U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Fla., the vice chairman of the U.S. House Veterans Affairs Committee, scored a win on Capitol Hill as his proposal helping disabled veterans have more access to transportation has become law.
Back in 2016, Bilirakis, U.S. Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., and U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., unveiled the Disabled Veterans Access to Space-A Travel Act.
Under the Space-Available (Space-A) program, retired Armed Forces personnel are able to travel on military planes if there is space on flights but there are some limits when it comes to disabled veterans. The bill would let disabled veterans with a “permanent service-connected disability rated as 100 percent to travel aboard military aircraft” by adjusting the Space-A program.
“Disabled veterans who have a service-connected permanent disability rated as 100 percent cannot travel on military flights unless they are military retirees,” Bilirakis’ office noted when he unveiled the proposal. “This bill would authorize veterans who have a service-connected, permanent disability rated as 100 percent to travel on Space-A at no additional cost to the Department of Defense and without aircraft modifications.”
“I’m proud we have worked together on this legislation to help our true American heroes,” Bilirakis said when the bill was introduced. “Our veterans have bravely served our country, and this is a common sense bill to help us further honor the sacrifices of 100 percent service-disabled veterans. It would allow these heroes to be eligible for the Space-Available program at no additional cost to the Department of Defense. The Space-A program allows active duty service members, their families, retirees, and certain others to fill empty seats on DOD flights. While active duty members and their families will remain the primary beneficiaries of this program in order to assist them in their service, our bill will extend this benefit to our disabled veterans. I’m honored to continue my work to support all our nation's heroes.”
Bilirakis’ proposal was included in the National Defense Authorization Act and the congressman weighed in on it on Monday.
“The Space Available Travel program is a benefit rightfully extended to all military retirees, yet it excludes those who are 100 percent disabled,” he said. “The brave men and women who served our country, and returned home injured, have already paid a big price on our behalf. If there is space available for travel on a military aircraft, there is no reason our 100 percent disabled veterans shouldn’t be on that flight. Like most good ideas, this legislation originated from a local constituent. It has been my privilege to fight for this common sense provision that will assist our disabled veterans.”
Bilirakis pointed to his record of getting legislation over the finish line with this being his eighth proposal signed into law since the start of 2017.
“President Reagan once talked about how much we can accomplish if we don’t care who gets the credit,” Bilirakis said. “That’s been my approach to ensuring that these tangible public policy improvements get enacted. I rely on my bipartisan relationships with committee leadership, other members of Congress and staff to achieve consensus and have these measures placed in large must pass bills. These are important provisions that will improve the lives of the constituents in District 12.”