Photo courtesy of Veterans Health

Legion testifies on pending House bills

An Open Burn Pit Registry will soon be established if a pending House bill, supported by The American Legion, becomes law. H.R. 3337 would allow servicemembers and veterans who have experienced hazardous exposures in the battlefield to have their cases tracked more effectively by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

The Legion submitted written testimony in support of H.R. 3337 and several other bills at an April 16 hearing of the House Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Health.

Other pending House legislation supported by the Legion includes:

H.R. 1460, which provides for automatic enrollment of veterans returning from combat zones into the VA medical system. Several VA programs and initiatives in this area have been helpful, but the need still exists to fully automate enrollment at a servicemember’s point of transition from the Department of Defense (DoD) health-care system to VA. Servicemembers would have the option to decline such enrollment or to disenroll themselves from the system.

H.R. 3016, which directs DoD and VA to jointly operate the Federal Recovery Coordination (FRC) program. The FRC assists servicemembers with severe injuries that may cause them to separate from active duty. It also helps servicemembers and veterans who have difficulties making the transition to civilian life.

H.R. 3245, "The Efficient Service for Veterans Act," directs DoD and VA to ensure that Vet Centers have access to DoD’s Personnel Record Imaging Retrieval System and the VA/DoD Identity Repository System. This measure would enable VA-operated Vet Centers to access not only VA’s health-care system, but also DoD’s personnel records. Such access would dramatically improve the overall performance of Vet Centers in addressing the mental-health needs of the veterans community.

While the Legion supports this bill, it also urges DoD and VA to keep treatment records at Vet Centers confidential, and to not share the contents with third parties unless a veteran has given his or her written consent.

H.R. 3279, which seeks to clarify that caregivers for veterans with serious illnesses are eligible for VA assistance and support services provided under Title 38 of the U.S. Code. Currently, the code applies only to veterans with "serious injury." The bill would change the code’s language to include veterans with serious illnesses, as well.

In its written testimony on H.R. 3279, the Legion urged VA to conduct a study on the numbers of veterans’ caregivers’ children who do not have medical insurance, and make recommendations for providing such assistance.