WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. House of Representatives today passed the Johnny Isakson and David P. Roe, M.D. Veterans Health Care and Benefits Improvement Act of 2020, which included a number of provisions Congressman Brian Mast (FL-18) helped write to extend benefits and provide additional assistance for veterans.

“The men and women who put on the uniform to defend our nation made the decision to put country before self. We will never be able to repay them for their sacrifice, but ensuring those who served have access to the benefits they earned is the least we can do,” Rep. Mast said. “That’s what these provisions are all about, and I’m glad we were able to come together and get the job done.”

Specifically, Rep. Mast helped write and secure the following provisions in the bill:

  • Extending wartime veterans benefits, including the Veterans Pension and health care, to the U.S. Military Assistance Advisory Group (MAAG). The U.S. MAAG included more than 3,000 officers and enlisted individuals who served during the Vietnam War but are currently ineligible for many veterans benefits. This provision would fix this by changing the recognized start of the Vietnam War era from 1961 to 1955, covering the U.S. MAAG as Vietnam War veterans and making them eligible to begin receiving benefits.
  • Helping veterans rebuild and recover in the wake of natural disasters. Veterans and servicemembers are currently eligible for VA home loans that are backed by the federal government and subject to lower interest rates than traditional mortgages. This provision would reduce loan fees for veterans who have been affected by presidentially-declared natural disasters by enabling them to qualify for a second home loan using the initial VA funding fee, instead of the higher subsequent-use fee.
  • Assisting with the legal services of homeless veterans and veterans at risk for homelessness. This provision directs the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to provide grants to organizations that provide legal services to homeless veterans and veterans at risk for homelessness.
  • Ensuring that the widows and widowers of Medal of Honor recipients receive the same support that was given to the veteran. This provision will enable the surviving spouses of the Medal of Honor recipients to be eligible to receive the pension that their spouse was awarded.