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Ominbus Bill for veterans, caregivers headed to White House


U.S. Sen. Daniel K. Akaka (D-Hawaii), Chairman of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, cheered Congressional passage of S. 1963, the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act by unanimous voice vote.

This landmark bill, authored by Akaka, would establish an unprecedented permanent program to support the caregivers of wounded warriors, improve health care for veterans in rural areas, help VA adapt to the needs of women veterans, and expand supportive services for homeless veterans.

“For too long, the families of wounded warriors across America have paid the cost of war without sufficient support from the government their loved ones risked all to serve. I look forward to President Obama signing this important bill for the families of disabled veterans, and for women veterans, veterans in rural areas, and those veterans sleeping on the streets tonight,” said Akaka.

Akaka held a series of hearings as Chairman, bringing in the families of seriously injured servicemembers to discuss how VA might better help those caring for severely disabled veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Akaka then developed legislation to establish a program to certify, train, and financially support veterans’ caregivers.

A longtime supporter of veterans’ caregivers, Akaka introduced legislation in 2006, later enacted as part of an omnibus bill, establishing a pilot program to assist caregivers.

The bill’s caregiver support provisions would:

* Fulfill VA’s obligation to care for the nation’s wounded veterans by providing their caregivers with training, counseling, supportive services, and a living stipend

* Provide health care to the family caregivers of injured veterans under CHAMPVA

* Require independent oversight of the caregiver program

The bill would also provide numerous other improvements for veterans, by:

* Expanding health care services for women veterans
* Reaching out to veterans living in rural areas
* Improving mental health care
* Removing barriers to care for catastrophically disabled veterans
* Enhancing VA medical services
* Strengthening VA’s workforce
* Improving and increasing services to homeless veterans

S. 1963 now goes to President Obama for his consideration.

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