SVAC Holds First Markup of 2020
by PVA National Staff
In late January, the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee (SVAC) held its first markup session of the New Year and unanimously passed nearly a dozen bipartisan bills. The main bill for consideration was S. 785, the “Commander John Scott Hannon Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act,” which seeks to provide separating military members with a year of VA medical coverage and authorize mental health, transitional aid grants to community organizations, and increase veterans access to telehealth.
It also allows additional mental health professionals for VA such as psychologists, women’s specialists, and suicide prevention coordinators. The bill is somewhat similar to legislation passed by the House in December.
Unlike the House measure, this bill is less controversial. PVA is working with congressional staff and a small coalition of VSOs to make the provisions in the bill more palatable.
Another bill of interest was S. 850, the “Highly Rural Veteran Transportation Program Extension Act.” This measure would extend the Highly Rural Veteran Transportation Program and allow state veterans service agencies and VSOs to continue to provide no-cost transportation services to VA or VA-authorized health care facilities to highly rural veterans.
Finally, S.123, the “Ensuring Quality Care for Our Veterans Act,” would ensure that a third party reviews each case where any veteran was treated by a VA provider who was later found to have a revoked license.
PVA was an early endorser of this bill, which would ensure the veteran is notified if the review determines that a competent practitioner would have managed the veteran’s care differently.