FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, December 9, 2015
Contact: Amanda Maddox, 202-224-7777
Lauren Gaydos, 202-224-9126
Isakson Applauds Committee Passage of Legislation to Improve VA Accountability
Committee also passes comprehensive VA health care, benefits bill
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, today applauded the committee passage of legislation aimed at increasing accountability at the Department of Veterans Affairs and improving veterans’ benefits and health care.
“I want to thank the committee members for their hard work in coming together to create bipartisan, commonsense legislation to help our veterans,” said Isakson. “The omnibus bill passed by the committee today will go a long way to help ensure that our veterans receive the health care and services they deserve in a fiscally-responsible way. We also passed a crucial bill that will help force the VA to finally start holding its employees accountable, something the VA has so far been unwilling to do. I look forward to seeing these bills passed by the full Senate.”
At a markup held today, the committee approved the Increasing the Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability to Veterans Act of 2015 (S.290), which prospectively reduces the pensions for VA executives convicted of felonies. Introduced by Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., and Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., the bill also reforms the VA’s administrative leave policies and establishes new performance standards for employees placed on probation.
In addition, the committee approved the Veterans Homeless Programs, Caregiver Services and Other Improvements Act of 2015 (S.425), an omnibus bill originally introduced by Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., and Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont. It includes numerous provisions to improve veterans’ health care and benefits, including measures to:
· Expand the VA definition of homeless to include those fleeing domestic violence.
· Increase the pension received by Medal of Honor recipients.
· Provide legal services for homeless veterans and expand the VA’s program to provide dental services to homeless veterans.
· Expand eligibility for the Department of Labor’s Homeless Veterans’ Reintegration Program.
· Improve opioid safety measures at the VA and establish a working group on pain management at the VA and the Department of Defense.
· Expand eligibility for the VA’s family caregiver program and ensure the VA implements improvements to the program identified by the Government Accountability Office
· Restore GI Bill benefits to veterans affected by the closures of educational institutions.
· Increase eligibility for certain veterans education benefits and improve how those benefits are administered by the VA.
· Expedite the payment of various survivor benefits to family members of deceased veterans.
Earlier this year, Isakson listed combating veteran homelessness as one of his top priorities as chairman.
The two bills approved by the committee today now go to the full Senate.
The Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs is chaired by U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., in the 114th Congress.
Isakson is a veteran himself – having served in the Georgia Air National Guard from 1966-1972 – and has been a member of the Senate VA Committee since he joined the Senate in 2005. Isakson’s home state of Georgia is home to more than a dozen military installations representing each branch of the military as well as more than 750,000 veterans.