Senate Committee Approves Two Bills To Expand Health Care for Veterans
The Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee on Thursday approved two bills by voice vote to expand health care for veterans, CQ Today reports (Barrett, CQ Today, 9/15).
The first bill (S 1182), sponsored by Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho), would authorize a number of medical services at Department of Veterans Affairs health care facilities and includes provisions from a number of other bills. Under the legislation, VA could provide care for as long as two weeks for infants born to woman veterans at department health care facilities. The bill also would expand health coverage for veterans who have children with certain disabilities, improve coverage for homeless veterans and expand and improve mental health services for veterans.
In addition, the legislation would require VA and the Department of Defense to study proposals to help eliminate the stigma related to mental health treatment among veterans and would allow veterans with health insurance who seek care at non-VA health care facilities to "receive the difference between what their private insurer would pay and what the VA would cover at one of its own facilities," CongressDaily reports. The bill also would provide health care to all veterans in states affected by Hurricane Katrina and would waive copayments for their medical services and medications through Jan. 31, 2006 (Gruenwald, CongressDaily, 9/16).
The second bill (S 716), sponsored by Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii), would expand outreach services at VA centers. Under the legislation, VA would have to employ as many as 50 veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars to help others readjust to life after the wars.
The bill also clarifies that the parents of an Armed Forces member who dies in service qualify for bereavement counseling from VA. In addition, the legislation would authorize $180,000 to VA for readjustment and bereavement counseling and related mental health services at department health care facilities for fiscal year 2006 (CQ Today, 9/15).