Senate Continues Work To Help Our Nation’s Veterans
‘Under the last administration, we learned of a shocking scandal that spread through Veterans Affairs facilities across the nation. Our veterans deserved far better. Ever since, Congress has continued to work on a number of initiatives designed to bring more justice to veterans and bring more reform to the VA.’
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) made the following remarks on the Senate floor today regarding our nation’s veterans and the remaining items on the Senate agenda:
“Earlier this week, I set out a number of items for the Senate to get done this work period — both in terms of nominees and in terms of legislation.
“First, on nominees. We had to confirm an FBI Director. We have. We needed to make progress on a number of other nominations that have been held up for too long. Slowly but surely, we are. We confirmed a well-qualified judicial nominee. We confirmed several officials who will be critical to advancing Administration policy in the Defense Department. And, yesterday afternoon, we confirmed a nominee to the National Labor Relations Board who will help return it — after eight years of habitually siding with union bosses over workers — to its intended role as an impartial judge that calls balls and strikes in labor disputes.
“All of this is progress. But we still have nominees to confirm for positions across many agencies, in both security and non-security roles, and many Cabinet members still await the number two officials for their departments. So we have more to do.
“The same is true of legislation. We had to pass the Veterans Choice legislation. We have. In fact, we passed some additional veterans legislation as well. Under the last administration, we learned of a shocking scandal that spread through Veterans Affairs facilities across the nation. Our veterans deserved far better. Ever since, Congress has continued to work on a number of initiatives designed to bring more justice to veterans and bring more reform to the VA.
“Senator Isakson, the Chairman of the Veterans Affairs Committee, has been a tireless advocate for our nation’s veterans and a driving force on seeing these bills through committee and through the Senate. We’ve passed a number of good reforms into law already. We continue to build on that progress today.
“Just a couple of months ago, we passed important VA reform legislation that is now law; the VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act is helping to shore up accountability measures, improve transparency, and enhance the VA’s ability to remove unsatisfactory employees while also protecting those who speak up about wrongdoing within the VA. Just this week, we passed three more veterans bills. One heads back to the House for final passage; the Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act will help address the delays that many veterans have experienced by modernizing the VA’s antiquated claims appeal process.
“The other two bills now await the president’s signature; the VA Choice and Quality Employment Act we passed earlier this week will provide additional resources to shore up the critical Veterans Choice Program so that veterans who face long wait and travel times at VA facilities will have the option of accessing private care instead, and the Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act we passed yesterday will expand access for veterans to GI Bill benefits as they transition back to civilian life.
“I want to thank the president and his administration for working with Congress to improve health care for our nation’s veterans. I also want to again thank Senator Isakson for his unwavering leadership on veterans issues and VA reforms. He has never stopped working to strengthen the VA system for those who rely on it and to overcome the systemic problems that left many veterans frustrated and hurting. These veterans bills can make a real impact in the lives of the people we represent.
“That’s also true of the FDA legislation we need to pass during this work period as well, and I’m hopeful we’ll have the opportunity to do so soon.This legislation, which was passed by the HELP Committee on a 21-2 bipartisan vote, is more important than ever in light of life-saving developments in immunotherapy. It’s never been more relevant given that personalized medicine is just over the horizon too.
“Passing this legislation will help speed up the drug approval process for patients in need. It will help address the time and cost of bringing lifesaving drugs to market. It will allow the important work of ensuring our drugs and devices are safe and effective to move forward. I want to recognize the Chairman of the HELP Committee, Senator Alexander, for making this critical legislation a top priority and working with colleagues to move it in a timely manner.
“So we’re making progress this week. For the future of life-saving medicine. For our veterans. For the leadership of our country’s most critical agencies. We know we still have more to do in all these areas — but we’re passing critical legislation, we’re confirming nominees to important positions, we’re taking steps in the right direction.”
Related Issues: Veterans, Nominations