Hoeven Outlines Legislative Accomplishments & Ongoing Initiatives for Veterans at American Legion Conference

MANDAN, N.D. – At the North Dakota American Legion Winter Conference today, Senator John Hoeven outlined legislation he helped pass over the last year to improve services for veterans, as well as his continued work to increase veteran access to health care in their communities and strengthen the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

“Strengthening the benefits that our veterans have earned continues to be a top priority in this Congress,” Hoeven said. “So far, we have successfully passed legislation to improve accountability at the VA, reduce wait times for veterans under the VA’s appeals process and expand education benefits under the G.I. bill. Moving forward, we will continue to advance efforts to strengthen the care our veterans receive at the VA and improve access to health care closer to home.”

Veterans Legislation Signed into Law

Since the start of the 115th Congress, Hoeven has helped pass the following legislation, which has been signed into law, to benefit veterans:

  • Accountability at the VA – The Hoeven-cosponsored legislation gives the VA secretary the necessary tools to address poor performance and misconduct by VA employees, while also establishing safeguards to protect whistleblowers.
  • Modernizing the VA Claims and Appeals Process – Hoeven cosponsored legislation to update and improve the benefit claims appeals process at the VA. This reduces the wait times for veterans who are not satisfied with the VA’s initial decision on their benefits claims.
  • G.I. Bill Education Benefits – The legislation expands G.I. bill benefits and includes a measure Hoeven worked to secure that makes Guard members mobilized under domestic, pre-planned operations, like the North Dakota Army National Guard’s support for Operation Noble Eagle, eligible for education benefits.

Veteran Health Care Closer to Home & Strengthening the VA

          Hoeven, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee on Military Construction and Veterans Affairs, continues to advance initiatives to expand veteran health care options and ensure the VA has the funding it needs to properly serve veterans. This includes:

  • Veterans Choice Program and Veterans Care Coordination Initiative  Congress extended funding for the Veterans Choice Program and continues to work with the VA to design the next phase of the program. Building on the Choice Program, Senator Hoeven worked to implement the Veterans Care Coordination initiative at the Fargo VA Health Center so veterans in North Dakota and western Minnesota can coordinate all their health care services directly with the Fargo VA. The program has helped to significantly reduce wait times and has been expanded to a VA facility in Helena, Montana.
  • Veterans Access to Long Term Care and Health Services Act – Hoeven re-introduced legislation earlier this year to enable veterans to receive nursing home care near loved ones and in their home communities. The House and Senate VA Committees have both approved bills with key components of Hoeven’s legislation that would allow provider agreements between VA and long-term care providers. The senator continues to work with the committees to ensure that veterans in North Dakota can access care closer to home.
  • Veterans Affair Fiscal Year 2018 Appropriations  Last year, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved record-level funding to care for the nation’s veterans. The funding will provide health care, benefits and memorial services and will go toward efforts to help prevent veteran suicide, increase access to health care in rural areas, improve health care for women veterans and complete VA construction projects. Hoeven is working to secure this funding in a future appropriations package.
  • Better Assisting Servicemembers in Mental Health Crisis – Hoeven is a cosponsor of the Veterans Crisis Line Study Act of 2017. This bipartisan legislation would require a formal review on the effectiveness and outcomes of the Veterans Crisis Line (VCL), which offers 24/7 counseling and support for veterans who are struggling with a mental health issue, including having thoughts of suicide. In February 2016, the VA Office of Inspector General identified several problems with the VCL, including calls going to voicemail. Among other provisions, the Hoeven-cosponsored legislation would evaluate the effectiveness of the VCL to promote continued mental health care to at-risk veterans and determine the effectiveness of the program in preventing repeated suicide attempts.