Senate Passes Package to Strengthen Health Care for Veterans

Senate Passes Package to Strengthen Health Care for Veterans

Washington, DC –
The U.S. Senate passed an omnibus bill Thursday that bolsters health care for veterans on several fronts.  The legislation includes four bills co-sponsored by Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley that will provide benefits to caregivers of severely injured veterans, improve care for female veterans, assist homeless veterans, and support veterans living in rural areas.

“For the American heroes who have served overseas, the transition back to civilian life is not an easy one.  And it’s even more difficult for those who have been injured while serving,” Merkley said.  “With this bill, we’re going to bolster the care we give to our veterans and provide additional assistance to groups of veterans who have been long underserved.”

The provisions pulled from bills co-sponsored by Senator Merkley assist veterans by:

Providing for Family Caregivers

  • Fulfills VA’s obligation to care for the nation’s wounded veterans by providing their caregivers with counseling, support and a living stipend
  • Provides health care to the family caregivers of injured veterans
  • Requires independent oversight of the caregiver program

Expanding Health Care Services for Women Veterans

  • Requires VA to report to Congress on its comprehensive assessment of VA services and programs for women veterans and submit a plan on how it will address any shortfalls
  • Requires VA to report on the number of VA medical centers employing full-time women veterans’ program managers
  • Authorizes VA to provide health care to a newborn child of qualifying women veterans for 7 days after the birth of the child
  • Requires VA to train its mental health professionals in the treatment of military sexual trauma
  • Mandates that VA implement pilot programs to provide child care to women veterans who require medical care, and to provide readjustment services to women veterans

Reaching Out to Rural Veterans

  • Expands VA’s authority to provide recruitment and retention incentives so that VA can recruit high quality health care providers
  • Increases oversight of care purchased in the community by mandating financial incentives for providers who maintain high quality standards
  • Expands VA’s telemedicine program, and its ability to collaborate with the Indian Health Service and community organizations to provide medical services, including mental health care, in rural communities

Programs to Enhance Outreach for Homeless Veterans

  • Authorizes VA to carry out three pilot programs which provide grants to public and nonprofit organizations for the following purposes:
    • To coordinate supportive services at the local level for certain formerly homeless veterans
    • To provide outreach to low income and elderly veterans and their spouses who reside in rural areas