May 23 2018

VIDEO: Senate Overwhelmingly Passes VA MISSION Act to Improve Care for Veterans

Bill Includes Blunt’s Veteran PEER Act to Expand Access to Peer Counseling

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senator Roy Blunt (Mo.) spoke on the Senate floor in support of the VA MISSION Act, which was overwhelmingly passed by the Senate by a vote of 92-5. The bipartisan legislation will improve the Veterans Choice Program and other critical VA programs to ensure veterans have access to care when and where they need it. The bill also includes Blunt’s Veteran PEER Act, which authorizes the VA to establish peer specialists in Patient Aligned Care Teams within VA medical centers.  The bill is now headed to the president’s desk.

Blunt also provided an update on his HIRE Vets Act and Military Family Stability Act, both of which were signed into law in 2017 to support veterans and their families.

Following are Excerpts From Blunt’s Remarks:

On Memorial Day:

“On Memorial Day in 1983, President Reagan said, ‘I don't have to tell you how fragile this precious gift of freedom is. Every time we hear, watch, or read the news, we are reminded that liberty is a rare commodity in this world.’ President Reagan's words from 35 years ago are every bit as significant today as they were then. The willingness to pay the price for freedom by every Soldier, Sailor, Airman, Marine, person in the Coast Guard, the National Guard, the Reserves, we honor their willingness to do that on Memorial Day. This is a good time also for us to discuss the things that the Congress has been doing to try to honor that service as we continue to look at the challenges veterans face.”

On the HIRE Vets Act:

“I have talked before about the HIRE Vets Act, which was signed into law last year. The bill established a hire vets program within the Department of Labor to provide a tiered recognition of what employers do based on their contributions for veteran employment. Some of the criteria were things like what percentage of the new hires were veterans or what percentage of the overall workforce is veterans, what types of training and leadership development opportunities are made available that veterans have unique opportunities to take advantage of, what recognition is given to skills that veterans learn while serving and what other benefits and resources are offered to veterans, things like tuition assistance. … HIRE Vets is up and running. This year, over 300 employers have signed up to participate in the pilot program.”

On the Military Family Stability Act:

“The second program that's getting started this year is the Military Family Stability Act. It was signed into law last November. … We’ve created a new opportunity for families for education reasons or work reasons to leave earlier than the spouse that's serving is being assigned or to stay a little later. … Secretary Mattis and Chairman McCain were very supportive of this program, as was the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Dunford, and we're looking forward to seeing how families are able this year for the first time to look at that next assignment and decide when's the right time for the family to move to that assignment.”

On Modernizing VA Health Records:

“The president and the acting head of the VA just signed a contract with Cerner, a Kansas City company that will modernize the VA's health care IT records, the records that health care providers in the whole system can access. Cerner was already in the process of coming up with a system that worked for the active Defense Department. It only made sense for them to be the company that also makes that transition into the even bigger VA Health system, a system that works.”

On the VA MISSION Act:

“The Senator from North Dakota just talked about some of the obstacles that frankly the VA System had put in the way of veterans who wanted to take advantage of the program. I have had people from Missouri in our office lately who are looking at VA health and had a great discussion from the hospital administrators in our state about how it not only helps them but, particularly in small communities, helps the community hospital if they can identify something that community hospital does better than they do it, to be able to assign that work to be done there. The bill expands, as Senator Hoeven, just mentioned the caregivers program and makes the eligibility for caregivers greater than it has been before.”

On the Veteran PEER Act:

“Senator Blumenthal and I had a bill that was incorporated in the program, the Veteran PEER Act, which just simply turns to the peer group veterans and lets them become part of the emotional and mental support team for veterans that are being challenged. I'm glad to see that legislation in the bill, the MISSION Act that has gone through the process. …

“So together with the VA MISSION Act, the electronic health records system contract that's now being performed by Cerner, the HIRE Vets act, the [Military] Family Stability Act, I think what we see here is that when we think that we have done everything we need to do to honor our veterans and look more closely, we find there are still things that we can do, that we will do, that we clearly are willing to do, and we owe veterans that.”

CLICK HERE To Watch Senator Blunt’s Remarks