Apr 28, 2015

House Uses Appropriations to Continue VA Reform

21st-va

In the first 100 days of the 114th Congress, the House accomplished some of the most effective legislating in the past few decades. Our priorities were clear: passing bipartisan bills that increase freedom, promote opportunity, and hold our government accountable to the people.

And nothing made the House’s commitment to effective government more clear than our work to help America’s veterans and bring the Department of Veterans Affairs into the 21st century.

The House passed bills on everything from veterans’ health to employment during the first 100 Days:

H.R. 22, Hire More Heroes Act 

  • On Day One of the 114th Congress, the House passed this bill to exempt veterans from Obamacare’s burdensome employer mandate threshold if they already have health care through TRICARE or the VA. It made sure no employers are penalized for hiring a veteran and that no veteran is left jobless because of the mandate.

H.R. 204, Clay Hunt SAV Act

  • Within our first 30 days of the legislative session, the House took initial steps to reform the VA by improving veterans’ access to mental health care resources by passing this bill. The Pesident later signed it into law.

H.R. 280

  • Addressing the abuse and waste at the VA is a top priority in Congress. That’s why the House passed this bill, giving the Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary the authority to recoup bonuses paid to employees who were not properly caring for veterans.

H.R. 294, Long-Term Care Veterans Choice Act 

  •  The House voted to authorize the VA to enter into contracts with certified medical foster homes in order to expand the options available for addressing the long-term care needs of our veterans.

And intense Congressional pressure compelled the VA to change the outdated “40-mile rule.” Now, veterans have a choice to receive health care services from private facilities if the closest VA facility from their home is further than 40 miles away by road, not as the crow flies.

The House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, headed by Chairman Jeff Miller, has worked tirelessly to conduct aggressive oversight of the VA and facilities across the country.  But there is still work to be done. Despite the House’s attempts to work with the VA to fix existing problems with the system, we can’t help our veterans if the VA isn’t transparent. After discovering that potentially no one has been fired for manipulating wait times at VA health centers, Chairman Miller introduced a bill last week that would grant the VA secretary even more authority to fire corrupt or incompetent employees.

Moving forward with the appropriations process this week, the House will consider H.R. 2029 FY2016 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations, securing funding necessary to provide for our veterans when they come home and to invest in our military infrastructure.  The Department of Veterans Affairs and Military Construction Projects appropriations bill funds quality housing and facility renovation for our military personnel and their families and ensures that we meet the growing health needs of our veterans. The legislation also calls for modernization of the VA’s electronic health record system by tying funding to its ability to demonstrate progress on the system’s functionality and interoperability.

As Majority Leader McCarthy outlined in an op-ed for USA Today“The VA… is an 84-year-old bureaucracy that hasn’t adapted to a 21st century world.… [It] is stuck in the old-tech, slow, and opaque system of yesteryear….A modern VA must accept the modern world and not cling to its old bureaucratic past.”

Through the next 100 days and beyond, the House will continue to fight to bring the VA into the 21st century, starting with the appropriations process.