November 16, 2018 – Fighting for America's Veterans
To Arizona’s Veterans:
Every day we engage in freedoms that we enjoy – many of which are so natural that they are often taken for granted.
We would not enjoy these freedoms without the sacrifices of countless veterans who have selflessly served the United States of America for hundreds of years. Some of these men and women volunteered, others were drafted, but they all served under the same flag, for the same values, and for the same common goal of defending our individual liberties.
I am grateful every day for our veterans and never forget the sacrifices they have made.
Congress has the duty to provide veterans with the best resources to transition out of the armed services, to access the best health care, and to provide the best benefits. However, Congress’s actions will never amount to the exemplary service of our soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines.
As we get ready to close out the 115th Congress, I wanted to give you an update on what this Republican-led Congress has done for veterans.
What was the most significant bill that President Trump signed into law?
The VA MISSION Act of 2018 was one of the most significant VA reforms signed into law this year. This law will ensure veterans have timely access to health care. It also consolidated the VA community care programs into one-single program called the Veterans Community Care Program (VCCP), replacing the current VA CHOICE program. We hope that the VCCP will give veterans more freedom to choose their healthcare and doctors in their community. To ensure a smooth transition, the VA MISSION Act of 2018 extended the VA CHOICE program through June 6, 2019, until the VCCP is fully implemented.
What other pro-veteran reforms did Congress pass?
Under the leadership of House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Phil Roe, from Tennessee, the House took action on dozens of pro-veteran bills of which 24 have been signed into law by President Trump. Two of these laws will have a substantial impact for Arizona’s veteran community:
- S. 1094 – Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act of 2017 – this bill makes much needed reforms at the VA by providing the VA Secretary the authority to expeditiously remove, demote, or suspend any VA employee, including Senior Executive Service employees, for poor performance or misconduct. This bill helps remove negligent bureaucrats like former Phoenix VA Director Sharon Helman, who was at the center of the 2014 Phoenix VA scandal.
- H.R. 2288 – Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act of 2017 – this bill creates a new system at the VA to help move through the backlog of appeals and assist veterans with their disability claims in a timely manner. For years, East Valley veterans have suffered the costly consequences of having their benefits delayed. H.R. 2288 established the Rapid Appeals Modernization Program (RAMP) which created a more streamlined and efficient way of solving VA benefit claims.
- You can find a comprehensive list of all the bills here, courtesy of the House Veterans Affairs Committee.
Earlier this year, I hosted an event for veterans to learn about the specifics of the RAMP and speak with representatives from the VA about their claims. My district office is heavily engaged in serving veterans who have difficulties in getting health care treatment or receiving their benefits. This is a priority for me and it is an honor to serve them in this capacity.
President Trump and Members of the 115th Congress understand the importance of improving health care choices and strengthening the VA. Though there is more work to do, we are working to ensure that our warriors are treated with the respect and dignity they deserve.
What are they saying?
“This Congress, we’ve had over two dozen veterans bills signed into law by President Trump. As of November 1, the House had passed over 80 veterans bills. Not only have we delivered on many of our promises but we have come together and done this in a bicameral, bipartisan way. We have done great work performing our Constitutional duty of overseeing the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) as it begins implementation of the major reforms that have been signed into law. With so many bills enacted into law and with a VA budget surpassing $200 billion, our oversight responsibility has never been greater. We have passed a range of critical veterans bills ranging from addressing accountability at VA with the VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act of 2017 to the prioritization of the health of our veterans through the VA MISSION Act. I am so grateful for all my colleagues and how much we have achieved on behalf of our nation’s veterans this congress.” – Chairman Phil Roe, House Veterans Affairs Committee
“The 115th Congress has been particularly active, specifically in context of veterans legislation. In the beginning, we passed the Accountability bill, affording the VA Secretary the ability to fire employees who are not serving veterans. Next, we passed the Appeals Modernization bill, requiring VA to render a decision on a claim within a year. We updated the G.I. Bill, making the benefit better for those serving in uniform, by removing the 15 year cap. Lastly, we worked so very hard on, and passed the VA MISSION Act, which truly reforms the VA in many ways, ensuring veterans have access to quality community healthcare, expanding the Caregiver program, and forcing VA to operate in a more efficient manner. In sum, the 115th Congress has been good to veterans. That said, this is the new standard! We look forward to the 116th Congress being equally or better in helping and supporting those whom have selflessly served.” – Matthew Shuman, Legislative Director, The American Legion