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Bills advance on military homelessness, health care


The Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, chaired by Daniel K. Akaka (D-HI), approved comprehensive legislation to respond to potential environmental hazard exposures on military installations, expand efforts to reduce veteran homelessness, and strengthen VA health care.

Akaka’s military exposure legislation would provide care for individuals exposed to environmental hazards at Camp Lejeune and Atsugi Naval Air Facility, and set up a national response for other potential military installation exposures.

“I am pleased that the Committee approved legislation to provide health care to troops, veterans and military dependents potentially exposed to environmental hazards at Camp Lejeune and Atsugi Naval Air Facility,” Akaka said.

“There is a strong basis for concerns about the potential exposure to toxic substances at Camp Lejeune. Based on what I have seen, it appears clear that elements of the Department of Defense have been less than forthcoming in addressing those concerns. That failure does not relieve the Defense Department of its responsibility, nor mean that the burden should be placed on the Veterans Affairs Department. Today, we moved forward with a balanced solution that shares responsibility between the two Departments, without jeopardizing the quality of care for wounded veterans.”

The Committee approved the following bills:

* An original bill S. ____ (Committee Print), Examination of Exposure to Environmental Hazards During Military Service and Health Care for Camp Lejeune and Atsugi Naval Air Facility Veterans and Their Families Act of 2010

Provides health care for troops, veterans and dependents with potential exposures from Camp Lejeune and Astugi Naval Air Facility; creates a VA/DOD-joint Advisory Panel to study potential troop, veteran, and dependent exposure to environmental hazards on military installations; and requires an annual report to monitor the recommendations of the Advisory Board, including information on individuals receiving care and benefits under the Act.

* S. 1237 (Committee Print), Homeless Veterans and Other Health Care Authorities Act of 2010:

Expands and creates programs to reduce veteran homelessness at the local, state, and national level; automatically enrolls eligible demobilizing Guard and Reserve units into VA health and dental care; increases transparency within VA health care by establishing a VA Medical Center Report Card; and extends health care eligibility for Gulf War veterans until 2012, including those exposed to sodium dichromate at Qarmat Ali.

Akaka’s approach on military exposures garnered the support of several national Veterans Service Organizations, including the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Disabled American Veterans, Paralyzed Veterans of America, and Vietnam Veterans of America.

The Committee also approved the nomination of Dr. Raul Perea-Henze to be VA’s Assistant Secretary for Policy and Planning.

The bills and nominee approved will be reported to the full Senate for consideration.

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