Five Tester Priorities to Improve Veterans’ Access to Health Care Gain Traction in Committee

Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee considered 19 bills, including Chairman’s bills to improve suicide prevention efforts, reform the EHR Program, expand long-term and community care options, and extend critical homelessness services

The Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee held a hearing yesterday to solicit feedback from Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) officials and Veterans Service Organizations (VSOs) on 19 pending proposals—including five priorities authored by Chairman Jon Tester to improve suicide prevention efforts, reform the Electronic Health Record Modernization (EHRM) program, expand long-term and community care options, and extend critical services for veterans. 

During the hearing, the Committee heard from stakeholders on the Chairman’s Expanding Veterans’ Options for Long Term Care Act, in addition to other bills put forth by Committee members.

“Right now, the VA is prevented from paying for veterans to receive assisted living services,” said Tester. “This bill would help address that. For you, Mr. Retzer, can you explain how allowing the VA to pay for assisted living would help address the needs of this growing population [aging and disabled veterans]?”

“Well, DAV, we actually support this piece of legislation,” replied Jon Retzer, Assistant National Legislative Director of the Disabled American Veterans (DAV). “We really appreciate the thoughtfulness of expanding options—not just for our long-term care, but for our seriously injured veterans. As we see even our younger veterans have serious injuries or illnesses—they do need care that extends beyond the skilled nursing care. So, we appreciate the fact there’s a piece of legislation here that would create a little bit of seamlessness for a veteran who needs that extra care, to be able to have VA provide that resource.”

Tester also questioned stakeholders on his Critical Health Access Resource and Grant Extensions (CHARGE) Act of 2023, highlighting its provisions to support homeless veterans, caregivers, and State Veterans Homes facing staffing shortages. DAV confirmed its support of the CHARGE Act, applauding the legislation’s efforts to address safety and survival issues for homeless veterans, and also confirmed its support for the Chairman’s Not Just a Number Act.

The Committee also heard from VA and stakeholders on the Chairman’s EHR RESET Act, legislation to deliver a complete overhaul of the EHRM program, and his Making Community Care Work for Veterans Act, upcoming legislation he will introduce to improve the community care program Congress put in place with the VA MISSION Act.


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