H.R. 1443, H.R. 1612, H.R. 1702, H.R. 2065, and DRAFT LEGISLATION
July 10, 2013
RAYMOND C. KELLEY, DIRECTOR
NATIONAL LEGISLATIVE SERVICE
VETERANS OF FOREIGN WARS OF THE UNITED STATES
COMMITTEE ON VETERANS’ AFFAIRS
SUBCOMMITTEE ON HEALTH
UNITED STATES HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
WITH RESPECT TO
H.R. 1443, H.R. 1612, H.R.
1702, H.R. 2065, and DRAFT LEGISLATION
WASHINGTON, D.C. JULY
MR. CHAIRMAN AND MEMBERS OF THE
On behalf of the men and women of the Veterans
of Foreign Wars of the United States (VFW) and our Auxiliaries, I would like to
thank you for the opportunity to offer testimony on today’s pending legislation.
1443, the Tinnitus Research and Treatment Act of 2013
The VFW supports this legislation which
would require the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to recognize tinnitus as
a mandatory condition for research and treatment by the VA Auditory Centers of
Excellence in cooperation with the Department of Defense Hearing Center of
Excellence. Characterized by a steady or
intermittent ringing of the ears, tinnitus can cause sleep disruption,
cognitive impairment and employment difficulties, and can worsen the symptoms
of depression and anxiety disorders. Tinnitus
is the most frequent service-connected disability awarded by VA among veterans
of all eras. The common causes of
tinnitus are acoustic trauma and traumatic brain injury, placing Iraq and
Afghanistan veterans at particularly high risk due to IED blast exposure. Since 2000, the number of veterans who are
service-connected for tinnitus has increased by at least 16.5 percent each
Although there is no known cure for
tinnitus, it should not be assumed that the condition is untreatable. VA’s Progressive Tinnitus Management approach,
which assists tinnitus suffers through individual counseling and support, is
helping veterans better manage their symptoms. Still, more research is needed
in order to identify truly effective treatments to alleviate those symptoms. This bill represents a positive first step
towards achieving that goal.
1612, to direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to convey a parcel of land in
Tuskegee, Alabama, to Tuskegee University.
The VFW supports H.R. 1612, a bill that
directs the Secretary of VA to convey a parcel of land in Tuskegee, Alabama, to
Tuskegee University. More than 90 years ago, Tuskegee University, a land grant
university, voted to donate 300 acres of land so the United States government
could build a veterans hospital. Today, 21 of the buildings, accounting for
nearly 280,000 square feet of space, sit vacant on that property. Nearly half
of the buildings that would accompany the transfer are former quarters for
employees who worked in housekeeping within the hospital, while several others
are small 500 square feet or less storage buildings.
Annually, VA spends approximately $2 per
square foot to maintain vacant space. For the buildings that fall within this
land transfer, VA spends more than $500,000 per year in maintenance. Reducing
the financial burden for upkeep of these buildings and grounds will allow VA to
better use those non-recurring maintenance funds to ensure the highest level of
maintenance for the facilities that provide care and service to our veterans
and not on buildings that are sitting vacant.
With nearly 1000 vacant or underutilized
buildings within their system, the VA must work to right-size its property
inventory, decreasing its footprint in some areas and increasing it in others.
In doing so, VA must ensure they can provide a full continuum of care for
veterans. At the Tuskegee VA Campus, programs and services have been expanded
to include homeless shelters, community living facilities and women veterans
services. Knowing VA has utilized as much of the property as possible, it is a
financially responsible decision to return 64.5 acres of the original 300 acres
land and improvements back to Tuskegee University.
1702, the Veterans Transportation Service Act
The VFW supports this legislation to
permanently authorize the Veterans Transportation Service (VTS). This program, commissioned by the VHA Office
of Rural Health in 2010, has greatly improved access to care for rural and
seriously disabled veterans by allowing VA facilities to establish and
coordinate networks of local transportation providers, including community and
commercial transportation providers, and government transportation
services. The VTS augments veterans
service organizations’ volunteer-based transportation services, which are
limited to transporting ambulatory veterans, and supplements the existing
beneficiary travel programs of mileage reimbursement, which does not provide
assistance with the coordination of transportation for those who need it, and
special mode travel, for which few veterans medically qualify.
The VTS suffered a major setback in 2012
when it was temporarily suspended following a determination by the VA Office of
General Counsel that VA lacked the statutory authority to hire paid drivers to
transport veterans. Congress wisely
passed a one-year authorization of the VTS program in January 2013, but a
long-term fix is still needed.
The VFW believes that unnecessary
hardships associated with accessing VA health care should be eliminated at
every opportunity. This legislation
would guarantee the continuation and future expansion of VTS, which plays a
critical role in minimizing the challenges many veterans face in traveling to
their appointments due to physical disabilities or great distances.
2065, the Safe Housing for Homeless Veterans Act
The VFW supports this legislation which would
require facilities that house homeless veterans to meet all relevant local
building codes in order to receive per diem payments under the VA Homeless
Providers Grant Per Diem Program. Currently,
VA is required to check housing certificates before awarding grants for housing
services provided to homeless veterans. However, thorough checks of fire and
safety requirements, as well as structural conditions of the building, are
often overlooked. The bill requires that
current recipients of per diem payments submit certification of compliance with
local codes within two years of the enactment of this act, giving them ample
time to make any necessary improvements.
believes that VA funded transitional housing must be safe, secure, and
sanitary. This bill would ensure that
those standards are met, providing homeless veterans with the best chances of
successful community reintegration.
Draft Bill, the Long-Term Care Veterans
The VFW supports this legislation, which
would add language to Section 1720 of Title 38 to allow veterans who receive VA
care and require a protracted period of nursing home care to transfer into an
adult foster home at their request. Under the bill, such homes must be
“designed to provide non-institutional, long-term, supportive care for veterans
who are unable to live independently and prefer a family setting.” VA
currently has the authority to reimburse institutional care facilities such as
nursing homes for long-term domiciliary care, but veterans who choose to live
in adult foster homes must do so at their own expense. To grant VA the authority
to reimburse adult foster homes would provide veterans with an additional
residency choice, potentially improving the quality of life for those who would
prefer this option.
The VFW strongly believes that all
non-VA services should be provided in conjunction with proper care coordination. VA Handbook 1141.02, Medical Foster Home
Procedures, establishes the policies and standards of VA care coordination for
veterans who choose to live in medical foster home settings. It requires an interdisciplinary VA Home Care
Team to provide the veteran with primary care, regularly communicate with the
foster home caregiver, and monitor the care provided by the foster home with
frequent unannounced visits. The VFW
feels that these would ensure adequate care coordination for veterans who chose
to participate in a fully-funded adult foster care program. VA Handbook 1411.02 is scheduled for
recertification in 2014, and the VFW recommends that the care coordination
policies outlined in that document should be made permanent by adding them to
the language of this legislation.
Mr. Chairman, this concludes my
statement. I am happy to answer any
questions you or other members of the committee may have.
Information Required by Rule XI2(g)(4) of the
House of Representatives
Pursuant to Rule XI2(g)(4) of the House of
Representatives, VFW has not received any federal grants in Fiscal Year 2013,
nor has it received any federal grants in the two previous Fiscal Years.
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