Air Carrier Access Amendments Act Re-Introduced in House and Senate

Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Representative Jim Langevin (D-RI) introduced the Air Carrier Access Amendments Act of 2019 (S. 669 / H.R. 1549)

By PVA National Staff

On March 6th, Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Representative Jim Langevin (D-RI) introduced the Air Carrier Access Amendments Act of 2019 (S. 669 / H.R. 1549). This legislation continues their commitment to ensure that passengers with disabilities are treated with dignity and provided equal access to air travel. S. 669 has seven cosponsors and is referred to the Senate Committee on Commerce Science and Transportation. Meanwhile H.R. 1549 has eight cosponsors and is referred to the Subcommittee on Aviation, House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.

Specifically, the Air Carrier Access Amendments Act will:

  • Strengthen Air Carrier Access Act enforcement by requiring referral of certain passenger-filed complaints to the Department of Justice and establishment of a private right of action;
  • Ensure new airplanes are designed to accommodate the needs of people with disabilities by requiring airlines to meet defined accessibility standards. These standards will address safe and effective boarding and deplaning, visually accessible announcements, seating accommodations, lavatories, and better stowage options for assistive devices;
  • Require removal of access barriers on existing airplanes to the extent that it is readily achievable, easily accomplishable, and may be done without much difficulty or expense; and
  • Improve the overall safety of air travel for passengers with disabilities.

President Signs Executive Order to Help Prevent Veteran Suicide

In response to what advocates have labeled a national health crisis, on March 5th, President Trump signed an executive order titled, “National Initiative to Empower Veterans and End Veterans Suicide,” which focuses on improving the quality of life for America’s veterans and ending veteran suicide.

The executive order mandates the establishment of the Veteran Wellness, Empowerment, and Suicide Prevention Task Force. Different agencies will be represented on the task force to include: Health and Human Services, Energy, Homeland Security, Education, Labor, and Housing and Urban Development. Furthermore, the Director of the Office of Management and Budget and Secretary of Defense will also participate.

It is mandated that within 365 days of the date of the order the task force shall:

  • Develop a comprehensive national public health roadmap outlining the specific strategies needed to lower effectively the rate of veteran suicide, with a focus on community engagement;
  • Design and propose to Congress a program for making grants to local communities, which will increase their ability to collaborate with each other, integrate service delivery, and coordinate resources to veterans; and
  • Develop a national research strategy to improve the coordination, monitoring, benchmarking, and execution of research in the field of veteran suicide prevention.

It is no secret VA has struggled in the past with veteran suicide prevention. In a 2018 study, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that of $6.2 million set aside for suicide prevention media outreach in FY 2018, only $57,000 — less than 1 percent — was actually used. In addition, social media content from VA officials on the subject dropped by more than two-thirds from FY 2017 to FY 2018. Two planned public service announcements on the topic were delayed, and no public outreach messages were aired on national television or radio for more than a year.

Congressman Mark Takano, Chairman of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, has stated that suicide prevention is one of his priorities for this year’s Congress. VSOs are hoping that the increased focus on veteran suicide will significantly reduce the number of veterans who choose to end their lives.

 

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