House prepares veterans’ legislative package ahead of Memorial Day – United States
House prepares veterans’ legislative package ahead of Memorial Day
WASHINGTON – The House of Veterans Affairs Committee is preparing to send a large collection of bills to the House ahead of Memorial Day weekend.
The committee on Tuesday brought forward 25 bills, including bills to improve health care services for female veterans, tackle homelessness for veterans, improve education benefits and strengthen oversight of the Department of Veterans Affairs.
“Our goal is to move many bills through the process now so that we are ready to move some of the bills to the ground as part of the Memorial Day Committee’s annual package,” said Rep. Mark Takano. , D-California, the chairman of the committee. “The bills represent a strong bipartisan effort to help veterans recover from the [coronavirus] pandemic. There is also a concerted effort to strengthen equity and reach out to underserved veterans.
A few of the bills discussed on Tuesday focused on female veterans. One, the Veterans Equal Access to Contraception Act, would eliminate co-payments for veterans when they receive their birth control through the VA – giving them the same benefits available to most women through public and private insurers.
The bill passed in the House last year but got stuck in the Senate.
“The VA system has not evolved to fairly serve a rapidly changing population,” said Representative Julia Brownley, D-California, who introduced the bill. “It is high time to address this inequality.”
Another bill, the Veterans’ Camera Reporting Act, would require the AV to analyze its use of security cameras in its healthcare facilities and improve the way the cameras are used to improve patient safety. The bill was introduced by Representative David McKinley, RW.V., who represents Clarksburg, where seven veterans were murdered at Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center in 2017 and 2018.
Nursing Assistant Reta Mays has pleaded guilty to injecting fatal doses of insulin into veterans. It was discovered that the hospital ward where she worked did not have cameras in the patient rooms. The cameras in the common areas and in the supply room, where the insulin was stored, were not working.
“The cameras in the inpatient unit where she worked were not working and that enabled her to commit seven murders in 11 months,” Takano said.
Rep. Mike Bost of Illinois, the senior Republican on the committee, said the bills put forward on Tuesday were bipartisan. However, he wanted the committee to study a bill that was not added to the agenda. Bost said he proposed the Veterans Second Amendment Protection Act, which has been discussed in previous sessions of Congress and would prohibit the AV from placing veterans on a gun-free list and leave it to the courts.
Under current law, the VA considers veterans who cannot manage their VA benefits and need someone else to help with their finances as “mentally incompetent.” The department reports the names of these veterans to the FBI, which adds them to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System – the national database gun dealers must check before selling a gun.
The bill would eliminate this practice and instead require the justice system to determine whether veterans pose a threat to themselves or to others before they are added to the database.
“We need to assure veterans that their constitutional rights will not be threatened if they seek the support they have won from the VA,” said Bost. “This is one of my main priorities. I hope this will be a priority for all of us soon. “
The committee is studying other bills on Wednesday. Lawmakers will hear comments from the AV and veterans service organizations on 15 bills aimed at tackling military exposure to toxics.