(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) spoke at a hearing of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs in support of critical bills that she has introduced to support veterans. Murray urged her colleagues to support the following three bills she introduced:
S. 1237 The Homeless Women Veterans and Homeless Veterans with Children Act of 2009 This bill establishes a grant program for reintegration of homeless women veterans and homeless veterans with children. The bill would also expand the grant program for homeless veterans with special needs to include male homeless veterans with minor dependents. More information on this bill can be found here.
S. 977 The Prisoner of War Benefits Act of 2009 This bill would repeal the currently required 30-day minimum period of internment prior to the presumption of service connection for certain listed diseases, for purposes of the payment of veterans' disability compensation. It would also add diabetes (type 2) to the listed diseases for which certain presumptions apply.
S. 1204 The Chiropractic Care Available to All Veterans Act of 2009 This bill would amend the Department of Veterans Affairs Health Care Programs Enhancement Act of 2001 by requiring that all VA hospitals provide chiropractic services. The program would be launched at 75 VA Medical Centers by December 31, 2009, and at all VA Medical Centers by December 31, 2011.
The full text of Senator Murray’s opening statement follows:
“Chairman Akaka, Senator Burr, thank you for holding today’s hearing on legislation to improve veterans’ healthcare and benefits. I also want to thank the witnesses appearing before the committee. I look forward to hearing your comments on the legislation being considered today.
“Mr. Chairman, I introduced three of the bills under discussion today. And while my bills each deal with different areas of veterans care, they share a common thread. Each of them would give the VA better tools to provide our veterans with the care and benefits they have earned through their selfless service to our nation.
“One of my bills would expand grant programs for homeless women veterans and homeless veterans with children. Another would increase benefits for former POWs. And the third would improve chiropractic care at VA hospitals. Mr. Chairman, I would like to take a few moments to talk about how these bills will help our veterans, and why it is so important we work to pass them.
“Mr. Chairman, the first bill I want to discuss would help homeless veterans. In particular, it would address the problems faced by homeless women veterans and homeless veterans with children, two terribly vulnerable groups that are growing by the day.
“We are seeing more and more homeless veterans with children coming to the VA and Veterans Service Organizations seeking help. And women now make up about five percent of homeless veterans, up from three percent just a decade ago, and about ten percent of homeless Iraq and Afghanistan veterans.
“In fact, female veterans are between two and four times as likely to be homeless than their civilian counterparts--and they have unique needs and often require specialized services. That is why I introduced the Homeless Women Veterans and Homeless Veterans with Children Act with Senator Jack Reed and Senator Tim Johnson.
“This legislation would take three big steps forward toward tackling the problem. It would make more front-line homeless service providers eligible to receive Special Needs Grants. It would expand Special Needs Grants to cover homeless male veterans with children, as well as the dependents of homeless veterans themselves. And it would extend the Department of Labor’s Homeless Veterans' Reintegration Program to provide workforce training, job counseling, child care services and placement services to homeless women veterans and homeless veterans with children.
“Mr. Chairman, it’s our duty to give every veteran the resources he or she needs to keep themselves and their families off the streets and in safe and stable housing. My bill would help provide an open door and a helping hand to homeless women and families who have made such great sacrifices and deserve more than just the thanks of a grateful nation. And I urge my colleagues to support it.
“Mr. Chairman, the Prisoner of War Benefits Act of 2009 is also before the committee today. This bill would provide former POW's with expanded health care benefits for conditions like Type II Diabetes. It would also eliminate the ‘minimum-time-held’ requirement in order to qualify for these benefits. Currently, former POW’s must have been detained for at least 30 days to qualify for the presumption of service connection for some diseases.
“Mr. Chairman, I think a veteran who endured 29 days of captivity should be entitled to the same benefits as one who was a prisoner for one day more. And no veteran should have to fight to cut through bureaucratic red tape to receive the benefits they have earned and deserve. To me, this is common sense and fair play, and for these very reasons I urge my colleagues to support the Prisoner of War Benefits Act of 2009.
“Finally, I would like to bring the Committee’s attention to the Chiropractic Care Available to All Veterans Act, which I introduced along with Senator Sam Brownback. This bill would expand chiropractic care at VA facilities in Washington state and across the nation.
“Of the more 150 VA medical centers, currently less than one-third offer chiropractic care and services. The Chiropractic Care Available to All Veterans Act would address this shortfall by mandating chiropractic care and services at all VA medical centers. And I urge my colleagues to join me in supporting it.
“Mr. Chairman, these three bills would give the VA the tools it needs to provide the high level of care that our veterans have sacrificed so much to deserve. Thank you again, Mr. Chairman, and I look forward to the expert testimony today.”