As a longtime advocate for veterans and their families, Congressman Marion Berry hosted a press conference call recently with reporters to discuss upcoming legislation in Congress that could benefit troops and their families. The press conference took place days before the fourth of July holiday and focused on the importance of making certain that troops and their families receive the benefits they have earned through their service and sacrifices.
"As we celebrate our Nation's independence, U.S. troops will be withdrawing from cities across Iraq, helping the nation to take its first steps toward independence," said Berry. "Thanks to the brave efforts of our troops in Iraq and throughout our nation's history, we stand together to honor the bravery and sacrifices of those who fought for our freedom."
During the press conference, Congressman Berry discussed the status of bills signed into law during the last Congress such as the new GI Bill of Rights for the 21st Century, as well as historic funding increases for the Veterans Administration. In addition, a majority of the press conference was focused on what Congress will be doing in the upcoming year to provide additional assistance for veterans and their families.
In June, the House of Representatives passed a one-year expansion of eligibility for concurrent receipt of Military Retired Pay and Veterans' Disability Compensation, also known as Concurrent Receipt. This bill will allow service members that have been retired for service disability to concurrently receive military retired pay from the Department of Defense and disability compensation from the Department of Veterans Affairs. Congressman Berry will be working to make this temporary fix permanent in the upcoming legislative session.
Also, Congressman Berry is an original co-sponsor of H.R.2673, the Equal Treatment for Widows of Wartime Veterans Act, which would correct a discrepancy in the pension benefits paid to widows of wartime veterans. Currently, a wartime veteran with a spouse receives a maximum benefit of $15,493 in pension benefits. If the spouse of the veteran passes away, the veteran's pension is reduced to $11,830 a year, the same amount received by a veteran without a spouse. However, if the veteran dies, the surviving spouse's pension is reduced to $7,933 a year. The bill will increase the surviving spouse benefit to the same amount as the wartime veteran benefit.
"The sacrifices our troops and their families make while serving our country are enormous," said Berry. "Any instance where a veteran or their family receives less than the best services and benefits this country is able to provide is not only shameful -- it's wrong. As we continue to take steps to improve health care and benefits for our troops and their families, we must honor their service with real actions that fulfill our commitment and demonstrate how grateful we are for their service."