Veterans’ Committees Leadership Identify 2020 Goals
By PVA National Staff
The leaders of the House and Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committees recently shared their areas of focus for 2020. Last year saw the passage of legislation expanding Agent Orange benefits, promoting suicide prevention, addressing the growing issue of toxic exposures from open air burn pits, and the lifting of limitations on some veteran and family benefits. We will see more along this vein in 2020.
Suicide prevention remains the top priority for committee leaders. Representative Mark Takano (D-CA), Chairman of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, has asked to hear from veterans about how Congress can improve services. Representative Phil Roe (R-TN), Ranking Minority Member of the House Committee, believes one solution is H.R. 3495, the Improve Well being for Veterans Act (Improve Act), which despite controversy between committee members, passed out of committee last year.
Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Jerry Moran (R-KS) and Ranking Minority Member Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) are also focused on suicide prevention. On January 29, the committee marked up an amended version of S. 785, the Commander John Scott Hannon Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act, which had similarities to the Improve Act.
The four leaders also signaled their intent to improve services and care for women veterans. A comprehensive bill, the Deborah Sampson Act, is finally seeing movement and could be sent to the President for his signature this year. The House approved its version, H.R. 3224, of the bill in mid-November and parts of the Senate’s rendering, S. 514, were included in the amended version of S. 785.
Finally, the passage of the Blue Water Navy Act last year kindled a new effort by the committee leadership in both chambers to look at other toxic exposures that occur during military service. The House committee’s interest increased significantly last year, following Chairman Takano’s visit to service members in Afghanistan where he saw and experienced toxic exposures first hand.
In addition to these priorities, the committees will also provide oversight of VA’s unfolding MISSION Act implementation and other pressing issues facing the department. The PVA Government Relations team will continue to work with the Veterans’ Affairs Committees and others in Congress to ensure our legislative priorities for 2020 also remain at the forefront of the minds of those on Capitol Hill.