In honor of Veterans Day on Saturday, the House of Representatives, with my strong support, just passed multiple bills to increase access to care, streamline VA services, and protect veterans from financial fraud. These bills, and the continued work of the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs, are the least Congress can do to ensure that our men and women who have served our country receive the treatment they have earned and deserve. Take a look:
1. The VA Management Alignment Act of 2017 (H.R. 1066)
- Details: The 2016 Commission on Care report found serious fault in the Veterans Health Administration’s (VHA’s) organizational structure. H.R. 1066 would require VHA to submit a report on VA’s organizational structure. In order for VHA to effectively serve our nation’s heroes, it must improve its internal management and organizational structure and function.
2. Veterans Care Financial Protection Act of 2017 (H.R. 3122)
- Details: Unfortunately, there have been cases of scams and fraud targeting veterans who participate in the VA Pension with Aid and Assistance (A&A) program. This bill would crack down on scam artists taking advantage of veterans receiving benefits for in-home care, which are already provided free-of-charge.
3. The Veteran Urgent Access to Mental Health Care Act (H.R. 918)
- Details: The stresses of military combat that our warfighters face may contribute to maladaptive behaviors, which can in turn lead to an other-than-honorable discharge. We have a duty to care for veterans who may experience mental illness as a result of their service to this country – which is why this bipartisan legislation would enable veterans with other-than-honorable discharges to receive critical mental health care from the VA.
4. Veterans Transplant Coverage Act (H.R. 1133)
- Details: Under current policy, VA generally requires organ transplants to be performed at one of the department’s 13 transplant centers, where waiting times for transplants are on average 32 percent longer than those at non-VA facilities. H.R. 1133 would authorize VA to provide all care and services needed for a veteran to receive an organ transplant from a live donor, regardless of whether the donor is a veteran or the facility is a VA facility.
5. National Veterans Memorial and Museum Act (H.R. 1900)
- Details: This bill, sponsored by my friend and fellow Ohioan Rep. Steve Stivers, would designate the Veterans Memorial and Museum, currently under construction in Columbus, Ohio, as the National Veterans Memorial and Museum.
6. Veterans E-Health and Telemedicine Support Act of 2017 (VETS) Act (H.R. 2123)
- Details: Telemedicine (or telehealth) has expanded veterans’ ability to access quality health care, particularly for rural veterans who do not live in proximity to a VA facility – but current restrictions on the ability of VA providers to practice across state lines has hampered VA’s expansion of telemedicine. This bill would give the VA Secretary the legislative authority to allow VA providers to practice telemedicine across state lines.
7. Veterans Increased Choice for Transplanted Organs and Recovery (VICTOR) Act (H.R. 2601)
- Details: Under current policy, VA generally requires organ transplants to be performed at one of the department’s 13 transplant centers, where waiting times for transplants are on average 32 percent longer than those at non-VA facilities. This bill would enable veterans who aren’t able to access care at a VA transplant center to seek care at a community transplant facility.
8. The Securing Electronic Records for Veterans Ease (SERVE) Act of 2017 (H.R. 3634)
- Details: Veterans who take advantage of the GI Bill are usually in their late 20’s or early 30’s, and typically opt to rent off-campus housing instead of living in a college dorm. Unfortunately, many landlords do not recognize basic allowance (BAH) for housing as proof of income, which poses additional difficulty for student veterans who choose to rent off campus. The SERVE Act is a simple, zero-cost solution that would make BAH documentation available online to all veterans, which would help confirm a veteran’s monthly housing stipend and simplify their home or apartment rental process.
9. Veterans Fair Debt Notice Act (H.R. 3705)
- Details: When the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) issues a debt notice to a veteran, there is no way to verify that the veteran has received the notice. Additionally, if the VBA’s system does not have the most up-to-date contact information, a veteran may fail to pay a debt they were unaware of. This bill would ensure that veterans both receive and understand debt notices sent from VBA.
10. Veteran Apprenticeship and Labor Opportunity Reform (VALOR) Act (H.R. 3949)
- Details: The current approval process for a GI Bill-approved apprenticeship program is unnecessarily burdensome – requiring a private employer looking to offer an apprenticeship in multiple states to register separately for each state. The VALOR Act streamlines the process by allowing employers to register their apprenticeship program in the state in which they are headquartered -- addressing a regulatory burden that hampered access to such programs for veterans. We cannot allow bureaucracy to impede the education and employment of our veterans.
11. The Veterans Crisis Line Study Act of 2017 (H.R. 4173)
According to a 2016 report on veteran suicide, 20 veterans take their lives every single day. In 2007, VA launched the Veterans Crisis Life (VCL) to connect veterans contemplating suicide or otherwise in crisis with qualified crisis responders. H.R. 4173 would require VA to conduct a study on the outcomes and efficacy of the VCL. It is our duty to take care of veterans suffering from invisible wounds of war.