Legislation to help veterans and their caregivers 



Julie Rudowski
Assistant Director, Government Affairs

President signs legislation that aids veterans and their caregivers. President Obama signed The Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act May 5.  The measure combines a number of AUSA-supported bills from both the House and Senate. 

Included in the legislation is a provision that provides assistance to caregivers of injured veterans. The legislation expands two caregiver support programs:  one for caregivers of veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, and another for caregivers of other veterans. 

Both groups would be eligible for training and education assistance, counseling and mental health services, and respite care, including 24-hour in-home respite care.

Caregivers of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans will be eligible for lodging and subsistence payments when accompanying patients on medical visits.  They also will receive health care through the Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and a monthly financial stipend. 

The act gives the VA secretary more hiring flexibility to recruit and retain VA health care professionals.

The act also expands and improves VA services for the 1.8 million women veterans currently receiving VA health care.  This bill seeks to build a VA health care system respectful of the unique medical needs of women veterans and authorizes the VA to provide health care for newborn infants of women veterans.

Also included in the act is a provision that will address veteran homelessness.  The bill would expand the number of places where homeless veterans may receive supportive services. 

S. 1963 includes key provisions to improve the health care provided to rural veterans by authorizing stronger partnerships with community providers and the Department of Health and Human Services. These collaborations will allow VA to offer health care options to service members living far from the nearest VA medical facility. 

S. 1963 also requires the VA to establish a grant program for veteran service organizations to provide transportation options to veterans living in highly rural areas.

The act addresses the reality of post-traumatic stress and incidents of suicide among the veteran population.  It requires a study on veterans’ suicide and requires the VA to provide counseling referrals for members of the armed forces who are not otherwise eligible for readjustment counseling.

AUSA and its partners in The Military Coalition will be pushing the VA to implement these important initiatives as soon a possible. 

TRICARE Affirmation Act headed to president for signature. Legislation that secures full protection of military health care for service members, veterans and their families unanimously passed the Senate April 12.

The TRICARE Affirmation Act, introduced by Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va., explicitly states in law that TRICARE and other DoD health plans meet the minimum essential coverage standard required by the recently enacted health care reform law.

"Following months of confusion surrounding military health care programs, we can now definitively tell our service members and their families today that their health care is secure," Webb said.