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 ServicesImprovement 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
“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.
ENDING VETERANS’ HOMELESSNESS
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
PROTECTING VETERANS FROM EXPLOITATION BY FOR-PROFIT COLLEGES
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.
HOLDING U.S. DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS ACCOUNTABLE AND PROTECTING WORKERS
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
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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