This week, the four Subcommittees of the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs held markups on pending legislation. In total, 13 bills were favorably forwarded to the Full Committee.
The Improving Transparency of Education Opportunities for Veterans Act of 2012 (H.R. 4057), introduced by Committee Vice-Chair Rep. Gus Bilirakis and a member of the Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity, would create a centralized complaint process to track student issues concerning the GI Bill, as well as require VA to better inform veteran students about education counseling and provide expanded data points for students to help make informed choices about their education.
The Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations moved forward with three bills, including the Veterans Fiduciary Reform Act of 2012 (H.R. 5948). The bill was introduced by Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Bill Johnson, and would fix what has been recently revealed as a flawed VA Fiduciary Program. "There's no question that our current fiduciary program put a lot of veterans at financial risk. This legislation is an important step toward fixing a broken system and protecting America's veterans who have so bravely served us," said Johnson.
The Subcommittee on Health marked up two pieces of legislation, including the Open Burn Pit Registry Act of 2011 (H.R. 3337), introduced by Rep. Todd Akin. The Open Burn Pit Registry would require the Department of Veterans Affairs to establish a registry of members of the military who were exposed to toxic chemicals and fumes caused by open burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"We owe many things to the men and women who fought so valiantly in service to our country, not the least of which is to take a serious and proactive approach to the issues they experience when they return home. Establishing an open burn pit registry will provide us with an effective way to document and monitor the health status of servicemembers from their time of deployment, gather and track data on any adverse health effects among those exposed to burn pits during service, and better inform future studies regarding the long-term health effects of burn pit exposure," stated Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle, Chairwoman of the Subcommittee on Health.
The Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs marked up three bills introduced by Chairman Jon Runyan. The Veterans Disability Examination Access Improvement Act (H.R. 5880), takes aim at speeding up the disability claims process by extending VA's authority to enter into contracts with private physicians to conduct medical disability examinations.
The Full Committee is expected to consider the legislation on July 11, 2012.