Tester Sends 21st Bill to President’s Desk
Senate Passes Ranking Member’s Veterans Benefits and Transition Act
(U.S. Senate) – The United States Senate passed Ranking Member Jon Tester’s 21st bipartisan bill, capping off a landmark Congress with numerous victories for America’s veterans.
Tester’s Veterans Benefits and Transition Act contains 18 bipartisan bills, including six bipartisan Tester-authored bills to honor Native American veterans, better protect student veterans, and increase the transparency and accountability of the VA’s historic electronic health records transition.
“This legislation is the product of hard work, compromise and bipartisanship,” said Tester, Ranking Member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee. “Sending another VA reform bill to the President’s desk sends a clear message to our nation’s veterans: Serving our men and women in uniform is a responsibility that we should all take very seriously. I have been honored to work with Chairman Isakson this Congress to accomplish so much for our nation’s veterans.”
The Veterans Benefits and Transition Act contains the following provisions:
The Servicemembers Improved Transition through Reforms for Ensuring Progress “SIT-REP” Act:
Forces schools that receive G.I. Bill benefits to adopt a policy that it will not impose a late fee, restrict a student veterans’ access to campus facilities, or otherwise punish a student veteran due to a late payment of tuition or fees from the VA.
Authored by Tester and Senator Dean Heller (R-Nev.), the VA can now provide headstones or burial markers to a Native American veteran’s spouse and dependents who wish to be buried alongside their loved one in a tribal veterans’ cemetery.
Following reports that the VA had been forcing veterans to repay benefits to the VA, Tester authored legislation with Senators Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) to require the VA to update its information technology systems so that affected veterans are able to review and revise information about their dependents electronically.
Veterans Fair Debt Notice Act:
Tester authored this legislation with Senator Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) to require the VA to notify veterans with a straightforward, easy-to-understand electronic or standard mail notification of any debt that veteran owes to the VA and the steps they can take to dispute that debt.
As the VA undertakes the largest electronic health records change in history, Tester and Blumenthal authored legislation to make the modernization program’s key planning and implementation efforts more transparent and hold the VA accountable by requiring the VA to notify Congress in the event of any significant cost increase, schedule delay, loss of veteran health data or breach of privacy.
Veterans' Dental Care Eligibility Expansion and Enhancement Act:
The VA is required to report on the possibility of expanding veterans’ access to dental care. By analyzing access and affordability through VA dental care, oral health needs of eligible veterans, and the number of providers needed to provide such care.
Tester’s Veterans Benefits and Transition Act can be read in full HERE.