Jan 152015

There are more than 22 million American veterans living today. Nearly 9 million of these former servicemembers are receiving health care from our Veterans Administration (VA). Studies show at least 20% of our Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and/or clinical depression. However, it is estimated that at least half of those who are ill with these disorders do not seek treatment and are therefore not counted in these statistics. Another 19% of our war vets have traumatic brain injuries (TBI) while 7% are suffering from both PTSD and TBI. Alcohol abuse is reported in nearly 40% of all Iraq/Afghanistan veterans returning home. Much worse, active duty personnel are now more likely to die from suicide than combat. Not surprisingly, our VA has been unable to keep up with the increased demand for its services by so many injured during our record-breaking 12 years at war. At least half a million veterans have waited more than 125 days for the VA to take action on their claim applications, and about half that many have waited more than a year. It now averages about 177 days for the VA to look at a claim and another 657 days for it to process appeals. Last year, the media reported that at least 40 vets have died while awaiting care at the Phoenix Veterans Health Administration facilities. Investigators have found similar problems at several other VA medical centers. An internal VA audit found that more than 120,000 veterans have been left waiting or never received care. VA administrators have been accused of using duplicate sets of books to hide these deaths and delays from official statistics. Many of these administrators had previously received bonuses for making it appear vets were getting prompt care. Some say the fault for this situation lies not with VA administrators but with the Obama administration. They claim that offering bonuses to VA administrators to reduce wait times, but not funding more doctors, nurses and hospitals, put these administrators in an impossible situation. “Cooking the books” may have been their only option if they wished to remain employed. In a rare show of bipartisanship, we passed the much-needed Department of Veterans Affairs Management Accountability Act of 2014, intended to reduce long wait times, hire more doctors and nurses, and make it easier to fire senior VA executives.

Pending Legislation:

H.R.635 – HEALTHY Vets Act of 2013

H.R.241 – Veterans Timely Access to Health Care Act

H.R.2726 – Long-Term Care Veterans Choice Act

I oppose reforming current veteran’s health policy and wish to defeat H.R.635, H.R.241, and H.R.2726

I support requiring, in the case of a veteran for whom VA facilities are geographically inaccessible, to contract for the provision of primary care; acute or chronic symptom management; nontherapeutic medical services; and other medical services determined appropriate by the director of the appropriate VA service region, after consultation with the VA physician responsible for such veteran’s primary care; authorizing the Secretary to waive such requirement upon demonstrating, on an individual basis, that the costs of providing the contract care significantly outweigh the benefits of localized health care, and wish to pass H.R.635

I support ensuring that the standard for access to care for a veteran seeking hospital care and medical services from the VA is 30 days from the date the veteran contacts the VA, and wish to pass H.R.241

I support contracts and agreements for the transfer of veterans to non-VA medical foster homes for certain veterans who are unable to live independently, and wish to identify a legislator who will either reintroduce H.R.2726 – Long-Term Care Veterans Choice Act (113th Congress, 2013-2014), or a similar version thereof

 Posted by at 12:00 am
Jan 152015

As difficult as it is for those serving overseas in our military, for some it may be even more difficult returning home. In 2010, nearly a third of all veterans between 18 and 24 were unemployed. Nearly 1 million vets also reported they were living in poverty. About 67,000 individuals, or about 33% of all American homeless men, are veterans of our Armed Forces who are currently living without shelter. Women vets comprise about 7% of our homeless population. Advocates lament studies showing that servicewomen returning from the battlefield are the fastest-growing segment of our homeless population. They say that while male returnees become homeless mostly due to substance abuse and mental illness, female vets faces these challenges and more. These challenges include the search for family housing, and jobs that can be more difficult for women to find than men. These advocates also claim many homeless female veterans suffer from posttraumatic stress disorder as a result of experiencing combat and having been sexually harassed or assaulted during their time in the service. About 26% of females seeking VA medical care reported experiences of sexual assault. In 2011, nearly 10% of the 141,000 veterans who spent at least one night in a shelter were women. Female veterans are also much more likely to be single parents than male vets. However, most VA transitional housing programs either do not accept children or restrict the age or number of children accepted. Since 2009, only about 35,000 homeless veterans have received permanent housing from HUD or the VA. A number of job initiatives by the Obama administration that year reduced the veteran’s homeless rate by 17%. However, with the war in Afghanistan winding down, the number of homeless veterans is expected to significantly increase without additional housing and employment assistance available to them.

Pending Legislation:

S.825 & H.R.2150 – Homeless Veterans’ Reintegration Programs Reauthorization Act of 2013

H.R. 1714 – Shelter Our Servicemembers Act

H.R.1742 – Vulnerable Veterans Housing Reform Act of 2013

I oppose reforming current Veteran’s homelessness policy and wish to defeat S.825 & H.R.2150, H.R.1714, and H.R.1742

I support increasing the per diem payment for transitional housing assistance for homeless veterans who are placed in housing that will become permanent upon the termination of such assistance to a maximum of 150% of the per diem rate authorized for veterans receiving domiciliary care in state homes; allowing services for which a homeless veteran receives a grant under the comprehensive service programs to include furnishing care for a dependent; authorizing the Secretary to enter into partnerships with public or private entities to provide legal services to homeless veterans and veterans at risk of homelessness; providing dental care to veterans receiving certain other assistance through the VA to include those veterans receiving assistance under the United States Housing Act of 1937; extending permanently the VA comprehensive service programs for homeless veterans, and extending temporarily various VA authorities and programs affecting homeless veterans, and wish to pass S.825 & H.R.2150

I support establishing a two-year pilot program of grants to nonprofit organizations to provide elderly homeless veterans with non-transitional housing; authorizing the Secretaries to award two grants of up to $25 million each under the program to purchase real property to provide up to 200 homeless veterans with non-transitional housing, and refurbish or renovate such property; making eligible for such housing veterans of at least 55 years of age who: have been continuously homeless for a year or more or, during the last three years, had at least four separate periods of living on the streets, in an emergency shelter, or a combination thereof; and have a condition that limits their ability to work or perform activities of daily living, and wish to pass H.R.1714

I support exempting expenses related to a veteran’s aid and attendant pension payments from counting as income in determining eligibility and payments from HUD programs by excluding as family income for HUD housing assistance purposes any VA payments made to veterans in need of regular aid and attendance for expenses related to such aid and attendance; prohibiting, in determining the monthly rental assistance payment for low-income families, the amount for tenant-paid utilities from exceeding the appropriate utility allowance for that family unit size as determined by the public housing agency (PHA), regardless of the size of the unit leased by the family; requiring the PHA, upon request by a family that includes a person with disabilities, an elderly family, or a family that includes a person less than 18 years old, to approve a higher utility allowance, and wish to pass H.R.1742

 Posted by at 12:00 am
Jan 152015

Civilians may be surprised to know that about 2.5 million members of our armed forces have served our country during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. More than a third of these brave servicemembers have served multiple deployments, and at least 400,000 of these warriors have served three or more tours of duty. Incredibly, at least 37,000 indomitable members of our armed forces have been deployed more than five times. As of September 2013, more than 1.6 million soldiers, sailors, airmen and airwomen had transitioned to veteran status. About 670,000 veterans have been awarded disability status as a result of injuries received in the line of duty. Another 100,000 injured vets have disability claims pending. The number of new disability claims submitted by veterans is expected to rise for many years, and even decades. For vets returning in good health, finding a job is often the most pressing priority. Many employers recognize the valuable intangibles that most military-trained men and women possess. These qualities include leadership, expertise, stress management, discipline and the ability to work effectively in teams to accomplish a goal. However, our economy is still feeling the effects of the Great Recession and good jobs are not plentiful for veterans -or many other jobseekers either. Advocates say more educational opportunities and job training programs are needed to help remedy this situation. More open employment positions would also help.

Pending Legislation:

S.6 – Putting Our Veterans Back to Work Act of 2013

S.1060 – Veterans to Paramedics Transition Act

H.R.2056 – Veteran Employment Transition Act

I oppose reforming current veteran’s vocational training and wish to defeat S.6, S.1060 and H.R.2056

I support establishing an online job-training and employment resource for veterans, improving contracting, police and firefighting job opportunities for vets, giving special bid and contract consideration to contractors with veterans comprising at least 25% of its workforce; allowing federal agencies to suspend or debar contractors who repeatedly violate veteran’s employment rights, and wish to pass S.6

I support grants to improve emergency medical services in rural areas by facilitating emergency medical services personnel training and certification curriculums for military veterans; requiring such coursework and training to take into account, and not be duplicative of, previous medical coursework and training received by such veterans in the Armed Forces, and wish to pass S.1060

I support providing employers with a tax credit for hiring recently discharged veterans by amending the Internal Revenue Code to make permanent the work opportunity tax credit for qualified veterans; amending the DOD pilot program for assessing the feasibility and advisability of permitting enlisted personnel to obtain civilian credentialing or licensing for skills required for military occupational specialties to require the designation as military occupational specialties of the MOS 31B Military Police, MOS 15Q AC-Air Traffic Controller, and the MOS 12M Fire Protection, in addition to not fewer than three and not more than five additional military occupational specialties, and wish to pass H.R.2056

 Posted by at 12:00 am