Our veterans sacrificed for our freedom, and they deserve the best support we can offer as a thank you. We need to make sure veterans have timely access to the best quality physical and mental health services possible. Veterans are some of the greatest among us and should be treated as such.
I have co-sponsored the following bills that will help veterans:
H.R. 2127, the Toxic Exposures in the American Military (TEAM) Act. Currently, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) does not have a standardized framework for establishing presumptions of service connection for certain conditions linked to toxic exposure. Therefore, many veterans may not be eligible for disability benefits resulting from such toxic exposure. As a result, these veterans may be unable to seek care from the VA to treat illnesses that may result from toxic exposure unless they are otherwise eligible to enroll in the VA healthcare system. The bipartisan TEAM Act would ensure that all veterans are given a fair and uniform process to receive the health care and benefits to which they are entitled following exposure to toxicants during their service.
H.R. 1282, the Major Richard Star Act. This bipartisan act expands eligibility to certain military retirees for full concurrent receipt of veterans' disability compensation and retired pay or combat-related special compensation. I believe an incremental approach toward a solution of correcting the statutory offset of benefits begins with our combat-related Chapter 61 retirees. Under current law, certain medically retired veterans with less than 20 years of service who are wounded in combat have Department of Defense (DoD) retirement pay offset by their VA disability compensation. Many had the full intention of serving for 20 or more years and gaining full retirement benefits, but, through no fault of their own, were unable to due to their service and sacrifice in the line of duty.
H.R. 1014, the Veterans National Traumatic Brain Injury Treatment Act. This bipartisan legislation requires the VA to implement a pilot program that would provide hyperbaric oxygen therapy to veterans with traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This could provide important additional treatment options to these veterans through the VA healthcare system. The funding would come from donations to the VA and would not be at taxpayer expense. We must expand innovative treatment options to help veterans recover from the wounds of war.
H.R. 2530, the Enewetak Atoll Cleanup Radiation Study Act. This bipartisan act directs the VA to seek to enter into an agreement with the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine to conduct a study on radiation exposure relating to the cleanup of Enewetak Atoll.
H.R. 855, the Veterans Expedited TSA Screening Safe Travel Act. This bipartisan act would provide expedited security screening under the Transportation Security Administration's (TSA’s) PreCheck program to certain qualified, severely injured, or disabled veterans.
H.R. 3994, the Addressing Care Timelines (ACT) for Veterans. Currently, if a veteran is eligible for treatment and suffering a condition preventing them from physically contacting the VA within 72-hours, the VA may deny payment. This means if they do not notify the VA in time, a veteran may be on the hook for medical bills that should have been covered! The legislation would help fix this issue by extending veterans an additional 24-hour period, at minimum, to notify the VA when receiving care at a non-VA facility. This additional time-period will allow for flexibility if a veteran needs additional time to recoup from a severe medical condition or if they are experiencing other challenging issues.
H.R. 1057, the National World War II Memorial Commemorative Coin Act. This bipartisan legislation would authorize the U.S. Treasury to mint coins in commemoration of the National World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. Proceeds from the sale of the coins will be used to maintain and repair the Memorial, as well as for educational programming. This ensures the memorial will be restored and maintained at no cost to the taxpayer.
H.R. 707, the Ghost Army Congressional Gold Medal Act. This bipartisan act would award a Congressional Gold Medal to the 23d Headquarters, Special Troops and the 3133d Signal Service Company, in recognition of their unique and highly distinguished service as a “Ghost Army” that conducted deception operations in Europe during World War II.
H.R. 310, this bipartisan bill would posthumously award a Congressional Gold Medal to Glen Doherty, Tyrone Woods, J. Christopher Stevens, and Sean Smith, who were attacked and murdered by militants on September 11, 2012, at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya. These heroes courageously served their country and paid with the ultimate price. This congressional award would serve to commemorate these four men and recognize their brave contributions to our nation.
Additionally, I am against newly proposed guidance from the Biden Administration that would classify firearms with certain stabilizing braces as “short-barreled rifles.” Stabilizing braces were inspired by the needs of disabled combat veterans who still enjoy recreational shooting but may not be able to reliably control a heavy pistol. Should this guidance go into effect, a disabled combat veteran who has chosen the best stabilizing brace for their disability is now a felon unless they turn in or destroy the firearm, destroy the brace, or pay a $200 tax! After seeing the proposed guidance, I immediately joined 140 of my colleagues in urging the U.S. Attorney General and Acting Director at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) to withdraw their guidance which would tax and infringe upon the constitutionally protected rights of law-abiding citizens and disabled veterans.
Caring for our Vietnam Veterans
H.R. 2269, the Keeping Our Promises Act. This bipartisan legislation would provide certain Vietnam era veterans with the health benefits and care they have earned, ensuring certain conditions such as hypertension and stroke are covered by the presumption of service connection relating to exposure to herbicides.
H.R. 2268, the Granting VA Benefits for Vets Exposed to Agent Orange Act. Under current VA policy, the presumption of exposure to herbicides for Vietnam era veterans who served in Thailand is limited based on geographic location of service and job class. This will be the first bipartisan legislative action specifically providing veterans who were stationed in Thailand with the health benefits and care they have earned.
Vietnam War Commemoration Pin: I have partnered with the Vietnam War Commemoration to ensure that the service of Vietnam War veterans in our district are recognized and honored appropriately. As part of this program veterans and/or family members will receive a commemorative lapel pin and special certificate of recognition to show the gratitude of our nation. If you or a family member served in the Vietnam War, please complete this short form right away, as it is of my utmost priority that Service members receive the recognition they deserve.
Veteran Casework Services
I consider it one of my highest priorities to provide exceptional casework service to our veterans and military families. My Veteran Constituent Services Director Angie Jarnagin has years of experience and will do everything she can to assist on my behalf. In fact, after hearing concerns from our veterans in East Tennessee regarding the 72-hour reporting issue referenced above in the ACT for Veterans bill, it was Angie who put that issue to my attention so I could begin working on a solution. If you are a veteran and need assistance, please fill out our Privacy Release form so my office can get started right away!
Also, in March it came to my attention that there is a significant veteran records request backlog at the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) of approximately 480,000 requests from veterans and their families. This is unacceptable. Therefore, I joined many of my congressional colleagues in signing a letter addressed to President Biden requesting that his Administration take immediate action to eliminate the records request backlog. Without their records, veterans may not be able to access the essential services they have earned while defending our country. These records may be required for veterans to receive COVID-19 vaccinations from the VA, GI Bill education benefits, VA home loans, medical benefits, burial benefits, disability compensation, life insurance and other services. The letter respectfully requests that the Biden Administration use every available resource to ensure our nation’s veterans retain access to these important services while waiting for their records.
Some of the ways that we may be able to assist veterans are as follows:
- Rank promotion, retirement, act of heroism and honoring life congressional commendations
- Compensation, pension, survivor, and insurance benefits
- Medical treatment for Veterans and dependents
- Vocational rehabilitation, education, and employment benefits
- Burial and Death benefits, headstone, and memorial marker applications
- Purchasing a home or VA-acquired property