Home House Veterans' Affairs Health Subcommittee Reviews Legislation


“Today’slegislativehearingisanopportunityforMembersofCongress,veterans,theVAandotherinterestedpartiestoprovidetheirviewsonanddiscussrecently-introducedlegislationwithintheSubcommittee’sjurisdiction,”saidChairmanMichaud.“ThelegislationbeforetheSubcommitteetodaycoversawiderangeofimportantissuesincludingmentalhealth,womenveterans,andreimbursementforemergencycaretreatmentinnon-VAfacilities.”
TheHealthSubcommitteehearingreviewedthefollowingthreebills,alongwithdraftlegislationrelatedtoemergencycareservicesforveterans:
H.R.784,TodirecttheSecretaryofVeteransAffairstosubmittoCongressquarterlyreportsonvacanciesinmentalhealthprofessionalpositionsinDepartmentofVeteransAffairsmedicalfacilities;(TsongasD-MA-5).ThisbilldirectstheSecretarytoreportquarterlytoCongressdescribinganyvacancyinamentalhealthprofessionalpositionatanyVAmedicalfacility,includingpsychiatrists,psychologists,socialworkers,marriageandfamilytherapists,andlicensedprofessionalmentalhealthcounselors.
CongresswomanTsongastestified,“H.R.784simplyrequirestheVAtoreportvacanciesinmentalhealthprofessionalpositionsatVAfacilitiesonaquarterlybasis.WiththesignificantinfluxofOEFandOIF[OperationEnduringFreedomandOperationIraqiFreedom]veteransfacingmentalhealthwounds,aswellasthealreadyexistingveteranspopulationsfromearliergenerationsreceivingcareattheVA,itisincumbentuponustomakesurethatwehavethenecessarystaffingtoprovidecare.”

H.R.785,TodirecttheSecretaryofVeteransAffairstocarryoutapilotprogramtoprovideoutreachandtrainingtocertaincollegeanduniversitymentalhealthcentersrelatingtothementalhealthofveteransofOperationIraqiFreedomandOperationEnduringFreedom,andforotherpurposes;(TsongasD-MA-5).ThisbilldirectstheSecretarytocarryoutafour-yearpilotprogramtoprovidecoveredoutreachandtrainingservicesonthementalhealthofOperationsEnduringandIraqiFreedomveteranstocoveredmentalhealthcenters,whichincludecounselingcenters,studenthealthorwellnesscenters,orstudentservicescentersatcollegesoruniversitieswithlargeenrollmentsofsuchveterans.TheoutreachandtrainingservicesforcoveredmentalhealthcentersincludetrainingforcliniciansontreatmentforcommonmentalillnessesandtrainingonassistingveteransinaccessingVAmentalhealthcareandservices,amongotherprograms.
CongresswomanTsongasexplainedthepurposeofH.R.785isto“providecollegecounselorsandotherstaffwhocomeinclosecontactwithstudent-veteransattheirschoolswiththetoolstorecognizesymptomsofcombatrelatedmentalhealthwounds;theabilitytoappropriatelyassistastudent-veteraninneed;andanunderstandingofhowtoeffectivelyreferthatstudent-veterantotheVAforcare.IbelievemylegislationwillactuallyaugmenttheVA'scontinuumofcareandbringinveteranswhomaybehesitantorapprehensiveaboutseekingcarefromtheVA.”

H.R.1211,WomenVeteransHealthCareImprovementAct;(Herseth-SandlinD-SD).ThisbilldirectstheVAtoconductastudyonthebarriersfacedbywomenveteransinaccessingcareintheVAhealthcaresystemandtoconductacomprehensiveassessmentofthewomen’shealthcareprogramsateachVAmedicalcenter.Theassessmentwillincludereportingthedemographicsofwomenveteranspopulation,thefrequencywithwhichhealthcareservicesareavailableandprovidedforwomenveterans,andtheimpactofwaitinglists,geographicdistance,andotherfactorsinobstructingthereceiptofservices.ThebillwouldprovideVAmedicalcarefornewbornchildrenofwomenveteransreceivingmaternitycareforaperiodof14daysbeginningonthedaythechildisborn.
CongresswomanHersethSandlintestified,“Morewomenareansweringthecalltoserve,andmorewomenveteransneedaccesstoservicesthattheyareentitledtowhentheyreturn.Withincreasingnumbersofwomennowservinginuniform,thechallengeofprovidingadequatehealthcareservicesforwomenveteransisoverwhelming.Withmorewomenseekingaccesstocare,andforamorediverserangeofmedicalconditions,inthefuture,theseneedswilllikelybeevensignificantlygreater.Clearly,wemustdoeverythingwecanfromapublicpolicystandpointtomeetthisnewchallengeofwomenveterans.”
DraftDiscussion,Toamendtitle38,UnitedStatesCode,toexpandveteraneligibilityforreimbursementbytheSecretaryofVeteransAffairsforemergencytreatmentfurnishedinanon-Departmentfacility,andforotherpurposes;(FilnerD-CA-51).ThisbillwouldexpandveteraneligibilitytorequiretheVAtopayforemergencytreatmentforanon-serviceconnectedconditionifathirdpartyisnotresponsibleforpayingforthefullcostofcare.ThebillclarifiesthattheVAonlypaythedifferencebetweentheamountspaidbythethirdpartyandtheVAallowableamount,andisnotresponsibleforcopaymentstheveteranowestothethirdparty.

BobFilner,ChairmanoftheHouseCommitteeonVeterans’Affairs,offeredthefollowingstatement:“Undercurrentlaw,theVAdoesnotpayforemergencytreatmentfornon-serviceconnectedconditionsinnon-VAfacilitiesifaveteranhasthirdpartyinsurancethatpayseitherfulloraportionoftheemergencycare.Thisincludesveteranswhocarryanautoinsurancepolicyprovidingminimalhealthcarecoverage.IplantointroducelegislationtoclarifythereimbursementresponsibilitiesoftheVA,soveteranscanfocusontheirrecovery,insteadofbeingoverburdenedwithfinancialconcerns.”
ThebillsmustbeapprovedbytheHealthSubcommitteeandtheFullHouseCommitteeonVeterans’AffairsbeforebeingconsideredbytheHouseofRepresentatives.

WitnessList:

Panel1

*HonorableNikiTsongas,Massachusetts,Member,U.S.HouseofRepresentatives

*HonorableStephanieHersethSandlin,SouthDakota,Member,U.S.HouseofRepresentatives

Panel2

*JoyJ.Ilem,AssistantNationalLegislativeDirector,DisabledAmericanVeterans

*JosephL.Wilson,DeputyDirector,VeteransAffairsandRehabilitationCommission,TheAmericanLegion

*EricHilleman,DeputyDirector,NationalLegislativeService.VeteransofForeignWars

*ToddBowers,DirectorofGovernmentAffairs,IraqandAfghanistanVeteransofAmerica

Panel3

*GeraldM.Cross,M.D.,FAPP,PrincipalDeputyUnderSecretaryforHealth,U.S.DepartmentofVeteransAffairs

Accompaniedby
WalterA.Hall,AssistantGeneralCounsel,U.S.DepartmentofVeteransAffairs

Preparedtestimonyandalinktothewebcastisavailableontheinternetatthislink:http://veterans.house.gov/hearings/hearing.aspx?newsid=347.


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