Washington, D.C. – Today, two bills authored by Congresswoman Brownley (D-Westlake Village)—the Build a Better VA Act and the Female Veterans Suicide Prevention Act–were discussed at a House Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Health legislative hearing.
“Since coming to Congress, I have been working to identify ways that we can improve care for veterans and break down bureaucratic barriers that are harming veterans and delaying care,” said Congresswoman Brownley, who serves as the Subcommittee’s Ranking Member and presided over the hearing. “These bills offer solutions to address critical problems that are facing the VA, and if approved by the Committee, will ensure better care for our nation’s veterans.”
The Female Veteran Suicide Prevention Act (H.R. 2915) would require the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to evaluate suicide prevention and mental health programs with women-specific metrics to ensure VA and Congress have a deeper understanding of which programs and approaches work best for women veterans.
Brownley introduced this bill in direct response to a recent report detailing the high rates of suicide among female veterans when compared to civilian women, which serves as a wake-up call and emphasizes the unique circumstances facing female veterans who have transitioned back into civilian life.
The Build a Better VA Act (H.R. 2914) would fix bureaucratic barriers that are hindering Congress’ ability to authorize new VA facilities. These delays are harming veterans by exacerbating health care delays and preventing the modernization of healthcare infrastructure.
The Build a Better VA Act would simplify the VA lease authorization process to harmonize it with existing General Services Administration (GSA) procedures for leasing other federal buildings. This new process will enable Congress to act quickly to approve leases for new VA medical facilities in underserved veteran communities across the United States.
While not part of today’s hearing, Brownley has recently introduced two new bills, the Protect Veterans from Financial Fraud Act (H.R.2975) and the Veteran Continuity of Care Act (H.R. 2974).
The Protect Veterans from Financial Fraud Act would ensure that veterans, whose benefits are stolen, are able to recoup the funds from the VA. Current federal law only allows the VA to reissue benefits when the VA is found to be to be negligent, or when the VA-appointed fiduciary manages benefits for nine or more additional veterans.
Brownley’s bill would remove the “10 or more” requirement so that all veterans are equally protected under federal law. More than 80 percent of beneficiaries in VA’s fiduciary program have a one-to-one relationship with their fiduciary, because most veterans rely on family members or trusted friends.
“In cases where a veteran’s benefits are stolen, VA should always do the right thing and reissue those funds to the veteran. My bill would eliminate the unnecessary legal barrier preventing VA from doing the right thing,” stated Brownley.
The Veteran Continuity of Care Act would improve the quality of care for veterans using the Choice Program giving veterans the option to complete a course of treatment with a local community provider if the VA cannot provide care in a timely manner.
Under the Veterans Choice, Access, and Accountability Act, if a veteran lives over 40 miles from the nearest VA facility, or faces an appointment wait time of more than 30 days, the VA can authorize the veteran to receive care in the community from an approved non-VA healthcare provider, but the VA can only authorize outside care for 60 days.
Brownley’s bill would allow the VA to authorize medically-appropriate periods of care for the type of treatment or services that the veteran is seeking by removing the Choice Program’s 60-day limit for episodes of care. This legislation would ensure that veterans who need long-term care can continue to receive that care, uninterrupted.
“It makes no sense to force a veteran to change providers mid-stream during a pregnancy or while receiving cancer treatment. My bill is a common-sense fix.”