December 07, 2020

Chairman Takano, VA Committee Secure Major Provisions for Veterans in NDAA

Press Contact

Jenni Geurink (202-819-4684)

Miguel R. Salazar

WASHINGTON, D.C —Today, House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Chairman Mark Takano (D-Calif.) issued the following statement regarding the ongoing work of the Committee to secure key provisions in the National Defense Authorization Act on behalf of our nation’s veterans. 


“Even as the end of the 116th Congress approaches, the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs continues to advocate for our nation’s veterans and successfully secured major provisions in this year’s National Defense Authorization Act,” said Chairman Mark Takano.?“After years of advocacy, we are finally able to add three new diseases to the presumptive list for Agent Orange exposure—a change that could ensure over 34,000 veterans finally have access to the care and benefits they’ve earned. From expanding mental healthcare access for Reservists and members of the National Guard to increasing support for veteran survivors of Military Sexual Trauma, these provisions will meaningfully improve the lives of veterans across the country.” 


The House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs secured key provisions in the National Defense Authorization Act including:? 


Broadened support for veterans exposed to toxic substances:

  • Following two years of legislative work and extensive involvement by Chairman Takano, the final NDAA package adds three new diseases to the presumptive list for Agent Orange exposure & increased data collection of toxic exposures for veterans. This work builds on the monumental passage of the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019 and foreshadows future Committee work  in the 117th Congress.? 
  • In addition, the Committee worked to incorporate a provision to direct the Secretary of VA to include the addition of burn pit registration data to the electronic health records of members of the armed forces and veterans and another provision requiring the DOD and VA to ask servicemembers and veterans who have tested positive for a virus designated by the federal government as a pandemic, including COVID-19, if they were previously exposed to burn pits, so they can properly address their medical needs and ensure they receive proper care.  


Expanded mental healthcare access for National Guard and Reserve Members: Veteran suicide prevention continues to be this Committee’s number one priority, which is why the Committee helped secure provisions in the NDAA to expand mental healthcare access and readjustment counseling for members of the National Guard and Reserve.? 


Increased support for survivors of MST: After pressure from the Women Veterans Task Force Chairwoman Brownley, the NDAA will direct VA and the Department of Defense to coordinate care for servicemembers and veterans who are survivors of Military Sexual Trauma.  The NDAA also adds the House and Senate Committees on Veterans Affairs as recipients of DoD’s annual Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office Report.


Expanded transition assistance programs for servicemembers:? 

  • Committee members advocated to include provisions that would allow members of the U.S. Coast Guard to participate in the DoD’s SkillBridge program, which connects transitioning servicemembers with workforce training opportunities.  
  • In addition, our Committee worked to include a provision to direct the Secretary of Defense to establish performance measures regarding the Armed Forces’ Credentialing Opportunities On-Line programs so that entities interested in the success of separating service-members can accurately gauge the success and effectiveness of such programs. 
  • Thanks to the work of the Women Veterans Task Force, a provision was included to research employment and unemployment in women veterans. 


Catastrophic injury or illness protections: The Committee worked to secure a provision to clarify an existing rule so servicemembers can end leases if they experience a catastrophic injury or illness during their service.  


Paid family and medical leave for VA employees: The Committee helped ensure that VA employees-- and all federal employees-- have access to critical paid family and medical leave.?  


Expanded housing assistance for veterans with other-than-honorable discharges: As the Committee investigated this year, an other-than-honorable discharge status can have lasting consequences on a veterans’ ability to access critical healthcare and benefits. This provision will ensure that these veterans have a better shot at accessing HUD-VASH vouchers for key housing assistance. 


VA’s Fourth Mission: The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the importance of VA’s emergency response capability under its fourth mission. Provisions in the NDAA, supported by the Committee, will modify a pilot program on civilian and military partnerships to enhance interoperability and medical surge capacity of the National disaster Medical System.  


Other inclusions:? 

  • Bolstered research for veterans: The Committee secured a provision to use data from the Department of Energy’s Veterans’ Health Initiative to support the Million Veterans Program. 
  • Addition of National Cemetery: This provision would transfer the Mare Island Naval Cemetery to the Secretary of VA for maintenance by the National Cemetery Administration and follows years of work by Chairman Takano including a special visit to Mare Island to see the damage to the historic cemetery himself  in March 2019
  • Supporting Veteran Owned Small Businesses: This provision will transfer verification of veteran owned small businesses to the Small Business Administration.  
  • Continued support for joint DOD-VA medical facility: Allows for the transfer of funds to joint Department of Defense-Department of Veterans Affairs medical facility demonstration fund for Captain James A. Lovell Health Care Center, Illinois.