Photo credit: U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
As we continue into the final year of the 117th Congress, we wanted to share with you some of our recent legislative accomplishments on behalf of all enlisted servicemembers, veterans, caregivers, and their families. In order to achieve these results, TREA has maintained strong relationships at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, U.S. Department of Defense, The White House, and on Capitol Hill to ensure your voices are heard.
TREA continues to be a leading advocate on Toxic Exposures related legislation, which has been dubbed the “new generation’s Agent Orange.” TREA is proud to report that our advocacy has help ensure the passage of “The PACT Act” in the U.S. House! “The PACT Act” incorporates similar provisions as its Senate counterpart called “The COST of War Act” that TREA has worked on with the Toxic Exposures in the American Military (TEAM) Coalition for nearly three years.
Photo credit: U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
In addition, TREA is proud to report that the U.S. Senate unanimously passed TREA backed legislation that would provide health care for post-9/11 toxic exposed veterans, “The Health Care for Burn Pit Veterans Act!” We are grateful for the leadership in both the House and Senate to get these bills passed, especially that of Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee Chairman Senator Jon Tester, Ranking Member Senator Jerry Moran, House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Mark Takano, and Ranking Member Mike Bost for their continued support.
Finally, TREA is proud to share that the VA has formally announced its intent to begin processing disability benefits claims for veterans suffering from 9 different rare respiratory cancers as a result of Toxic Exposures during their military service! TREA has advocated for policy changes and legislation to address these concerns extensively and is pleased to see that VA has acknowledged their importance in conjunction with Congress.
Concurrent Receipt and Retirement Pay
TREA is proud to report that both H.R. 1282 and S. 344, “The Major Richard Star Act” are making strides in both the U.S. House and Senate. TREA has been hard at work securing cosponsors in both chambers, with now 57 cosponsors in the Senate, and over 209 cosponsors in the House!
As you may know, this 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 legislation is a very positive step in correcting the larger concurrent receipt issue.
Mental Health and Suicide Prevention
TREA continues to advocate for alternative therapies in addition to conventional methods of treatment for servicemembers and veterans who experience the invisible wounds of war, including post-traumatic stress, traumatic brain injury, and military sexual trauma. Specifically, since the passage of the TREA backed PAWS For Veterans Therapy Act, our team has been tracking the implementation efforts that are currently underway at the Veterans Health Administration. We are proud to report that VA has announced 5 locations nationwide for the pilot program, which include Anchorage, Alaska, San Antonio, Texas, West Palm, Florida, Ashville, North Carolina, and Pal Alto, California.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)
Several key nominations have been sent to the U.S. Senate for confirmation in the past few weeks, including Shereef Elnahal to be Under Secretary for Health, Rita Landgraf to be Assistant Secretary for Aging, and Roselyn Tso to be Director of the Indian Health Service.
In addition, 8 different nominations were made for individuals to be members of the Asset and Infrastructure Review Commission (AIR) at VA. Created by the TREA backed “MISSION Act” of 2018, the AIR Commission is based upon the military’s BRAC process. In a nutshell, VA has spent the past few years conducting market assessments on where veterans currently live and trends as to where they might be in the future. VA Secretary McDonough has based his set of recommendations for the AIR Commission upon those assessments. The Department published its criteria for those recommendations in the May 28, 2021, Federal Register, and the recommendations were released on Monday, March 14, 2022.
If the President accepts the report, Congress will have one opportunity to vote against the final set of recommendations before they go into effect. Neither the President nor Congress has the option of choosing which part of the final report to accept. More to come on this important topic as it has been announced that several VA Medical Centers are facing closure or re-configuration.
TREA has several social media platforms we use in order to keep in touch with our members and highlight our legislative efforts. If you are on Facebook, Linkedin, or Twitter, make sure you are following along via the handles below!