Tester Leads Committee to Vet Top VA Nominee and Advance Nine Veterans Bills

Chairman pushed the VA Under Secretary for Benefits nominee to ensure a timely, veteran-friendly claims process; Committee cleared nine bills, including three bills authored by Tester, to better serve veterans in Montana and across the country

The Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee today advanced nine bills to better serve veterans nationwide—including three bills authored by Chairman Jon Tester. The Senator also led the Committee’s consideration of Joshua Jacobs to serve as the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Under Secretary for Benefits—a position responsible for tackling the disability claims backlog under the Veterans Benefits Administration.

During the hearing, Tester pressed Joshua Jacobs on being tasked with connecting veterans with a timely and veteran-friendly process when filing their VA claims:  

“We should all fundamentally agree that veterans should not have to pay to get their VA benefits,” said Tester. “It’s why we all need to work together to make sure the application in receiving those benefits is as user-friendly, veteran-friendly as possible. In cases where a veteran has questions or needs assistance, we look to VSOs [Veterans Service Organizations] and county veterans service officers, accredited by VA and held to a standard of ethics, to assist veterans with filing those claims. Do you agree that veterans should not have to pay for assistance in filing their claims?”

“Mr. Chairman, I think veterans have earned these benefits, and they shouldn’t have to pay someone to help them get them,” replied Mr. Jacobs.

Tester continued, “What are you going to do to better educate veterans of the resources available to help them file claims or get other assistance from VA?”

In his answer, Jacobs highlighted the need to increase proactive outreach, in partnership with VSOs, county veterans service officers, and local VA offices, when assisting veterans nationwide in filing their claims. He also underscored his commitment to working to streamline the benefits process for veterans and protecting vulnerable veterans from predatory actors.

The Committee also considered—and passed—nine bills with backing from the Chairman: “I will always fight to strengthen veterans’ access to the health care, benefits, and dignity they have earned, which is why I’m proud the Committee took decisive action today to advance these bills. I’m particularly proud we cleared a number of my bills allowing VA to increase the number of providers in rural areas, authorize important VA projects, and conduct research into medicinal cannabis as an alternative treatment to treating the wounds of war.”

The following bills cleared the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, and now move to the full Senate for consideration:

VA Clinician Appreciation, Recruitment, Education, Expansion, and Retention Support (CAREERS) Act of 2023— Bipartisan legislation authored by Tester to bolster recruitment and retention of clinicians and other health care professionals at VA.

Fiscal Year 2023 Veterans Affairs Major Medical Facility Authorization Act— Bipartisan legislation authored by Tester to authorize several VA construction projects this year.

VA Medicinal Cannabis Research Act of 2023— Bipartisan legislation authored by Tester to authorize VA to conduct research on the health effects of medicinal cannabis for veterans experiencing chronic pain and PTSD.

Commitment to Veteran Support and Outreach Act— Bipartisan legislation to authorize the VA to distribute grants to states in order to help enhance veterans outreach activities, assist veterans in submitting claims, and increase the number of county or tribal veterans service officers serving in the state.

A bill to amend title 38, United States Code, to strengthen benefits for children of Vietnam veterans born with spina bifida, and for other purposes— Bipartisan legislation to strengthen benefits for children of Vietnam veterans born with spina bifida.

Daniel J. Harvey Jr. and Adam Lambert Improving Servicemember Transition to Reduce Veteran Suicide Act— Legislation to create a pilot program to support the transition of mental health care service from the Defense Department to VA for servicemembers as they return to civilian life.

Elizabeth Dole Home Care Act— Bipartisan legislation to expand home and community-based services for aging veterans as well as improve support for veterans and caregivers of all ages from VA.

Native American Direct Loan Improvement Act of 2023— Bipartisan legislation to help Native American veterans achieve homeownership.

RESPECT Act of 2023— Legislation to strengthen mental health considerations in the Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers.


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