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VETERANS Strickland aims to raise benefits



Published: Sun, February 9, 2003 @ 12:00 a.m.



The congressman wants to reduce the cost of prescriptions for veterans to $2.

By DAVID SKOLNICK

VINDICATOR POLITICS WRITER

WASHINGTON -- U.S. Rep. Ted Strickland introduced legislation in the U.S. House to reduce the cost of prescription drugs for veterans and to increase the benefits for spouses of deceased wartime veterans.

"It's high time that the president and congressional leaders honor veterans not just with words, but with actions," said Strickland, of Lisbon, D-6th. "At the very least, the federal government should live up to its promises to veterans and their families."

Provisions

Strickland's bill calls for decreasing veterans' prescription medication copayments at Veterans Affairs hospitals from their current $7 per prescription to $2 per prescription, the cost for medicines before February 2002.

The bill also raises the death pension benefits for surviving low-income spouses of wartime veterans with no dependents to $8,860 annually, or $738 a month.

The VA pays those spouses up to $6,407 annually, or $534 a month, Strickland said. Also, death pension benefits are reduced by widows' other sources of income, including Social Security. Many widows have other income that exceeds $534 a month, so they forfeit the death pension benefits, he said.

"From the Greatest Generation to Generation X, the men and women of America's armed forces have served with selfless valor in defense of freedom and democracy," Strickland said. "Shortchanging veterans benefits is shameful, and does not befit a nation that owes so much these heroes."

Strickland introduced the same legislation in July. It did not get a committee hearing and died at the end of last year's two-year congressional session. Strickland's new bill is expected to be referred to the House Veterans' Affairs Committee for consideration.

skolnick@vindy.com




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