SVAC Approves Nine Veterans Bills
By PVA National Staff
The Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee (SVAC) recently approved nine veterans-related bills in a closed-door session. They will now head to the full Senate for consideration. The bills include S. 10, the VA Clinician Appreciation, Recruitment, Education, Expansion, and Retention Support (CAREERS) Act of 2023, which would provide VA with more tools to compete for highly-qualified medical personnel, support training for current and future VA clinicians to ensure veterans receive the highest quality of care, and provide more oversight and public transparency on VA’s efforts to address vacancies. This legislation would also better prepare VA to manage care for the thousands of veterans newly eligible under the Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act (P.L. 117-168).
Also approved by the Committee were S. 30, the Fiscal Year 2023 Veterans Affairs Major Medical Facility Authorization Act, to authorize several VA major construction projects and S. 326, the VA Medicinal Cannabis Research Act of 2023, to allow VA to conduct research on the health effects of medicinal cannabis for veterans experiencing chronic pain and PTSD.
Another bill approved by the Committee was S. 141, the Elizabeth Dole Home and Community Based Services for Veterans and Caregivers Act of 2023. PVA has been aggressively seeking passage of this bill to make a variety of improvements to access VA home care. One of the sections in the introduced bill would raise the cap on how much the VA can pay for the cost of home care from 65 percent of the cost of nursing home care to 100 percent.
Unfortunately, that section of the bill was set aside as part of the recent Committee action due to cost, but panel members pledged to work with VA and other stakeholders to find a way to pay for it—hopefully in time to pass it with the remainder of the larger bill. Other provisions include directing VA to make key home and community-based services (HCBS) like Veteran Directed Care (VDC) and Homemaker and Home Health Aid available at all medical centers and certain U.S. territories; allow hospitalized veterans to retain their VDC payments for their caretakers; and instruct VA to assist veterans who are denied participation in the VA caregiver program with enrollment in other home health services for which they are eligible.
A fifth bill, S. 216, the Reinforcing Enhanced Support Through Promoting Equity for Caregivers Today (RESPECT) Act of 2023, would amend VA’s Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers to make certain mental health professionals and neurological specialists participate in the evaluation and assessment process for veterans.
It also creates an assessment waiver process for caregivers of veterans with chronic or degenerative conditions and ensures caregivers have access to valuable mental health resources in the community.
The remaining bills approved by the Committee were S.106, the Commitment to Veteran Support and Outreach Act, which authorizes VA to distribute grants to states in order to help enhance veterans outreach activities, assist veterans in submitting claims, and increase the number of service officers serving in the state; S. 112, to strengthen benefits for children of Vietnam veterans born with spina bifida; S.132, the Daniel J. Harvey Jr. and Adam Lambert Improving Servicemember Transition to Reduce Veteran Suicide Act, which creates a pilot program to aid service members returning to civilian life; and S.185, the Native American Direct Loan Improvement Act of 2023, to improve the program for direct housing loans made to Native American veterans.