October 4, 2016

Sgt. Shaft caricatureDear Sgt. Shaft
I understand that there are many new bills working through the halls of Congress.  Any that you think will have a positive impact on our nation’s veterans?

Sam T
Via the internet

Dear Sam
Some of the most recent bills in the House include:

H.R. 5392, the No Veterans Crisis Line Call Should Go Unanswered Act, was developed in response to inspector general and media reports that VA crisis line calls were going to voice mail because of mismanagement and lazy employees. It would require VA to develop a plan to ensure that each telephone call and text message is answered in a timely manner by an appropriately qualified live person.

H.R. 3216, the VET Act, was developed after VA refused to help a veteran suffering from a broken foot into a VA emergency room. Instead, VA hospital officials told the veteran to call 911. The bill would clarify and strengthen the VA’s obligation to provide appropriate emergency care for veterans and prohibit VA from transferring a medically unstable veteran unless the veteran makes a written request to be transferred or it is clinically necessary.

H.R. 5162, the Vet Connect Act of 2016, as amended, would require VA to share medical record information with community providers in order to provide care or treatment to a shared patient.

These bills now await consideration by the Senate. Following House passage of the bills, Chairman Miller released the below statement.

“It’s incredibly disappointing that VA is so broken Congress has to pass legislation just to get the department to perform commonsense tasks like answering the phone and providing emergency medical treatment to veterans who need it. Nevertheless, we will keep working until the department is reformed into an organization truly worthy of the veterans it is charged with serving. These bills would help ensure all veterans have access to the help they need in times of crisis, and I’m proud to stand with my House colleagues in support of them. Now it’s time for the Senate to act on this legislation as well as the more than 30 other House-passed veterans bills the Senate has yet to consider.”


Shaft Notes
The Military Coalition (TMC), an influential Washington, D.C.-based consortium of 33 military and veterans’ groups, presented its highest awards Sept. 22 to two legislators and a congressional staff member who have championed the causes of health care and compensation for military families and veterans. The award ceremony was held at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Memorial Building on Capitol Hill.

Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and House Armed Services Committee Chairman Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) received TMC’s 2016 Award of Merit. Murray was recognized especially for her leadership in seeking remedies for wounded veterans with service-caused infertility. Thornberry was honored for his leadership in protecting military members and families against large, unwarranted fee increases for military health coverage.

TMC President Herb Rosenbleeth, who is also legislative director of Jewish War Veterans of the U.S., lauded Murray’s efforts.

“For years, Sen. Murray has pursued legislation to allow the VA to cover in vitro fertilization to provide wounded warriors access to treatment that might otherwise be out of reach due to prohibitive costs,” Rosenbleeth said. “As a senior member of the Appropriations and Veterans Affairs Committees, she included a provision covering these costs in the FY17 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Bill.”

Morgan Brown, TMC co-chairman and director of Military and Government Relations for the Air Force Sergeants Association, praised Thornberry for his leadership role in support of the military community.

“For years, he has stood up for our troops, families, retirees and survivors to protect their quality of life and to ensure their compensation package is commensurate with the demands imposed upon them,” said Brown. “As we speak, he is their lead representative in continuing negotiations to improve force levels and the military pay raise and to protect against undue erosion of their housing allowances, health care package, commissary, and survivor benefits, among many other issues.”

TMC also presented its annual Freedom Award to Jeanette James, staff director of the House Armed Services Military Personnel Subcommittee, for her work in support of military compensation and benefits issues.

“The legislators are the champions,” said Steve Strobridge, TMC co-chair and vice president for Government Relations of the Military Officers Association of America, “but their staffs expend huge amounts of effort in researching the issues, crafting the legislation and working with DoD and the military associations to find the right answers. A retired Army nurse, Jeanette James, has a particular empathy for the military community, not just in matters of health care, but across the broad range of personnel and compensation programs.”

TMC represents the interests of more than 5.5 million members around the world, including active duty, National Guard, Reserve, and retired members and veterans of the seven uniformed services, plus their families and survivors.

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