Real Reform For American Veterans

SEN. MITCH McCONNELL (R-KY): “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 that are 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, to the Senate floor.” (Sen. McConnell, Floor Remarks, 8/3/2017)

Veterans Appeals Improvement And Modernization Act: ‘Bill Aimed At Easing Veterans’ Ability To Appeal VA Cases Has Passed The U.S. Senate’

“A bill aimed at easing veterans’ ability to appeal VA cases has passed the U.S. Senate and now moves to the House. … The Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act of 2017 is intended to tackle the backlog of appeals by creating three new options for veterans to challenge the denial of benefits.” (“Veterans Appeals Act Passes U.S. Senate,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 8/3/2017)

SEN. JOHNNY ISAKSON (R-GA): “I applaud the Senate for passing this critical legislation… For too long our veterans and their families have faced unacceptable delays during the VA’s benefits claims appeal process. I urge the House of Representatives to follow suit and pass this bipartisan measure to help ensure we get veterans a response to their appeals in a timely manner.” (Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, Press Release, 8/01/2017)

VA Choice and Quality Employment Act: ‘Critical That The Veterans Choice Program Has The Funding … For Veterans In Their Own Communities’

“Senate Approves Bills To Address VA Budget Crisis … The spending package provides $2.1 billion to continue funding the Veterans Choice Program, which allows veterans to receive private medical care at government expense. VA Secretary David Shulkin had warned that without congressional action the program would run out of money by mid-August, disrupting medical care for thousands of veterans. Another $1.8 billion would go to core VA health programs, including 28 leases for new VA medical facilities.” (“Senate Approves Bills To Address VA Budget Crisis, Claims Backlog,” Bloomberg, 8/2/2017)

SEN. DEAN HELLER (R-NV): “Guaranteeing Nevada’s veterans continue to have access to the VA Choice program has always been a top priority of mine, so I was proud to play an important role in getting funding for the program across the finish line and to the President’s desk to be signed into law… From chemotherapy to critical life-saving surgeries, the Veterans Choice Program will ensure Nevada’s veterans have access to services that the VA cannot provide.” (Sen. Heller, Press Release, 8/2/2017)

SEN. JOHNNY ISAKSON (R-GA): “It is critical that the Veterans Choice Program has the funding to continue offering timely appointments for veterans in their own communities… This bicameral, bipartisan agreement is truly a testament to what can be accomplished when Congress works together. I thank my colleagues in the House and Senate for their swift action and look forward to the president signing this important legislation into law.” (Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, Press Release, 8/01/2017)

SEN. LUTHER STRANGE (R-AL): “It is critical … that veterans in rural states like Alabama can access the care they deserve from wherever they are. The VA Choice Act implements reviews of agency leadership and provides talented caregivers with ongoing training and development. I am proud to champion this effort to keep the covenant with our nation's heroes.” (Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, Press Release, 8/01/2017)

Building On The Work Already Accomplished For Veterans

VETERANS CHOICE ACT: “What is the Veterans Choice Act? This federal program sets aside $10 billion throughout three years for veterans who live more than 40 miles from a VA facility or who find themselves waiting more than 30 days for an appointment. The program allows them to be seen at a participating community health center.” (“VA Opens More Doors To Rural Veterans In Virginia,” Daily Press, 12/7/15)

  • HOLDING THE VA ACCOUNTABLE: “A sweeping independent review of the Department of Veterans Affairs health-care system made public Friday shows the multibillion-dollar agency has significant flaws, including a bloated bureaucracy, problems with leadership and a potentially unsustainable capital budget. … The assessments, weighing in at more than 4,000 pages total, were mandated by the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act, commonly known as the Veterans Choice Act, a more than $16 billion emergency funding measure passed last summer in the wake of a systemwide scandal at the VA.” (“A Needs ‘Systemwide Reworking,’ Independent Report Finds,” The Wall Street Journal, 9/18/15)

‘With The Enactment Of The Veterans Choice Program… There Were 2.1 Million More Veterans’ Appointments In The VA In 2016 Than The Previous Year’

SENS. ISAKSON (R-GA) & TESTER (D-MT): “With the enactment of the Veterans Choice Program, designed to provide veterans with more timely appointment options, there were 2.1 million more veterans’ appointments in the VA in 2016 than the previous year. Last month, President Trump signed into law the Veterans Choice Program Improvement Act, legislation that we introduced to ensure veterans would continue to have access to timely care in their own communities while setting the stage for further reforms to the program.” (“Senate Veterans Affairs Committee Leaders On The Way Forward To Improve Veteran Care,” Military Times, 5/29/2017)

Forever GI Bill: ‘Senate Signed Off Wednesday On A Sweeping Expansion Of GI Bill Education Benefits’

“The Senate signed off Wednesday on a sweeping expansion of GI Bill education benefits, sending the bipartisan legislation dubbed the ‘Forever GI Bill’ to President Donald Trump’s desk. The bill, which would increase veterans benefits by more than $3 billion over the next decade, passed the Senate by unanimous consent. Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin had encouraged passage of the bill, and a White House spokesman told POLITICO that Trump plans to sign it. The bill would remove, for new enlistees, the 15-year limit on when recipients must use their GI Bill benefits — a provision meant to give veterans more flexibility to attend higher education and obtain new skills later in life. The legislation boosts education assistance for National Guard and Reserve troops, Purple Heart recipients and for the dependents of fallen troops. It also would send funding to nontraditional education providers like coding boot camps. In addition, the legislation would fully restore the GI Bill education benefits for veterans who were affected by the collapse in recent years of Corinthian Colleges and ITT Tech, two massive for-profit college chains that had campuses across the country. Overall, the enhancements are among the largest made under the Post-9/11 GI Bill since it was enacted in 2008 to help Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. So far, more than $70 billion has gone out for veterans and their families to attend colleges, universities and career training programs, and the program is a popular benefit among military personnel.” (“Congress Passes $3B Expansion Of GI Bill Education Benefits,” Politico, 8/02/2017)

SEN. DEAN HELLER (R-NV): “The Senate’s passage of this important legislation is a much-needed update to current law, and I was proud to join with my colleagues on the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee to help introduce and advance it…. Our legislation bolsters G.I. Bill benefits for reservists, Purple Heart recipients, and veterans who rely on them to further their education and improve skills necessary to access good-paying jobs. This is yet another positive development for Nevada’s veterans, and I’ll continue to work to empower Nevada's veterans with more tools to succeed.” (Sen. Heller, Press Release, 8/02/2017)

Earlier This Year: ‘The VA Accountability And Whistleblower Protection Act Is Helping To Shore Up Accountability’

SEN. MITCH McCONNELL (R-KY): “Just a couple months ago, we passed important VA reform legislation — which 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 wrongdoings within the VA.” (Sen. McConnell, Floor Remarks, 8/3/2017)

VETERANS AFFAIRS SECRETARY DAVID SHULKIN: “Since the President’s been in office, we’ve removed over 700 employees from the VA. In fact, I now publish on a weekly basis all of our disciplinary actions of firings or suspensions or demotions so that everyone can see and track our progress.” (“VA Secretary Says John Kelly’s New Role Is A Reset For The Trump Administration,” The Washington Times, 8/1/2017)


Related Issues: Veterans, National Security, Health Care