Isakson, Tester Highlight Support for Veterans’ Community Care Bill from Key Stakeholders

‘Caring for Our Veterans Act’ passed out of committee last week, awaits full Senate action

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., and Jon Tester, D-Mont., chairman and ranking member of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, today highlighted broad support for the Caring for Our Veterans Act of 2017, bipartisan legislation to streamline and strengthen veterans’ healthcare services at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and in the community to ensure efficient, timely and quality care.

The Caring for Our Veterans Act, introduced by Isakson and Tester, was passed by the committee in a 14-1 vote on Nov. 29. It now goes to the full Senate for a vote.

The Caring for Our Veterans Act has won the support of several veterans groups that represent millions of veterans in the United States.

Supportive statements are included below:

The American Legion

“This bill, as written, would transform the Veterans Affairs Choice Program into a new community care system that will provide better services and health care to our nations veterans. … The American Legion applauds your leadership in addressing issues that are important to America’s servicemembers, veterans, and their families. We are thankful for the dedicated work your committee has done in addressing the Choice Program shortfalls and developing a new community care system. We stand with you in your efforts to pass meaningful legislation that supports our nation’s heroes.” –Denise H. Rohan, The American Legion National Commander

American Legion’s full letter of support

Disabled American Veterans (DAV)

“On behalf of Disabled American Veterans (DAV) and our 1.3 million members, we are pleased to offer our strong support for your draft legislation, the Caring for our Veterans Act of 2017, which would strengthen and reform the VA health care system and create a new integrated VA community care program. … We are pleased the draft legislation you skillfully crafted would replace the current Choice program by creating integrated networks with community providers, supplementing VA’s comprehensive system of care, to ensure that veterans receive necessary medical care when and where they need it…. I want to commend both of you and your staffs for working in a bipartisan manner to develop legislation that would dramatically improve VA and its community care programs. I urge all senators to support passage of this legislation…so that Congress can finally come to an agreement on appropriate legislation to send to the president this year.” –Garry J. Augustine, DAV Washington Executive Director

Disabled American Veterans’ full letter of support

Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA)

“On behalf of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America’s (IAVA) more than 400,000 members, I am pleased to offer our support for the bipartisan Caring for Our Veterans Act of 2017. We greatly appreciate your committee working with, and soliciting input from, leading Veteran Service Organizations (VSOs) to get us to this point. We are pleased that the bill responsibly invests in upgrading VA’s health care system and puts the veteran’s needs first by empowering the VA to coordinate patient care wherever it can best be delivered.” –Paul Rieckhoff, IAVA Founder and CEO

Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America’s full letter of support

Military Officers Association of America (MOAA)

“As the nation's largest and most influential association of military officers and the leading voice for all members of the military community, MOAA greatly appreciates your steadfast commitment to improving the health and wellbeing of our veterans and their families. We lend our support for your bill and recognize the enormous bipartisan effort put forth to craft such a significant piece of legislation. This will improve veterans' health care while also providing a solid plan for transforming the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) into a 21st Century health system.” –Lt. Gen. Dana T. Atkins, USAF, MOAA President and CEO

Military Officers Association of America’s full letter of support

Military Order of the Purple Heart (MOPH)

“…I am pleased to offer our support for S.2193, the Caring for Our Veterans Act of 2017, which would greatly improve veterans’ access to the health care they have earned, both from community providers, and Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) facilities. As we near the point at which the Veterans Choice Fund is set to run out, MOPH believes it is absolutely critical that veterans are not put at risk of losing access to community care. Your legislation solves this issue in the near term… and in the long term by replacing the temporary Veterans Choice Program with the permanent Veterans Community Care Program. MOPH commends you both for your steadfast, bipartisan leadership on this issue and your unwavering commitment to veterans and their families. We look forward to working with you to ensure the passage of this important legislation in the Senate, and ultimately, the passage into law of a bipartisan, bicameral bill that addresses each of these critical issues.” –Neil Van Ess, National Commander

Military Order of the Purple Heart’s full letter of support

Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA)

“This legislation would significantly enhance and reform the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and enable a single integrated community care program. … The proposed legislation is the logical next step to finally solidify the ways in which VA provides care in the community and provide the necessary tools to keep pace with the needs of our nation’s heroes. … We applaud you for your bipartisan work to ensure veterans have access to the highest quality health care in a timely manner and in the most appropriate setting. We thank the members of the committee and their staffs for listening to our input and working together to produce a commendable piece of legislation.” –Carl Blake, PVA Interim Executive Director

Paralyzed Veterans of America’s full letter of support

Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW)

“The Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) lauds Chairman Isakson and Ranking Member Tester for reaching a bipartisan and comprehensive compromise on the future of VA community care that will ensure veterans receive timely access to high quality, comprehensive and veteran-centric care. We look forward to working with the committee to ensure swift passage of this important bill.” –Bob Wallace, VFW Executive Director

Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA)

“Vietnam Veterans of American stands behind The Caring for Our Veterans Act of 2017—a bill which will go a long way towards improving access and the quality care for our nation’s veterans.” John Rowan, National President and CEO of Vietnam Veterans of America

Wounded Warrior Project (WWP)

“We sincerely appreciate the spirit of bipartisanship and inclusiveness reflected in this bill and applaud your commitment to expanding options for care in the community and strengthening the resources available at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to help meet growing demand for care. … Overall, the bill is consistent with WWP’s support for a strong, integrated health system that provides timely access to the best possible care. …WWP would like to express our sincere gratitude for your leadership and commitment to serving and working diligently on behalf of our nation’s veterans, family members, and caregivers to solve very challenging and complex problems. –Rene C. Bardorf, WWP Senior Vice President of Government and Community Relations

Wounded Warrior Project’s full letter of support

Last week, a group of 26 veteran and military advocacy organizations wrote to Senate leadership calling for a vote on the Caring for Our Veterans Act. Read a copy of the letter here

In addition to the organizations listed above, the following groups signed the Dec. 7 letter:

Air Force Association

Air Force Sergeants Association (AFSA)

Air Force Women Officers Association (AFWOA)

American Veterans (AMVETS)

Army Aviation Association of America (AAAA)

Association of Military Surgeons of the United States (AMSUS), the Society of Federal Health Professionals

Chief Warrant Officers Association (CWOA), US Coast Guard

Fleet Reserve Association (FRA)

Jewish War Veterans of the USA (JWV)

National Military Family Association

Naval Enlisted Reserve Association

Service Women’s Action Network

The Military Chaplains Association of the USA

The Retired Enlisted Association

United States Army Warrant Officers Association (USAWOA)

United States Coast Guard (USCG) Chief Petty Officers Association

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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.