Veterans were the focus of recent legislative action taken by U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH).
According to a news release from Brown’s office, late last week the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs passed a variation of the Department of Veterans Affairs Equitable Employee Accountability Act of 2015 – legislation cosponsored by Brown that would allow the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) improve accountability by addressing poor performance and improving management training. Brown said the committee-passed bill, the Increasing the Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability to Veterans Act of 2015, would also reduce retirement benefits of senior VA executives who are convicted of a felony related to their job performance.
Another bill seeks to end homelessness among veterans.
The Veteran Housing Stability Act of 2015 would increase veterans’ access to permanent housing options by encouraging landlords to rent to veterans, expanding the definition of “homeless veteran” – so more veterans, including those facing domestic abuse, can access housing assistance – providing grants for organizations that support formerly homeless veterans, and advancing research into homelessness. According to the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, about 12 percent of the adult homeless population is comprised of veterans. A variation of this bill was agreed to by the committee.
Brown also said the Jason Simcakoski Memorial Opioid Safety Act would provide safer and more effective pain management services to the nation’s veterans to help prevent deaths from unintended opioid drug overdoses. The bill would, Brown said, improve the VA’s opioid prescribing guidelines to prevent dangerous combinations of prescription opioids with other drugs, and increase coordination and communication between medical facilities, providers, patients, and their families surrounding pain management, alternative treatments for chronic pain, and appropriate opioid therapy. The bill is named for U.S. Marine Veteran Jason Simcakoski, who died at a Wisconsin VA facility in August 2013 as a result of mixed drug toxicity. A variation of this bill was agreed to by the committee and an outline of the original bill can be found here.
Meanwhile, in advance of tomorrow’s Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs hearing on transitioning service members to civilian life, on Tuesday, Brown called on the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) to ensure the nation’s veterans “receive the services they deserve.” In a letter to U.S. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter, Brown and his Senate colleagues requested that DOD bridge the existing gaps in transition that can leave veterans without critical resources.
“As service members prepare to end their military careers, they often face resource gaps in healthcare and employment,” Brown said. “The Department of Defense must enhance its current program to ensure that our service members have the tools they need to effectively transition to civilian life.”