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Senate bill would make more veterans eligible for recreational lands pass

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The Wounded Veterans Recreation Act has just been introduced in the Senate. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) introduced the measure as S. 2298. It first became available online on the the congressional website on Wednesday, May 14. The bill would make it easier for wounded veterans to qualify for free passes to federal recreational lands and waters.

The bill would amend the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act to offer the National Parks & Federal Recreational Lands Pass for free to any veteran with a service-connected disability. Current law allows it to go to any American citizen or permanent resident of the United States with a permanent disability. This bill would expand it for veterans in that the disability may not be deemed permanent or as severe. Such passes would last a lifetime, even if the veteran recovers.

Current law, enacted in 2004, requires the Department of Veterans Affairs to certify that any veteran be diagnosed with a 100 percent permanent disability to qualify for the free pass. Shaheen stated that she thinks that all veterans who paid that type of sacrifice should be entitled to the pass permanently. Current law also allows active members of the military and their families to get annual passes.

The bill was referred to the Senate Committee on Energy & Natural Resources. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) signed on as the only original cosponsor.

A companion bill has been pending in the House of Representatives since last January 29. It has been endorsed by 25 sponsors. The House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Public Lands & Environmental Regulation conducted a hearing on it on April 4 but has not voted on it.

The House bill had also been referred to the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Conservation, Energy & Forestry on Feb. 12. That subcommittee has not taken any action on it yet.

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