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Cheri Bustos for Congress Statement
Our veterans have served this country bravely and deserve to know that their benefits and health care will be there for them when they need it. That’s why, during my time in Congress, I have been and will continue to be a strong advocate for veterans. I even keep my grandfather’s American Legion cap in my office in Washington, DC, as a reminder of the importance of fighting for our veterans.
I am supportive of efforts to expand coverage that our veterans receive and was one of the first Members of Congress to cosponsor H.R. 96, which would require the VA to provide dental care just as it would any other form of health care. I was also proud to cosponsor and help pass H.R. 299, the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act. This bill was signed into law in June of 2019 and requires the VA to presume exposure to Agent Orange for Blue Water Veterans – an issue I heard about from many veterans seeking assistance from my office. After this bill became law, I sent a letter to VA Secretary Wilkie urging its swift implementation, especially in light of the parallel court decision in Procopio v. Wilkie in favor of the presumption.
In my role on the House Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Subcommittee, I have the opportunity to oversee the federal dollars flowing to the VA, to push for funding for key programs and to hold the Administration to account if they misuse funds or fail to support our veterans. I’ve taken issues I’ve heard about from folks back home – whether during American Legion visits, walking the aisles of grocery stores during Supermarket Saturdays, from my regular calls with my Veterans Advisory Council or just from someone raising an issue to my office – and turned them into spending requests and questions for senior VA leadership.
For example, an issue I hear about from nearly every single veteran I talk to is how difficult it can be to find reliable transportation to and from appointments. I took this back to the Appropriations Committee and, in Fiscal Year (FY) 2020, secured a study into transportation issues facing veterans, as well as $5 million for a pilot program to address the transportation needs of rural veterans. Both of these measures were signed into law. For FY 2021, the House has passed a funding bill that requires the VA to look at expanding reimbursement for travel to Veterans Centers for all veterans, not just highly rural veterans.
After a veteran tragically died by suicide at a VA hospital serving my Congressional District, I joined my colleague Rep. Dave Loebsack (IA-02) in introducing the Sgt. Brandon Ketchum Never Again Act. This bill would require the VA to provide a psychiatric bed to a veteran if he or she requests it. If a bed is not available, the bill would require the VA to locate a bed at an outside facility for that veteran. At an oversight hearing on VA Mental Health Programs last year, I questioned Dr. David Carroll, the Executive Director of Mental Health Operations for all of the VA, about whether this type of policy was feasible. In his answer, he agreed it was both practical and an obligation of the VA to ensure veterans have access to psychiatric beds when they need them.
And, on March 4th, I was the first Member of the House Appropriations Committee to ask Secretary Wilkie about the VA’s plan for addressing the coronavirus. Later that month, I was proud to support the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act when it passed the House and was subsequently signed into law. That bill provided $17.2 billion to the VA to help veterans during the pandemic. Since then, I helped the House pass the updated Heroes Act, which would provide another $617 million for the VA as the pandemic continues. As our nation continues to fight this disease, I will keep pushing for our veterans to be protected.
More Information about this candidate can be found at: www.cheribustos.com/