Issue: Veterans

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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Walorski Presents Service Medals to Elkhart Veteran

Walorski Presents Service Medals to Elkhart Veteran

Vietnam Veteran Danny Shaw Receives Medals for Army Service

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MISHAWAKA, Ind. – U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.) today presented military service medals to Army veteran and Elkhart resident Danny Shaw in a ceremony at her Mishawaka District Office.

“Army veteran Danny Shaw served our country with bravery, and it’s an honor to present him the medals he earned,” Congresswoman Walorski said. “These medals are a reminder of the brave service of all our veterans and the sacrifices their families have made. As Americans, we are grateful for veterans like Danny who risked their lives to keep our nation safe and free.”

Photos from today’s ceremony are available here.

BACKGROUND

Shaw served in the U.S. Army from 1964 to 1967 and completed a tour of duty in Vietnam. He requested assistance from Congresswoman Walorski’s office in obtaining the medals he earned during his military service.

The medals Walorski presented include the Vietnam Service Medal with two Bronze Service Stars; the Republic of Vietnam Campaign Ribbon with Device (1960); the National Defense Service Medal; and the Sharpshooter Badge with Rifle Bar.

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

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Walorski, Kuster Reintroduce Bill to Help Military Sexual Trauma Survivors Access Care

Walorski, Kuster Reintroduce Bill to Help Military Sexual Trauma Survivors Access Care

Bipartisan Legislation Expands Eligibility for VA Travel Benefits

WASHINGTON – U.S. Representatives Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.) and Annie Kuster (D-N.H.) this week reintroduced bipartisan legislation to help survivors of military sexual trauma (MST) access treatment through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The bill, H.R. 927, makes MST survivors eligible for benefits to cover expenses when they need to travel long distances to receive treatment.

“There is no excuse for putting up barriers to treatment for survivors of military sexual trauma,” Congresswoman 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.”

“The men and women who have served our nation in uniform deserve nothing short of the best care and access to health services possible,” Congresswoman Kuster said. “That commitment extends to the thousands of veterans who suffered trauma as a result of sexual assault while in service. The issue of military sexual assault is well documented and it’s critical that those who have been impacted are able to access the services they need. This important legislation would ensure that veterans seeking care for sexual assault are able to receive reimbursement for their travel as they would with any other service related care.”

BACKGROUND

The crisis of servicemembers experiencing sexual assault and harassment remains a serious problem in the military. The Department of Defense estimates there were approximately 19,000 cases of unwanted sexual contact among servicemembers in 2014.

The VA provides counseling, health care services, and other treatment to veterans who experienced MST. However, many survivors must travel long distances to receive treatment but are unable to obtain travel benefits to access the care they need. H.R. 927 allows veterans to be reimbursed for travel outside their Veterans Integrated Service Network (VISN) when seeking treatment related to MST.

A 2012 VA Office of Inspector General (OIG) report found the VA’s Beneficiary Travel policy does not align with its MST treatment policy, under which MST patients are referred to programs that are clinically indicated regardless of geographic location. Veterans with MST are often admitted to programs outside their VISN, but obtaining authorization for travel funding is frequently cited as a problem.

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

Kuster represents the 2nd Congressional District of New Hampshire, serving as a member of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, where she is the ranking member on the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee, and the House Agriculture Committee.

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In the News: Elkhart Truth: Walorski introduces bill to further protect veterans scheduling VA appointments

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Walorski introduces bill to further protect veterans scheduling VA appointments

by Ben Quiggle

U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski introduced legislation to protect veterans who are scheduling health care appointments at Department of Veterans Affairs facilities.

The VA Scheduling Accountability Act would reinstate the annual requirement for each facility director to certify compliance with VA scheduling practices. Walorski originally introduced the VA Scheduling Accountability Act last year in response to the nationwide VA wait times scandal.

“Veterans risked life and limb to keep America safe and free, but too often the VA has let them down and failed to provide the quality, timely care they earned,” Walorski said. “Ensuring every facility follows the VA’s scheduling rules is an important, common-sense step as Congress and the incoming administration get to work fixing the VA so it works for veterans.”

Read the full story here.

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Walorski Reintroduces VA Scheduling Accountability Bill

Walorski Reintroduces VA Scheduling Accountability Bill

Legislation Blocks VA from Waiving Scheduling Rules; Passed House Unanimously in Last Congress

WASHINGTON – U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.) today reintroduced legislation to protect veterans from scheduling manipulations at Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) facilities. The VA Scheduling Accountability Act (H.R. 467) would increase accountability at the VA by requiring facilities to comply with all standard practices and directives for scheduling veterans’ health care appointments.

“Veterans risked life and limb to keep America safe and free, but too often the VA has let them down and failed to provide the quality, timely care they earned,” Congresswoman Walorski said. “Ensuring every facility follows the VA’s scheduling rules is an important, common-sense step as Congress and the incoming administration get to work fixing the VA so it works for veterans.”

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 Office of Inspector General (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 reinstate 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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In the News: Elkhart Truth: Obama signs bill backed by Walorski to study recreation economy, another awaits his signature

 

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Obama signs bill backed by Walorski to study recreation economy, another awaits his signature

by Ben Quiggle

President Obama has signed a piece of legislation backed by U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski that provides for a study of the outdoor recreation economy.

The Outdoor Recreation’s Economic Contributions Act directs the U.S. Department of Commerce to analyze and report on the impact outdoor recreational activities have on the economy, according to a press release. The data will be used to help federal, state and local governments make more informed policy and business decisions when considering rules, regulations and laws that impact recreation enthusiasts.

… “Indiana’s Second District is the RV capital of the world, so I know how vital the recreation industry is to our nation’s economy,” said Walorski, who is also the House RV Caucus co-chairwoman. “I am honored to be a co-sponsor of the REC Act, which will ensure we have a full picture of the economic impact of these businesses and the jobs they create so we can keep this industry growing.”

NDAA BILL

Walorski also saw Congress approve another bill she had been actively working on, the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act. She authored a provision of the bill that will support camps providing assistance to children from military families who have experienced or live in traumatic situations, according to a press release.

… “Military families make enormous sacrifices in service to our nation and they deserve our gratitude and support,” Walorski said. “The children of fallen heroes and of veterans struggling with post-traumatic stress and addiction face unique challenges, which is why I fought for this provision in the NDAA. With the bill now on its way to the president’s desk, more of these young people will be able to attend camps that offer help, guidance and healing.”

Read the full story here.

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In the News: Elkhart Truth: Congress approves Walorski’s bill to safeguard equipment used by military veterans

 

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Congress approves Walorski’s bill to safeguard equipment used by military veterans

by Tim Vandenack

A bill introduced by U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski to safeguard the quality of mobility equipment used by disabled military veterans passed the U.S. House in a unanimous voice vote Wednesday, she said in a statement.

“We owe a debt to our disabled veterans, and that includes making sure the mobility equipment they need is safe and reliable,” Walorski, a Republican from the Jimtown area, said.

The measure, the Veterans Mobility Safety Act, calls on the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to create new standards for companies that make “automotive adaptive equipment” for disabled vets, like wheelchair lifts and reduced-effort steering and braking systems.

Read the full story here.

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