VetsFirst/United Spinal Association
Chairman Benishek, Ranking Member Brownley, and other distinguished members of the subcommittee, thank you for the opportunity to submit written testimony regarding VetsFirst’s views on the CHAMPVA Children’s Protection Act of 2013 (H.R. 288) and H.R. 1284.
VetsFirst, a program of United Spinal Association, represents the culmination of over 60 years of service to veterans and their families. We provide representation for veterans, their dependents and survivors in their pursuit of Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits and health care before VA and in the federal courts. Today, we are not only a VA-recognized national veterans service organization, but also a leader in advocacy for all people with disabilities.
CHAMPVA Children’s Protection Act of 2013 (H.R. 288)
The Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Department of Veterans Affairs (CHAMPVA) is a comprehensive health care program for the spouses and dependent children of veterans who are permanently and totally disabled, died while on active duty, or died due to a service-connected disability. For the families of these veterans, CHAMPVA provides critical physical and mental health care benefits. Children who are CHAMPVA beneficiaries typically lose coverage at age 18 unless they are full-time students, in which case they maintain benefits until age 23.
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) allows a child to remain on a parent’s health insurance until age 26. However, TRICARE and CHAMPVA child beneficiaries were not covered by this provision. The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for FY 2011 brought TRICARE into alignment with the ACA provision by extending coverage to age 26 for TRICARE beneficiaries. CHAMPVA child beneficiaries, however, were not included in the NDAA provision.
Thus, CHAMPVA child beneficiaries are prohibited from receiving a benefit similar to that provided to other adult children in our nation. H.R. 288 will correct this injustice by allowing child beneficiaries to continue to receive health care benefits under the CHAMPVA program until age 26. This legislation will ensure parity for the children of permanently and totally disabled veterans and those who died in service to our nation.
VetsFirst supports the CHAMPVA Children’s Protection Act of 2013 because it will ensure that the children of men and women who have greatly sacrificed for our nation will be able to finish educational opportunities and begin careers without having to forgo access to critical health care benefits. We urge swift passage of this important legislation.
To provide coverage under VA’s beneficiary travel program for the travel of certain disabled veterans for certain special disabilities rehabilitation (H.R. 1284)
Veterans who have spinal cord injuries or disorders, vision impairments, or double or multiple amputations require access to rehabilitation services that allow them to live as independently as possible with their disabilities. For those veterans who need these services but who are not eligible
for travel benefits, the ability to pay for travel to these rehabilitation programs can be very burdensome. In addition, few of these services are available locally, particularly to veterans who live in rural areas.
All disabled veterans who need to travel to receive in-patient care at special disabilities rehabilitation programs should be eligible to receive travel benefits from VA. Every effort must be made to reduce barriers that limit access to these services. The long-term savings of ensuring that these veterans are able to maintain their health and function significantly outweighs the short-term costs associated with this legislation.
VetsFirst supports H.R. 1284 because it will improve access to rehabilitation services for all veterans who have spinal cord injuries or disorders, vision impairments, or double or multiple amputations.
Thank you for the opportunity to submit written testimony concerning VetsFirst’s views on H.R. 288 and H.R. 1284. We appreciate your leadership on behalf of our nation’s disabled veterans and their families.
Information Required by Clause 2(g) of Rule XI of the House of Representatives
Written testimony submitted by Heather L. Ansley, Vice President of Veterans Policy; VetsFirst, a program of United Spinal Association; 1660 L Street, NW, Suite 504; Washington, D.C. 20036. (202) 556-2076, ext. 7702.
This testimony is being submitted on behalf of VetsFirst, a program of United Spinal Association.
In fiscal year 2012, United Spinal Association served as a subcontractor to Easter Seals for an amount not to exceed $5000 through funding Easter Seals received from the U.S. Department of Transportation. This is the only federal contract or grant, other than the routine use of office space and associated resources in VA Regional Offices for Veterans Service Officers that United Spinal Association has received in the current or previous two fiscal years.
Heather L. Ansley, Esq., MSW
Heather L. Ansley is the Vice President of Veterans Policy for VetsFirst, which is a program of United Spinal Association. Ms. Ansley began her tenure with the organization in December 2009. She is responsible for developing and advocating for the public policy priorities of VetsFirst and promoting collaboration between disability organizations and veterans service organizations. She also serves as a co-chair of the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities Veterans and Military Families Task Force.
Prior to her arrival at VetsFirst, she served as the Director of Policy and Advocacy for the Lutheran Services in America Disability Network.
Before arriving in Washington, D.C., she served as a Research Attorney for The Honorable Steve Leben with the Kansas Court of Appeals. Prior to attending law school, she worked in the office of former U.S. Representative Kenny Hulshof (R-MO) where she assisted constituents with problems involving federal agencies. She also served as the congressional and intergovernmental affairs specialist at the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Region VII office in Kansas City, Missouri.
Ms. Ansley is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of the University of Missouri-Columbia with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science. Ms. Ansley also holds a Master of Social Work from the University of Missouri-Columbia and a Juris Doctorate from the Washburn University School of Law in Kansas.
She is licensed to practice law in the State of Kansas and before the United States District Court of Kansas.
Ms. Ansley lives in Arlington, Virginia, with her husband, Jonathan.