Mar 31, 2016 / Defense/Veterans

Our Vets Matter

Dear Friend,

As your representative in the People’s House, my job is to listen to your ideas and suggestions about how to help veterans in Eastern Washington.

I am humbled by your courage and service to our country and appreciate your willingness to stand up for the foundational ideas upon which our nation was built.

Our nation, however, must be there for you in your time of need.

That’s why I am fighting to ensure that you get the benefits and health care you have earned as a result of your service and sacrifice for our country.

I recently shared the results of a survey, to which hundreds of veterans in my district responded, about the issues most important to them and the challenges obtaining health care through the VA. As a result of the feedback from that survey, I have met with the leadership at both of the VA hospitals in Eastern Washington to share your concerns and suggestions.

One of the primary problems identified in the survey was regarding the Veterans Choice program. This program, which I supported creating several years ago, is designed to increase access to care outside the VA for veterans who live more than 40 miles from a VA hospital or Community Based Outpatient Clinic, or who are forced to wait longer than 30 days for care.

Although the Choice Program has been fully implemented, I have heard from veterans who are unfamiliar with the options it provides and those who have experienced long wait times on the phone or dropped consults, among other problems.

I share each of these stories with the VA or Tri West to find out what happened and to seek a solution so it won’t happen again. I encourage you and your fellow veterans to contact my office if you are experiencing any problems with the Choice Program specifically, or with the VA generally.

Unfortunately, I hear too many of the same concerns about the VA virtually every time I meet with veterans in Eastern Washington. That’s why I am working with veterans groups and my colleagues to identify and solve persistent and systemic problems within the VA.

On a more positive note, I recently had the honor of visiting the Veterans Forum and presenting certificates of Congressional Recognition to our Judges and founders of the program at their annual event in Spokane.

The Veterans Forum, which is associated with the Veterans Court Program in Spokane and Colville, allows combat veterans who have encountered legal difficulties to attend treatment rather than spend time in jail. The veterans must then have a mentor—usually a more senior combat veteran who counsels them and provides support.

Finally, I want to let you know about several bills pending in the U.S. House of Representatives that I have supported, which may interest you:

  • H.R. 4336, the Women Airforce Service Pilot Arlington Inurnment Restoration Act, which will restore the inurnment rights for Women Airforce Service Pilots at Arlington National Cemetery. The House passed this bill by a vote of 385 to 0 on March 22, 2016.
  • S. 2393, the Foreclosure Relief and Extension for Servicemembers Act of 2015, which extends through December 31, 2017, the one-year period after a servicemember’s military service that the servicemember is protected from any sale, foreclosure, or seizure of their property without a court order or waiver agreement signed by the servicemember. The House passed this bill unanimously on March 21, 2016.
  • H.R. 677, the American Heroes COLA Act, which includes numerous provisions to enhance veterans’ benefits, improve the expedient and accurate processing of benefit claims and appeals, ensure appropriate availability of benefits and headstone adornments, and increase the availability of medical evidence for use in benefits cases. The House passed this bill unanimously on February 9, 2016.
  • H.R. 1994, the VA Accountability Act of 2015, which provides the VA Secretary increased flexibility in removing poor performing VA employees, enhances protections for whistleblowers, and restricts bonus awards for supervisors who retaliate against whistleblowers. The House passed this bill by a vote of 256 to 170 on July 29, 2015.
  • H.R. 675, the Veterans’ Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment Act of 2015, which would increase the rates of compensation for veterans with service-connected disabilities and the rates of dependency and indemnity compensation for the survivors of certain disabled veterans. The House passed this bill by a vote of 409 to 0 on July 28, 2015.
  • H.R. 91, the Veterans Identification Card Act of 2015, which requires the Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to issue an identification card to certain veterans who request the card and who present a copy of the DD-214 form or other official document describing the veteran’s service. The House passed the bill by a vote of 411 to 0 on July 7, 2015, and it became law on July 20.
  • H.R. 303, the Retired Pay Restoration Act, which permits retired members of the Armed Forces who have a service-connected disability to receive both disability compensation from the Department of Veterans Affairs and either retired pay by reason of their years of military service or combat-related special compensation. I cosponsored this bill on April 29, 2015.

You may be certain that I will continue trying to find ways to make the VA work better for you and your fellow veterans. As always, please contact my office if you need assistance obtaining health care or benefits through the VA, or if you have ideas or suggestions for reforming the VA and putting you in charge of your health care.

Warmly,

Cathy McMorris Rodgers