I am committed to work during my time in Congress to ensure that the men and women who have served, are serving, or will serve in the U.S. military are afforded the respect that they deserve and the benefits and services that they need. It is their selfless sacrifices that make America's freedoms possible. As the son of a disabled WWII veteran, I grew up around veterans, and I understand the importance of treating them with the dignity they are entitled to.
The primary objective of the VA is to serve our veterans. They deserve to receive the highest quality care available. This year, the House has focused on fixing the myriad of problems within the VA System.
The following legislation has been signed into law by President Trump to reform the VA, expand educational opportunities for veterans, and improve care for our veterans. I have supported each one of these important bills.
H.R. 3819: The Department of Veterans Affairs Expiring Authorities Act of 2017. Introduced by West Michigan native and Florida Congressman Brian Mast, this legislation would extend a number of expiring authorities impacting veterans’ benefits, health care, and homeless programs, including nursing home care, support services for caregivers, transportation, child care assistance, adaptive sports programs and housing and home loan services.
H.R. 3218: The Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2017. Introduced by VA Chairman Phil Roe, M.D., this legislation would remove time restrictions to use the GI Bill, enabling future eligible recipients to use their GI bill benefits for their entire lives, as opposed to the current 15-year timeline.
H.R. 244: HIRE Vets Act.Introduced by Rep. Paul Cook, as amended, this legislation would require the Department of Labor to establish a HIRE Vets Medallion Program to recognize companies for their efforts to employ veterans.
S. 1094: The Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act of 2017. This legislation would create a new streamlined and efficient process to remove, demote or suspend any VA employee for poor performance or misconduct with a concrete shortened timeline, while still protecting employees’ due process rights, and would provide them with the right to appeal the action. It would also provide expanded protections for whistleblowers and would specifically bar VA from using this removal authority if the employee has an open whistleblower complaint/case with the Office of Special Counsel.
S. 114: A bill to authorize appropriations for the Veterans Choice Program. This legislation would provide $2 billion to continue the Choice Program for six months while Congress works on other reforms to the Choice Program. It would also authorize 28 major medical facility leases and enhance the recruitment, retention and training of the VA workforce.
Senate companion to H.R. 369: Eliminating the Sunset Date of the Choice Act. This legislation, introduced by Chairman Phil Roe, M.D., would eliminate the statutory sunset date for the Choice Program and instead allow the program to continue until the original funding has been expended.
The following is a list of veterans legislation that has passed the House this year with my support.
H.R. 3262: The Grow Our Own Directive: Physician Assistant Employment and Education Act. This legislation, introduced by Rep. Kuster, would direct VA to carry out the Grow Our Own Directive or G.O.O.D. pilot program to provide educational assistance to certain former members of the Armed Forces with medical or military health experience for education and training as VA physician assistants.
H.R. 2772: The VA Senior Executive Accountability Act. This legislation, introduced by Rep. Taylor, will improve transparency by requiring VA to inform Congress about where senior executives are being moved.
H.R. 2006: The VA Procurement Efficiency and Transparency Act. This legislation, introduced by Rep. Mike Coffman, would encourage efficiency and transparency in VA’s procurement processes by mandating high level parameters for how the department calculates its savings from encouraging competition when awarding procurement contracts.
H.R. 1725: The Quicker Veterans Benefits Delivery Act of 2017. This legislation, introduced by VA Ranking Member Tim Walz, as amended, seeks to reduce the number of unnecessary disability examinations by requiring additional information be provided to Congress regarding VA’s use of private medical evidence in support of claims for disability compensation.
H.R. 1690: The Department of Veterans Affairs Bonus Transparency Act. This legislation, introduced by Rep. Tenney, would enhance the transparency of high-dollar bonuses being provided to senior executives at VA by requiring VA submit an annual report to Congress on senior VA leadership bonus awards. Click here for more information. Read the bill here.
H.R. 1545: The VA Prescription Data Accountability Act. This legislation, introduced by Rep. Annie Kuster, would clarify current law to stipulate that VHA is required to disclose information to state controlled substance monitoring programs for anyone – veteran or non-veteran – who is prescribed these medications through VA.
H.R. 1367: "To improve the authority of the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to hire and retain physicians and other employees of the Department of Veterans Affairs, and for other purposes" This legislation, introduced by Health Chairman Brad Wenstrup, would establish a recruiting database to make high-quality potential employees aware of positions at VA and create opportunities for career training and advancement for current VA employees through fellowship positions and a promotional track for technical experts.
H.R. 1329: The Veterans’ Compensation COLA Act of 2017. This legislation, introduced by DAMA Chairman Mike Bost and Ranking Member Elizabeth Esty, would increase the rates of compensation for veterans with service-connected disabilities as well as the rates of dependency and indemnity compensation for the survivors of certain disabled veterans as of December 1st, 2017.
H.R. 1259: The VA Accountability First Act of 2017. This legislation, introduced by Chairman Phil Roe, M.D., would provide the VA Secretary increased flexibility to remove, demote, or suspend any VA employee, including Senior Executive Service employees, for performance or misconduct.
H.R. 1181: Veterans 2nd Amendment Protection Act. This legislation, introduced by Chairman Phil Roe, M.D., would prohibit VA from considering any beneficiary who is assisted by a fiduciary as “mentally defective” without a magistrate or judicial authority ruling that the beneficiary is a danger to themselves or others. This legislation passed the House with bipartisan support on March 16, 2017, and is supported by the National Disability Rights Network and the National Rifle Association.
H.R. 467: The VA Scheduling Accountability Act. This legislation, introduced by Rep. Jackie Walorski, would require VA medical center directors to certify annually that their facility is in compliance with the scheduling directive (or any successor directive that replaces it), prohibit VA from waiving certification, and require VA to report to Congress on individual medical facilities’ compliance.
For more information regarding legislation impacting veterans, click here.
I am glad to see the Chicago Tribune focus on the threat Asian carp pose to the Great Lakes as well as some of the innovative actions taken to prevent this invasive from entering Lake Michigan. As co-chair of the Great Lakes Task Force, protecting the Great Lakes remains one of my top priorities. We must continue to focus on bipartisan solutions and work with officials in Illinois, Michigan and states across the region to craft a workable solution that strengthens the ecology and the economy of the Great Lakes.
Yesterday, more than 1500 students graduated from Grand Valley State University! Congratulations to each and every one of you and I wish you continued success here in West Michigan or wherever your next steps take you!
This week, I had the opportunity to surprise and congratulate Ethan, a student at Zeeland East High School on winning the 2018 Congressional App Challenge. By creating “Right on Red,” Ethan has provided a wonderful example of how students across West Michigan can combine what they have learned in the classroom with their ideas to design a unique app of their own creation. To learn more about Ethan’s app and The Congressional App Challenge, click here: https://huizenga.house.gov/news/documentsingle.aspx?DocumentID=398778
Today we remember the lives lost during the attack on Pearl Harbor 77 years ago. In doing so, we must also remember the courage and strength that unified our nation and helped us win WWII and forever change the future.
This week, the President signed bipartisan legislation into law to protect the Great Lakes and strengthen the U.S. Coast Guard. S. 140 helps prevent the spread of invasive species by clarifying how ballast water will be regulated and monitored on the Great Lakes. This legislation will also create a new Coast Guard-led research, training, and response center that will help preserve and protect the Great Lakes. Lastly, this bipartisan measure will provide a new ice breaker on the Great Lakes to help maintain year-round shipping, commerce, and navigation. To learn more about how this will positively impact the Great Lakes click here: https://huizenga.house.gov/news/documentsingle.aspx?DocumentID=398775