U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, continues to highlight the work the Senate is doing for veterans in the last seven months.
With the help of Senator Isakson, the U.S. Senate passed six major pieces of legislation – four of which have been signed into law or are headed to President Trump’s desk. Areas that were strengthened for veterans are health care, benefits, and protections. Also, the Senate approved seven of President Trump’s nominees to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) and the U.S. Court of Veterans Appeals.
Isakson took to the Senate floor last week highlighting these efforts.
“The Senate agreed to significant legislation on three fronts to make the VA better and more responsive to our veterans,” said Isakson. “Ranking Member Tester and I have spent the entire year working to make sure that we dealt with the needs that the VA had to address all these stories we see on the front pages of papers, stories about there being unsafe conditions, stories about people being mistreated, stories about people having to wait so long for their appointments. We wanted to put an end to all this, and we’ve given the secretary the tools to do exactly that.
“In fact, I was telling the ranking member, this is called the ‘no excuses day.’
“Secretary Shulkin will have no excuses for any mistakes to be made because he has every tool that he needs in his toolbox to see to it that the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is responsive to the veterans of America. The Senate has passed six major bills relating to veterans in the first seven months of this year, a remarkable achievement. It is a testimony to teamwork, the staff, and a testament to the leadership of the Republican and the Democratic parties. The majority leader and minority leader of the United States Senate made it possible, and I’m eternally grateful to both of them for their support and their help.
“Credit, a lot of times, is given to captains and to presidents and to people with titles. Senator Tester and I have the titles when it comes to the VA committee. But the reason the VA committee has been successful in accomplishing every single goal it set forth at the beginning of the year is because of every rank and file member, Republican or Democrat. We took our labels off. We put our armor on. We plowed ahead. We didn’t say ‘no’ to problems that looked like they were too hard. We said ‘yes’ to solutions that looked like they made sense.
“The veterans of the United States have better health care, better educational benefits, and a modern VA to deal with in the years ahead, and I’m proud to have been a part of it, and I want to commend Senator Tester on his effort and his contribution.”
Since the start of the 115th Congress on Jan. 3, 2017, the Senate has passed six pieces of veterans’ legislation:
- The Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act (S.1094) to improve accountability at the VA.
- The Veterans Choice Program Improvement Act (S. 544) to extend the Veterans Choice Program and ensure veterans have access to timely care in their own communities.
- The Increasing the Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability to Veterans Act of 2017 (S.12) to ensure senior VA employees who are convicted of a felony related to their position at the VA cannot receive the same benefits as those who honorably serve our nation’s veterans.
- The Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act of 2017 (H.R. 2288, with amendment) to modernize the woefully outdated benefits claims appeals process at the VA and help veterans receive more timely decisions from the VA.
- The VA Choice and Quality Employment Act of 2017 (S.114) to authorize and appropriate funding for the VA to continue the Veterans Choice Program and strengthen VA care.
- The Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2017 (H.R. 3218) to improve veterans’ education benefits and enhance the post-9/11 G.I. Bill.
Of these six pieces of legislation, four have been signed into law or are on the way to the president’s desk. The Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act of 2017 heads back to the House as amended for a vote on final passage. The Senate has also passed four VA facility naming bills, two of which have been signed into law.