As a member of the U.S. Air Force Reserve and an Iraq veteran, I have witnessed the bravery and sacrifice of our men and women in uniform. Our nation must provide its military members, veterans, and their families the benefits they’ve earned serving their fellow Americans. Unfortunately, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has fallen short of that goal far too often in recent years.
In response to the VA’s clear need for reform, the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014 created the Veterans Choice Program to give veterans the option of receiving VA-covered care through some private providers if certain obstacles to receiving care at a VA facility exist. This program serves veterans in northeast Georgia and across the country as they pursue the quality care they’ve earned defending our nation and its freedoms.
I also introduced the Expanding Veterans’ Access to Choice Act after learning that a Ninth District resident was unable to qualify for the Choice Program despite the fact that his local VA facility had reached its capacity. The Expanding Veterans’ Access to Choice Act would block the VA from exploiting bureaucratic loopholes to prevent veterans from receiving health care through the Choice Program.
I have also advocated for the continued stability of the Choice Program while Congress works to strengthen it. In 2017, the House passed legislation to continue funding for the Choice Program and to address significant shortcomings at VA facilities. The bill was signed into law and appropriated $2.1 billion for the Veterans Choice Program to remain available until expended.
Far too many veterans have been mistreated by the VA through mismanagement and employee misconduct. I voted for the VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act when it passed the House in 2017. This legislation was signed into law and will improve VA services by instituting accountability reforms to ensure our veterans are receiving the high-quality care they deserve and to better protect the many VA employees who are doing their jobs properly.
Additionally, I introduced legislation to ensure that the infants of female veterans receiving maternity care from the VA also receive high-quality care from VA physicians. The Newborn Care Improvement Act would require the VA to extend post-delivery care services from seven days to 42 days after the birth of a child delivered in a VA facility should such care be medically necessary.
I also supported action by the House to ensure that veterans can use their education benefits under the GI bill whenever they choose. The Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act expands the GI bill to ensure that veterans can pursue their education without impending time limits. This legislation was signed into law in 2017 and also makes it easier for post-9/11 Purple Heart recipients to receive GI bill benefits.
We must keep working to ensure that the VA undergoes meaningful reform and veterans and their families receive the benefits they deserve.