August 4, 2015

Sgt. Shaft caricatureDear Sgt Shaft
Are there any major changes being proposed in legislation affecting veteran’s programs?

W N
Via the internet

Dear WN
Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy recently announced a scheduled vote on the VA Accountability Act in the U.S. House of Representatives.

“When it comes to the VA, care for the veteran should come first. For years this Administration has failed to hold executive agencies accountable, and in the VA that has had dire consequences. The House Committee on Veterans Affairs has been doing good work, and this bill is another step toward providing the care that our veterans deserve. To continue this progress, the House will vote on the VA Accountability Act in the last week of July.” – Rep. Kevin McCarthy, Majority Leader

“The problems at the VA are deeply rooted at every level of this obsolete government model, and it’s failing veterans with long wait times, insufficient care, and unresponsive management.  Our veterans sacrificed so much in defense to protect America.  When they return home, they shouldn’t be stuck waiting in line for months or years just to see their doctor.  VA officials at any level should be held accountable and, if necessary, be fired.  Until the VA starts serving veterans first and themselves second, our vision to establish a 21st Century VA that can deliver the best care in the world is only a hallucination.  I applaud the work of Chairman Jeff Miller and the Veterans Affairs Committee to make this vote possible.” – Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Republican Conference Chair

Speaker John Boehner’s office announced support for the VA Accountability Act that will root out the bureaucrats who are failing our veterans to make room for dedicated public servants who will get the job done.


Shaft Notes
U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin recently announced that support continues to grow for her bipartisan legislation aimed at providing safer and more effective pain management services to our nation’s veterans, the Jason Simcakoski Memorial Opioid Safety Act.

In just a month, Senator Baldwin’s bipartisan legislation has gained support from: Disabled American Veterans Wisconsin, Disabled American Veterans (DAV), Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), The American Legion, Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA), Veterans for Common Sense, Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA), Association of the United States Navy (AUSN), National Guard Association of the United States (NGAUS), Military Officers Association of America (MOAA), American Veterans (AMVETS), American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM), National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), and Trust for America’s Health (TFAH).

In the U.S. Senate, the legislation is cosponsored by Democrats and Republicans: U.S. Senate Assistant Democratic Leader Dick Durbin (D-IL), Ranking Member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), and U.S. Senators Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Al Franken (D-MN), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Ron Johnson (R-WI), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Ed Markey (D-MA), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Patty Murray (D-WA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), and Jon Tester (D-MT).

“The sad truth is that the number of veterans taking opioid painkillers is disproportionately high, compared to the general population,” said Senator Durbin. “The VA is exploring different ways to help veterans alleviate their pain. This bill assesses the scope of the issue and recommends ways to help veterans obtain the best and safest care. I commend Senator Baldwin for her leadership on this important issue.”

“Unfortunately, our veterans’ battles don’t always end when they come home,” said Senator Franken. “Too many of our servicemembers return with mental and physical wounds sustained while protecting our freedoms, and I believe we have a special duty to ensure that they get the care and support they need to cope. But we cannot continue overprescribing and over-relying on medications that all too often lead to tragic consequences. This bipartisan bill would help provide our veterans with safer, more effective pain management plans.”

“As a former prosecutor, I know the havoc drugs can wreak on families and also that every struggle with drugs is unique—there is no one-size-fits-all strategy in this fight,” said Senator Klobuchar. This bipartisan legislation gives the VA the ability to offer our nation’s veterans a diverse set of proven tools that can help combat addiction.”

“Too many of our nation’s veterans have returned from overseas only to fight another battle here at home. Tragically, stories like Jason Simcakoski’s exist all around the country, including in my home state of West Virginia. Far too many young West Virginia veterans have faced the horrors of PTSD and failed to receive the quality of care they deserve. These are heartbreaking examples of the grave magnitude of overmedication, and we must do everything in our power to prevent deadly opioid overmedication in our VA facilities. I am proud to join with Senator Baldwin to strengthen opioid prescribing guidelines and improve pain management services at the VA. This legislation will not only provide our veterans a healthier transition to civilian life, it will save lives,” said Senator Capito.

“The Jason Simcakoski Memorial Opioid Safety Act is an extremely important and timely piece of legislation,” said VADM Norb Ryan, USN-ret., President of the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA). “MOAA fully supports this bipartisan effort and commends Senator Tammy Baldwin for championing such a critical bill that will keep veterans safe and provide VA with the necessary tools to more effectively manage pain services.”

“AMVETS thanks Senator Baldwin for her ongoing support of all American veterans and especially for her leadership in the development and introduction of the Jason Simcakoski Memorial Opioid Safety Act,” said Diane M. Zumatto, AMVETS National Legislative Director. “Once enacted, this legislation will go a long way towards reducing veteran addiction to prescription medications, thereby greatly improving their quality of life, their ability to secure and retain appropriate, living-wage jobs and to continue their service to our great nation.”

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