Congress holds hearing to review pending legislation impacting veterans
Rep. Chris Pappas, D-N.H., the House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations chairman.

Congress holds hearing to review pending legislation impacting veterans

The House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations held a hearing April 21 on pending and draft legislation impacting the nation’s veterans. The American Legion submitted a statement for the record to present its positions to members of Congress on several pieces of legislation.

“Today’s Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee hearing will examine 14 bills all of which will seek to improve our ability to better serve our nation’s veterans,” said Rep. Chris Pappas, D-N.H., the subcommittee chairman. “Some would establish better accountability and oversight, while others would strengthen the civil rights protections of both veterans and VA employees.”

The Improving VA Accountability to Prevent Sexual Harassment and Discrimination Act of 2021 is draft legislation introduced by Pappas that would require improvements to the department’s complaint system and reporting requirements for managers, he said. The legislation has bipartisan, bicameral support from Sens. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, and Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., and Rep. Ashley Hinson, R-Iowa, and would make numerous policy changes within the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) based on recommendations from a Government Accountability Office report highlighting shortcomings in VA’s Equal Employment Opportunity program.

“The American Legion expects the utmost professionalism and holds a zero-tolerance stance on harassment of any kind within VA’s workforce,” the Legion wrote in a statement for the record. “VA must ensure that its medical centers are implementing and enforcing VA’s anti-harassment and anti-sexual assault efforts to ensure that all veterans and VA employees can work and receive treatment in a safe, professional environment.”

The American Legion supports through resolution efforts to ensure reporting, tracking, and actions taken upon incidents of sexual assaults at each VA facility and supports the draft legislation as it is currently written.

Another piece of legislation would address the challenges faced by VA during the COVID-19 pandemic in relation to its supply chain. The VA Supply Chain Resiliency Act requires VA to identify critical supply items and anticipate the needs of the VA medical system in the event of future public health or national emergencies.

“There were significant disruptions for aid and supplies during the pandemic and I fear that if we do not make significant changes then VA will not be ready for the next emergency,” said House ranking member Tracey Mann, R-Kan.

The VA Supply Chain Resiliency Act would help address these issues and is supported by The American Legion through resolution as it is currently written.

“This comprehensive, multi-faceted, and forward-looking strategy ensures that VA is better prepared to provide essential life-saving care to veterans in the face of the next national emergency,” wrote the Legion in a statement.

“By enacting this legislation, VA and DoD would enter into an agreement for VA to participate in a Warstopper program which pays supplies to hold emergency inventories on the government’s behalf,” Mann added. 

Pappas thanked the witnesses from VA and praised the bipartisan efforts of the subcommittee.

“It’s been a helpful and constructive conversation,” he said. “I want to make sure that continues because through that process we can continue to improve this legislation and get it right for the veterans.”

You can watch the hearing in full here.