Joe is committed to honoring our nation’s veterans and improving the transition and health resources provided to veterans. Indiana has a long tradition of military service, and in the Senate, Joe is proud to recognize the contributions of Hoosiers to their nation.
Improving Veteran Mental Health
In March 2015, Joe introduced his “Servicemember and Veteran Mental Health Care Package” (“Care Package”), three bipartisan bills to help improve mental health outcomes for servicemembers and veterans. The “Care Package” would address the next step in the continuum of care, focusing on mental health care providers. It includes legislation that would:
- Require Department of Defense and Department of Veterans Affairs to direct health care providers to use the best available tools to identify and treat mental health conditions;
- Provide new incentives for community providers to enhance their knowledge of military culture and mental health challenges unique to troops and veterans; and
- Address nationwide provider shortages in DoD and VA through mental health care training for physician assistants (PAs).
Reforming the VA
In August 2014, Joe joined 90 of his colleagues from both sides of the aisle to pass bipartisan legislation aimed at helping reduce wait times at VA health care facilities, improving access to health care for veterans, and increasing accountability at the Department of Veterans Affairs. The Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act of 2014 will:
- Enable Veterans to Access Care Outside the VA: If veterans are unable to get a VA appointment within 30 days or live more than 40 miles from a VA health facility, they will be able to access care through non-VA providers using a new Veterans Choice Card.
- Increase the Number of VA Health Providers: The VA will have special authority to quickly hire doctors and other medical staff in occupations facing the most critical shortages.
- Give VA the Authority to Fire or Demote Agency Officials: It will be easier for the VA to fire or demote senior VA officials based on poor job performance or misconduct.
- Institute Smarter Performance Metrics: With input from the Inspector General and independent reviews, the VA will be required to eliminate performance metrics that incentivize bad behavior, ensuring that job performance is measured by the quality of care veterans receive.
- Require Independent Reviews of VA Health Care: The President will be required to create a Commission on Access to Care to examine how best to structure the Veterans Health Administration, locate health resources and deliver care to veterans, and the commission will be required to send recommendations to Congress. Further, an independent third party will separately assess the process for scheduling appointments for veterans, and a separate task force will review VA’s scheduling software and make recommendations for improvements.
- Improve Transparency Concerning VA Wait Times: The VA Secretary will be required to publish wait-time goals for scheduling an appointment at VA facilities for each medical center, and the VA will be required to publish online the current wait times for appointments for each primary and specialty care VA medical center.
National Desert Storm and Desert Shield Memorial
Working with Senator John Boozman (R-AR), Joe introduced legislation to authorize a Gulf War Memorial in Washington, D.C. In December 2014, the House and Senate passed the bill as part of the National Defense Authorization Act. President Obama then signed into law their legislation that authorizes the construction of the first official National Desert Storm and Desert Shield Memorial in our nation’s capital to honor American servicemembers who fought during Operation Desert Storm and Desert Shield. As with all memorials on federal property, Congress had to formally authorize the land within Washington, D.C. to be used for the site. No federal funds will be used for the construction of the memorial. Rather, private funds will be raised by the National Desert Storm War Memorial Association.