Comprehensive VA Health Care, Benefits Bill Finally Introduced in House

Comprehensive VA Health Care, Benefits Bill Finally Introduced in House
VA photo

A bipartisan package of veterans legislation introduced May 14 in the House will expand VA assisted living programs, improve caregiver support, remove unfair penalties from surviving spouses, and address a host of other MOAA legislative priorities.

 

The Senator Elizabeth Dole 21st Century Veterans Health Care and Benefits Improvement Act (H.R. 8371) is the result of months of negotiations and engagement with House and Senate Veterans’ Committee leadership and staff by MOAA and other veterans organizations, which have worked nonstop to keep pressure on lawmakers to ensure the package becomes law.

 

[TAKE ACTION: Support This Wide-Ranging Plan to Improve Veterans’ Care]

 

The bill “will improve VA’s ability to deliver critical benefits and services more expeditiously and effectively,” MOAA President and CEO Lt. Gen. Brian T. Kelly, USAF (Ret), said. “We appreciate the leadership and engagement of the House and Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committees to get this important legislation on a path to becoming law, and MOAA urges House and Senate leaders to expedite passage. Doing so conveys a strong message of support and solidarity to our veterans, servicemembers, retirees, surviving family members and caregivers in and out of uniform.”

 

Both House and Senate lawmakers have been part of the negotiations; MOAA recognizes the difficulty inherent in a bipartisan, bicameral agreement. This legislation reflects congressional intent to represent in the broadest way possible the interests of the entire veteran community.

 

[RELATED: State of VA Health Care: Reports Highlight Historic Firsts]

 

Among the MOAA-supported provisions in the omnibus bill:

  • The Expanding Veterans’ Options for Long Term Care Act (H.R. 1815/S. 495) would allow the VA to carry out a pilot program to provide assisted living services to eligible veterans.

  • The Elizabeth Dole Home and Community Based Services for Veterans and Caregivers Act (H.R. 542/S. 141) would improve VA home- and community-based services for veterans, as well as support to family caregivers.

  • The Veteran Caregiver Application and Appeals Reform (CARE) Act (H.R. 4518/S. 1792) would modify the Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers (PCAFC) to improve transparency and access to services for caregivers of veterans, and aid in navigating Veterans Health Administration (VHA) health care programs and services.

  • The Improving Whole Health for Veterans with Chronic Conditions Act (H.R. 4150/S. 1954) would improve health care services, including dental care for veterans with heart disease.

  • The Love Lives On Act (H.R. 3651/S. 1266) would reverse penalties faced by surviving military spouses who remarry prior to age 55.

 

[RELATED: What Does the Largest VA Budget Request Ever REALLY Mean for Veterans?]

 

MOAA commends lawmakers for including the above provisions, but the 315-page legislation goes further, addressing other important health care and benefit programs: 

  • Improvements to mental health, rehabilitation, and suicide prevention programs.
  • Authorities to flexibly compensate medical staff.
  • Expansion of outreach and promotion of basic eligibility and benefits information to veterans.
  • Expansion of mobile mammography services.
  • Educational and financial protections for veterans.
  • Enforcement improvements to protect reemployment rights of armed forces members.
  • Improvements to the disability claims and examination processes.
  • Oversight of VA’s electronic health record modernization program.

 

Make Your Voice Heard

While the introduction of this legislation represents a pivotal point in MOAA’s work to improve the lives of veterans and their families, there is more work to be done … and our members can help.

 

Grassroots involvement will be critical as MOAA works to keep this legislation at the top of lawmakers’ to-do lists. Click here to contact your legislators to ask them to pass the Senator Elizabeth Dole 21st Century Veterans Health Care and Benefits Improvement Act.

 

When MOAA Speaks, Congress Listens

Learn more about MOAA’s key advocacy issues, and contact your elected officials using our messaging platform.

TAKE ACTION

About the Author

Cmdr. René Campos, USN (Ret)
Cmdr. René Campos, USN (Ret)

Campos currently serves as MOAA's Senior Director of Government Relations, managing matters related to military and veterans’ health care, wounded, ill and injured, and caregiver policy.