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Bush Signs Bill To Aid Veterans

Discussion in 'News, Politics & Debates' started by anthony, Dec 24, 2006.

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  1. anthony

    anthony Silently Watching Founder

    Legislation aimed at helping America’s over 25 million veterans was signed into law Friday by President George W. Bush.

    The legislation, S. 3421, the Veterans Benefits Improvement Act of 2006, was pushed through the U.S. House of Representatives in the final days of the 109th Congress by U.S. Rep. Steve Buyer, R-Ind., Chairman of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee.

    Passed by the House on Friday Dec. 8, the legislation includes $3.2 billion in funding to enhance veterans’ benefits and healthcare, secure sensitive personal information, and authorize VA health-care facility construction nationwide.

    Included in the legislation is $27.4 million for modernizations to the Richard M. Roudebush VA Medical Center in Indianapolis.

    “This legislation is for the veterans returning home today, and those who served in the past. From expanded health care benefits, to improved information technology, and the construction of medical centers across the country, the passage of this legislation is a tribute to the sacrifice of America’s veterans,” Buyer said.

    The legislation includes increased support for servicemembers returning from the war on terror, specifically improved VA outreach and $65 million to increase the number of clinicians treating post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The funds also expand tele-health initiatives invaluable to rural veterans and increase the number of community-based outpatient clinics able to treat mental illnesses.

    Buyer said it further authorizes spending for collaboration in PTSD diagnosis and treatment between VA and the Department of Defense. Families contending with the loss of a loved one will benefit from increased access to bereavement counseling, authorized under the bill.

    Improved security

    The May 3 theft of a VA employee’s laptop computer put at risk the personal data of 25.6 million veterans and 2.2 million active duty members of the Guard and Reserves. Buyer said in a press release that this was the government’s largest information security breach, and the second largest in the nation’s history.

    At a press conference on Dec. 13, Buyer and VA Secretary R. James Nicholson unveiled changes made to the VA’s Information Technology system. The enacted legislation includes provisions to further protect veterans and servicemembers from the misuse of their sensitive personal information. The bill directs VA to provide breach notification to individuals, reports to Congress, fraud alerts, data breach analysis, credit monitoring services and identity theft insurance. It also provides for an Information Security Education Assistance program, an incentive to allow VA the ability to recruit personnel with the information skills necessary to meet department requirements.

    “Nearly a decade of committee oversight, including 16 hearings, is paying off with Secretary Nicholson’s commendable decision to centralize the management of VA’s information technology and security systems,” Buyer said.

    Source: Reporter Times
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