Higgins Announces Approval of Bills Supporting Veterans
Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-26) announced passage through the House of Representatives of several bills aimed at helping veterans. The legislation addresses issues ranging from health care and transitional services, with a strong emphasis on suicide prevention.
Congressman Higgins said: “These bipartisan bills represent ways that we can continue expressing our nation’s gratitude to its veterans by always improving the service we provide and making sure that benefits and available resources are of the quality our veterans deserve.”
According to a National Suicide Data Report released by the by the Department of Veteran Affairs there were more than 6,000 veteran suicides each year from 2008 – 2016.
Below is a summary of veteran legislation approved by the House this week:
Requires an assessment of the responsibilities, workload, and vacancy rates of suicide prevention coordinators toward the goal of ensuring adequate resources and caseload levels for staff overseeing the mental health of our veterans.
Calls for a report on the effectiveness of agreements relating to suicide prevention and mental health services.
Makes members of the National Guard and Coast Guard who have been called to active service during federal or state emergencies eligible for access to VA Vet Centers, which provide social and mental health services.
Directs the VA Secretary to provide to Congress notice of any suicide or attempted suicide of a veteran in a Department of Veterans Affairs facility.
Increases the compensation rate for veterans with service connected disabilities as well as the rates of dependency and indemnity compensation for the survivors of certain disabled veterans, effective December 1, 2019.
Establishes a “Veterans Economic Opportunity and Transition Administration” division within the Department of Veteran Affairs to provide additional focus on economic programs for our veterans including employment, vocational training, education and veteran-owned small business.
Requires the VA to create a report on the availability and viability of alternative and wholistic health services at offered at Veteran Health Administration hospitals, clinics and facilities across the nation.
Creates a pilot program for veterans and their families to ease the transition to off-base housing and creates a grant program that allows for organizations to provide veterans assistance with career transitioning.
Closes a loophole prohibiting federal agencies from transferring funds to the VA for joint research initiatives, prevents public flight schools from charging excessive fees to veteran students, and allows the VA to replace veterans' headstones in non-VA cemeteries and add inscriptions for deceased spouses or children.
The measures were each adopted in the House by voice vote, signaling unanimous support. The bills will be considered next in the Senate.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, more than 37,000 veterans live in Congressman Higgins’ Western New York district.