May 20, 2009

As Nation Honors Fallen Heroes on Memorial Day, Gillibrand Announces New Legislation to Improve Health Care Access for NY Veterans

County-by-County Data Shows Nearly 800,000 New York Vets Could Be Helped By Gillibrand Proposal

Washington, D.C. - As America takes time to honor the fallen heroes who have died defending our country, U.S. Senator Kirsten E. Gillibrand today announced legislation to improve health care access for New York veterans. Nearly 800,000 New York veterans are currently not receiving health care through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) system. This week, ahead of the Memorial Day holiday, Senator Gillibrand will introduce the Providing Real Outreach for Veterans (PRO-VETS) Act, which would require the VA to proactively inform all New York veterans of the benefits they are eligible for and provide all necessary application materials.

"New York is home to more than one million men and women who have answered our nation's call and served with distinction in our Armed Forces," Senator Gillibrand said.  "As we honor America's fallen heroes, I am introducing new legislation to ensure that our living heroes get all the health care benefits they deserve.  Too many New York veterans are not getting the quality care they have earned because the federal bureaucracy fails to reach out and let our vets know what services they are entitled to.  This is wrong, and my legislation will require the VA to work proactively with the Department of Defense to improve health care access to all our veterans."

New numbers show that nearly 800,000 New York veterans - from World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Grenada, the Gulf War, and troops coming home today from Iraq and Afghanistan - may not be receiving the benefits they deserve and could be affected by Senator Gillibrand's legislation.

VIEW Senator Gillibrand's report on New York veterans.

  • While there are 237,302 veterans in New York City, 181,360 are not receiving VA health care benefits.
  • While there are 121,183 veterans in Western New York, 87,217 are not receiving VA health care benefits.
  • While there are 91,370 veterans in the Rochester/Finger Lakes region, 68,557 are not receiving VA health care benefits.
  • While there are 85,401 veterans in Central New York, 61,220 are not receiving VA health care benefits.
  • While there are 54,360 veterans in the Southern Tier, 39,277 are not receiving VA health care benefits.
  • While there are 92,549 veterans in the Capital Region, 71,571 are not receiving VA health care benefits.
  • While there are 46,762 veterans in the North Country, 35,085 are not receiving VA health care benefits.
  • While there are 137,333 veterans in the Hudson Valley, 101,933 are not receiving VA health care benefits.
  • While there are 166,852 veterans on Long Island, 133,522 are not receiving VA health care benefits.

Navigating the complex benefits system offered by the VA can be difficult for anyone, especially for a wounded veteran transitioning to civilian life. When these men and women return home to their families, the VA and Department of Defense (DOD) should be responsible for disseminating benefit information.

Senator Gillibrand is taking action on behalf of New York's veterans to make sure they get the health care they deserve. Under PRO-VETS, the VA would be required to:

  • Work with DOD to develop a seamless transfer of information between their offices. President Obama has begun the process of simplifying this process by requiring DOD to transmit electronic copies to the VA for soldiers leaving service. PRO-VETS would ensure every veteran's medical and other critical information is effectively transferred to the VA;
  • Generate an assessment of the benefits a veteran is eligible for within seven days of receiving the information and update this list each year to make sure veterans are aware of any new benefits they may have become eligible for;
  • Reach out to veterans and inform them of all the benefits they are eligible for and explain how to apply for and access these benefits for each individual veteran;
  • Streamline the application process by having the VA base their analysis on information already collected by DOD, thus providing veterans faster, easier access to the benefits;
  • Notify veterans within 30 days of any benefits for which they had applied but are not eligible for so they are not left waiting.

Senator Gillibrand has been a strong voice for New York's veterans, their families, and those serving today. As a member of the House of Representatives, Senator Gillibrand served on the Armed Services Committee and helped shape the new G.I. Bill - the first major update to the landmark legislation in decades - to ensure all members of the military, including National Guard and Reserve members have access to the educational opportunities they deserve.

Earlier this year, Senator Gillibrand helped pass President Obama's economic recovery plan, which delivered $103 million to VAs across New York to improve and upgrade medical facilities and provide quality care worthy of New York's veterans.


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