Veterans Benefits Information

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Veterans Benefits Information

Chairman Takano Joins Bicameral Letter to Secretary Wilkie Demanding Data on MISSION Act

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WASHINGTON – Today, House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Chairman Mark Takano (CA-41) joined bipartisan leadership from the House and Senate authorizing and appropriating committees in sending a letter to VA Secretary Robert Wilkie demanding additional data used to develop the Department’s proposed access standards.  “As the 116th Congress convenes, we write to encourage you and your senior leadership team to work collaboratively with Congress as you implement major, simultaneous changes to veterans’ health care and benefits programs,” wrote the members. “Since your confirmation, your team has provided staff-level briefings – albeit somewhat limited in scope and details – on the status of implementation of the VA MISSION Act,” they continued, “as we begin a new Congress, we expect regular, detailed briefings to continue and that you will take a collaborative approach that maximizes transparency and demonstrates your intent that Congress be a full and true partner in implementation of these critical laws and initiatives.” They concluded, “Specific to the VA MISSION Act, we request the data used to inform your decision on the proposed access standards, the projected number of veterans expected to access care, any impact on VA’s internal ability to provide care to veterans, and an implementation plan for the proposed access standards.” The letter was signed by House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Chairman Mark Takano; Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Johnny Isakson; Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Ranking Member Jon Tester; Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies Chairman John Boozman; Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies Ranking Member Brian Schatz; House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Ranking Member David P. Roe, M.D.; House Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz; House Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies Ranking Member John R. Carter. Full text of the letter follows and can be found here.   February 4, 2019 The Honorable Robert Wilkie Secretary of Veterans Affairs 810 Vermont Avenue, NW Washington, DC 20420 Dear Secretary Wilkie: As the 116th Congress convenes, we write to encourage you and your senior leadership team to work collaboratively with Congress as you implement major, simultaneous changes to veterans’ health care and benefits programs. During the 115th Congress, we worked in a bipartisan manner to pass twenty-five pieces of major veterans’ legislation, including significant reforms to community care, appeals, accountability, and education benefits. Just five months from now, VA must begin operating the new Veterans Community Care Program that was created in the VA MISSION Act. This will fundamentally transform the delivery of veterans’ health care. VA will concurrently implement provisions from other laws, including the VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act (Accountability Act), the Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act (Colmery Act), and the Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act (Appeals Modernization). All of these changes will be happening as VA implements the Electronic Health Record Modernization (EHRM) project, one of the largest information technology modernization projects in our nation’s history. Since your confirmation, your team has provided staff-level briefings – albeit somewhat limited in scope and details – on the status of implementation of the VA MISSION Act, the Accountability Act, the Colmery Act, Appeals Modernization, and EHRM. As we begin a new Congress, we expect regular, detailed briefings to continue and that you will take a collaborative approach that maximizes transparency and demonstrates your intent that Congress be a full and true partner in implementation of these critical laws and initiatives.  With all of the reforms underway simultaneously, it is vital for VA to share information openly – even pre-decisional information – so that we can work together and have a common understanding of the impact of changes, including costs, and are able to assess the impact any changes will have on other parts of VA. We share the common goal of VA’s success, and our hope is that early, frequent, and fully transparent dialogs will allow VA and Congress to jointly head off the kind of serious missteps we have seen in some recent implementation efforts. All of the changes being implemented require VA to be more open, transparent, complete, and candid when engaging with Congress in the critical implementation stages of these programs.  Specific to the VA MISSION Act, we request the data used to inform your decision on the proposed access standards, the projected number of veterans expected to access care, any impact on VA’s internal ability to provide care to veterans, and an implementation plan for the proposed access standards.  We are hopeful that under your leadership VA can build a more collaborative relationship with Congress in the near-term.  We look forward to a cooperative partnership between Congress and VA in order to effectively carry out all of the many new programs and initiatives underway that will make VA the model for 21st century delivery of health care and services to veterans.   Sincerely,   ###  

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Chairman Takano Testifies Before Rules Committee In Support of Veterans’ Access to Child Care Act

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WASHINGTON, DC – Today, House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Chairman Mark Takano (CA-41) testified before the House Rules Committee in support of the Veterans’ Access to Child Care Act which would make permanent and expand child care assistance to eligible veterans who are required to travel to VA facilities for care.  The bill was originally introduced by Congresswoman Julia Brownley, Chairwoman of the House Veterans’ Affairs Health Subcommittee. Below is a link to video of the Chairman’s opening statement and his remarks as prepared: [[{"fid":"35","view_mode":"full","fields":{"format":"full","field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]":false,"field_file_image_title_text[und][0][value]":false},"link_text":null,"type":"media","field_deltas":{"1":{"format":"full","field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]":false,"field_file_image_title_text[und][0][value]":false}},"attributes":{"style":"height: 210px; width: 350px;","class":"media-element file-full","data-delta":"1"}}]] Watch opening remarks here   Good Afternoon Chairman McGovern and Ranking Member Cole. I am here today in support of H.R. 840, the Veterans’ Access to Child Care Act, and to advocate for a rule that will make germane amendments in order so we can have a robust debate of members’ ideas on the Floor. The bill, introduced by Ms. Brownley, the Chair of the Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Health and longtime advocate for women veterans, addresses veterans’ inability to seek healthcare because they lack access to child care. As part of the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act of 2010, Congress authorized a pilot program within VA, to mitigate the impact a lack of child care can have on a veteran’s ability or willingness to seek healthcare, specifically mental healthcare.  Under the pilot, VA could provide child care services to eligible veterans seeking mental healthcare, intensive mental healthcare services, or other intensive healthcare services that the Secretary determined necessary. In October 2011, VA began offering child care in Buffalo, New York.  Within two years, VA had expanded the pilot to two more sites – Northport, New York and American Lake, Washington – as was mandated by Congress. And then, VA went even further and offered the service at a fourth site in Dallas, Texas.  The two-year pilot program was meant to end in September of 2013; however, seeing the promise the pilot offered – Congress has reauthorized the program each year since. This bill is simply an effort to make that program permanent and to allow VA to expand the program as needed.  By allowing veterans who are the primary caregivers of their children to access child care, veterans are able to pursue their health – which can then indirectly impact the quality of the attention they are able to offer to their children, their spouses, their employers, their education, and so on. One veteran from Dallas, Texas stated, "This is the best benefit the VA has ever provided since 1992 when I separated.  This way if I need VA care I don't have to drive 10 miles to drop my daughter off somewhere else.  She and I are safer, can spend more time together, and she loves this place.  The other kids are the best group she has stayed with. They understand how a half orphaned child of two veterans feels. She belongs.  I am now taking better care of myself than ever since I separated." While this is only one story, the data supports this type of assistance as being integral to the whole health of veteran-parents. Over 10,000 children used the Child Care Pilot Program, and as utilization increased at participating facilities, VA found that the cost of the services decreased.  Additionally, a survey of veterans who used VA’s Child Care services yielded praise for the program and comments from thankful parents and caregivers who were better able to access their appointments without worrying about finding and paying for child care. The Committee fully intends to ensure veterans’ access to healthcare is both preserved and improved. This means we must ensure that the “choices” veterans are given in regard to their healthcare WORK.  This is but one measure that makes sure V-H-A WORKS for veterans. As for amendments, we had 30 filed with the Rules Committee.  I’m not surprised that we had so many members offer amendments to this measure because we all have veterans in our districts that we have been elected here to represent.  I am pleased so see so many members of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, and veterans in this chamber offer amendments to this legislation. I would like to mention a few of these amendments that I hope to see made in order: •              Rep. Allred’s amendment: would require VA to notify veterans, post on VA.gov, and perform outreach to veterans to make them aware of the child care program. •              Rep. Brindisi’s amendment: would ensure veterans receiving care at Community Based Outpatient Clinics are eligible for child care. •              Rep. Lee’s amendment:  would ensure veterans receiving care at Vet Centers are eligible too. •              Veterans receiving physical therapy for service-connected disabilities, counseling for readjustment from military to civilian life, treatment for military sexual trauma, and even counseling for substance or drug abuse would explicitly be able to receive child care so they can make their appointments if amendments offered by Reps. Cisneros, Golden, Sherrill, and Rose—all veterans I might add—are made in order and adopted on the Floor. These are but a few of the great ideas put forward by the members in this chamber to improve this bill and I hope to see these germane amendments made in order. Thank you ###

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Congress Poised to Help Veterans Exposed to ‘Burn Pit’ Toxins Over Decades of War

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One of the least understood ailments endured by the newest generation of veterans is related to exposure to toxins in Iraq and Afghanistan, especially from open-air trash fires.

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Chairman Takano Statement on Passage of Veterans’ Access to Child Care Act

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WASHINGTON, DC – Today, House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Chairman Mark Takano (CA-41) issued the statement below following the passage of the Veterans’ Access to Child Care Act, H.R. 840, introduced by Congresswoman Julia Brownley, Chairwoman of the House Veterans’ Affairs Health Subcommittee: “I am proud to support the Veterans’ Access to Child Care Act as the first bill our Committee would bring to the House Floor because it addresses a sometimes-overlooked group of veterans—veterans who are parents and caregivers to young children. “Addressing underserved veterans is a pillar of my VA 2030 vision: which will drive our work on the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs in the 116th Congress. Providing cost-free, safe, and convenient child care so that veterans can get the care they need is the least we can do to make their lives easier so they, in turn, can be loving parents and caregivers to the children who depend on them. “We ask our servicemembers to risk their lives in service to our country, and in return, we promise to provide healthcare and benefits, so they can live happy, healthy, and successful lives, and provide for their families.”   ###

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The Atomic Soldiers

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They served at ground zero — and it has haunted them ever since.

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Did you know?

A veteran’s family must request a United States flag.

A flag is provided at no cost to drape the casket or accompany the urn of a deceased veteran. Generally, the flag is given to the next of kin. Only one flag may be provided per veteran. Upon the request of the family, an “Application for United States Flag for Burial Purposes” (VA Form 21-2008) must be submitted along with a copy of the veteran’s discharge papers. Flags may be obtained from VA regional offices and most U.S. Post Offices.