Capitol DomeAs the 113th session of Congress comes to a close, VetsFirst is pleased to report major victories on our 2014 legislative priorities.

Our first victory was inclusion of language from the Housing Assistance for Veterans Act (HAVEN Act) in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for fiscal year 2015. The HAVEN Act provision would allow national nonprofits to receive grants that help them to provide housing adaptations and home repairs for veterans living with disabilities and veterans who have low incomes. We are thrilled that this provision was included in the final version of the NDAA.

The NDAA has passed both houses of Congress and is now on its way to the President for his signature. We appreciate the leadership of HAVEN Act lead sponsors Senator Jack Reed (D-RI), Senator Mike Johanns (R-NE), and Rep. Al Green (D-TX) in working to ensure that this important provision becomes law. We also thank Senator James Inhofe (R-OK), Rep. Michael Turner (R-OH), and Rep. Chris Gibson (R-NY) for their support.

Our second victory will ensure that in the event of a future government shutdown VA disability compensation, pension, and other benefit payments will not be disrupted. VetsFirst worked with the Disabled American Veterans and other leading VSOs and MSOs to seek advance appropriations for all VA accounts. Currently, VA’s healthcare system receives its budget a year in advance. As a result, during the 2013 government shutdown, VA medical centers and community-based outpatient clinics were able to continue serving veterans.

Although we sought to have all of VA’s accounts funded a year in advance, by the end of the year, it was clear that our best shot in this Congress would be to protect benefits checks from future shutdowns. Thanks to the efforts of Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Senate Veterans’ Affairs Ranking Member Richard Burr (R-NC), House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller (R-FL), and House Veterans’ Affairs Ranking Member Mike Michaud (D-ME) protection for these benefits was included in the omnibus spending bill for fiscal year 2015. We also appreciate the leadership of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and lead Senate supporters Senator Mark Begich (D-AK) and Senator John Boozman (R-AR) in making this protection a reality.

The omnibus spending legislation has passed the House and Senate and is also awaiting the President’s signature.