By: U.S. Senator Jerry Moran (R-Kan.)
Originally printed in the Topeka Capital-Journal
This Congress, I will continue serving veterans as the ranking member of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. Traveling across our state, I have had the opportunity to hear from thousands of Kansas veterans, their families and caregivers, sharing their military experiences and the challenges they face when returning home from service.
These conversations keep me grounded, give me a better understanding of the specific issues veterans are facing and where we can develop real solutions to make certain veterans are receiving the care and benefits they have earned.
At a town hall meeting with the Vietnam Veterans of America in Wichita, I heard from Kansas veterans about the horrible effects of Agent Orange. Shortly after the meeting, I introduced the Toxic Exposure Research Act to learn more about the health conditions of veterans who were exposed to toxins during their military service.
In addition to Vietnam veterans, 3.5 million post-9/11 veterans have been potentially exposed to burn pits. Last year, I worked with Sen. Jon Tester, D-Montana, to introduce and pass the PACT Act. Implementing this law will now require oversight to make certain the VA is adhering to the law’s intent and providing Kansas veterans with timely, quality care and benefits.
Last year, I heard from veteran caregivers in Kansas about the unique challenges they and the veterans in their care were facing. Their feedback led to two bills: the RESPECT Act and the Elizabeth Dole Home Care Act.
The RESPECT Act would make it easier for veterans with mental health or neurological conditions to enroll in VA’s Family Caregiver Program and allow their caregivers to get help for their own mental health closer to home.
The Elizabeth Dole Home Care Act would expand home and community-based services for veterans so that they have more choices and more ways to get support from VA as they age.
When I became chairman of the committee, one of my top priorities was to address veteran suicide. I introduced the Commander Hannon Act to adopt a new approach to suicide prevention for our veterans. Even though this bill was signed into law in October 2020, key elements are still being implemented and this committee must remain vigilant in providing the resources necessary to support veterans in need.
One of the most consequential pieces of legislation to pass out of the committee was the MISSION Act. This legislation was designed to give veterans more access and options to receive health care, but lately, my office has received a number of reports from veterans about barriers to freely choose where, when and how to use the VA health care benefits.
These issues are particularly troubling for rural populations, which already face a lack of access to health care. I will continue to prioritize oversight into the implementation and impact of the MISSION Act to confirm that VA is faithfully following the law and Congressional intent regarding veterans’ choice.
At a time when partisan rancor and gridlock seem more prevalent than ever, the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs breaks through the dysfunction and delivers real solutions for our nation’s heroes. I will keep listening to Kansans and bring our home state’s ideas, dedication to service and deep respect for our veterans to Washington.
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