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Senate moves to extend expiring VA programs

Sep. 24, 2013 - 09:37AM   |  
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The Senate took time out from debate about next week’s looming government shutdown to try to extend the life of several veterans’ programs due to expire on Oct. 1.

The measure passed the Senate late Monday by voice vote and with no debate.

It includes payment of a monthly assistance allowance for disabled veterans in training for the Paralymics, the ability to recover from third parties the cost of care for veterans being treated for non-service connected disabilities, and keeping open several child care centers being operated as part of a pilot project to see if they make it easy for veterans to keep medical appointments.

Also included are several programs aimed at homeless veterans, including counseling and referral services for veterans at risk for homelessness, financial assistance for low-income veteran families, and grants to help homeless veterans with special needs.

Without extensions, these programs are all due to end at midnight Sept. 30.

Called the Department of Veterans Affairs Expiring Authorities Act of 2013, the bill, HR 1412, still needs to pass the House and be signed by the president to avoid disruption in the programs. A House vote could come by the end of the week. The Obama administration has expressed no opposition to extending the programs.

The House and Senate veterans’ affairs committees had intended to include an extension of the programs in a package of comprehensive veterans’ legislation but agreed to pass separate legislation as Oct. 1 approached, according to congressional aides who asked not to be identified.

Work continues on what is expected to be three or four separate veterans-related bills covering changes in health, benefits and management issues for the Veterans Affairs Department, aides said. At least one of these packages is expected to surface by Veterans Day, giving lawmakers something to point to as a sign of their bipartisan support for veterans, aides said.

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