House-passed VA Health Care Bill Finally Expands Caregiver Services to Veterans of All Eras

May 16, 2018 Issues: Disabilities, Health Care, Veterans, Vote

Congressman Jim Langevin (D-RI), a senior member of the House Committee on Armed Services, applauded the inclusion of language he championed to expand Veterans Administration (VA) caregiver benefits to veterans of all eras in the “John S. McCain III, Daniel K. Akaka, and Samuel R. Johnson VA Maintaining Internal Systems and Strengthening Integrated Outside Networks (VA MISSION) Act.” The bill, which Langevin supported, passed the House by a vote of 347-70 and aims to improve veterans’ health programs and ensure timely access to care.

“We owe our service members so much for the sacrifices they make to preserve our freedoms,” said Langevin. “Access to quality care and support services is a fundamental promise we make to veterans, and Congress must ensure we uphold our end of the bargain. I am proud that the VA MISSION Act includes provisions from my bill that will expand vital family caregiver services for veterans by supporting the hidden heroes who help our wounded warriors in their daily lives. I am also thrilled that these expanded services will be available to veterans of all eras because every caregiver deserves assistance in dealing with the challenges they face.”

Langevin has introduced the Military and Veteran Caregiver Services Improvement Act since 2014. Many provisions of that bill, including authorizing assistance for legal services and financial planning are included in the VA MISSION Act. Today, caregiver services are limited to post-9/11 veterans, and the bill will phase out those restrictions over the next two years.

“The expansion of caregiver services included in the VA MISSION Act marks a significant step forward in our years-long effort to help the millions of military and veteran caregivers across the country,” said former Senator Elizabeth Dole, the founder of the Elizabeth Dole Foundation and a champion for military and veteran caregivers. “I thank Representative Langevin for his continued leadership in supporting our hidden heroes – the spouses, mothers, fathers, siblings, and other loved ones tirelessly caring for those who cared for us.”

In addition to the caregiver benefits expansion, the VA MISSION Act extends the Veterans Choice Program, which allows veterans to seek private care in certain circumstances, for a year before replacing it with a consolidated Veterans Community Care Program. The bill includes a number of provisions to enhance the VA healthcare workforce, including by expanding scholarships for physicians and dentists who agree to work for the Veterans Health Administration.

“No veteran should be denied or delayed care due to geography or bureaucracy,”  continued Langevin.  “However, over the long-term, privatization is not the answer.  Instead, we must make smart investments that address ongoing challenges, provide timely access to services, and continue to strengthen the VA system to ensure veterans receive the highest quality care possible.”