Three Tester Bills to Reform the VA Gain Momentum
(U.S. Senate) – The Senate Veterans’ Affair Committee today considered bipartisan legislation authored by Ranking Member Jon Tester.
Veterans’ advocates in Montana and across the nation are throwing their support behind three of Tester’s bills to improve access to VA services for women, increase VA accountability, and shine more light on VA contracts.
Deborah Sampson Act
The Deborah Sampson Act will change the culture at the VA to better meet the needs of women veterans. Specifically, Tester’s bipartisan bill will:
- Urge VA to change its motto to be more reflective of the service of women veterans.
- Retrofit VA medical facilities to improve privacy and security for women.
- Empower women veterans by strengthening peer-to-peer services.
- Improve the quality of care for infant children of women veterans.
- Put a women’s health primary care provider in every VA facility.
- Address the legal needs of women veterans facing homelessness and unemployment.
“Women are courageously signing up to serve our country at a higher rate than ever before and we need to make sure every resource is available to them when they return from deployment,” Tester said. “The Deborah Sampson Act will empower women veterans, honor their sacrifices, and ensure the VA is holding up its end of the bargain to our sisters, mothers and daughters.”
The Deborah Sampson Act is cosponsored by Senator John Boozman (R-Ark.) and 17 others. It is also supported by Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, Disabled American Veterans, the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Paralyzed Veterans of America and the Wounded Warrior Project.
More information about the Deborah Sampson Act can be found online HERE.
Performance Accountability and Contractor Transparency (PACT) Act
The PACT Act will hold VA government contractors accountable to better provide services for veterans and ensure taxpayer dollars are spent wisely.
Under the PACT Act, contracts worth more than $100 million will be made public so that contractors like Health Net, the contractor operating the Choice Program in Montana, are held accountable to veterans. The bill also demands that VA contracts must include measurable metrics of a contractor’s performance. The bill also creates penalties if a contractor doesn’t meet a high standard of performance.
“Too often, government contractors are awarded big VA contracts that cost taxpayers millions and then aren't held accountable for the services they provide to veterans,” said Tester. “It's past time that we hold contractors like Health Net accountable for dropping the ball. The PACT Act increases transparency and makes government more efficient.”
The PACT Act is supported by the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America and AMVETS.
More information about the PACT Act can be found online HERE.
VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act
The VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act is a major bipartisan reform bill to increase the accountability at the VA while protecting the hardworking VA employees who provide care and benefits to veterans. Specifically, Tester’s bill will:
- Allow the VA to more quickly fire bad employees without sacrificing due process rights.
- Strengthen protections for whistleblowers.
- Improve VA leadership through training and incentivizing managers to address poor performance.
“The challenges at the VA are many, but tough problems require commonsense solutions and this bipartisan bill is a product of what happens when you put aside politics and work together,” said Tester. “This bill will make the VA stronger and ensure it can better deliver for Montana veterans.”
The VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act is cosponsored by Senators Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and supported by Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin, twelve veterans service organizations, and government accountability and transparency organizations.
More information about the VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act can be found online HERE.
At a later date, the Committee will vote to send Tester’s bills to the Senate floor.