On the Hill: MOAA Outlines Key Priorities in Testimony Before Joint Veterans Panel

On the Hill: MOAA Outlines Key Priorities in Testimony Before Joint Veterans Panel
René Campos, USN (Ret), MOAA’s senior director of Government Relations, testifies before a joint House and Senate Veterans Affairs Committee panel March 13 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Mike Morones/MOAA)

MOAA’s latest Capitol Hill testimony addressed how the VA must improve its efforts to provide for an aging veteran population – and for the family members who serve as their caregivers. 


“VA has made progress in advancing caregiving services, but today’s demand outpaces availability,” Cmdr. René Campos, USN (Ret), MOAA’s senior director of Government Relations, told a joint session of the House and Senate Veterans' Affairs Committees on March 13 in Washington, D.C. “And it’s still difficult for veterans and caregivers to access these services, including respite care.” 


[TAKE ACTION: Ask Your Legislators to Support Services for Aging and Disabled Veterans] 


This is an immediate concern for the department – while the overall veteran population is expected to drop by 8% from FY 2019 to FY 2035, the number of veterans age 85 and older will rise by 73% over that timeframe, Campos said in written testimony to the joint panel. With 80% of veterans expected to need long-term support services, she said, it’s critical the VA expand its capacity, staffing, and funding to match the need. 


A key step in the right direction would be the passage of the Senator Elizabeth Dole 21st Century Veterans Healthcare and Benefits Improvement Act, omnibus legislation that’s still being negotiated but is expected to address many of MOAA’s VA priorities regarding caregiver benefits, long-term care support, and other veterans’ programs. 



Asked about the consequences should the omnibus not become law, Campos told House Veterans' Affairs Committee Chair Rep. Mike Bost (R-Ill.) that “a lot of caregivers and veterans are counting on it.”  


“This is a bipartisan package. There’s absolutely no reason why it shouldn’t move forward,” Campos said. “There’s no amount of money this country could pay for the services [caregivers] provide in the way that they provide them. A lot of veterans, a lot of our members, a lot of the Military Coalition members, a lot of our colleagues here are waiting for this package to get across the line.” 


Campos addressed specifics on these issues and others in her written testimony, which included MOAA’s support of active legislation designed to: 

  • Expand options for providing assisted living services to veterans at home – the preferred option for most, and a cost-saving measure for the VA in many instances. 

  • Improve caregiver benefits, to include more health care, mental health, and financial resources, while making the systems used to access these resources more transparent and easier to navigate. 

  • Expand health care benefits under the Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Department of Veterans Affairs (CHAMPVA) to age 26 for young adult children of permanently and totally disabled veterans, veterans with service-connected disabilities, or veterans who died on active duty and did not qualify for TRICARE coverage. 

  • Protect veterans from “claims sharks” who charge unreasonable fees for assistance with claims processing. 

  • Address a series of veterans benefits programs (such as concurrent receipt under the Major Richard Star Act) and survivor benefits (such as expanded Dependency and Indemnity Compensation eligibility, as well as the removal of remarriage penalties). 


[TAKE ACTION: Ask Your Lawmakers to Support Concurrent Receipt]


“It is imperative our servicemembers, retirees and veterans, as well as their caregivers and surviving family members, remain a priority for Congress, and lawmakers are not deterred in that mission,” Campos said in the written remarks. 


Campos testified March 13 along with several veterans service organizations, to include representatives of the American Legion, Vietnam Veterans of America, the National Guard Association of the United States (NGAUS), and the Fleet Reserve Association. Along with the need to pass the omnibus bill and provide increased caregiver support, her testimony stressed the importance of stabilizing VA staffing and providing the department with “predictable funding to preserve its foundational missions.” 


It also covered the need for parity between the active duty and the reserve component, as evidenced by MOAA's support for the Guard and Reserve GI Bill Parity Act of 2024, which would allow more federal service performed by National Guard and Reserve members under certain duty statuses to count toward education benefits. 


“We can’t afford as a country, when we have recruiting challenges … to have that talent lost,” Campos told Rep. Mike Levin (D-Calif.), who recently reintroduced the House version of the bill. “So we see this as a national defense issue, and we should recognize as a country that these are important contributions that these servicemembers give.”


Campos also previewed the work of MOAA and Disabled American Veterans on an upcoming report detailing the challenges of providing care for toxic-exposed veterans, including proposals to improve a system where decades-long delays are commonplace. 


“Together, let's send a strong message our country cares and supports our all-volunteer force, in and out of uniform, which is one of the most important ways we can sustain a strong national defense.” Campos said to conclude her testimony.


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About the Author

Kevin Lilley
Kevin Lilley

Lilley serves as MOAA's digital content manager. His duties include producing, editing, and managing content for a variety of platforms, with a concentration on The MOAA Newsletter and MOAA.org. Follow him on Twitter: @KRLilley