Rep. Zeldin Announces House Passage of the National Defense Authorization Act Including Fairness for Veterans Act
Washington, DC – Congressman Lee Zeldin (R, NY-1), member of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, announced that the Fairness for Veterans Act (H.R. 4683), bipartisan legislation that Congressman Zeldin cosponsors and helped introduced in the House to assist veterans with less than honorable discharges in gaining access to screening services at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) for the purpose of diagnosing mental health disorders, was included in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) of 2017 (S. 2943) that passed the House today by a vote of 375 to 34. Congressman Zeldin was a member of the conferee team that helped negotiate the final package of the NDAA legislation. The bill will now be sent to the Senate for a final vote. Upon Senate passage, the NDAA package will be sent to the President to be signed into law.
Congressman Lee Zeldin said, “Securing passage of the Fairness for Veterans Act is a huge step forward to help service members who are struggling from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), and Military Sexual Trauma (MST), and have received less than honorable discharges. This important legislation provides a path for veterans to receive an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment for PTSD or TBI. It will also help separated servicemembers to upgrade their discharge status by creating a presumption in their favor, providing them with access to federally funded VA benefits and care. The Fairness for Veterans Act is an essential and commonsense piece of legislation to improve the quality of life for those who have sacrificed so much for our country.”
The NDAA also includes:
- $619 billion in funding for national defense.
- Vital funding for our Armed Services, including over $5 billion to support the newly deployed troops overseas in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Europe.
- $600 million in additional munitions funding to replenish critically depleted munitions stores, which supply military equipment.
- Readiness Stabilization Funding to stop the drawdown of the military. In total, this bill provides over $3 billion more than the President’s request for operations.
- Increases to the strength of our military and funding for critical operation and maintenance projects.
- A 2.1% pay raise for our Troops, which had been denied by the current administration for the past four years. This will be the largest pay raise in six years.
- Relief for guardsmen by establishing a process to adjudicate individual cases based on the merits of each individual circumstance. This provision was included in response to the California National Guard recoupment issue earlier this year, where the Pentagon was requiring an estimated 10,000 veterans in California to repay decade old bonuses upwards of $15,000, and in some instances, as high as $46,000 or more. With passage of this legislation, the Department of Defense will now be responsible to reach out to every single soldier who was impacted, including those who have already repaid their bonuses, and review every one of their cases.
“This bill provides critical resources to strengthen our Armed services and keep our nation safe,” Congressman Zeldin continued. “Working across the aisle, as a member of the conferee team, we were able to secure many bipartisan accomplishments within the bill, including an increase in funding for our troops overseas and for critical operation and maintenance projects to allow our military to remain well prepared for any challenge. This bill also provides necessary pay increases for our Troops and their families, among much more. I am proud to have helped secured House passage of this bill and encourage the Senate to act now so that we can send this legislation to the President’s desk before the end of the year.”