Washington, DC – Today, Congresswoman Julia Brownley (D-CA) introduced a legislative package of three bills to further advance her work to expand and improve health care for our nation’s veterans. The bills include the Elizabeth Dole Home- and Community-Based Services for Veterans and Caregivers Act of 2023, the Veterans Infertility Treatment Act of 2023, and the Department of Veterans Affairs Continuing Professional Education Modernization Act.
“As we begin the new legislative session, my commitment to serving America’s veterans remains stronger than ever,” said Congresswoman Brownley. “The bills that I am introducing today will provide the necessary tools and resources to improve the accessibility and quality of health care provided to veterans through the VA. Congress must make good on our nation’s promise that guarantees comprehensive and accessible health care for all who have served our nation in uniform.”
Elizabeth Dole Home- and Community-Based Services for Veterans and Caregivers Act
Today, 37 percent of veterans are above the age of 65. Age combined with their unique health needs makes many elderly veterans especially vulnerable to going into nursing homes and institutional care. As the former Chair of the House Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Health, Brownley has been focused on improving VA care for our aging population of veterans, and authored the Elizabeth Dole Home- and Community-Based Services for Veterans and Caregivers Act of 2023, comprehensive legislation to improve VA programs for aging veterans.
“I am proud to reintroduce the Elizabeth Dole Home- and Community-Based Services for Veterans and Caregivers Act, which will expand VA’s home and community-based services to all VA medical centers and allow veterans to age at home – where many are most comfortable – and provide more support to their caregivers,” continued Congresswoman Brownley. “This bill will also make systemic improvements to how we care for aging and disabled veterans in this country, and ensure that veterans and their families have access to the resources they need to age in comfort and with dignity.”
Specifically, the Elizabeth Dole Home- and Community-Based Services for Veterans and Caregivers Act of 2023 will expand the following existing Home and Community Based Services (HCBS):
- The Veteran Directed Care Program, which provides veterans a flexible budget to hire friends, family, and neighbors to help with activities of daily living, such as bathing, or instrumental activities of daily living, such as making meals.
- The Homemaker and Home Health Aide Program, which allows VA to contract with a community partner that employs home health aides to care for veterans in their homes, providing skilled services, case management, help with daily living, or to ease caregiver burnout.
- The Home-Based Primary Care Program, which allows for a VA physician to supervise a health care team that provides care in the veteran’s home for a veteran who has difficulty traveling or is isolated.
- The Skilled Home Health Care Program, which allows for VA to contract with a community health agency to provide in-home care for veterans who have higher levels of need like wound care, speech therapy, or skilled nursing.
Additionally, the bill will:
- Expand access to home and community based services for veterans living in territories and on tribal lands
- Raise the cap on how much the VA can pay for the cost of at home nursing home care for veterans from 65 percent to 100 percent or more if deemed necessary
- Coordinates expanded VA home and community based services with other VA programs like the Comprehensive Caregivers Program and other federal programs like the Department of Health and Human Services PACE program
- Review existing service gaps in geriatric and extended care at the VA
The full text of the bill can be found here.
Veterans Infertility Treatment Act of 2023
“As the founder of the Women Veterans Task Force, one of my primary goals has been to identify disparities in health care for veterans and pass legislation that fixes those gaps. The Veterans Infertility Treatment Act of 2023 will address the struggles with infertility that many veterans experience. Our veterans have sacrificed so much for this country. They should not have to sacrifice the opportunity and joys of parenthood too.”
Currently, VA’s authority to provide in-vitro fertilization (IVF) is limited to straight, married couples who can produce their own eggs and sperm and have an intact uterus. VA is prohibited from treating veterans with donated gametes or embryos. This denies LGBTQ veterans, single veterans, and veterans without their own sperm, eggs, or uterus the ability to have a family. Further, those veterans who wish to adopt existing embryos are prohibited from doing so.
Infertility is the only medical condition VA is prohibited from treating without a direct service-connection. Most veterans with infertility face a difficult choice: pay the prohibitive, out-of-pocket costs of IVF or lose valuable treatment time pursuing a VA service connection.
The Veteran Infertility Treatment Act of 2023 will:
- Require infertility care, including Assisted Reproductive Technology (like IVF), part of the medical services provided by VA to any veteran and/or partner who needs infertility care to achieve a pregnancy
- Allow IVF for up to three successful pregnancies or six attempted cycles
- Repeal the ban on use of donated gametes and embryos
Read the full text of the bill here.
Department of Veterans Affairs Continuing Professional Education Modernization Act
In order to ensure that our nation’s veterans receive the highest quality of care, VA needs to be able to hire and retain the best healthcare professionals. Continuing professional education is key to also ensuring VA healthcare providers stay up-to-date on medical advances and best practices in their fields, and it is standard practice across the nation for employers to provide funds for healthcare professionals to enroll in these courses.
“The VA CPE Modernization Act will require VA to keep pace with similar continuing professional education benefits offered in the private sector, thereby augmenting employee retention. This legislation will help ensure that veterans receive the absolute best care from well-trained clinicians.” added Congresswoman Brownley.
Specifically, the VA CPE Modernization Act will:
- Expand the VA CPE reimbursement program from only board-certified physicians and dentists to many of VA’s most in need medical occupations,
- Increase the limit for physicians and dentists to $2,000 per year and remove the requirement that only board-certified individuals are eligible for the allowance,
- Establish a limit of $2,000 per year for nurses, psychologists, physician assistants, and other types of VA clinicians – a provision strongly supported by the VA and stakeholders,
- Include a mechanism to allow the Secretary to adjust the annual caps in the future, based on inflation.
Read the full text of the bill, here.