Congress passes sweeping veterans’ bill, includes provisions from Sixth District

WASHINGTON, D.C. (WTVQ) – A veterans’ advisory group in central Kentucky played a role in legislation that’s headed to President Trump’s desk for his signature.

Republican Congressman Andy Barr, of Lexington, has two bills that are part of the broader legislation that passed both chambers.

One bill from Representative Barr is designed to improve veterans’ access to the VA’s disability claims system and the other is to enhance opportunities for veterans’ pursuing science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education, according to Barr’s office.

The Veterans Benefits Fairness and Transparency Act of 2020 (VBFTA) protects veterans filing for disability claims by requiring the VA to restore the availability of disability benefit questionnaires (DBQs) to their publicly available website.  This allows veterans to use their own personal healthcare provider when filling out their DBQs outside the VA.

The bill is also designed to cut red tape and bureaucracy by preventing a veteran’s claim from being rejected just because the VA updated the DBQ form.  Congressman Barr says the idea for this legislation came from a member of the Sixth District Veterans Coalition, a veterans’ advisory group that regularly advises the Congressman on veterans’ issues.

Barr’s other bill, the Veteran STEM Scholarship Enhancement Act, allows the VA to improve processing times for veteran scholarship applications for the Edith Nourse Rogers STEM scholarship.

The bill lifts the requirement for priority groups among eligible veterans applying for the scholarship unless the VA determines that it is nearing the scholarship’s yearly funding limit.  This bill also prevents the Rogers STEM scholarship from counting toward the 48-month limit a veteran can receive GI Bill benefits.

“With the passage of this comprehensive veterans’ package, we have pushed expanding access for veterans to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) educational opportunities and important fixes to our VA disability claims system across the finish line,” said Congressman Barr.

“These initiatives have been priorities of mine since joining the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee at the beginning of the 116th Congress.  I want to thank the Sixth District Veterans Coalition for their invaluable input on veterans’ issues, including the Veterans Benefits Fairness and Transparency Act of 2020.  I look forward to continuing our work to help veterans in the Sixth District and throughout the country,” Congressman Barr said.

The broader legislation headed to the president’s desk expands access to education and training for transitioning servicemembers, improves care and benefits for women veterans, modernizes the Service-Disabled Veterans Insurance Program, supports veterans who are homeless, and addresses the needs of veterans across the VA system, according to Congressman Barr.

For a section-by-section summary of H.R. 7105, the Johnny Isakson and David P. Roe, M.D. Veterans Health Care and Benefits Improvement Act of 2020, click here.


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