News Releases

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Isakson: Senate Keeping Our Promises to Our Nation's Veterans

Highlights bipartisan victories for veterans in 2017 including 10 bills signed into law, 10 nominees confirmed;

Efforts include major improvements to veterans’ health care, benefits, accountability at VA

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, today highlighted the Senate’s significant bipartisan victories this year on behalf of our nation’s veterans.

The Senate’s efforts this year include the passage of 10 major pieces of veterans legislation– all of which have been signed into law – that aim to strengthen veterans’ health care, benefits and support. The Senate has unanimously confirmed 10 of President Trump’s nominees to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the U.S. Court of Veterans Appeals, including the number one and number two spots at the department.

“As chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, I take very seriously our responsibility to serve those who have served us,” said Isakson. “The Senate has passed 10 major veterans bills this year that have all been signed into law.”

“This remarkable achievement is a testament to the teamwork, leadership and commitment of all members of Congress, regardless of political party,” Isakson continued. “The veterans of the United States have better health care, better benefits and a more modern and responsive VA in the years ahead as a result of our work this year, and I’m proud to have been a part of it. I thank my colleagues for their tireless efforts to ensure we keep our promises to our veterans.”

The Senate has passed the following nine pieces of veterans’ legislation that have been signed into law this year:

  1. The Veterans Choice Program Improvement Act (S.544), to extend the Veterans Choice Program and ensure veterans have access to timely care in their own communities, signed into law on April 19, 2017 (Public Law 115-26).

  2. The Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act (S.1094), to improve accountability at the VA, signed into law on June 23, 2017 (Public Law 115-41).

  3. The VA Choice and Quality Employment Act of 2017 (S.114), to authorize and appropriate funding for the VA to continue the Veterans Choice Program and strengthen VA care, signed into law on Aug. 12, 2017 (Public Law 115-46).

  4. The Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2017 (H.R.3218), to improve veterans’ education benefits and enhance the post-9/11 G.I. Bill, signed into law Aug. 16, 2017 (Public Law 115-48).

  5. The Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act of 2017 (H.R.2288), to modernize the woefully outdated benefits claims appeals process at the VA, signed into law on Aug. 23, 2017 (Public Law 115-55).

  6. The Department of Veterans Affairs Expiring Authorities Act of 2017 (H.R.3819) to ensure veterans continue to have access to critical programs at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), signed into law Sept. 29, 2017 (Public Law 115-62).

  7. The Veterans’ Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment Act of 2017 (H.R.1329) to increase veterans’ disability benefits based on rising costs of living, signed into law Nov. 2, 2017 (Public Law 115-75).

  8. The VA Prescription Data Accountability Act (H.R.1545) to allow the VA to securely share data with state prescription drug monitoring programs for patients who are prescribed opioids by VA providers, including both veterans and their dependents, signed into law Nov. 21, 2017 (Public Law 115-86).

  9. The Veterans Apprenticeship and Labor Opportunity Reform (VALOR) Act (H.R.3949) to streamline the certification process for non-federal apprenticeship training programs for veterans, signed into law Nov. 21, 2017 (Public Law 115-89).

  10. The Enhancing Veteran Care Act (S.1266) to allow the VA to contract with outside organizations for investigations into VA medical centers, signed into law December 20, 2017 (Public Law number not yet available).

Also passed by Congress and awaiting the president’s signature is the Enhancing Veteran Care Act (S.1266) which would allow the VA to contract with outside organizations for investigations into VA medical centers.

In addition, the Senate has also passed five VA facility naming bills, three of which have been signed into law.

The Senate has confirmed 10 nominees to serve at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims:

  1. David J. Shulkin, Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary, confirmed 100-0, Feb. 13, 2017.
  2. Thomas G. Bowman, Department of Veterans Affairs Deputy Secretary, confirmed by unanimous consent, Aug. 3, 2017.
  3. Brooks D. Tucker, Department of Veterans Affairs Assistant Secretary for Congressional and Legislative Affairs, confirmed by unanimous consent, Aug. 3, 2017.
  4. James M. Byrne, Department of Veterans Affairs General Counsel, confirmed by unanimous consent, Aug. 3, 2017.
  5. Judge Michael P. Allen, Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, confirmed by unanimous consent, Aug. 3, 2017.
  6. Judge Amanda L. Meredith, Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, confirmed by unanimous consent, Aug. 3, 2017.
  7. Judge Joseph L. Toth, Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, confirmed by unanimous consent, Aug. 3, 2017.
  8. Melissa Sue Glynn, Department of Veterans Affairs Assistant Secretary for Enterprise Integration, confirmed by unanimous consent, Nov. 8, 2017.
  9. Cheryl L. Mason, Chairman of the Board of Veterans’ Appeals, confirmed by unanimous consent, Nov. 8, 2017.
  10. Randy Reeves, Department of Veterans Affairs Undersecretary for Memorial Affairs, confirmed by unanimous consent, Nov. 8, 2017.

In addition, the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs has held 16 hearings on benefits and health care, including three 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 five joint hearings with the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs to hear from dozens of veterans service organizations.

In 2017, the committee has considered 43 pieces of veterans’ legislation and advanced three legislative packages that include provisions from those bills.

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