The American Rescue Plan Heads to President’s Desk with Key Wins for Veterans
Jenni Geurink | (202-819-4684)
WASHINGTON, D.C — Today, House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Chairman Mark Takano (D-Calif.) released the following statement after the House of Representatives passed the American Rescue Plan, which includes several key provisions that will help veterans recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.
“As Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, I know how critical the American Rescue Plan will be for our veterans,” said Chairman Takano. “Too many veterans are struggling to find work as unemployment numbers rise—our bill will fund retraining programs to get veterans back to work. Too many veterans were forced to delay much needed healthcare due to the pandemic—our bill ensures VA has the funds to treat this influx in patients. Too many veterans have had their compensation and pension exams delayed—our bill will help VA reduce the backlog and get these veterans the benefits they’ve earned. I am so pleased that this critical package is now heading to President Biden’s desk. We can finally tell our veterans that help is on the way.”
This bill will:
- Increase claims and appeals processing to reduce the backlog caused by COVID-19: The pandemic has caused untold hardship across our country and has resulted in claims processing delays that slow delivery of benefits to disabled veterans. This additional funding will help cover overtime costs so staff can speedily work through these delays, expand service record scanning services and boost the ability for the Board of Veterans Appeals’ to conduct telehearings. Additionally, a significant portion of these funds will go towards assistance for scanning veterans’ military records and integrating them into VA systems.
- Provide critical funding for the Veterans Health Administration (VHA): As VA continues to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, it is crucial that they have additional resources to care for our nation’s veterans as many may require more expensive care after a year of enduring the pandemic and delaying key appointments or rely on VA exclusively for healthcare due to economic strain. This funding will also support VA so it can continue to sustain CARES Act-supported staffing and service expansions on suicide prevention, women's health, enhancements for VA homelessness programs, and telehealth expansion.
- Bolster VA’s supply chain modernization: The pandemic has exposed weaknesses in VA’s hospital supply system. Through this funding, we can accelerate VA’s supply chain modernization efforts which are crucial for the current and future pandemics.
- Support State Veterans Homes: State Veterans Homes have been hit particularly hard by the COVID-19 pandemic-- that’s why it is critical that we include funding to help states upgrade State Veterans Homes across the country and provide one-time emergency federal payments to support these facilities and ensure veterans are adequately taken care of during the pandemic.
- Fund stronger oversight through VA’s Office of Inspector General (OIG): This funding will help VA’s OIG continue their stringent oversight of VA’s response to the pandemic.
- Secure assistance for unemployed veterans: The pandemic has left thousands of veterans without work-- by funding up to 12 months of rapid retraining assistance to veterans who are unemployed as a result of the pandemic and do not receive other veteran education benefits, we can help veterans get back to work.
- Prohibit copayments for medical care for veterans during pandemic: During this unprecedented emergency, veterans should not have to pay for medical care. This funding will allow VA to waive copays that would otherwise be charged to veterans for VA healthcare services during the pandemic and reimburse those for veterans who have already submitted payments.
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