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April 17, 2017, 07:41:44 AM

Brown Outlines Comprehensive Bill to Serve Veterans and Their Families

May 12, 2016 - 10:12 AM

From the office of Senator Sherrod Brown

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) outlined comprehensive legislation he has cosponsored that would expand veterans’ benefits and increase accountability measures at the VA. The Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs – of which Brown is a member – is formally introducing the Veterans First Act this week.

“This week my colleagues on the Veterans’ Affairs Committee and I are introducing the Veterans First Act – a comprehensive, bipartisan bill to grant veterans and their families expanded benefits and ensure that the VA has the resources to provide veterans with the highest quality of care,” Brown said. “No veteran should face living on the street, exploitation by for-profit colleges, or inadequate health care – and we’re addressing all of these issues with this bill. That’s why I’m urging all of my colleagues to move quickly on this important legislation to protect our nation’s heroes.”

During a news conference call today, Brown was joined by Carl Blake, associate executive director of Paralyzed Veterans of America, who discussed how the bill would help provide needed resources for caregivers of veterans.

The Veterans First Act includes key provisions of the Military and Veteran Caregiver Services Improvement Act of 2015, which Brown cosponsored. The bill would expand eligibility for the VA’s Family Caregivers program to veterans of all eras, not just those who served Post-9/11. This expansion will provide these family caregivers with critical benefits including comprehensive training and access to health insurance to ensure they can provide the best possible care for our veterans.

“Caregivers play the most critical role for veterans with severe injuries and illnesses,” Blake said. “No group of veterans understands this more than Paralyzed Veterans of America's members. There is no reasonable justification as to why pre-9/11 veterans with a catastrophic service-connected injury or illness should be excluded from the caregiver program.  We applaud Senator Brown, and the members of the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs, for finally taking steps to correct this inequity.”

Melissa Twine, an Air Force veteran from Batavia whose husband, Captain Philip B. Twine, died serving in the Air Force, has joined Brown in calling for this important legislation:

“My husband, Captain Philip B. Twine, was a Logistics Officer in the Air Force when he died at the age of 34 in 2002. We had three children and I was eight months pregnant with our fourth child when Phil died. After my husband’s death, I became the primary breadwinner (a single parent of four), including being the caregiver for our child with autism spectrum disability. Prior to Philip’s death, I completed my undergrad in Biology at the University of Cincinnati. Our plan was that I would obtain my Master’s degree next. Those plans changed when our world changed on August 7, 2002. I had to put this goal on pause for many years while I raised my family as a single parent. It was especially difficult with a newborn and a child with a disability. I am now in a place where fulfilling my goal of higher education is possible. I would be very grateful for the opportunity to be able to use the Marine Gunnery Sergeant John David Fry Scholarship but I need the time necessary to be able to use the benefit. Please consider affording this opportunity to me and to others like me. There aren’t many of us, but it could make all of the difference in the world.”

The Marine Gunnery Sergeant John David Fry Scholarship provides Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits to the surviving spouses and children of servicemembers who have died in the line of duty while on active duty after September 10, 2001. However, when Congress expanded Fry Scholarship eligibility to spouses in the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014, a 15-year limitation was put on these benefits. The provisions Brown secured in the Veterans First Act will extend the period of eligibility for the Fry Scholarship to spouses of servicemembers killed between 9/11/2001 and 12/31/2005 so that they will have enough time to fully utilize the benefit.

Additionally, the Veterans First Act includes several provisions supported by Brown, outlined below.


The bill includes a variation of the Veteran Housing Stability Act of 2015, which Brown cosponsored. The bill would increase veterans’ access to permanent housing options by increasing outreach to landlords to encourage renting to veterans, expanding the definition of “homeless veteran” – so more veterans, including those facing domestic abuse, can access housing assistance – providing grants for organizations that support formerly homeless veterans, and advancing research into homelessness.



Brown is a cosponsor of the Department of Veterans Affairs Veterans Education Relief and Restoration Act of 2015, which was included in the bill. This provision – a result of the many abrupt closures of for-profit colleges – would restore the G.I. benefits of veterans who lost credit or training time because their educational institution permanently closed.



The bill includes a provision of the Department of Veterans Affairs Equitable Employee Accountability Act of 2015 – legislationcosponsored by Brown – that would allow the VA to improve accountability of its employees by addressing poor performance and improving management training.

The bill also includes protections for whistleblowers including establishing an Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection, requiring supervisory education about whistleblowers disclosures, and including criteria to promote an environment where employees feel comfortable reporting concerns. 

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