Washington Update for 8/26/2019
TREA's NATIONAL CONVENTION Comes to Denver in September!!
Make your plans now for TREA's national convention. Mark the dates of September 18 to 20, 2019, and plan your visit to the Mile High city of Denver, Colorado. Please visit the TREA website (www.trea.org) for detailed information and to register, or call 800-338-9337.
Two Veterans and Guard and Reserve Bills Signed into Law
The Honoring American Veterans in Extreme Need, (HAVEN) Act was signed on August 23, 2019. The HAVEN Act extends the same protection for veterans disability payments that's afforded Social Security disability payments: By law, debtors are now not allowed to count these benefits as disposable income subject to seizure during a bankruptcy. Under previous bankruptcy law, disability benefits paid by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and Department of Defense (DoD) are included in the calculation of a debtor’s monthly disposable income, increasing the portion of the debtor’s income that is subject to the reach of creditors.
The legislation, H.R. 2938 passed the House on July 23 and passed the Senate on August 1, 2019, both by voice vote. TREA supported the proposal as disabled veterans’ disability income should be protected and treated in the same way as social security benefits. It simply protects the security of those veterans who rely on disability benefits and may be experiencing financial hardship.
The president also signed on August 23, an extension of the National Guard and Reservists Debt Relief Act, which offers protection during bankruptcy proceedings to members who serve for at least 90 days on active duty.
The legislation, H.R. 3304 was passed by the House by a vote of 417-1 on July 23 and by the Senate on August 1, 2019. The Act ensures that members of the National Guard and Reserves, who may earn higher pay while serving on active duty than they make in their civilian jobs, are not assessed at the higher pay bracket if they file for bankruptcy. The law was set to expire in December 2019 and extends the protections for four years to December 2023.
Executive Order on Student Loan Education Debt Relief is First Step
On August 21, 2019, the Administration announced an Executive Order discharging the student debt of totally and permanently disabled veterans. While TREA is encouraged by this first step, TREA continues to support legislation to ensure this change is codified in federal law.
Legislation in the House (H.R.3598) and Senate (S. 2049) would provide disabled veterans with student loan relief. Entitled the Federally Requiring Earned Education-Debt Discharges for Veterans Act (FREED Vets Act) the bill requires the U.S. Department of Education to automatically discharge federal student loan debt for eligible permanently disabled veterans. The U.S. Department of Education established a program with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) in October 2018 to identify veterans who are disabled or unable to work. Under the current program, the Department of Education would notify veterans who are eligible for debt forgiveness of the opportunity to apply. This places the burden on the veteran to apply. The FREED Vets Act would automatically forgive these loans and eliminate the paperwork barrier that prevents eligible veterans from attaining student loan debt relief. According to the Department of Education more than 42,000 eligible veterans have been identified, yet only 20 percent of those eligible have applied for the program.