Issue: Veterans

Walorski, Delaney, Hultgren, Sinema File Bipartisan Bill to Protect Veterans Credit Ratings

Walorski, Delaney, Hultgren, Sinema File Bipartisan Bill to Protect Veterans Credit Ratings

Protecting Veterans Credit Act Endorsed by Numerous Veterans and Consumer Organizations

WASHINGTON – U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.) today joined Reps. John K. Delaney (D-Md., Randy Hultgren (R-Ill.), and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) to reintroduce the Protecting Veterans Credit Act, bipartisan legislation to ensure that veterans’ credit scores and credit reports are not adversely affected by delayed medical payments associated with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Veterans Choice Program and other VA Community Care programs. In total, the bill has 20 cosponsors.

The legislation creates a one year credit reporting grace period for the resolution of debt from medical services. The slow disbursement of Veterans Choice Program payments has meant that potentially thousands of veterans could be adversely affected, with large and inaccurate medical debts wrongly listed in their name while the VA and private providers work through billing. This error could make it more difficult and more expensive for veterans to buy a home or car, rent a place to live or receive a small business loan.

The Protecting Veterans Credit Act has been endorsed by the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA), the American Legion, Wounded Warrior Project, the Paralyzed Veterans of America, the National Consumer Law Center (on behalf of its low income clients) and the Consumer Federation of America. Congressman Delaney first introduced the legislation in 2016. Companion legislation has also been filed in the Senate.

“Veterans shouldn’t have to worry about damage to their credit scores and financial futures due to errors and delays on the part of the VA,” Congresswoman Walorski said. “I’ve heard from too many veterans who need help because the VA or a VA contractor hasn’t paid their medical bills for authorized non-VA care. This commonsense bill will protect veterans while the VA, contractors, and providers work to resolve these billing issues.”

“No veteran should have their financial record wrongly ruined because of someone else’s delays,” said Congressman Delaney. “This is a straightforward bill that shields veterans and their families from what could be a very damaging predicament and I am proud that this bill has been supported by so many veterans and consumer organizations. Republicans and Democrats are standing together on this bill and we’re going to keep working to build support. Credit reports are so impactful and I don’t think anyone believes that the current situation is right, so we’ve got to solve this problem.”

“Enough veterans have faced collateral damage from delays at the VA—their credit score shouldn’t be another casualty of this bureaucracy,” said Congressman Hultgren. “Veterans and their families deserve accurate and timely billing and reimbursements from the VA. This legislation will ensure our veterans aren’t held responsible for bureaucratic ineptitude.”

“Veterans should not be held responsible for the VA’s missed payments and billing errors,” said Congresswoman Sinema. “A damaged credit score makes it more difficult for veterans and their families to rent an apartment, buy car, or apply for a loan. That’s just wrong. This bill is a bipartisan, commonsense solution that ensures bureaucracy does not stand in the way of the American Dream.”

“The Protecting Veterans Credit Act is needed to ensure veterans’ credit ratings are not damaged through no fault of their own,” said Lt Gen Dana T. Atkins, USAF (Ret.), president of the Military Officers Association of America.  “While it is understandable VA needs time to resolve medical billing issues, veterans should not suffer unintended negative consequences in the meantime.  MOAA applauds Congressman Delaney for developing creative solutions to assist VA and veterans.”

“When VA authorizes a veteran to receive care in the community and commits to pay for it, the veteran’s credit score shouldn’t hang in the balance. The Protecting Veterans Credit Act would help veterans avoid credit damage because of billing issues beyond their control.  We thank Congressman Delaney for his leadership on this issue and urge Congress to pass this bill to help veterans access quality health care without risking undue harm to their financial well-being,” said Wounded Warrior Project Senior Vice President René Bardorf.

Veterans have paid for their VA health care through their unwavering commitment and sacrifice to our nation. The Protecting Veterans Credit Act of 2017 would ensure veterans are not financially impacted when they are erroneously billed for care they have earned and deserve.  The Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States thanks Congressman Delaney for his leadership in correcting this issue,” said VFW National Legislative Director Carlos Fuentes.

 

The Protecting Veterans Credit Act

The Problem

  • Created in 2014, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Choice Program provides veterans with the ability to receive medical care in a non-VA facility if the VA cannot schedule an appointment within a specified time period or if the veteran lives more than 40 miles from the closest VA medical facility.
  • The Choice Program is one of several VA programs for veterans to receive non-VA medical care. Unfortunately, all programs that offer non-VA care have had billing and payment issues. This includes the Choice Program which has had issues with delayed payments and inappropriately assigned bills to veterans.
  • Because of delays in payment processing and incorrectly assigned bills, veterans have received adverse actions on their credit reports.
  • Adverse credit action makes it more difficult and more expensive for a veteran to get a home mortgage, an auto loan or even to rent an apartment.
  • To address Choice Program billing issues, the VA set up a call center for veterans to contact the VA to resolve debt collection and adverse credit reporting. The call center received thousands of calls within just a few months, showing the extent of the billing issues with the Choice Program.
  • While the VA is reforming its non-VA care billing procedures, veterans need immediate and retroactive relief from erroneous credit reporting actions. No veteran should have their credit score hurt because of a delay in the VA paying the medical bills.

The Solution

  • The Protecting Veterans Credit Act delays medical debt from medical services received through non-VA medical care, including the Choice Program, from being reported to credit reporting agencies for one year. This delay provides adequate time for the VA and its contractors to resolve any billing issues, while retaining a route for resolution of any co-payments or other obligations.
  • The bill provides a mechanism for veterans to easily dispute adverse actions already on their credit reports.

Benefits

  • By instituting a one year grace period, it will allow sufficient time for the multiple parties involved in the VA community care programs to process the payments, so that veterans receive the care they need, doctors are fairly compensated, and veterans don’t suffer a credit loss for something that isn’t their fault.

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Walorski VA Scheduling Accountability Bill Passes House

Walorski VA Scheduling Accountability Bill Passes House

Bill Heads to Senate Amid Latest Scheduling Scandal at Northern Indiana VA Clinic

WASHINGTON – U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.) today applauded House passage of the VA Scheduling Accountability Act, her legislation requiring Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) facilities to follow all scheduling rules and withholding bonuses from facility directors who fail to certify compliance annually.

The bipartisan passage of H.R. 467 follows a recent VA investigation that confirmed allegations of improper schedule manipulation at the VA Community Based Outpatient Clinic in Peru, Ind.

“Our veterans risked life and limb for our freedom, but too often the VA has let them down,” Congresswoman Walorski said. “It’s time to put an end to scheduling manipulations and false wait time data. Holding every VA facility accountable for following scheduling rules is an important, commonsense step as we work to fix the VA so it works for veterans.”

BACKGROUND

A recent VA investigation requested by Walorski substantiated allegations of misconduct at the Peru VA clinic, where employees were found to be scheduling appointments for veterans without their knowledge and then canceling them the day of the appointment. Walorski last week joined House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Phil Roe (R-Tenn.) and Congressman Jim Banks (R-Ind.) in sending a letter to VA Secretary David Shulkin requesting additional information about these failures and the VA’s response.

H.R. 467 would codify into law the annual requirement for each VA medical facility director to certify compliance with VA scheduling practices and would prohibit any future waivers of the requirement. It also would require the VA secretary to submit an annual report to Congress listing facilities that did not certify compliance and providing an explanation for each.

Walorski originally introduced the legislation in 2016 in the wake of the nationwide VA wait times scandal. A 2014 report issued by the VA Office of Inspector General (OIG) found that a senior VA official in May 2013 waived the annual requirement to certify compliance with the VA’s scheduling policies. Waiving this requirement reduces accountability, damages the integrity of wait time data, and puts veterans at risk.

The VA Scheduling Accountability Act passed the House by a unanimous vote of 419 to 0 and now heads to the Senate.

Video of Walorski speaking on the House floor in support of the legislation is available here. The full text of her remarks is below.

“Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I’d also like to thank Chairman Roe and Ranking Member Walz. What an honor to have worked with these two gentlemen on veterans’ issues.

“Mr. Speaker, I rise today in support of my bill H.R. 467, the VA Scheduling Accountability Act.

“This commonsense legislation codifies an important measure of oversight and accountability of VA facilities to prevent scheduling manipulation – or cooking the books – that has harmed veterans for so long.

“Hearings held by the House VA Committee, and investigations by the VA Inspector General and the GAO, have unfortunately confirmed many of the allegations of cooking books and falsified wait-time data at VA facilities across the country.

“VA has a procedure for scheduling veterans’ medical appointments, which includes 19 different items, such as ensuring that a patient’s desired appointment date is not altered and that the staff are fully trained.

“Importantly, the directive requires each facility to certify compliance with all 19 items every year.

“However, an August 2014 VA Inspector General report uncovered that in May 2013, a senior VA official waived the certification requirement that year, essentially putting facilities on an honor system by allowing them to self-certify.

“Without this crucial accountability mechanism, bad actors were given free rein to manipulate wait-time data and ignore the VA’s required scheduling practices. Meanwhile, veterans faced significant delays in getting the care they needed, while in some extreme cases veterans died.

“Since that time, the VA has reinstated the certification requirements.  However, serious problems remain, as evidenced by a recent VA investigation of a clinic in my own district that I requested after some brave individuals came forward with allegations of wrongdoing.

“The VA found that the clinic scheduled appointments for veterans without the veterans’ knowledge and canceled them on the day of the appointment to fill their schedule for that day.

“If the VA had conducted a proper audit of the facility’s scheduling practices last year, this misconduct could have been prevented.

“The VA’s report recommended a review of scheduling compliance for all medical facilities in the region.

“The VA’s continued inability to reform itself from within is the reason we need to pass this bill.

“This bill will require each facility director to annually certify compliance with the current scheduling directive, or any successor directive that replaces it, and – most importantly – it will prohibit any future waivers. The bill also provides accountability by making a director ineligible for salary bonuses if their facility fails to certify compliance, and it requires the VA to report to Congress a list of facilities that are not in compliance.

“This will provide more oversight of the VA, ensure that Congress is aware of non-compliant facilities, and end the reckless practice of self-certification.

“Mr. Speaker, our veterans risked life and limb for our freedom, but too often the VA has let them down.

“It’s time to put an end to scheduling manipulations, the cooking of the books, and false wait time data.

“Holding every VA facility accountable for following scheduling rules is an important, commonsense step as we work to fix the VA so it works for the veterans in our country.

“I urge my colleagues to support H.R. 467, the VA Scheduling Accountability Act, and I yield back the balance of my time.”

Walorski represents the 2nd Congressional District of Indiana, serving as a member of the House Ways and Means Committee.

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Walorski: We Are Fighting for Veterans

Walorski: We Are Fighting for Veterans

House Considering Seven Veterans Bills, Including Walorski’s VA Scheduling Accountability Act

WASHINGTON – U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.) today participated in the weekly House Republican press conference to highlight several bills on the House floor to ensure veterans get the benefits and care they earned.

The House today will consider H.R. 467, the VA Scheduling Accountability Act, legislation Walorski authored to require VA facilities to certify annual compliance with all scheduling rules. Facility directors who fail to certify compliance would be ineligible for bonuses the following year. The vote follows a VA investigation that confirmed allegations of improper schedule manipulation at the VA Community Based Outpatient Clinic in Peru, Ind.

Congresswoman Walorski was joined at the press conference by House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), Republican Conference Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wa.), and Congresswoman Susan Brooks (R-Ind.)

Video of Walorski’s remarks is available here. The full text is below.

“I’d like to add my thoughts and condolences to the victims in the U.K. as well, and I’m grateful to pass on our thoughts and prayers. My husband and I heard the news last night as well.

“We’re committed to fighting the forces of evil and do believe that good will prevail.

“This week, we’re looking at – in the days ensuing and the weekend ahead – at Memorial Day, how important it is. So we’re looking this week at seven bills on strengthening veteran benefits in this country.

“We’re looking also at mine today, which is the VA Scheduling Accountability Act. This is a commonsense bill that just literally asks the VA to follow the rules of scheduling.

“We had a horrific issue in my district again, confirmed by a VA investigation, that even though it’s been two and three years since the original Phoenix catastrophe was laid open to this country on people that are actually cooking the books on scheduling. Literally moving schedules electronically, moving people in and out, to basically not see veterans at their most vulnerable point of need.

“And what my bill does is puts an end to the manipulation, basically takes bonuses away, gives the power to the VA again to incentivize good behavior and to come and literally crack down once and for all on bad behavior and cooking the books.

“And once again focusing on what every American wants, which is to take care of our veterans that were the first to respond and are often the ones here that need the most help when it comes to fighting for the benefits that they fought for.”

Walorski represents the 2nd Congressional District of Indiana, serving as a member of the House Ways and Means Committee.

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ICYMI: Investigation Finds Improper Care, Scheduling Manipulations at Peru VA Clinic

ICYMI: Investigation Finds Improper Care, Scheduling Manipulations at Peru VA Clinic

Journal Gazette Reports VA Found Veterans’ Pain Medications Reduced Without Doctor Exam

MISHAWAKA, Ind. – An investigation requested by U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.) and the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee found improper treatment of veterans and scheduling manipulations at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Peru Community Based Outpatient Clinic, the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette reported today. An excerpt from the story is below.

The Journal Gazette: Issues found at Peru VA clinic
Opioid doses, ‘fake appointments’ cited
By Brian Francisco

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs found patient care and access improprieties at a Peru outpatient clinic operated by the Fort Wayne-based VA Medical Center.

A VA on-site investigation conducted in December determined that a clinic employee had reduced doses of opioid pain medications for at least six patients without examining or meeting with them.

… VA also discovered that another Peru clinic employee was scheduling appointments for veterans without their knowledge and canceling them on the day of the appointment. The employee allegedly was “padding her schedule with fake appointments to fill her clinic schedule,” the report said.

A review of records from Oct. 1, 2014, through Dec. 21, 2016, uncovered 56 such “placeholder” appointments made by clinic staff, VA said. The practice could have denied veterans the opportunity to receive medical treatment, according to the report.

… Rep. Jackie Walorski, R-2nd, who said she sought the VA investigation after receiving complaints from patients, called the scheduling and opioid prescribing infractions “reprehensible.” She said veterans across the nation “are still dealing with this stuff” despite federal laws, VA leadership shake-ups and media scrutiny related to patient treatment delays and manipulated appointment records at VA hospitals and clinics in recent years.

“The VA system is broken, and it really cannot help itself internally. … It really takes a lot of outside interference and a lot of outside pressure to get change,” Walorski said Tuesday in a phone interview.

… Walorski said employees who committed the improprieties should be removed from their jobs.

“Fire them,” Walorski urged. “They couldn’t do the job. If they knowingly and willingly cooked books (on patient appointments), fire them. If the doctors knowingly and willingly jeopardized somebody’s life, and never even looking at somebody? Fire ’em. Get ’em out of the system. Clean the system up.”

… “I’m going to continue to fight for veterans every day,” Walorski said. She also vowed to “get to the bottom” of the death of the patient whose medications had been tapered.

The full story is available here.

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House Votes to Prevent Expiration of Veterans Choice Program

House Votes to Prevent Expiration of Veterans Choice Program

Bill to Ensure Timely, Quality Care for Veterans Heads to President’s Desk for His Signature

WASHINGTON – U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.) today released the following statement after the House unanimously passed the Veterans Choice Program Improvement Act, which eliminates the sunset date for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) program:

“We made a promise to the brave men and women who served in uniform, and nothing should stand in the way of providing them the care they earned. As Congress and the Trump administration continue working to fix the VA so it works for veterans, extending the Veterans Choice Program is critical to making sure our veterans get the care they need.

“We must do more to eliminate VA scheduling problems and help veterans access private care through the Choice program when they face long wait times. That is why I recently reintroduced the VA Scheduling Accountability Act to ensure all VA facilities follow appropriate scheduling practices and report wait times accurately.”

BACKGROUND

The Senate earlier this week also unanimously passed the Veterans Choice Program Improvement Act. This legislation, which now heads to the president’s desk for his signature, eliminates the statutory sunset date and allows for the full use of the funding originally set aside for the program. The bill also makes VA the primary payer under the program in order to provide stability and to remedy some of the confusion between veterans and community health care providers.

The Veterans Choice Program, which Congress created in 2014 with the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act, provides veterans with the ability to receive non-VA medical care if the VA cannot schedule an appointment within a specified time period or if the veteran lives more than 40 miles from the closest VA medical facility. The program is set to expire on August 7, 2017.

Congresswoman Walorski earlier this year reintroduced the VA Scheduling Accountability Act (H.R. 467). A recent VA Office of Inspector General (OIG) report found that inaccuracies in VA facilities’ wait time data resulting from improper scheduling practices limited veterans’ access to private care through the Veterans Choice Program.

H.R. 467 would codify into law the annual requirement for each facility director to certify compliance with VA scheduling practices and prohibit any future waivers of the requirement. It also would require the Secretary of the VA to submit an annual report to Congress listing facilities that have not certified compliance and providing an explanation for each.

Walorski represents the 2nd Congressional District of Indiana, serving as a member of the House Ways and Means Committee.

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Walorski Testifies at House VA Panel on Scheduling Accountability Bill

Walorski Testifies at House VA Panel on Scheduling Accountability Bill

Legislation Blocks VA from Waiving Scheduling Rules

WASHINGTON – U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.) today testified before the House Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Health in support of her legislation to protect veterans by requiring Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) facilities to comply with all standard practices and directives for scheduling health care appointments.

“We need to let the VA know that we will never give up in holding their feet to the fire,” Congresswoman Walorski said. “We need this legislation in order to end the reckless practice of avoiding compliance.”

Walorski’s testimony on the VA Scheduling Accountability Act (H.R. 467) comes weeks after the VA Office of Inspector General (OIG) released a report on the continued unreliability of wait times reported by VA facilities. The report concluded that inaccuracies in wait time data resulting from improper scheduling practices limited veterans’ access to private care through the Veterans Choice program.

BACKGROUND

Walorski originally introduced the VA Scheduling Accountability Act last year in response to the nationwide VA wait times scandal. In May 2016, the House unanimously passed the legislation as part of a broader VA reform bill.

A 2014 report issued by the VA OIG found that a senior VA official in May 2013 waived a requirement that medical facility directors annually certify their compliance with the VA’s scheduling policies. Waiving this requirement reduces accountability for facilities charged with caring for veterans and damages the integrity of wait time data.

H.R. 467 would codify into law the annual requirement for each facility director to certify compliance with VA scheduling practices and prohibit any future waivers of the requirement. It also would require the Secretary of the VA to submit an annual report to Congress listing facilities that have not certified compliance and providing an explanation for each.

Video of Walorski’s testifying before the subcommittee is available here, and the text of her testimony is below.

“Good morning Chairman Wenstrup, Ranking Member Brownley and members of the Committee.  I appreciate being given the opportunity to discuss the VA Scheduling Accountability Act.

“First, I would like to thank Chairman Wenstrup and Ranking Member Brownley for holding this hearing and allowing me to testify on the reintroduction of this important legislation.

“In 2014, news reports uncovering gross mismanagement and scheduling manipulation at a Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) hospital in Phoenix shook us to the core.

“Through hearings held in this committee and investigations by the VA Office of Inspector General (OIG) and Government Accountability Office (GAO), we substantiated many of the allegations of manipulated schedules and falsified wait-time data at the Phoenix facility.

“The manipulation of appointment schedules and data in Phoenix led to at least 40 veterans dying while they were waiting for care. However, three years after this tragedy VA is still plagued with facilities unable to get their act together when it comes to scheduling appointments.

“Earlier this month the OIG released yet another report that identified flaws in the scheduling system still used by VA facilities nationwide. Instead of owning up to the problems that continue to prevent veterans from getting timely care they need, the new Secretary disputed the findings of inaccurate wait times.

“We need to let the VA know that we will never give up in holding their feet to the fire. That is why I reintroduced the VA Scheduling Accountability Act.

“VA Directive 2010-027 is VA’s implementation processes and procedures policy for scheduling at their facilities and contains 19 different items on the checklist.

“The directive requires an annual certification of full compliance with all items on the list.  For instance, facilities are required to conduct an annual audit of the timeliness and appropriateness of scheduling actions and the accuracy of desired dates.

“They are also required to ensure that deficiencies of competency or performance that are identified by the audit are effectively addressed.

“An August 2014 OIG report uncovered that in May 2013, the then-Deputy Under Secretary for Health for Operations Management waived the FY 2013 annual requirement for facility directors to certify compliance with the VHA scheduling directive.

“Allowing facilities to only self-certify reduced oversight over wait time data integrity and compliance with appropriate scheduling practices.

“This, in turn, allowed VA’s data to be easily manipulated, contributing to the wait time scandal.

“While the VA has reinstated the certification requirement, there is nothing stopping them from waiving it again.

“The VA Scheduling Accountability Act would codify into law that each facility director is required to annually certify compliance with the scheduling directive, or any successor directive that replaces it, and would prohibit any waivers in the future.

“Should a director be unable to certify compliance, either because the facility is not in compliance or the director refuses to sign the certification for some other reason, the director must submit a report to the Secretary explaining why the facility is out of compliance.

“The Secretary will then report yearly to the House and Senate VA Committees with a list of facilities in compliance and those that are not, with an accompanying explanation as to why they were not in compliance.

“To incentivize a facility’s compliance, there is a provision that allows the VA Secretary to revoke an award or bonus for non-compliance.

“Lastly, the legislation requires that any time VA waives or allows noncompliance with requirements in any other directive or policy beyond scheduling, VA must provide a written explanation for the decision to the House and Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committees.

“This will provide more oversight of the Department and ensure Congress is aware when VA is waiving these policies.

“We need this legislation in order to end the reckless practice of avoiding compliance.  I look forward to working with the members of this Committee, and Veteran Services Organizations, in addressing this critical issue.  I thank you again for this opportunity to testify today.”

Walorski represents the 2nd Congressional District of Indiana, serving as a member of the House Ways and Means Committee.

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Walorski, Rice Reintroduce Bill to Help WWII Veterans Denied Care After Secret Mustard Gas Experiments

Walorski, Rice Reintroduce Bill to Help WWII Veterans Denied Care After Secret Mustard Gas Experiments

Bipartisan Arla Harrell Act Would Require Reevaluation of Denied Benefits Claims Tied to Mustard Gas Exposure

WASHINGTON – U.S. Reps. Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.) and Kathleen Rice (D-N.Y.) today reintroduced bipartisan legislation to ensure World War II veterans intentionally exposed to mustard gas receive the care and benefits they have long been denied.

“It is simply unacceptable that World War II veterans exposed to mustard gas are being denied the care and benefits they deserve,” Congresswoman Walorski said. “We have a responsibility to the brave servicemembers who risked everything for our country. It’s time to right this wrong and get these American heroes the help they need.”

“This is about correcting an injustice for hundreds of veterans, including several in New York, who were exposed to chemical weapons by our own government and have been denied the benefits and care they deserve for decades since,” Congresswoman Rice said. “I’m proud to join Congresswoman Walorski in this bipartisan effort, and we’ll do whatever it takes to get this legislation passed.”

BACKGROUND

During World War II, the U.S. military secretly conducted chemical weapons testing on American troops, exposing 60,000 servicemembers to mustard gas or lewisite and swearing them to secrecy.

The testing was declassified in 1975, but the oath of secrecy for servicemembers was not lifted until the early 1990s. Since then, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) failed to adequately notify affected veterans of their eligibility for benefits or to provide proper treatment for the chronic and debilitating conditions that resulted from exposure to mustard agents. The VA has denied approximately 90 percent of benefits claims in the last ten years.

The Arla Harrell Act (H.R. 1359 / S. 75) would ensure affected veterans receive the care and benefits they deserve. It would require the VA and the Department of Defense (DoD) to reevaluate previously denied claims for benefits related to mustard gas or lewisite exposure, with a presumption of full-body exposure in those cases unless either agency can prove otherwise. About 800 living veterans would be eligible to have their cases reconsidered.

It would also require VA and DoD to establish a new policy for processing future benefits claims related to mustard gas exposure. The agencies also would submit reports to Congress on the testing and how many servicemembers were exposed, the high rate of benefits denials, and claims that are again denied after reconsideration.

The Arla Harrell Act is named for an affected World War II veteran from Missouri.

Walorski represents the 2nd Congressional District of Indiana, serving as a member of the House Ways and Means Committee.

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Walorski Statement on President Trump’s Address to Congress

Walorski Statement on President Trump’s Address to Congress

WASHINGTON – U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.) today released the following statement on President Trump’s first address to a joint session of Congress:

“In his first address to Congress, President Trump presented a positive vision and a bold agenda for our country. From jump-starting our economy and growing jobs to rebuilding our military and protecting our veterans, Congress and the president are committed to working together for real solutions that make a difference in people’s lives.

“That’s why we’re working together to fix our broken tax code and make it flatter, simpler, and fairer. We’re rolling back burdensome regulations that are crushing small businesses, manufacturers, and farmers. We’re working to provide relief to the millions of families struggling under Obamacare by repealing and replacing it with a better system that lowers costs, increases choices, and protects patients with pre-existing conditions. And we’re making sure our servicemen and women have the resources they need on the battlefield and the care they deserve when they return home.

“The president’s message was one of optimism, unity, and faith in the American spirit – just what this country needs. Congress and President Trump are off to a great start working for the American people, and I couldn’t be more excited about what we are going to accomplish together.”

Walorski represents the 2nd Congressional District of Indiana, serving as a member of the House Ways and Means Committee.

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Walorski Helps Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Support Families of Fallen Servicemembers

Walorski Helps Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Support Families of Fallen Service Members

Legislation Calls for Semipostal Stamp Honoring Families Who Lost Loved Ones in Combat

WASHINGTON – U.S. Reps. Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.) and Elizabeth Esty (D-Conn.) today introduced the Support the Families of Fallen Heroes Act (H.R. 1147) to honor servicemembers who lose their lives serving in uniform and to provide assistance to their families.

“We owe a debt of gratitude to our fallen heroes who paid the ultimate sacrifice, as well as their loved ones,” Congresswoman Walorski said. “The Families of Fallen Heroes stamp will honor these families and remind them our nation will never forget the brave men and women who gave their lives to defend freedom.”

“The brave men and women of our military who knowingly risk their lives on our behalf deserve to know that their families will be supported and cared for,” Congresswoman Esty said. “After speaking with Joe Nolan in Waterbury and other families who have lost loved ones, I understood the need to do more to honor their sacrifice. The ‘Families of Fallen Heroes’ Semipostal stamp will pay tribute to those who gave their lives for our nation. But it does more than that: by providing proceeds to a program that provides direct assistance to the families of fallen service members, it will help these families get critical help when they need it most.”

BACKGROUND

The Support the Families of Fallen Heroes Act would direct the U.S. Postal Service to issue a Families of Fallen Heroes Semipostal Stamp, the proceeds of which would go to the Families of the Fallen Support program, which is jointly administered by the United Service Organizations, Inc. (USO) and the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS).

The Families of the Fallen support program supports families at Dover Air Base when they witness the return of their fallen loved ones and continue this support through peer-based support groups and camps for children to connect with others coping with a similar loss.

Walorski represents the 2nd Congressional District of Indiana, serving as a member of the House Ways and Means Committee.

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In the News: Ripon Advance: Walorski reintroduces bipartisan bill to help survivors of military sexual assault

Walorski reintroduces bipartisan bill to help survivors of military sexual assault

Bipartisan legislation recently reintroduced by U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-IN) would help survivors of military sexual trauma (MST) obtain treatment through the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA).

Walorski’s bill, H.R. 927, would enable MST survivors to be reimbursed for expenses incurred to travel long distances to receive treatment through the VA facilities that are outside their Veterans Integrated Service Network.

“There is no excuse for putting up barriers to treatment for survivors of military sexual trauma,” Walorski said. “We have a responsibility to ensure our veterans get the care and services they earned. This bipartisan bill will help survivors get the care they need to overcome physical and psychological pain from military sexual trauma, regardless of their geographic location or their distance from VA facilities.”

Read the full story here.

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