Jewish War Veterans of the United States of America

2017 Legislative Priorities

Statement of Jewish War Veterans of the USA
2017 Legislative Priorities

Improving VA Administration

Grant Broader Authority Over VA Employee Review and Termination Processes

  • Goal: Develop an employee-review process, independent of the federal employee system, that grants the VA broader authority over developing and/or terminating employees.
  • Purpose: To create a VA employee-review process that eliminates personal- or politically-driven firings while ensuring that under-performing employees are swiftly removed. Develop a system that ultimately supports employee growth instead of hiding or circumventing bureaucratic process, to ultimately improve VA care and services.
  • Description: Congress must grant the VA a broader authority to take action and/or terminate underperforming employees, regardless of Union or Civil Service Rules. However, the process must be implemented in concurrence with an efficient and fair appeals process. To avoid the any future tragedies like Pheonix, the VA needs a dynamic review process to certify staff are delivering timely, quality care.

Do Not Privatize Veterans Health Administration

  • Goal: Keep the VA healthcare system intact, but improve administrative processes to deliver honest, timely services.
  • Purpose: To ensure our servicemembers receive the best medical treatment; to ensure the VA remains the leader in research and development of treatment for military-related injuries.
  • Description: With so many resources already invested, there is no reason to dismantle the VA system that has proven to be the greatest veteran-centric medical care in the country. Instead of dismantling or fully privatizing, keep the system intact and make administrative improvements such as decreased wait times, streamlined enrollment process, increased access, and seamless transfer of medical records within VA and DOD.

Decrease Appointment Wait Time/ Reform Wait Time Metrics

  • Goal: Build a reasonable appointment scheduling timeline with concrete metrics, on which the VA must report to Congress.
  • Purpose: To improve the efficiency of the scheduling process and provide timely, quality care that is owed to veterans and their dependents.
  • Description: A VA patient should have an appointment scheduled within 7 days of the request; non-urgent appointments should occur within 14 days and specialist appointments within 30 days (see suggested benchmarks in 2015 NSA Study). While wait times have improved over the past two years, the 2016 GOA Study detailed incongruous findings of reported VA wait times and the results of its 14-month study. Congress must define the reporting metrics as number of business days after patient requests appointment to scheduling of appointment; number of business days from scheduling of appointment to date of appointment.

Create Uniform System of VA-DOD Medical Recordkeeping

  • Goal: Enact a recordkeeping system of seamless transition between VA and DOD entities.
  • Purpose: To improve care, to save lives, and to cut costs, our defense agencies must share information under a uniform system.
  • Description: Former Sec. McDonald stated in his 1/17/17 VSO Roundtable on the State of the VA (follow-up to his 1/10/17 address) that the DOD and VA use different recordkeeping systems and do not have a process in place to share patient data or research data. Congress must enact a system of seamless transition between DOD and VA facilities.

Extend Timeframe to Apply for Survivor Benefits

  • Goal: Extend the timeframe for a survivor to apply for benefits from two (2) years to five (5).
  • Purpose: To fulfill our obligation to care for both veterans and their dependents and to rectify harsh time limits imposed on grieving survivors.
  • Description: The two-year time limit to apply for survivor benefits after a service member’s service-related death is unnecessarily limiting. Politics and bureaucracy cannot overrule benefits owed. JWV urges Congress to expand the window to five (5) years to accommodate the varying needs and circumstances of survivors.

Strengthening VA Healthcare

Increased Prevention of Veteran Suicide

  • Goal: Make veteran mental health a high priority for the VA, allocating funds for increased training and services.
  • Purpose: Reduce veteran suicide by improving mental health care.
  • Description: The VA reports that an average of 20 veterans die by suicide daily. This is unacceptable. VA must improve mental health staff training, implementing a uniform training program, and increase mental health services overall. JWV supports the VA’s efforts to better connect the Veteran Crisis Line with Suicide Prevention Teams at each VAMC.

Improve Patient-centered Referral and Treatment Process for Military Sexual Trauma (MST)

  • Goal: Increase funding for staff training and patient awareness campaigns, to improve VA treatment of Military Sexual Trauma (MST).
  • Purpose: To improve the adjudication process of MST claims and provide the best gender-specific care to those affected by MST.
  • Description: A (VA-funded survey study) released in January 2016 revealed that nearly half of women who report enduring MST do not seek treatment at the VA. Congress must provide additional funding to train VA staff in a uniform, empathetic, and gender-specific process to perform screenings, referrals, and care of patients who suffer(ed) from MST.

End Veteran Homelessness

  • Goal: Strengthen, and negotiate for additional, partnerships with human services organizations, to improve VA programs to end veteran homelessness.
  • Purpose: To end veteran homelessness by tackling the problem within the context of each community.
  • Description: Through community partnerships and HUD-VA programs, veteran homelessness has declined by nearly 50%, proving that strategic partnerships and following best practices of homelessness prevention (e.g. (Housing First Model) yield positive results. JWV calls on congress to strengthen these partnerships and allow greater information sharing between agencies to improve services. With nearly 50,000 veterans displaced every night, and female veterans being a disproportionate number of them, we cannot back down.

Expand Caregiver Benefits

  • Goal: Renew the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act of 2010 and expand to include full-time pre-9/11 veteran caregivers.
  • Purpose: To fully support the 5.5 million military caregivers that tend to our wounded, disabled, and ill veterans.
  • Description: Caregivers save the VA in health costs and give the veteran the personalized treatment s/he wants. Caregiver training, respite care, employment and financial services, and increased access to mental health care, are vital to the health of veterans and caregivers. Congress must not only fund these services and training, but also extend them to full-time pre-9/11 veteran caregivers.

Expanding VA Care to Full Lifecycle

Update and Pass Agent Orange Extension Act of 2015

  • Goal: Pass Agent Orange Extension Act of 2015, funding research and full treatment of Vietnam veterans, and their families, exposed to Agent Orange.
  • Purpose: To ensure that, if exposed to toxins while serving, veterans and their families receive proper care and treatment, no matter when toxic effects appear.
  • Description: Congress must extend research grants with the National Academy of Sciences to continue investigating and evaluating the long-term effects of Agent Orange exposure during the Vietnam Conflict on veterans and their families, so that proper treatment is delivered.

Close Gap in Laws Intended to Treat Camp Lejeune Veterans

  • Goal: Reconcile the language of the 2012 and 2015 laws to close the gap in health care coverage for Camp Lejeune veterans.
  • Purpose: To ensure that, if exposed to toxins while serving, veterans and their families receive proper care and treatment, no matter when toxic effects appear.
  • Description: The Honoring America’s Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act of 2012 and Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act of 2015 have inconsistent language and, thus, the VA is no longer reimbursing health care expenses of veterans who suffer from illnesses due to their service at Camp Lejeune between January 1, 1957 and December 31, 1987. Congress must reconcile the language and cover 100% of their care.

Pass the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2017

  • Goal: Fund research and extend full healthcare treatment of Vietnam veterans exposed to the toxic pesticide known as Blue Water.
  • Purpose: To ensure that, if exposed to toxins while serving, veterans and their families receive proper care and treatment, no matter when toxic effects appear.
  • Description: Congress must immediately pass Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2017 (H.R.299) to ensure treatment of our Navy veterans who were exposed to certain toxic pesticides during the Vietnam conflict.

Protecting and Enriching Employment Opportunities for Veterans

Preserve and Honor the Intention of USERRA

  • Goal: Protect the intent of USERRA and outlaw the practice of waiving the right to federal trial as a condition of employment for veterans and reservists.
  • Purpose: To protect those who protect our country – no veteran or reservist should be denied civilian employment simply because they served in the Armed Forces.
  • Description: The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA) is an iteration of legislation enacted since the Civil War. Its intention is to protect veterans’ and reservists’ civilian employment when they are absent during military service. If a service member believes s/he was discriminated against by the civilian employer, a claim is made with the Department of Labor and it can go to trial in a federal court. Numerous employers are now making a condition of employment a waiver of this right to federal trial. The 2008 Service Members Access to Justice Act and the 2016 Justice for Service Members Act have both attempted to right this wrong, but neither passed. Congress must protect the intent of USERRA and pass this vital law.

Improve Employment Opportunities for Veterans and Their Spouses

  • Goal: Bolster DOL, HUD, and VA employment programs for veterans and extend services to spouses.
  • Purpose: A fully-employed workforce is good for our country and a meaningful career beyond the military is good for the service member.
  • Description: Transitional services for veterans have improved, but the preparation and translation of skills for civilian work are still highly needed. The VA’s Military Skills Translator, for example, should be incorporated into federal government and all state governments hiring programs.
    Concerns for spousal employment and career stagnation due to frequent relocation also remain unchecked (see Blue Star Families 2016 Survey). Not only must funding continue for DOL, HUD, and VA employment programs, but also expanding of services to spouses.

Protecting Our Country, Respecting Our Active Duty

Invest in Our Armed Forces

  • Goal: Overturn 2017 sequestration cuts to the defense budget; provide additional funds to meet our security needs.
  • Purpose: To rebuild the military budget that was cut over the past six years
  • Description: JWV calls on Congress to bolster our military, so we can meet the ever-changing challenges in the Age of Terrorism. We need funding for research and development, evolving technologies, and effective training. Therefore, the impending sequestration cuts to the defense budget must be overturned. Furthermore, military contracts and partnerships must be extended only to foreign countries closely aligned with the best interest of the United States. Finally, JWV implores our national leadership to demonstrate the respect and honor that our active duty service members and veterans have earned.

Fund the Mission to Bring Home Our POW/MIA

  • Goal: Pass full FY17 funding for the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA), hire a highly qualified DPAA Director, and account for the 1617 servicemembers currently missing.
  • Purpose: To account for those servicemembers still missing.
  • Description: Conceived in 2015, the DPAA was organized as one agency overseeing the accounting of all missing DOD members. With only two years in operation, the agency is stalled with lack of funding and no director. Clearly, Congress does not prioritize taking care of our servicemembers to full lifecycle. JWV stands with The National League of POW/MIA Families, demanding that DOD expedite the hiring of a well-respected, knowledgeable, and compassionate Director and Congress fully fund DPAA.