Veteran Benefits Bills Currently in Congress

July 1, 2020

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(This article first appeared in the July/August 2020 issue of the American Postal Worker magazine)

Over the last few months, many important pieces of legislation were introduced into the 116th U.S. Congress concerning veterans’ benefits. These bills directly address the increasing concerns over the health care that veterans receive from the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA).

Commitment to Veteran Support and Outreach Act (H.R. 5516)

This bill was introduced on December 19, 2019; sponsored by Rep. Mike Levin (D-CA-49). It would amend Title 38, United States Code, Chapter 63-Outreach Activities to include a new section: § 6307 – Contracts and Grants, to promote health and wellness, prevent suicide, and improve outreach to veterans.

The purpose of the bill is to provide assistance to veterans and the spouses, children, and parents of veterans, to ensure that they are fully informed about, and assisted in applying for, any veterans and veterans-related benefits and programs for which they may be eligible. H.R. 5516 would authorize the VA to enter into a contract with a state government in order to carry out, coordinate, improve, or otherwise enhance health and wellness programs, comprehensive veteran suicide prevention programs, and improve outreach to veterans by the VA and the state.

The bill currently has 10 cosponsors and has been referred to the House Veterans Affairs Committee for further consideration.

Improving Safety and Security for Veterans Act of 2020 (H.R. 5616)

This bill was introduced on Jan. 15; sponsored by Rep. David McKinley (R-WV-01). It would require the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to submit a report to the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs of both the Senate and House regarding the policies and procedures of the Department relating to patient safety and quality of care, and the steps the VA has taken to improve such care at VA medical centers.

After any investigation or trial concludes, the VA must also report on the events involving deaths that occurred at the Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center in Clarksburg, WV, and the actions the VA has taken to prevent any similar reoccurrence.

The legislation went under review by the House Committee on Veterans Affairs before moving to the House floor for future action. It currently has 4 cosponsors.

H.R. 6591

This legislation, currently title-less, is meant to: “ensure that veterans receive timely and effective health care under the Veterans Community Care Program and Veterans Care Agreements during the COVID-19 emergency, and for other purposes.”

This bill was introduced on April 21, sponsored by Rep. Christopher Pappas (D-NH-01). This bill sets forth policies and procedures related to medical care for veterans covered under the Veterans Community Care Program and Veterans Care Agreements during the COVID-19 emergency period.

The bill classifies emergency treatment for COVID-19 as emergency treatment eligible for coverage by the VA, and authorizes covered veterans to receive care for a COVID-19 diagnosis or treatment during the emergency period regardless of whether such care is for a serviceconnected disability. Emergency medical care and COVID-19 care would not require VA preauthorization during the emergency period.

Specifically, the VA must determine whether a veteran who receives emergency care for COVID-19 is an active VA health care participant without regard to whether the veteran has received VA medical care in the two years preceding such emergency care.

The bill has been referred to the House Veterans Affairs Committee for further consideration, and currently has 2 cosponsors.

On behalf of the American Postal Workers Union, AFL-CIO, we thank all of our veterans for their continued service and their multiple sacrifices.

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