Washington Update for March 26, 2021
As you can imagine, Washington has been in what we call a “wash cycle” since the inauguration on January 20th. Members of Congress and their staff have turned over at a relatively high rate, official appointments in the new Administration have started to trickle in, and legislative priorities have begun to manifest.
As the dust begins to settle entering the 117th Congress, we wanted to provide you with an overview of the legislative and regulatory accomplishments TREA has worked to secure on your behalf. Below you will find five major priorities that TREA members have strongly supported, both in written email and over the phone, along with a brief rundown of what we have already accomplished in the first two months of 2021:
Servicemember and Veteran Caregivers
TREA recently worked with Rep. Richard Hudson (R-NC) and Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-NY) to ensure a successful re-introduction of HR 110, The Care for Veteran Caregivers Act, which requires VA to extend stipend payments and CHAMPVA eligibility for caregivers, eliminates unnecessary and redundant re-evaluation requirements, and standardizes the initial and annual eligibility evaluation process. More on the bill HERE.
Concurrent Receipt (Fixing VA Disability Pay + DOD Retirement Pay Offset)
TREA has successfully secured the re-introduction of the Major Richard Start Act, where TREA was quoted in every major press release as leading advocate on the issue. The bipartisan legislation would finally provide combat-injured veterans that were forced to medically retire with less than 20 years of military service their full benefits, meaning they would receive both their earned DoD Retirement Pay, and their earned VA Disability Pay, with no offset. This is a very positive step in correcting the larger concurrent receipt issue. More on the bill HERE.
TREA’s. Bill McCabe (right) with Maj. Richard Star (right center), Tonya Star (left center), Rep. Gus Bilirakis (left)
Toxic Exposures, Burn Pits, and Agent Orange
As you know, health care eligibility and service-connected claims for those exposed to toxic chemicals and Agent Orange during their military service are critical and time sensitive. As such, TREA continues to be a leading advocate on Toxic Exposures and was at the forefront during the re-introduction of the TEAM Act (S. 927) on March 23rd where TREA was invited to speak at Senator Tillis and Senator Hassan’s press conference and quoted in every major press release. In addition, TREA will maintain efforts to have VA and DOD be more proactive in addressing these issues once and for all, especially as future conflicts arise.
1st Vice President Deb Oelschig (bottom right), Senator Thom Tillis (upper left), Senator Maggie Hassan (bottom left)
Recent legislation aimed to reform the Military Health System has unintentionally eroded the value of pharmacy benefits and poses a threat to Military Treatment Facilities, access to pharmacies, and zero copay prescription medications. As such, TREA has begun working with the Defense Health Agency to protect pharmacy benefits, access to Military Treatment Facilities, and to achieve flexibility in TRICARE pharmacy copays for TREA members.
Last year, TREA was recognized for our work on passing two major bills to reduce veteran suicide, most notably the Commander John Scott Hannon Act. This year, TREA continues to advocate for suicide and mental health initiatives and remain as an Ambassador on behalf of the PREVENTS Task Force, an interagency effort established by the White House in conjunction with VA to raise awareness and change the stigma surrounding the National tragedy of suicide. In addition, we are ensuring TREA is a leading advocate on the PAWS Act, which is legislation aimed at pairing service dogs with veterans suffering from mental wounds of war, such as PTSD.
TREAs' Bill McCabe (left) with former VP Mike Pence (center), and Former SL and PREVENTS Ambassador Karen Pence (right)
Call to Action Emails
We would like to thank you all for your willingness to participate in our Call to Action requests. These efforts are critically important to ensure Congress feels the pressure and hears directly from you. When you see these alerts in your inbox, please consider following the prompts to write to your representatives in support of the highlighted legislative effort. The platform called “VoterVoice” will automatically send it to your respective Senators and Congressman based on the zip code you provide when filling out your contact information. We also include a sample message that you may edit accordingly based on your personal opinions and experience with the issues.
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