Issue: Veterans

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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Congress Passes Walorski Bill to Improve Quality and Safety of Disabled Veterans’ Mobility Equipment

Congress Passes Walorski Bill to Improve Quality and Safety of Disabled Veterans’ Mobility Equipment

Veterans Mobility Safety Act Will Update VA Standards for Automobile Adaptive Equipment

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski (IN-02), a member of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, today applauded final passage of her bill to improve the quality and safety of mobility equipment used by disabled veterans.

“We owe a debt to our disabled veterans, and that includes making sure the mobility equipment they need is safe and reliable,” Congresswoman Walorski said. “With this commonsense bill on its way to becoming law, we will keep disabled veterans safe by updating the VA’s outdated policies and setting comprehensive standards for the mobility equipment veterans depend on in their daily lives.”

“Paralyzed Veterans of America members who enjoy the independence and opportunity that driving an adaptive vehicle offers will be greatly impacted by this legislation,” said Sherman Gillums, Jr., executive director of Paralyzed Veterans of America. “I count myself among them, and I am gratified to see the bill taking us in a direction to make adapted vehicles safer and more functionally efficient for our nation’s injured veterans. We applaud Representative Walorski’s leadership and perseverance on this important legislation, and we look forward to the President signing the bill into law.”

The Veterans Mobility Safety Act (H.R. 3471) will require the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to set comprehensive standards for providers of automobile adaptive equipment, such as wheelchair lifts and reduced-effort steering and braking systems. The bill now heads to the president’s desk to be signed into law.

Congresswoman Walorski spoke on the House floor after passage of the legislation. Video of her remarks is available here.

BACKGROUND

Through the VA’s Automobile Adaptive Equipment (AAE) program, eligible disabled veterans have access to automotive mobility products, such as wheelchair lifts and reduced-effort steering and braking in vehicles. However, the VA does not require any type of quality standards for providers to participate in the AAE program, resulting in some cases of inferior providers improperly installing equipment, causing serious safety issues for veterans and motorists.

The House on Tuesday passed an amended version of H.R. 3471 unanimously by voice vote after it was passed by the Senate. The final version requires the VA to update its outdated policies on adaptive equipment with comprehensive quality standards developed in close consultation with stakeholders, including veteran service organizations, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, and industry representatives.

H.R. 3471 was originally introduced in September 2015 by Walorski, Rep. Raul Ruiz, M.D. (CA-36), and Rep. Julia Brownley (CA-26) to ensure disabled veterans relying on mobility equipment receive the best quality, performance, and safety.

The bill also includes provisions authored by Rep. Sean Duffy (WI-07) to improve care for veterans with hearing aids by allowing certified hearing aid specialists to provide certain hearing aid services.

Walorski represents the 2nd Congressional District of Indiana, serving as a member of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, House Armed Services Committee and House Committee on Agriculture.

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

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

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

WASHINGTON – U.S. Reps. Jackie Walorski (IN-02), Kathleen Rice (NY-04), and Ryan Costello (PA-06), members of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, today introduced legislation to ensure World War II veterans intentionally exposed to mustard gas receive the care and benefits they have long been denied.

“It’s bad enough that American servicemembers were exposed to mustard gas by our own military – but the fact that the VA continues to deny them the care and benefits they deserve is unacceptable,” Congresswoman Walorski said. “We have a responsibility to all those who served our nation in uniform, and it’s time we right this wrong and begin to repay the tremendous sacrifice these veterans made.”

“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 and Congressman Costello in this bipartisan effort, and we’ll do whatever it takes to get this legislation passed.”

“Pennsylvania’s World War II veterans proudly and courageously served their country,” Congressman Costello said. “This legislation would assist our veterans who were purposely exposed to mustard gas during their time of service by ensuring and accelerating their access to benefits from the Department of Veterans’ Affairs. I’m proud to cosponsor this long overdue solution for our nation’s heroes in uniform.”

“These men were horribly abused by our government seven decades ago and they haven’t even acknowledged their sacrifice or their mistreatment,” said U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill (MO), daughter of a WWII veteran and senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, who authored the bill. “This bill is about showing them that we understand what they went through and correcting a horrible stain on our past—it’s already too late for many of them. This could be our last chance to act before it’s too late for them all.”

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. 6096/ S. 3023) 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, named for an affected World War II veteran from Missouri, was originally introduced in June by Senator McCaskill.

Walorski represents the 2nd Congressional District of Indiana, serving as a member of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, House Armed Services Committee and House Committee on Agriculture.

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Indiana Delegation Files Legislation to Assist Veterans Harmed by ITT Tech Closure

Indiana Delegation Files Legislation to Assist Veterans Harmed by ITT Tech Closure

WASHINGTON – U.S. Reps. Jackie Walorski (IN-02), Luke Messer (IN-06), Todd Young (IN-09), and other members of the Indiana congressional delegation filed legislation today to assist veterans harmed by the recent closure of  ITT Technical Institute.

ITT Tech ceased operations last week, closing 130 campuses nationwide and impacting an estimated 40,000 students, including nearly 7,000 veterans.

While current federal law allows students to have their federal student loans discharged if they are unable to complete a degree program due to the closure of an institution, there is no similar provision for veterans who used GI Bill educational benefits to pursue a degree.

H.R. 6003 would allow veterans to recover their GI Bill educational benefits if they were using their benefits at a college or university that closes, preventing them from completing their degree. The bill would apply to all veterans who were enrolled at ITT Tech at the time it closed.

“Our veterans fought to defend the American Dream for all of us – we can’t let them lose their own shot at the American Dream,” Congresswoman Walorski said. “We have a responsibility to help veterans who, because of circumstances beyond their control, have been left without the degree they were working toward. This bill ensures they can make full use of the benefits they earned.”

“Thousands of veterans invested their time and educational benefits to attend ITT Tech, and now they are left without a degree or path forward,” Messer said. “As part of our enduring commitment to America’s veterans, we must be ready to assist the servicemen and women who use their benefits to pursue a degree at an institution that has failed.”

“The veterans impacted by ITT Tech’s closure deserve an immediate resolution,” Young said. “The first item on our Congressional checklist must be to make these veterans whole, with no justification for delay. It is my hope to see our legislation move swiftly to passage, as it guarantees every single veteran receives, in full, the education they earned.”

Indiana Reps. Susan Brooks (IN-05), Larry Bucshon (IN-08), and Todd Rokita (IN-04) are also sponsoring the bill.

“GI bill education benefits are a promise that we make to the brave men and women who serve our country, and it’s one that our nation must keep,” said Brooks, in whose district ITT Tech was formerly based. “The opportunity to further your education and develop the skills and expertise for a career after the military is an opportunity that our veterans earn through service. This bill makes sure that every veteran has this opportunity, and protects our veterans when an institution of higher education closes. We owe it to our servicemen and women.”

Messer also sent a letter to the Department of Education last week demanding more information about the potential sale of ITT Tech’s campuses, other proposals offered by ITT Tech to reimburse students, and what actions are being taken by the Education Department to protect taxpayers.

The Department of Education created a webpage to provide information and assistance to ITT Tech students here.

Walorski represents the 2nd Congressional District of Indiana, serving as a member of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, House Armed Services Committee and House Committee on Agriculture.

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