(Extensions of Remarks - October 13, 2011)

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[Extensions of Remarks]
[Page E1856]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office []



                               speech of

                         HON. ALCEE L. HASTINGS

                               of florida

                    in the house of representatives

                       Tuesday, October 11, 2011

  Mr. HASTINGS of Florida. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to applaud the 
passage of H.R. 2349, the Veterans' Benefits Training Improvement Act 
of 2011. This important legislation makes much-needed improvements to 
benefits and services for our nation's veterans. It improves the claim-
processing system by establishing a pilot program to assess the skills 
of employees responsible for processing veterans' claims, authorizing 
the use of electronic communication to contact claimants regarding 
their benefits, and assisting veterans in obtaining private records, 
among others.
  Included in this legislation is a bill that I sponsored entitled, the 
Veterans Pensions Protection Act of 2011 (H.R. 923). My bill protects 
veterans' pensions by exempting the reimbursement of expenses related 
to accidents, theft, loss or casualty loss from being included into the 
determination of a veteran's income. Under current law, if a veteran is 
seriously injured in an accident or is the victim of a theft and 
receives insurance compensation, he or she may lose their pension if 
the payment exceeds the income limit set by the U.S. Department of 
Veterans Affairs (VA). This means that the law effectively punishes 
veterans when they suffer from an accident or theft.
  Such a tragedy happened to one of my constituents, a Navy veteran 
with muscular dystrophy who was hit by a truck when crossing the street 
in his wheelchair. His pension was abruptly cut off after he received 
an insurance settlement payment to cover medical expenses for himself 
and his service dog, and material expenses to replace his wheelchair. 
As a result, he could not cover his daily expenses and mortgage 
payments and almost lost his home. To me this is unacceptable.
  I am extremely pleased that H.R. 923 was incorporated into H.R. 2349 
and I want to thank my Florida colleague, Chairman Jeff Miller, as well 
as Subcommittee Chairman Jon Runyan and Ranking Member Jerry McNerney 
for their continued support on this important issue.
  At a time of economic hardship, it is essential to guarantee the 
continuity of our veterans' pensions and ensure that no veteran will 
have their benefits unfairly and abruptly depreciated or cancelled.
  Mr. Speaker, our nation's servicemen and women are currently fighting 
two wars abroad and engaged in action in other parts of the world. As 
they return home, many bear the mental and physical wounds incurred in 
the defense of our nation and deserve the highest quality care and 
services that we can provide them. Therefore, I thank my colleagues for 
supporting this much-needed legislation.