U.S. Rep. John Spratt (D-SC) Wednesday voted for the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act (S.1963). The bipartisan legislation makes improvements to the Department of Veterans Affairs programs that assist caregivers and veterans in rural areas.
"This is probably the largest veterans bill in this session of Congress," said Spratt. "The goal is to improve health care for veterans and guarantee continued funding."
The Family Caregiver section of the bill recognizes the sacrifices of veterans' families, who are frontline providers. The bill will enable qualified family caregivers to receive some of the following benefits: training and education, reimbursement for accompanied medical travel with the veteran, health care benefits, and a monthly financial stipend.
"This bill will help to ease the financial burden on family members who provide care," Spratt said.
The bill also focuses on female veterans. It requires the VA to educate and train mental health professionals to provide appropriate services for women who have suffered sexual trauma in the military. It also establishes a child-care pilot program targeted towards women seeking mental health counseling.
Other highlights include improving mental health and traumatic brain injury research and treatment, raising the travel reimbursement rate for veterans who have to drive extended distances for specialized care, and allowing more organizations to serve and help reduce the number of homeless veterans.
"This bill provides much needed relief for veterans and their families," said Spratt, "and does so in a fiscally responsible way. It adheres to the 'pay-as-you-go' law, or PAYGO, and does not add a dime to the deficit. I was pleased to vote for it."
The bill won the support of a broad coalition of veterans groups, including the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Disabled American Veterans, AMVETS, Paralyzed Veterans of America, the Wounded Warrior Project, and the National Military Family Association.
The bill now moves to the Senate.