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Chris V.
Democrat MD 8

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  • Conference Report on H.R. 3230, Pay Our Guard and Reserve Act

    by Representative Chris Van Hollen

    Posted on 2014-07-30

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    VAN HOLLEN of maryland in the house of representatives Wednesday, July 30, 2014 Mr. VAN HOLLEN. Mr. Speaker, I rise today in support of the Conference Report on H.R. 3230, the Veterans' Access to Care through Choice, Accountability, and Transparency Act of 2014. I also want to commend Chairman Sanders, Chairman Miller, Ranking Member Burr, and Ranking Member Michaud for their work on crafting a bipartisan bill that not only provides for our veterans but addresses many of the systemic problems within the Veteran Health Administration.

    The final conference agreement provides over $17 billion in funding for the Department of Veteran Affairs. This includes $10 billion in funding to allow veterans who live more than 40 miles away from a VA facility, or who have waited more than 30 days for an appointment at a VA medical center, to seek care with an outside provider. In addition, it provides the VA with $6.5 billion in funding to address its critical shortage of doctors and nurses and to allow the VA to enter into 27 new medical facility leases. By expanding access to care, increasing staffing needs, and authorizing new clinics, this bill is a great first step in tackling many of the ongoing problems that have surfaced at the VA in recent years.

    The Conference Report strengthens a number of other programs to help support our veterans and their families. It expands eligibility and provides veterans who experienced military sexual trauma while on inactive duty the opportunity to seek sexual trauma counseling. It also modifies the Post 9/11 GI Bill and allows veterans to receive in-state tuition rates at any public university, if they decide to relocate. Finally, today's legislation extends an important program set to expire later this year to provide housing for veterans struggling with traumatic brain injuries.

    I do, however, have reservations about a provision in this bill which gives the VA Secretary broad authority to fire Senior Executive Service (SES) employees even though the VA already has tools to remove SES employees who are rated unsatisfactory. However, I am encouraged that-- unlike legislation that passed the House earlier this year--the conference agreement does provide SES employees with an expedited appeals process through a Merit Systems Protection Board.

    Mr. Speaker, there is nothing more important than providing for those who have sacrificed so much for our country. I encourage my colleagues to join me in support of this bill.


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