Benefits for Spouses and Children of Veterans

New Law Adds Life Insurance and Health Care Benefits for  More Than Two
Million Spouses and Children of Veterans

    (Washington, DC) - President Bush late last night signed into law
the "Veterans' Survivor Benefits Improvement Act," H.R. 801 (now Public Law
107-14), authored by Congressman Chris Smith (NJ-4), the Chairman of the
House Veteran's Affairs Committee, which adds $100 million in new health
care benefits for surviving spouses of veterans.
"We have a sacred obligation to care for our 'Gold Star Wives,"  spouses of
service members who were killed in action or died from  service-related
causes," Smith said.   "With the enactment of this new legislation, we now
treat the surviving spouses of veterans in the same manner as those of
military retirees who received similar benefits last year under the 'TRICARE
for Life' enhancements," he said.

"With the President's signature last night, new life insurance and  health
care benefits have been created for up to two million eligible  spouses and
children of veterans," said Smith.   "Under the new law, survivors of
veterans killed in action or from service-related causes who receive
Medicare, will now be eligible to have CHAMP, VA's Civilian Health  and
Medical Program, provide payment for medical expenses and CO-payments that
Medicare does not cover," he said.

"In addition, my legislation expands the Service members' Group Life
Insurance (SGLI) program to include spouses and children; up to $100,000 for
spouses and $10,000 for children," Smith said.   "The law also makes
retroactive the previously approved increase to $250,000 of the maximum
benefit for service members who die in the performance of duty, thereby
covering at least 57 men and women who died in tragic accidents since October
1, 2000," he said.

The Smith legislation also includes provisions to require the  Department of
Veterans' Affairs to develop comprehensive educational and outreach programs
to ensure that eligible spouses and dependents are made aware of the services
and benefits for which they qualify.

"Without an aggressive and pro-active outreach program,   unfortunately, many
surviving spouses would never know about these and other  benefits they are
eligible to receive," Smith said.

"The men and women who have paid the ultimate price to defend our
freedom deserve to have the their loved ones cared for," said Smith.   "With
the President's signature last night, we have taken another important step  
to meet our obligation to them, and therefore show all of our nation's
veterans the respect they have earned," he said.