Legislative News is AUSA Government Affairs Directorate's
weekly electronic newsletter, and is published
every Monday when Congress is in session.
In this issue:
- AUSA on the Hill
VA Legislation Advanced
AUSA ON THE HILL
AUSA’s Vice President for Education Lt. Gen. Guy Swan, USA, Ret., and Director of Government Affairs Bill Loper represented AUSA at a military association roundtable hosted by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi to discuss issues important to the associations. Members of Congress also attending included those who sit on committees such as Veterans’ Affairs; Budget; Homeland Security; Military Construction/VA Appropriations subcommittee as well as members of the House Armed Services Committee.
Topics discussed included advance appropriations for the VA budget. Congress currently funds only the medical care portion of VA’s discretionary budget – roughly 86 percent of the total – one year in advance.
Also discussed was the House’s proposed 1.8 percent pay increase for members of the military. The Senate’s bill would provide a 1 percent raise. Association leaders urged that the House fight for the 1.8 percent raise in conference committee. They also reiterated their position that there should be no further increases in TRICARE fees or copays.
VA LEGISLATION ADVANCED
Legislation that would expand access to health care and dental care at the Department of Veterans Affairs was voted out of committee by the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs this week and is headed to the full Senate.
Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., introduced a bill (S. 1604) that would expand access to health care provided by the VA. A statement released by the committee said that, “Veterans above certain income levels and without serious service-connected disabilities are unable to receive care. Sanders’ measure would reaffirm the nation’s commitment to those veterans with the most severe service-connected disabilities and lowest incomes, while expanding access to veterans currently unable to enroll in three important ways.”
The bill would (1) require the VA to provide services to certain veterans previously ineligible to receive care when they do not have access to health insurance other than through the Affordable Care Act; (2) extend the period of time combat veterans are eligible to enroll in VA health care from five years to 10 years after discharge from active duty; and, (3) significantly simplify each state’s income threshold for veterans, which would allow additional veterans to enroll the system.
Other legislation advanced by the committee includes:
· S. 932 - Putting Veterans Funding First Act of 2013. Introduced by Sen. Mark Begich, D-AK., the bill would authorize advance appropriations for discretionary Veterans’ Affairs spending.
· S. 1581 – The Survivors of Military Sexual Assault and Domestic Abuse Act of 2013 would authorize the VA secretary to provide counseling and treatment for sexual trauma victims in the armed forces without initial consultation and referral from the Pentagon. The measure would also require the secretary to screen veterans for domestic abuse and require reports on military sexual trauma and domestic abuse. Sen. Sanders introduced this measure.
· Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., introduced S. 1262 which would establish a veteran’s conservation corps to assist veterans in the transition from military service to civilian life. The corps would train and employ veterans in conservation, resource management and historic preservation projects as well as disaster relief personnel.
A package of other approved bills includes provisions that would expand access to VA dental care, require reports on hearing loss in the veteran population and ensure veterans have access to immunizations.