Race, Health, Education Benefits: The 4 Veteran Bills That Just Became Law

veteran bills Biden

The president signed into law four bills aimed at reforming veteran benefits and care Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2021. US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Angelica Annastas.

Thousands of children of critically injured veterans will pay less for college soon, and pregnant veterans may find more resources within the Department of Veterans Affairs after a series of veteran benefits reforms were signed into law this week.

President Joe Biden signed four bills aimed at veterans into law Tuesday, Nov. 30, calling them part of the nation’s “sacred obligation” to care for veterans and their families.

“That’s a lifetime commitment,” Biden said during a ceremony at the White House. “A lifetime commitment the nation owes to every one of our veterans.”

The first bill requires the Government Accountability Office to assess whether there are racial or ethnic disparities in VA benefits and disability ratings.

“The weapons of war and the nature of the injuries they inflict don’t differentiate based on race,” Biden said. “So, the claims approved and the benefits delivered should not differentiate either.”

The second bill aims to improve veterans’ medical care by steering more separating service members toward careers in health care.

whole blood transfusion

Army Ranger medics from 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, train in August 2019. US Army photo by Sgt. Jaerett Engeseth.

Army Ranger medics from 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, train in August 2019. US Army photo by Sgt. Jaerett Engeseth.

A 2019 report by the VA Office of Inspector General found severe staffing shortages at most Veterans Health Administration facilities, contributing to concerns about the quality of care and excessive wait times. The Hire Veteran Health Heroes Act directs the VA to create a program to recruit military medical personnel with less than a year left in their service to work in federal health care occupations.

The third bill, the John M. McHugh Tuition Fairness for Survivors Act, guarantees that children and spouses of veterans who die from service-related injuries will receive in-state tuition rates at public colleges and universities. The law is expected to affect more than 150,000 dependents.

Finally, the fourth bill addresses maternity health for veterans, directing $15 million to maternity care programs at VA facilities with the goals of improving coordination between VA and non-VA facilities; offering childbirth preparation classes, parenting classes, and breastfeeding classes and supplies; and improving postpartum care. The Protecting Moms Who Served Act also commissions a study on maternal mortality among veterans, with a particular focus on racial and ethnic disparities.

All of the bills passed through Congress with wide bipartisan support.

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Hannah Ray Lambert is a former staff writer for Coffee or Die Magazine who previously covered everything from murder trials to high school trap shooting teams. She spent several months getting tear-gassed during the 2020-21 civil unrest in Portland, Oregon. When she’s not working, Hannah enjoys hiking, reading, and talking about authors and books on her podcast Between Lewis and Lovecraft.
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