Okay, it’s been a slow recess for Congress as they were all on the campaign trails, but there are two things the government is working on. The first one is to pass a National Defense Authorization Act to fund our military, and the Annual Budget to avoid a government shutdown. These are the two main issues as this 117th Congress ends for the holiday and the 118th Congress is sworn in January. PVA believes there are still two important key legislative bills we can get through before this Congress ends. HR 3304 Cars for Vets Act passed the House in late September. This bill authorizes the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to provide (or assist in providing) an eligible veteran or service member with an additional automobile or other conveyance under the VA automobile allowance and adaptive equipment program. Currently, a veteran or service member with a specified service-connected disability or impairment may not receive more than one automobile or other conveyance under the program. It was presented to the Senate on Oct 10. We believe Congress would try to pass it via a hotline process (no debate).
Please call our Senators and let them know how important the bill is to you. The House also passed the Clothing Allowance Bill. The bill requires the VA to continue the clothing allowance for such a veteran on an annual basis until they no longer need it without annual reviews. This bill will also likely be a hotline bill to hopefully get through. Please rush to call the Hill regarding these two key issues. They must hear about it from their constituents, then they’re more likely to endorse the bill. The HCBS bill (Elizabeth Dole Home- and Community-Based Services for Veterans and Caregivers Act of 2022) has not been passed by either chamber, but there’s a small chance the House could bring it up for a floor vote.
An opinion editorial in the Hill newspaper by PVA President Charles Brown and Dole Foundation Executive Director urging Congress to pass the HCBS bill. The bill Increases payments from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) for long-term care and support of veterans; encourages VA to expand access to a non-VA provider that would furnish all-inclusive care to elderly veterans living in the community; requires VA to update IT capabilities to assist veterans and caregivers using long-term health care and support services; requires VA to carry out a pilot program that would provide homemaker and health aide services to veterans; requires several reports and studies on departmental programs that provide medical and health services to elderly veterans at home and in the community. The Justice for ALS Veterans Act and HISA bills discussions have been ongoing, but they are unlikely to advance any further and will need to be reintroduced in the next Congress.
The VA still hasn’t commented on the reforms they’re considering regarding caregiver programs. Spouses who are caregivers who cannot work, don’t earn credits for SS retirement. This will be addressed again in the 118th. The Administration for Community Living published a national strategy in September and there was a 60-day comment period. The intent was to identify actions federal agencies could commit to doing to support the needs of family caregivers. On November 17th the Subcommittee on Aviation had a hearing on accessible air travel. You can watch the whole hearing on the House Transportation Infrastructure Committee website where you can hear Government Relations Director Report by Robert Arciola about experiences flying.
Many champions are on our side wondering why there are so many challenges in air travel. A webinar on Electric Vehicles was held on November 17th as well. You can watch that webinar on pva.org and share it with your chapter members. There are a lot of webinars available on PVA’s website and share them. The Access Board has taken comments regarding self-service transaction machines and self-service kiosks, including check-in machines, fare machines, ticketing machines, etc. PVA submitted comments for each to be as accessible as possible and preferred the authority to be under their board. Additional work is ongoing regarding DOT which has received over 4,000 comments regarding air travelers with disabilities and ticketing.