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Coronavirus in the military: Bill would protect survivor benefits for families

The Pentagon in Arlington county, Va. (Dreamstime/TNS)

Congressman Warren Davidson is pushing to protect survivor benefits for veteran families in relation to the novel coronavirus.

The Ensuring Survivors Benefits during COVID-19 Act, introduced on Oct. 1, would require the Department of Veterans Affairs to obtain medical opinions when a veteran with a service-connected disability dies from COVID-19 virus.

According to the proposed bill, requiring a review of these cases would ensure survivor benefits are not diminished when a service-connected disability was the principal or contributory cause of death. Davidson, R-Troy, said this additional due diligence from the VA would shift the burden from grieving families, as well as streamline casework to ensure veterans and their families receive earned benefits.

“America must always provide every benefit promised to and earned by veterans,” Davidson said. “Presently, cause of death rulings threaten benefits veterans have earned. Congress must act to ensure that the VA accurately deals with cause of death, while accounting for service-related injuries in order to properly care for all surviving family members.”

The move highlights the issue of coronavirus cases in the military and among veterans. As of Friday, the Department of Defense reported 48,513 coronavirus cases. The Army was the branch with the most cases, at 18,213.

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The bill received bipartisan support from five co-sponsors before it was referred to the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. Davidson said this bill would “remedy a unique challenge facing families of veterans in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.”

“Veterans with long-term medical challenges shouldn’t have to worry that contracting COVID-19 will endanger the benefits they earned while serving our country,” he said.

There are several service-connected conditions that place veterans “at a severe risk from COVID-19,” said Larry Moore, Veterans of Foreign Wars Ohio Legislative chairman.

“The survivors of these veterans should not be burdened with administrative obstacles when they file for the benefits to which they are entitled,” he said.

The U.S. House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs has listed COVID-19 resources for veterans at veterans.house.gov/covid-19.

COVID-19 CASES IN THE MILITARY

The U.S. Department of Defense has tallied cumulative totals of novel coronavirus cases in the military. In all, there have been more than 48,000 COVID-19 cases in the military as of Friday. Here’s a breakdown of cases in each military branch and DoD agencies:

Army: 18,213 cases

Navy: 10,668 cases

Air Force: 7,585 cases

Marine Corps: 5,663 cases

National Guard: 5,420 cases

DoD Agencies: 357 cases

Source: U.S. Department of Defense (data is updated on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays)

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