U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, responded to President Donald Trump’s national address in which he highlighted the major bipartisan accomplishments made by Congress on behalf of veterans. Several pieces of significant veterans’ legislation authored by Isakson and subsequently signed into law were among the achievements highlighted by Trump during today’s speech to more than 150 state and local veterans’ leaders to honor National Veterans and Military Families Month. Video of Thursday’s remarks by President Trump’s can be viewed here.
“During November, and every month, we honor the contributions made by our service members, veterans and their families,” said Isakson. “On behalf of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, I’m proud of all that we have accomplished on behalf of our nation’s veterans, and I thank President Trump for his unwavering support. Since President Trump took office, we have improved accountability at the VA, we’ve made it so veterans will be able to choose when and where they receive care that best fits their needs, we’ve overhauled the appeals system to make sure veterans get timely responses and we have provided the tools to make the VA more responsive to the veterans it serves. We’ve worked hard from day one because our veterans should be a top priority, and they have been for the Senate and for President Trump and his administration.”
During this 2017-2018 Congress, the Senate has passed 22 pieces of legislation that have been signed into law to reform veterans’ health care and benefits and to make the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) more responsive to the veterans it serves. Of those bills, some of the most significant reforms include the VA MISSION Act, the Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act, the Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2017, and the Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act of 2017.
Earlier this year, President Donald Trump signed into law Isakson’s VA MISSION Act, landmark legislation to dramatically improve the way the VA delivers health care. The legislation streamlines the department’s community care programs in one Veterans Community Care Program to remove bureaucratic obstacles to care in the community and ensure veterans receive efficient, timely and quality care.
In 2017, the Senate passed the Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act, signed into law on June 23, 2017, to improve accountability at the VA and discipline employees found guilty of misconduct to ensure veterans’ care was not affected by bad actors at the department.
To help our service members transition to civilian life and ensure they have education benefits that meet their needs, the Senate passed the Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2017 to make lasting reforms to the post-9/11 G.I. Bill, including removing an arbitrary 15-year expiration of the benefit. The bill was signed into law Aug. 16, 2017.
For far too long, our veterans faced unacceptable delays in receiving decisions on their benefits claims appeals. The Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act of 2017, signed into law on Aug. 23, 2017, modernizes the woefully outdated benefits claims appeals process at the VA.
In addition, the Senate has confirmed 14 of President Trump’s nominees to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims.
This Congress, the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs has held 29 hearings on benefits and health care, including five oversight hearings on the Veterans Choice Program, the Veterans Health Administration’s inclusion on the U.S. Government Accountability Office’s (GAO) “High Risk List,” and veteran suicide prevention. The committee has also held 10 joint hearings with the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs to hear from dozens of veterans service organizations.
The committee has considered 56 pieces of veterans’ legislation and advanced three legislative packages that include provisions from those bills.