Updates on Legislation Affecting Veterans in Congress
UPDATE: Legislation Affecting Veterans Moves Forward in Congress
There has been a ton of activity on Capitol Hill over the past week dealing with legislation and bills that may directly affect you, our nation’s military community. In short fashion, here’s what’s been happening:
- The House passed 785, the Commander John Scott Hannon Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act of 2019, which will provide the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) the authority to expand suicide prevention efforts and telehealth capabilities to veterans in rural and highly rural areas. This bill now heads to the President’s desk.
- The House unanimously passed R. 3228, the VA Mission Telehealth Clarification Act, which expands the VA MISSION Act of 2018’s authority for health profession trainees to provide treatment via telemedicine. To provide this treatment, a trainee must be under the supervision of a VA health care professional who is authorized to provide health care via telemedicine. The bill has been placed on the Senate Legislative Calendar.
- The Veteran’s Prostate Cancer Treatment and Research Act, R. 6092, passed the House and established a national clinical pathway for prostate cancer within the VA. A “clinical pathway” is a tool used in healthcare management that contains evidence-based practices that provide direction for clinical care or treatment. The bill was read twice in the Senate and has been referred to the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.
- R. 5245, the SHIELD for Veterans Act, passed the House and reforms the VA’s debt collection and overpayment process relating to benefits and programs. The bill also prohibits interest payments and administrative cost charges on delinquent payments of debt resulting from a person’s participation in a VA disability compensation program, pension program, or an educational assistance program. This bill has been placed on the Senate Legislative Calendar.
- R. 7105, the DELIVER Act, provides the VA legal will flexibility while caring for homeless veterans during a covered public health emergency. The bill passed the House and was sent to the Senate, where it was referred to the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs as of September 24th.
- The Veterans COMPACT Act of 2020, R. 8247, improves support during the transition from service member to veteran, and it improves suicide prevention and mental well-being initiatives, and improves care and services for women veterans.
- The Equal Access to Contraception for Veterans Act, R. 3798, ensures the same no-cost contraceptive care for women veterans as required by non-veteran health insurance plans. This bill now heads to the Senate for review.
- The Veterans Benefits Fairness and Transparency Act of 2020, H.R. 7795, requires the VA to publish disability benefits questionnaires (DBQs) on its website for use by non-VA medical providers submitting evidence regarding a disability of a claimant for purposes of VA benefits. It now heads to the Senate.
- The Toxic Exposure in the American Military (TEAM) Act of 2020, 4393, which reauthorizes key provisions of the Agent Orange Act of 1991. It would also form an independent commission to inform the VA of new toxic exposures related to military service. The VA would be required to enter into a partnership with the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) to determine levels of exposure to toxic substances by members of our military.
The Congressional climate is hard to predict, as some of the legislative bills mentioned above have been sitting in Congress for a year or more. Based on the Legislative Calendar, the House plans to vote on legislation through Friday, October 2nd, after which they will recess until after November’s presidential election.
With only three more days of voting on the table, it is difficult to determine which legislation will move forward. There are other bills that are being introduced, and I will provide updates as they make their way through our legislative body.
(Image courtesy of Andrea Izzotti via www.123rf.com)
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About the author
Robert Haynes is a retired Army infantryman who has a squad of kids and is married to an active duty Soldier. He is a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom, who spent his last few years in the Army as a Drill Sergeant. He is now a full-time dad, freelance writer, and out-of-work comedian.