Tester, Heller fight to expand travel options for disabled veterans
(U.S. SENATE) - Senators Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Dean Heller (R-Nev.) are fighting to improve travel options for the nation's 100 percent disabled veterans.
Under current law, retired service members can fly on military aircraft when there is extra space onboard. But 100 percent disabled veterans who don't qualify for retired pay are ineligible for this benefit.
Tester and Heller are introducing a bill that will give 100 percent disabled veterans the same flying rights as retired service members.
"These veterans embody the definition of patriotism and sacrifice," said Tester, Montana's only member of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee. "This bill is a common-sense way to honor their service and improve their quality of life by increasing their access to the benefits they have earned."
"Our nation's disabled veterans live every day coping with the cost of freedom, and we owe a great deal of gratitude to these selfless patriots. By expanding travel options for our nation's disabled veterans, we can help ensure they receive the benefits they earned and deserve," Heller said.
Several Montana World War II veterans contacted Tester in support of the bill, which is backed by the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) and the National Federation of the Blind.
"Extending space-available military air travel to 100 percent service-connected disabled veterans would send the message that our country truly honors their service and sacrifice, something they richly deserve," said DAV National Commander Larry A. Polzin. "The DAV thanks Senators Tester and Heller for introducing this important legislation."
"We are delighted that Senators Tester and Heller will lead the way to include veterans who have 100-percent service-connected disabilities in the military's Space Available Transport program," said Dan Burke, President of the National Federation of the Blind of Montana. "Senators Tester and Heller are taking immediate action to address a concern brought to them by blind constituents."
Montana Senator Max Baucus is also a co-sponsor of the bill.
"There's no reason our service disabled veterans should be denied these benefits available to all retired service members. This bill is about doing right by our heroes and cutting the red-tape standing in the way of benefits they rightly deserve," Baucus said.
Tester also recently improved veterans' transportation when his bill to allow the Department of Veterans Affairs to hire drivers to transport veterans to VA health care facilities became law. Heller has also introduced legislation that helps veterans across Nevada recoup travel expenses for necessary visits to VA health care facilities.