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So many of the freedoms we enjoy today are because of the sacrifices and dedication of our service men and women. We owe them a lifetime of gratitude. Throughout my career, I have had the honor to work with countless Veterans on a variety of military and quality of life issues, and I am honored to have the opportunity to serve them in Congress.
Among many important concerns, one of the most critical issues facing our Veterans is timely access to quality health care. Unfortunately, increases in patient volumes and case complexity have resulted in unacceptable delays in care across the VA. Fixing this should be a top priority of the Federal Government. Our Veterans are heroes and we must keep our promise to them by ensuring the highest quality health care.
In addition to the direct services my office provides for our heroes, here are some other ways we're working to serve and honor our Veterans while in Congress. If you have questions or would like to suggest additional ideas, email me today.
YEARS OF SCANDAL: The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has suffered from years of scandal that have shown the need for providing our veterans with more support.
- In 2014, it was revealed that dozens of veterans died while waiting for diagnosis and treatment at the Phoenix, Arizona VA Medical Center.
- As part of the scandal, it was revealed that VA kept unofficial wait lists and manipulated wait time data throughout the VA system, at times resulting in significant delays in veterans receiving the care that they deserve.
- VA’s Inspector General has completed more than 100 criminal investigations related to wait times and is aggressively pursuing accountability for those responsible.
INITIATING CRITICAL REFORMS: We’re working with the new Administration in the White House to bring more accountability and needed reform to the VA.
- After years of almost no accountability, strict standards for VA personnel are finally being instituted, with over 1163 employees fired, 387 suspended, and 61 demoted as of November 7, 2017.
- 15 senior VA officials have been disciplined for failing to provide our veterans with an adequate standard of care.
- The President’s Executive Order on Improving Accountability and Whistleblower Protection has initiated critical transparency reforms, including establishment of a VA Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection.
- President Trump signed the Veterans Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act, further establishing additional safeguards to protect whistleblowers, and enabling the VA to fire failing employees.
- Secretary Shulkin has expanded access to urgent mental healthcare to former service members with other-than-honorable (OTH) discharges.
- The White House has opened a brand new VA Hotline staffed principally by veterans and direct family members of veterans to ensure that no complaint goes unaddressed.
MODERNIZING AND EXPANDING CHOICE: Our veterans deserve the best healthcare in the world, and we're working to bring the Department of Veterans Affairs up to modern standards.
- President Trump and Secretary Shulkin have announced three important initiatives to expand healthcare access for our veterans through technological innovation.
- An expansion of the VA’s “Anywhere to Anywhere” healthcare, allowing VA providers to use tele-health technology to remotely treat veterans’ regardless of geographic location.
- Greater adoption of VA Video Connect, an application for mobile phones and computers allowing veterans and healthcare providers to directly connect from anywhere in the country.
- A rollout at over 100 VA sites across the nation of the new Online Scheduling Tool, which allows veterans to schedule appointments from their mobile devices or computers.
- NOW LAW: the Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act of 2017, taking action to streamline the appeals process for disability compensation claims within the VA.
- More than 470,000 veterans are awaiting pending decisions regarding their appeals.
- Ensuring continued access to care in the Veterans Choice Program by signing the VA Choice and Quality Employment Act, authorizing $2.1 billion in additional funds for the Veterans Choice Program (VCP).
- The VCP gives eligible veterans the choice of private care if they live more than 40 miles from the closest eligible VA facility, face wait times over 30 days from the clinically indicated date, or face an excessive burden in accessing VA care.
- President Trump announced that the Department of Veterans Affairs will adopt the same Electronic Health Record (EHR) as the Department of Defense (DOD).
- VA’s adoption of the same EHR as DOD will ultimately result in all patient data residing in one common system, enabling the immediate availability of service member's medical records and seamless care between the departments.
- The VA has launched its “Access and Quality Tool,” allowing veterans to see on-line the wait times at VA locations, as well as important quality-of-care data.
EXPANDING OPPORTUNITIES FOR VETERANS: Taking action to expand opportunities for veterans after they leave military service.
- NOW LAW: the Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act, an important step in providing our nation’s heroes with the support they’ve earned for risking their lives to ensure the freedoms of all Americans.
- The Post-9/11 GI Bill provides educational benefits to eligible veterans, service members, and their family members, including tuition, fees, books, housing, and other additional costs.
- A 15-year limit on veterans’ access to their educational benefits has been lifted, with additional veterans being added to the list of those who qualify for the program.
- Veterans have the lowest unemployment rate since 2000, at 2.7 percent. This is 1.6 percentage points lower than the 4.3 percent experienced in October 2016.
- Veterans leaving active service after September 2001 have the lowest unemployment rate ever recorded for this group at 3.6 percent.
HONORING OUR HEROES: Ensuring that our veterans are properly recognized for their service and sacrifice.
- President Trump has presented the Medal of Honor to Specialist Five James C. McCloughan and Captain Gary M. Rose, two veterans who have demonstrated the highest levels of bravery, heroism, and sacrifice in defense of our nation.
- President Trump has signed legislation to remember and recognize America’s veterans.
- He signed S.J. Res 1 approving the location of a memorial for service during Operation Desert Storm and Operation Desert Shield.
- He signed S.305, the Vietnam War Veterans Recognition Act.
- Introduced HR 2852 FLORICH Act to allow burial privileges at Arlington for any member of a reserve component who dies while on inactive duty during a training mission where an active duty member also dies.
- Member of the Military Families Caucus
Read the a letter to VA Secretary McDonald expressing concern over the decision to appoint Skye McDougall to oversee healthcare operations in Louisiana's region.
HR 1338 Dignified Interment of our Veterans Act
Status: Passed the House
47,000 unclaimed vets' remains in the U.S. today. This bill makes it a requirement that the VA sec. perform a study to determine best practices for solving this problem. Includes determining the scope of the issues, assessing effectiveness of the procedures, identifying state/local laws and developing recs for legal/administrative action to make sure vets get dignified interment.
HR 1475 Korean War Veterans Memorial Wall of Remembrance Act
Status: Passed the House
Permits a privately funded addition to the Korean War Memorial including names of 611 soldiers from Louisiana.
HR 969 Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act
Expands veteran benefits to Blue Water Navy vets who were exposed to Agent Orange during the war in Vietnam.
HR 1302 VA Appeals Backlog Relief Act
Directs the Secretary to ensure that a VA regional office issues a VA Form 9 appeal to the Board of Veterans' Appeals within one year of the request.
HR 1399 Veteran Education Empowerment Act
Reauthorizes a Department of Education grant program designed to help colleges establish vet student centers – helps LSU and BRCC establish these centers.
HR 2992 Merchant Marine of WWII Congressional Gold Medal Act
Awards the CGM to Merchant Mariners of WWII.
HR 2737 Filipino Veterans of WWII Congressional Gold Medal Act
Awards the CGM to Filipino Veterans of WWII.
HR 5166 WINGMAN Act
Allows certain employees of Members of Congress to access case tracking information at the VA to expedite constituent service for our Veterans.
HR 4352 Faster Care for Veterans Act
This bill is in response to the long wait times for veterans to receive medical care – various studies have shown that the average wait time is increasing. The bill establishes a pilot program which incorporates commercially available self-scheduling technologies at VA medical facilities. Pilot program would start with a small sample of three VISNs and would require vets to schedule appointments online. The VA plans to spend $624 million over the next five years to develop a new scheduling system, the value of which is unclear. This acts as a more cost effective alternative. May incentivize the VA to rethink turning down Zocdoc, who offered their product to the VA for free.
Are you having trouble with your Veteran's benefits?
Veterans can contact me for any assistance with questions or concerns regarding their benefits or other matters. As a reference, there is information available at the Department of Veterans website where Veterans can learn more about the following benefits:
For more information concerning work and views related to Veterans issues, please contact our office.
More on Veterans
WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Congressmen Garret Graves and Joe Kennedy released the following statements after the U.S. House of Representatives announced that it has launched a long-awaited digital consent form to modernize the citizen experience with federal government agencies.
WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Congressman Garret Graves (South Louisiana) secured $3 million for LSU’s Pennington Biomedical Research Center to help improve the performance and resilience of our military service members while reducing injury and recovery time. Under Graves’ amendment, Pennington Biomedical would build upon their position as the top nutrition science provider to the U.S.
We will be collecting the first-hand accounts of veterans on August 1, 2019 at the East Baton Rouge Parish Library.
If you are interested in participating, please sign up here or give our office a call at 225-442-1731.
New law streamlines department’s current claims and appeals process for Veterans
Washington, DC – Congressmen Garret Graves (R-LA) and Tim Walz (D-MN) recently introduced legislation to prevent Army Pvt. Bowe Bergdahl from being awarded any back pay or allowances from the United States Army. Last month, Bergdahl pled guilty to desertion and misbehavior rather than face trial for leaving his post while deployed to Afghanistan in 2009. He will not serve any jail time, and the Army is currently reviewing the issue of awarding Bergdahl back pay.
“We are gathered here today to show our appreciation to all the men and women coming from all walks of life and serving in all branches of the military so that you and I on this day may enjoy the land of the free and home of the brave that we live in today.”
It was with this powerful quote the program’s master of ceremonies James “Fry” Hymel, a U.S. Army veteran opened the tribute to American soldiers, sailors and airmen.
PORT ALLEN, LA (WAFB) Story here
Residents in Port Allen gathered Monday for a somber ceremony, pausing to honor the lives of those who paid the ultimate price for their country.
While the names of those who passed away this past year were read aloud, many reflected on the sacrifices of the brave men and women.
"They gave so much you know and we really need to honor them," said Joan Smith.
Below is a snapshot of some of the recent legislation Congressman Graves has been working on in the US House of Representatives. If you have questions or comments regarding these or other legislative issues, contact our office today.
Last Week Revisited – On the Floor
Congressman Garret Graves (LA 06) is hosting a Service Academy Day this Sunday, October 9, 2016 at LSU's College of the Coast & Environment from 2:30 - 5:30 pm.