April 2014 Legislative Update

In March, DAV’s legislative staff testified before the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Subcommittee on Health regarding a number of bills aimed at improving the quality of care for the nation’s injured and ill veterans.

Among these bills, DAV strongly supported and urged the enactment of H.R. 2527 in order to provide veterans with counseling and treatment for sexual trauma that occurred during inactive duty training.  Currently, VA is authorized to provide priority counseling and specialized treatment for those veterans who have experienced military sexual trauma (MST), but this is limited only to those who served on active duty or active duty for training.  DAV Resolution 125 calls on VA to ensure all MST survivors have proper access to the care they need in order to recover.

DAV Resolution 125 also addresses eligibility for VA-funded beneficiary travel to specialized treatment facilities, which is similarly targeted by H.R. 2974.  The bill calls to expand beneficiary travel to MST survivors if they need to travel to specialized outpatient or residential programs at VA facilities as part of their treatment.  DAV supports H.R. 2974, but also seeks equitable beneficiary travel eligibility for veterans with vision impairments, spinal cord injuries or disorders, and multiple amputations needing specialized care.  Without travel reimbursement, veterans may face financial barriers to receiving the treatment they need.

Additionally, DAV offered testimony on H.R. 4198, the Appropriate Care for Disabled Veterans Act.  This bill would reinstate the requirement of an annual report to Congress on the capacity of the VA to provide for the specialized treatment and rehabilitative needs of disabled veterans.  DAV recommended the bill be passed in its current form, but would continue to work with the bill’s sponsor to agree on amendments that would better reflect the changed nature of VA’s patient population and its spinal cord, blindness, traumatic brain injury, prosthetic, orthotic and sensory aid, and mental health programs since the previous benchmark report was issued in 1996.

And finally, DAV testified on the Veterans Dog Training Therapy Act, H.R. 183, which would require a 5-year pilot program to assess the effectiveness of service dog training and handling as a therapeutic medium for addressing post-deployment mental health and the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.  DAV supports non-traditional methods of therapy as well as expanded treatment options for veterans suffering from mental health problems, and therefore carries no objection to H.R. 183.