Legislation introduced in April by U.S. Reps. Jeff Denham (R-CA) and Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY) to help ensure disabled veterans receive the appropriate level of care has been signed into law by President Obama.
H.R. 5091, the Appropriate Care for Disabled Veterans Act, was contained in the Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations Act of 2017 portion of H.R. 5325, the Continuing Resolution (CR) passed last week by Congress. H.R. 5091 requires the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA) to report to Congress its capacity for the specialized treatment and rehabilitative needs of disabled veterans; this extends a previous mandate that lapsed in 2008.
“Our veterans deserve the best available care for their service to our country,” said Rep. Denham. “This bill will hold the VA accountable to ensure hospital capacity and treatments remain in line with the growing needs of our nation’s veterans.”
Rep. Denham, who represents the local communities of Oakdale, Riverbank and Escalon in the 10th Congressional District, previously introduced this bill in the 113th Congress as H.R. 4198, the Appropriate Care for Disabled Veterans Act.
“As the son of a Navy veteran who was injured while serving our country, I know how critical it can be for our veterans to receive the best possible care when they come home,” said Rep. Maloney. “This commonsense law will ensure we hold the VA accountable for doing their job and delivering on their promise to provide top-notch healthcare. I want to thank my colleagues on both sides of the aisle for coming together to get this bill passed to benefit the men and women who served and sacrificed for our country, and I look forward to continuing essential bipartisan work on behalf of our veterans.”
Severely disabled veterans suffer from a range of issues – spinal cord injury/dysfunction, blindness, traumatic brain injury, and mental health disorders – that require specialized care, including prosthetic, orthotic and sensory aids. In 1996 Congress mandated that the VA maintain its capacity for the specialized treatment and rehabilitative needs of disabled veterans based on specific measurements such as number of staffed beds and the number of available full-time employees. VA was required to report this information to Congress until 2008 when the mandate expired.
“Paralyzed Veterans of America applauds Congress for reinstating the requirement for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to report its capacity to provide specialized services. As the future of veterans’ healthcare remains in flux, any steps we can take to ensure transparency and accountability are critical,” said Paralyzed Veterans of America Executive Director Sherman Gillums. “Over the eight years since the previous capacity reporting law expired, VA leadership was not required to report on its capacity to provide care for catastrophically disabled veterans. Meanwhile, we know full well that the infrastructure for VA specialized services is outsized by growing demand for these services. Reinstating this requirement is going to provide Congress with the information it needs to assess demand, both currently met and unmet, as well as provide closer oversight of VA’s capacity and comprehensive budgets that actually improve veterans’ access to care. This is of highest priority for PVA and we thank Rep. Denham and Rep. Maloney for their commitment and leadership on such a critical issue.”
This bipartisan legislation was also supported by Disabled American Veterans (DAV) and the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW).