WASHINGTON, D.C. – In advance of his meeting this week with Robert McDonald, former CEO of Procter and Gamble and the nominee for Secretary of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) – a senior member of the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs and a member of the 2014 veterans’ conference committee –held a news conference call to highlight current negotiations as well as to outline top priorities that must be immediately addressed by the new VA Secretary.
“Our commitment to our veterans must match their commitment to our nation,” Brown said. “The Senate has passed legislation that holds senior-level VA officials accountable for mismanagement while increasing access to care for our veterans. This bill would also provide additional resources for the VA to hire more doctors and nurses to help address systemwide shortages. As a member of the Senate conference committee, I will work to ensure any legislation includes these comprehensive reforms. It’s time that we put partisan differences aside and pass this legislation.”
In June, Brown was appointed to the first Senate-House conference committee in fifteen years to address veterans’ legislation. During the meeting, Brown called for increased accountability among senior officials while making access to care easier for all veterans. Brown also pointed to the need for additional medical staff within the VA system to help the nearly 300,000 American veterans struggling with Post Traumatic Stress (PTS) and 25,000 veterans facing mild Traumatic Brain Injuries following their return from deployment.
During the conference call, Brown called for swift passage of the Veterans’ Access to Care through Choice, Accountability, and Transparency Act of 2014 and outlined how this legislation would cut down wait times by expanding available medical services for veterans, provide additional funding to the VA for the training and hiring of new medical staff to help address systemwide shortages, and empower the VA Secretary to remove senior officials, helping reestablish accountability within the Department.
As the only Ohio Senator to serve a full term on the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs, Brown has introduced a package of key legislative proposals aimed at addressing issues facing Ohio veterans. In May, Brown toured the state to build support for his Significant Event Tracker (SET) Act, legislation that would ensure that unit commanders document events that individual service members are exposed to which might later be connected to PTS, mTBI, or other injuries.
In response to the disability claims backlog, Brown has helped secure record funds and staffing for the VA to combat the backlog. In November 2013, Brown announced that key provisions of his Veterans Services Outreach (VSO) Act passed the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs. The Act would require the VA to notify veterans filing claims electronically that they can receive help and important time-saving information that could significantly reduce their wait time. In August, Brown announced that he would also work to pass the Claims Processing Improvement Act of 2013, legislation that would hold the VA accountable by requiring it to publically report information on both its projected monthly goals and actual production so that Congress and the public knows if the VA is working toward eliminating its backlog. The bill would also establish a task force to hire and train claims processors, and develop tactics to attack and eliminate the backlog.
In December 2013, Brown announced his support for the Homeless Veterans Prevention Act, legislation that would improve homelessness prevention programs and increase the availability of transitional housing for veterans.