Isakson Continues to Fight for Veterans

Highlights bipartisan victories for veterans in 2017-2018 including 18 bills signed into law, 14 nominees confirmed; Efforts include major improvements to veterans’ health care, benefits, accountability at VA

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, today highlighted the Senate’s bipartisan victories for the 115th Congress, which began on Jan. 3, 2017, on behalf of our nation’s veterans.

The Senate’s efforts include the passage of 18 major pieces of veterans legislation – all of which have been signed into law – that aim to strengthen veterans’ health care, benefits and services. The Senate has confirmed 14 of President Trump’s nominees to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims.

 “As chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, I take very seriously our responsibility to serve those who have served us,” said Isakson. “Our committee has worked to reform the VA and ensure that our veterans receive the care and benefits they deserve. We owe our veterans a VA that is responsive to them and their individual needs, and I’m proud to be a part of such a bipartisan, productive committee. I look forward to continuing our efforts by working with Ranking Member Tester, members of the committee and newly confirmed VA secretary Robert Wilkie to oversee the implementation of these major reforms and transform the VA into a department worthy of our veterans.”

The Senate has passed the following 18 pieces of veterans’ legislation that have been signed into law:

  1. The Veterans Choice Program Improvement Act (S.544), ensuring veterans have access to timely care in their own communities, signed into law on April 19, 2017 (Public Law 115-26).

  2. The Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act (S.1094), holding the VA accountable to our veterans and protecting the rights of whistleblowers, signed into law on June 23, 2017 (Public Law 115-41).

  3. The VA Choice and Quality Employment Act of 2017 (S.114), providing funding for the Choice Program and strengthening VA care, signed into law on August 12, 2017 (Public Law 115-46).

  4. The Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2017 (H.R.3218), improving veterans’ G.I. Bill education benefits, signed into law August 16, 2017 (Public Law 115-48).

  5. The Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act of 2017 (H.R.2288), modernizing the woefully outdated benefits claims appeals process at the VA, signed into law on August 23, 2017 (Public Law 115-55).

  6. The Department of Veterans Affairs Expiring Authorities Act of 2017 (H.R.3819), reauthorizing more than 20 important veterans’ programs, signed into law September 29, 2017 (Public Law 115-62).

  7. The Veterans’ Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment Act of 2017 (H.R.1329), increasing veterans’ disability benefits based on rising costs of living, signed into law November 2, 2017 (Public Law 115-75).

  8. The VA Prescription Data Accountability Act (H.R.1545), allowing the VA to securely share opioid prescription data with states, signed into law November 21, 2017 (Public Law 115-86).

  9. The Veterans Apprenticeship and Labor Opportunity Reform (VALOR) Act (H.R.3949), streamlining the process for non-federal veterans’ job training programs, signed into law November 21, 2017 (Public Law 115-89).

  10. The Enhancing Veteran Care Act (S.1266), authorizing VA to contract with non-profits to investigate VA medical centers, signed into law December 20, 2017 (Public Law 115-95).

  11. The Quicker Veterans Benefits Delivery Act of 2017 (H.R.1725), requiring VA to evaluate an initiative to reduce the need for in-person disability examinations, signed into law March 9, 2018 (Public Law 115-130).

  12. The Veterans Care Financial Protection Act of 2017 (H.R.3122), protecting veterans from fraudulent or predatory scams, signed into law March 9, 2018 (Public Law 115-131).

  13. H.R.3656, providing VA memorial headstones and markers for veterans whose remains are unavailable, signed into law March 16, 2018 (Public Law 115-136).

  14.  The State Veterans Home Adult Day Health Care Improvement Act of 2017 (S.324), allowing qualifying veterans to receive adult-day medical model health care, signed into law March 27, 2018 (Public Law 115-159). 

  15. H.R.3562, improving the process for providing certain home adaptations, signed into law June 1, 2018 (Public Law 115-177).

  16. The John S. McCain III, Daniel K. Akaka and Samuel R. Johnson VA Maintaining Internal Systems and Strengthening Integrated Outside Networks (MISSION) Act (S.2372), streamlining and strengthening VA community care programs to ensure veterans receive efficient, timely and quality care, signed into law June 6, 2018 (Public Law 115-182). 

  17. The Veterans Cemetery Benefit Correction Act (H.R.4910), providing equal burial benefits for veterans interred in National Park Service cemeteries, signed into law June 15, 2018 (Public Law 115-184).

  18. The VA Senior Executive Accountability (SEA) Act (H.R.2772), preventing rogue employees from being reassigned within the VA without the VA secretary’s approval, signed into law June 21, 2018 (Public Law 115-188).

In addition, the Senate has also passed seven VA facility naming bills, all of which have been signed into law.

The Senate has confirmed 14 nominees to serve at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the U.S. Court of Appeals:

  1. David J. Shulkin, Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary, confirmed 100-0, February 13, 2017.
  2. Thomas G. Bowman, Department of Veterans Affairs Deputy Secretary, confirmed by unanimous consent, August 3, 2017.
  3. Brooks D. Tucker, Department of Veterans Affairs Assistant Secretary for Congressional and Legislative Affairs, confirmed by unanimous consent, August 3, 2017.
  4. James M. Byrne, Department of Veterans Affairs General Counsel, confirmed by unanimous consent, August 3, 2017.
  5. Judge Michael P. Allen, U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, confirmed by unanimous consent, August 3, 2017.
  6. Judge Amanda L. Meredith, U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, confirmed by unanimous consent, August 3, 2017.
  7. Judge Joseph L. Toth, U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, confirmed by unanimous consent, August 3, 2017.
  8. Melissa Sue Glynn, Department of Veterans Affairs Assistant Secretary for Enterprise Integration, confirmed by unanimous consent, November 8, 2017.
  9. Cheryl L. Mason, Chairman of the Board of Veterans’ Appeals, confirmed by unanimous consent, November 8, 2017.
  10.  Randy Reeves, Department of Veterans Affairs Undersecretary for Memorial Affairs, confirmed by unanimous consent, November 8, 2017.
  11.  Jon J. Rychalski, Department of Veterans Affairs Chief Financial Officer, confirmed by unanimous consent, Dec. 21, 2017.
  12. Paul Lawrence, Department of Veterans Affairs Undersecretary for Benefits, confirmed by voice vote, April 26, 2018.
  13. Joseph Falvey, Jr., U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, confirmed by voice vote, April 26, 2018.
  14. Robert Wilkie, Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary, confirmed by a vote of 86-9, July 23, 2018.

This Congress, the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs has held 27 hearings on benefits and health care, including four oversight hearings on the Veterans Choice Program, the Veterans Health Administration’s inclusion on the U.S. Government Accountability Office’s (GAO) “High Risk List,” and veteran suicide prevention. The committee has also held 10 joint hearings with the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs to hear from dozens of veterans service organizations.

The committee has considered 58 pieces of veterans’ legislation and advanced three legislative packages that include provisions from those bills.

###

The Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs is chaired by U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., in the 115th 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 Committee on Veterans’ Affairs 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 armed services as well as more than 750,000 veterans.