The Johnny Isakson and David P. Roe Veterans Health Care and Benefits Improvement Act of 2020 (Isakson-Roe Act) was signed into law in January of 2021. This week, we’re continuing our examination of the many ways the Act improves the benefits and care Veterans receive from VA by looking at the burial needs, education opportunities, and other benefits in the law.

Expands efforts to deliver timely and accurate education benefits

The law impacts some of the benefits Veterans receive. The Isakson-Roe Act includes updates to the GI Bill enrollment process, entitlement opportunities and substantial changes to VA oversight of GI Bill approved schools. ​

​Educational and vocational benefits are key to helping Veterans transition from military to civilian life. One such benefit that has been incredibly successful is the Veteran Employment Through Technology Education Courses, or VET TEC.

The program is designed to help Veterans gain high-tech computer experience to start or advance careers in the industry. It boasts over 3,400 graduates with an average annual salary of over $60,000. As an acknowledgement of the program’s positive impact, the Isakson-Roe Act has increased annual funding from $15 million to $45 million.

Other Veterans benefits expanded by the Act include eligibility for educational scholarships and Veteran entitlement for the GI Bill.

Broadens home loan benefits to Veterans impacted by natural disaster

The law goes beyond improving educational benefits by also expanding access to the VA home loan benefit, while reducing financial burden to Veterans whose homes were damaged or destroyed by a natural disaster.

The Act expands eligibility for the VA home loan guaranty to members of the National Guard who have been activated to perform full-time National Guard duty.

The law allows VA home loan borrowers whose residences were substantially damaged or destroyed by a federally declared natural disaster to be charged a first-time use funding fee on a VA-guaranteed loan rather than a subsequent use funding fee.

The new loan must be for repairs or construction and be obtained within 3 years of the date that the home was damaged or destroyed.

Finally, the law revises the timeframe of eligibility for Vietnam War Era Veterans, who served in the Republic of Vietnam, expanding the start of the qualifying era from Feb. 28, 1961, to Nov. 1, 1955.

“I’m happy to report that one year after enactment, the Act has improved access to benefits, and enhanced the programs and quality of care Veterans receive from VA in a multitude of ways, especially education, home loan and burial benefits.” Principal Deputy Under Secretary for Benefits Mike Frueh

First ever committee on Tribal and Indian Affairs

Meeting the burial needs of Veterans and their family members

As part of VA’s efforts to ensure it cares for the nation’s Veterans, VA has created its first-ever Advisory Committee on Tribal and Indian Affairs. The committee will provide advice and guidance to the VA secretary on all matters relating to Indian tribes, tribal organizations, Native Hawaiian organizations and Native American Veterans.

The group offers an unprecedented voice in how programs, policies and services may be delivered, providing for the approximately 160,00 American Indians, Native Hawaiians and Alaska Natives Veterans across the country.

In just one year, the Isakson-Roe Act has allowed for significant progress toward cutting down barriers and addressing Veterans’ unique concerns. The Act serves as a clear practice of VA’s on-going commitment to ensuring Veterans have access to the best care and benefits available.

Increases support of Veteran burial needs

The Isakson-Roe Act enacted provisions for the National Cemetery Administration to improve VA’s ability to meet the burial needs of more Veterans and their family members.

Increased monetary allowances will cover transportation expenses for eligible Veterans to be interred in VA grant-funded State and Tribal Veterans cemeteries. Beneficiaries of eligible Veterans can receive increased payments for funeral expenses and plot allowances.

Families can also receive reimbursement for privately purchased outer burial receptacles for qualifying interments in VA grant-funded State and Tribal Veterans’ cemeteries.

Increased monetary support is just one way the Isakson-Roe Act is reaching more Veterans and their families. VA is also implementing program expansion to inter eligible decedents in VA grant-funded county Veterans’ cemeteries.

“The National Cemetery Administration honors the legacy of Sen. Johnny Isakson and his dedication to improving programs that support Veteran burial needs. Burial and funeral allowances were expanded to assist our Veteran community, and the Act authorized innovative ways to commemorate Veteran service and recognize their lost loved ones.” Under Secretary for Memorial Affairs Matt Quinn

 Accomplishes NCA’s mission to honor Veterans with lasting tributes 

We have increased funding for grantee-cemetery operation and maintenance, and can authorize funding to train grantee-cemetery employees.

For families that do not opt for burial but wish to hold on to a beloved Veteran’s cremated remains, VA can furnish a commemorative plaque or cremation urn.

VA can include on an eligible Veteran’s government-furnished headstone or marker inscription information for the Veteran’s spouse or dependent child.

These additional benefits and services accomplish NCA’s mission to honor Veterans and their eligible family members with final resting places and with lasting tributes that commemorate their service and sacrifice to our nation.

Here’s the first blog post on the accomplishments of the Act.

By Mike Frueh is Principal Deputy Under Secretary for Benefits

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Published on Feb. 16, 2022

Estimated reading time is 4.4 min.

Views to date: 2,193

22 Comments

  1. Gloria Vance March 15, 2022 at 3:02 pm

    Wow…. I am shocked to see what veterans want the government to give them. NOTHING IS FREE! WE pay for it. While I am totally in favour of those hurt in combat receiving everything they need to improve their lives and those who are IU quickly after their service, I don’t think Uncle Sam should be on the hook for everything after a veterans service. Especially if that Veteran was employed after service. Uncle Sam NEVER EVER promised us lifetime healthcare…. It behooves us to plan for our lives and do as much as we can for ourselves. I have not received medical care in the VA because my husband and I planned for our medical care after service. By not getting care there, hopefully that has allowed someone who needs it to take our spots.

    After an initial claim…. Claims take a lot of time to be reviewed for further compensation. Nothing works quickly in the government. If you need help with claims look to the different agencies or WEB to find help. There is help out there if you just know where to look.

  2. DW Rada March 15, 2022 at 2:00 pm

    On February 10, 2021, I fell on the ice and broke my left hip. I am100% disabled and I made sure that the VA was contacted before I would allow the ambulance to take me. I was told that the VA hospital did not have room for me and I was sent to a non-VA rehab center from my stay in the hospital. I was being transferred to another rehab center when I crashed on the day I was being transferred with pneumonia. After the emergency, I was again told that they had no bed for me at the VA rehab, so I was sent to another non-VA facility, I was discharged from that facility too early, even though I requested a 30 day extension, but was denied. About a week after I was sent home on oxygen, I crash and pasted out, and again was rushed to the hospital. After a brief stay, I was finally sent to the VA hospital for care and rehab. I initially when in for the broken hip on February 10, 2021 and discharged from the VA hospital on June 28, 2021. In late July I started receiving bills for the care I received during that time. I was taking those bills to the VA care center on Monday’s and Friday’s as they came in, which was weekly, because that was when I had help from my home health aid to deliver them, which were turned over to the care in the community representative. I received those bills from late July until March of this year, some seven months, when two of them were turned over to collection. One was already on my credit report, which did lower my rating. When the second notice of a new collection came I started making phone calls again and by a mistake I somehow was connected to the White House Veterans Hotline. After talking with them I was contacted within a couple of hours and told that it would be taken care of. The next day I was called back and told that the new collection notice was being taken care of and that the collect on my credit rating would be resolve within 30 days. I can’t say enough that would describe how unhappy I am with how this was handled by the VA and the Care in the Community. It caused me so much distress that it caused me sleepless nights and tears. I have little complaints of my treatment in other areas by the VA. Although the fix of my credit report is still up in the air, the kindness that has been shown to me by the White House Veterans Hotline has impacted me in such a positive way, I’ve had some of my best sleep in months and I have so much gratitude for their help. DW Rada.

  3. Fred Reed March 11, 2022 at 3:12 pm

    I started seeing the department of Dentistry at Edward Hines Hospital 2+ years ago. I had the remaining lower teeth removed at their recommendation and am on 2nd set of dentures. They won’t stay in and if I use dental adhesives it makes me sick. I was much better off before I went for treatment. I have asked for implants on several occasions ((or a few to attach plates to) to no avail. I saw local dentists who said it could be done. I am a 100% disabled vet. My weight has dropped from 190 lbs to as low as 123 lbs since I can’t eat properly and and have to “gum” my food. Numerous people in the medical field have shown concern. Can anybody help?

    I have had great treatment in Dermatology, Cardiology,Oncology etc

  4. Joe Brown March 11, 2022 at 4:41 am

    I go to the VA Hospital in Milwaukee Wisconsin. I’m treated very well and pleased with the treatment I’ve received.

  5. John Gardner March 10, 2022 at 11:56 am

    I would like to see VA get more involved with resolving the Concurrent Receipt issue(s) that remain. For quite some time, veterans with a rating of 50% and above have NOT had their retirements offset by the amount of their disability payment, while those rated at below 50% still do. This is a slap in the face for honorably retired veterans. These veterans have EARNED three retirement, their VA disability (whatever it/they may be) were caused as a result of that honorable service and they are being forced to “pay” for it.

  6. Kevin Edwards February 17, 2022 at 4:55 pm

    I hope to see more funding for Veterans. Not sure why burial benefits are not covered at 100%. This is what I believed I had until I read differently.

  7. tom riney February 17, 2022 at 2:17 pm

    VA has treated me pretty darn good!

  8. Mary lock February 17, 2022 at 1:36 pm

    Let’s talk about camp Lejeune! My hubby was drinking, bathing and cooking the contaminated waters for years not knowing the water was poison. I’ve watched him deteriorate and even though he has a 20% disability rating, getting it raised is like pulling teeth. Treating the horrible symptoms is not enough. The poison has destroyed his digestive system and his muscle tremors and nightjerks only get worse. I’m worried about suicide.

    • Richard February 17, 2022 at 2:54 pm

      Camp Lejeune veterans, contact your local DAV or Veterans of Foreign Wars group, so they can fight for you at your local VA hospital over your disability claim. The VA and them go back and forth until both sides agree. At least that’s what happened on mine.

      When they evaluate your case, they are looking through a book of illnesses. The so called specialist reviewers are not actually specialists and they only have 4 hours of training on Camp Lejeune.

      Now let’s talk about how VA care is still terrible. My local VA clinic put in two referrals about two years ago. They sent them multiple times. I have heard nothing out of the local (Jackson, MS) hospital. Because of this, I am having to pay out of pocket because the VA hasn’t referred me to an outside doctor.

      The Oklahoma City VA was much better when I lived there.

    • Richard February 17, 2022 at 3:00 pm

      Have you contacted your local DAV or Veterans of Foreign Wars? They have people who work at the VA claims offices that fight for you as far as claims go.

  9. Michelle February 17, 2022 at 1:09 pm

    My husband has been going to the VA for 20 years…then we moved. Don’t ever move out of your local area. We have now been waitlisted for 13 months. Can’t drive back (250 miles), they wont let him, can’t get in at the local VA because they have no openings (for over a year)! Whose idea of improvement is this?

    • Shawna February 18, 2022 at 7:57 am

      You have the ability for a community care referral. If a veteran can not be seen within 30 days you have a right to be referred locally. Just request from whatever doctor is being seen to say I want a community care referral. If that doesn’t work try a patient care advocate. If that doesn’t work call the White House veterans hotline and within 48 hours you will have a phone calls. I am 100% service-connected veteran and believe me I won’t let them medicate and isolate.

  10. JOSHUA TURNER February 17, 2022 at 11:51 am

    Ya tell that to the folks in the Atlanta VA system. Absolutely atrocious. Also never mind us Gulf war veterans just keep kicking the can down the road and wait for enough of us to die before you do anything just like the Vietnam veterans before us. What has changed? Where’s the improvement?

  11. Kerry Thurlow February 17, 2022 at 11:24 am

    I would love to be able to receive dependency allowance for my two disabled grandsons. I am a court appointed legal guardian and sole physical custodian and I have documentation.

    Current VA guidance allows grandparents to claim adopted grandchildren. Adoption makes the grandparent the LEGAL parent. And the VA considers a child as a dependent…so, this policy is redundant.

    The IRS, Department of Agriculture, and Department of Education all recognize the dependency of grandchildren in the court appointed guardianship of grandparents and other family members.

  12. Leah Bailey February 17, 2022 at 10:26 am

    I am a Desert Storm veteran and have been waiting since 2017 for an appeal. Just one example of VA healthcare: I took MRI discs and radiology reports to the neurosurgery clinic, and they refused to even see me. In writing, they said they saw nothing that would require surgery or warrant an appointment. I took those same things to a neurosurgeon outside of the VA, who performed two spinal surgeries. We need to do better for our veterans! I keep getting apologies and a phone call that the QC team reviewed my VBA case and found that the VA made a mistake. Apologies aren’t enough. Who corrects these mistakes in our Healthcare and benefits? Somebody needs to step up and be accountable.

    • Edward Harry February 28, 2022 at 6:28 pm

      You are preaching to the choir. My VA appeal is from my claim initially Submitted in 2004. This appeal to the Board of Appeals was accepted from the VA in 2014.
      Appeals, remands and delays over Covid 19 and workforce displacement makes it take a letter written on 03 Dec to not Be received until 23 Dec, with a 30 maximum response time (naturally) not to Mention non working days totally 2 days For Christmas and another 2 days for New Years beyond the normal 8 weekend days within- 30 day period. and I Would naturally need to forward to my Attorney back in Washington DC and have them respond in a timely manner before 03 Jan or
      Risk Loosing the VA recognition of my attorney.
      They sure seem to find every possible way to delay remand or other more Effort Intensive requirements when a simple text Or message regarding the issue could Have been dealt with the same afternoon as the wrote the letter.
      I bet the 30 days offers for the timely response saw my appeal set ideally, while there wouldn’t have been a reason to stop it progression even while Wanting the additional form 2122a

  13. James Kilcrease February 17, 2022 at 3:06 am

    I see no effort or remedy for veterans exposed to herbicides on Guam.

    I have be waiting since March 2020 for a decision on appeal along with thousands of other Vets.

  14. Colleen Curato February 17, 2022 at 1:45 am

    What exactly makes a veteran eligible for these burial benefits?

  15. Bernice Allison February 16, 2022 at 7:44 pm

    Does this include PTSD and people needing

    Caregiver assistance

  16. Cornelius Howard February 16, 2022 at 6:19 pm

    Why can’t a veteran get a $7,500 – $10,000 signature loan or be able to borrow against his own Disability rating amount and pay it back up to 2 years as VA debits his or hers monthly benefits. In this time of CORONAVIRUSES, high rent/mortgages and different life changes. This will help all veterans. We need someone to make this happen! Do you know it will help our mental health overall.

    • Rene February 17, 2022 at 5:57 pm

      I agree with you. I was hit with covid last year. I struggled to make ends meet. This would of help me out so much. Help us vets that have given so much. I want to say to all Vets out there. Once you have served you are never the same person.

  17. Stephen James Piccolo Jr February 16, 2022 at 5:34 pm

    I’m one Very happy veteran to see that benefits are being
    Improved.

Comments are closed.

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