By Natalie Rodgers
Another new year has arrived and brought along four new bills to provide aid to veterans from various backgrounds on matters of diversity, health and financial compensation.
The bills signed were known as S. 769, S. 894, S. 1031 and S. 1095 and had bipartisan support from senators and representatives. “We have many obligations, but we only have one truly sacred obligation, in my view,” President Biden stated prior to the signings, “and that is prepare those we send into harm’s way, care for their families when they’re gone and care for them and their families when they’re home, and that’s a lifetime commitment.”
Pictured: U.S. President Joe Biden talks to Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) after signing a series of veteran-related bills at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington, D.C. The four bipartisan bills will address and expand areas of veteran health, education and equality. Biden was joined by Secretary of Veterans Affairs Denis McDonough.
Read further to learn more about each bill:
S. 1031 S. 1031 was led by Senator Raphael Warnock and Representative Mark Takano. S. 1031 deals with ensuring racial equality in Veterans Affairs. In an effort to limit bias in providing benefits to veterans of color, the new law now requires the Government Accountability Office to conduct a race and ethnicity study to assess whether there is a disparity taking place in how veterans are receiving their needed benefits and disability ratings based on race or ethnicity. Simply put,n this law will help to ensure that veterans are receiving the proper health care from the Veterans Affairs department regardless of their race or ethnicity.
“We’ve heard from veterans of color who, upon returning home from their service, are treated differently from white veterans,” President Biden noted to the press, “This bill will help us understand how this happened, keep better records, expose the facts to the light of day and allow us to do the necessary work of making sure that all of our nation’s veterans — all of them — are treated with equal dignity and equal equality throughout their entire time.”
S. 894: Hire Veteran Health Heroes Act of 2021
The second bill signed that day was S. 894, otherwise known as the “Hire Veteran Health Heroes Act of 2021”. This law was supported by Senator Maggie Hassan, Senator Mike Braun, Representative Kathleen Rice, and Representative Bob Latta and will require the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Defense to identify separating members of the Armed Forces with a health care occupation and offer them potential employment with the Department of Veterans Affairs. This will not only help new veterans with a medical background the chance of immediate employment, but will also satisfy the staff shortages at the VA. S. 894 will also secure existing efforts for employment for former military health professionals.
S. 1095: Colonel John M. McHugh Tuition Fairness for Survivors Act of 2021
S. 1095 will specifically help survivors and dependents of deceased veterans who are looking to further their education. Under this law surviving spouses and children of veterans who have accessed the Survivors and Dependents’ Education Assistance Program will be eligible for in-state tuition wherever they decide to go to school regardless of their home state. S. 1095 was supported by Senator Jon Tester, Senator Jerry Moran, Representative David Trone and Representative Gwen Moore, and was named after Colonel John M. McHugh.
His daughter, Kelly McHugh Stewart, was also integral to the passing of this law, having first raised awareness for the issue based on her own educational experiences.
S. 769: Protecting Moms Who Served Act of 2021
S. 769, known as the “Protecting Moms Who Served Act,” was championed by Senator Tammy Duckworth, Senator Susan Collins, Representative Lauren Underwood and Representative Gus Bilirakis. Under this final law, the Department of Veteran Affairs will be required to make improvements upon the current maternity care coordination program and adhere to the needs of maternal health for veterans.
“We’re going to help expand and diversify the maternal health workforce, improve mental — improve maternal mental health, and bolster community-based programs, train providers, enhance research and ensure — ensure maternal care is coordinated,” President Biden said of this law, “This bill will commission a comprehensive study of maternal health challenges facing veterans and will invest in maternal care coordination programs at the VA.”
This law was also heavily supported by Vice President Kamala Harris, especially during her time as Senator Kamala Harris. While there is always work to be done to make sure that veterans of all backgrounds and circumstances are receiving the right benefits and care, these four laws will help provide the necessary push needed to ensure equitable and proper resources to all veterans.
Source: CNN, Whitehouse.gov