New Legislation Impacting the Veteran Community

On November 30, 2021, President Biden signed a series of new bills into laws, and ones that have a direct impact on the military community.

Protecting Moms Who Served Act (SB 796)

This new law requires the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to begin a program on Maternity Care Coordination. The new program is expected to cost $15 million for FY 2022 beyond what is already appropriated for maternity health care in the VA.

Another less advertised portion of the new bill is a report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) related to maternal morbidity among pregnant and post-partum veterans.

Within two years, the GAO will submit a report on severe maternal morbidity among pregnant/postpartum veterans, focusing almost exclusively on whether or not there are racial or ethnic disparities in maternal health outcomes for veterans.

The report will also serve a fundamental role in future legislative and administrative actions that aim to increase access to mental and behavioral health care for at-risk veterans. The report will provide recommendations to address issues like:

  • Homelessness
  • Food insecurity
  • Poverty

The overall aim of the legislation and its subsequent reporting requirements is to reduce maternal mortality and morbidity, and to address any racial or ethnic disparities in health outcomes for pregnant and postpartum veterans.

RELATED: Dogs & Vets: Helping Veterans with PTSD

 

>> Have questions about you or your spouse’s military benefits? We’ve partnered with the Veterans Education Project to help find the answers you need. Find the answers to your benefits questions today!

 

Hire Veteran Health Heroes Act (SB 894)

This legislation requires the VA to engage with the Department of Defense (DoD) to identify members of the Armed Forces within health care occupations that could be employed by the VA once they’ve separated from the service.

The Secretary of Veterans Affairs will establish a program in conjunction with the Secretary of Defense to identify service members that may be willing to seek employment with the VA after separation from the service.

If a member of the Armed Forces…expresses an interest in working in a health care occupation within the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs shall refer the member to a recruiter of the Department for consideration of open positions in the specialty and geography of interest to the member.

However, any such referral should not be seen as a guarantee of future employment with the VA, as the interview and hiring processes are still in place to fill vacant positions. The goal of this legislation is to expedite the hiring process within the VA to address staffing shortages that plague the organization.

 

>> Find opportunities with companies looking to assist veterans and military spouses.  Get started today!

 

Senate Bill 1031 – A Study in Disparities

This legislation requires the Comptroller General of the United States to conduct a study regarding racial or ethnic disparities and their impact on benefits issues by the VA.

The Government Accountability Office will conduct a study to assess whether there are disparities associated with race and ethnicity when it comes to:

  • Compensation benefits administered by the VA
  • Disability ratings, “with specific consideration of disability evaluations based on pain”
  • The rejection of fully developed claims for benefits.

Within one year of the passing of this law, the Comptroller General will brief Congress on the initial results of the study.

The text of the bill does not indicate the reason for such a study, but it seems to imply that there is cause for concern of racial prejudice at the VA when it comes to evaluating claims and administering benefits.

One report from Maria Aguilera of KCEN TV in Temple, Texas, claims that Biden “has heard from veterans of color that when they return home from serving they’re treated differently from white veterans.” If these claims are true, then action should be taken immediately to ensure the fair treatment of all veterans, regardless of race or ethnicity.

However, conducting a study for over a year doesn’t seem like the most direct approach to addressing racial disparities within the VA.

Will the study release the names and incidents of those who have directly contacted the President?

Will these veterans who have allegedly been profiled by the VA have their cases reviewed in light of the findings of this massive study?

That remains to be seen since the text of the bill does not make that clear. It states only that the Comptroller will provide “recommendations”, if it has any.

A Legislative Watch for Veterans

There is always legislation on the docket for both houses of Congress. The ones of most interest to us are those that directly impact you, the veteran and military members. 

We spend hours combing through tedious and sometimes monstrous bills to find any information that you can use to your benefit. Stay tuned for more legislative updates as they develop.

(Image courtesy of WeTakethePictures via Shutterstock)

 

>> Have questions about you or your spouse’s military benefits? We’ve partnered with the Veterans Education Project to help find the answers you need. Find the answers to your benefits questions today!

 

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About the author

Robert Haynes is a retired Army infantryman who has a squad of kids and is married to an active duty Soldier. He is a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom, who spent his last few years in the Army as a Drill Sergeant. He is now a full-time dad, freelance writer, and out-of-work comedian.

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