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Akaka’s omnibus bill for veterans, caregivers now law

President Obama greets Chairman Akaka following the signing ceremony Wednesday, May 5 in the State Dining Room of the White House, as Secretary Shinseki and Second Lady Dr. Jill Biden look on from the left. (Photo captured from streaming video)


Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Daniel K. Akaka (D-Hawaii) joined President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, Dr. Jill Biden, Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric K. Shinseki, and others at the White House for the signing of S. 1963, the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act.

This landmark bill authored by Akaka will 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. S. 1963 passed the House and Senate unanimously last month.

“With his signature, President Obama has taken the last step in what has been a long struggle for wounded warriors, their caregivers, and others who have called for a law to strengthen the partnership between VA and veterans’ families. Today belongs to the family caregivers who sacrificed so much with too little support, and never gave up on their wounded loved ones. VA, veterans’ families, and disabled veterans will all be better off thanks to this important law. I am also pleased about provisions in the new law to help disabled veterans, women veterans, homeless veterans, those who live in rural and remote areas, and others,” Akaka said.

“I am especially pleased that VA will now be able to reimburse veterans who require air travel to receive the care they need. Neighbor Island veterans have asked for this change for years, and now it is law,” he said.

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. When this bipartisan bill was blocked in the Senate, Akaka led a successful floor fight to secure floor passage. A longtime supporter of veterans’ caregivers, Akaka also 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 will:

* 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 will also provide numerous other improvements for veterans, by:

* Expanding health care services for women veterans
* Reaching out to veterans living in rural areas
* Improving VA’s mental health care programs
* Removing barriers to care for catastrophically disabled veterans
* Enhancing a variety of VA medical services
* Strengthening VA’s ability to recruit and retain a first-class health-care workforce
* Improving and increasing services to homeless veterans

For an in-depth summary of the bill as passed by Congress, visit

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