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Honoring America's Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act of 2012

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Ms. BUERKLE. I rise in support of the Senate amendments to H.R. 1627, the Honoring American Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act of 2012.

Included in this bill are provisions that reflect the oversight work of the Subcommittee on Health, which I am honored to chair. Central to the health care portion of this legislation is section 106, which would require the Department of Veterans Affairs to develop and implement a comprehensive policy on the prevention, monitoring, reporting, and tracking of sexual assaults and other safety incidents that occur at VA medical facilities.

This provision was originally passed in the House last year in H.R. 2074, as amended, the Veterans Sexual Assault Prevention Act. I introduced this measure last year in response to a disturbing GAO report, which found that between 2007 and 2010 some 284 instances of alleged sexual assault occurred in VA medical facilities around the country. As a former registered nurse and domestic violence counselor, I am all too familiar with the corrosive and harmful effects sexual and physical violence can have in the lives of its victims. Abusive behavior, like the kind documented by the GAO, is unacceptable. For it to be found in what should be an environment of healing for our honored veterans is simply unforgivable.

This bill would establish and enforce critically important actions to correct the serious safety vulnerabilities, security problems, and oversight failures by VA leadership that threaten the safety of veterans who seek care through the Department and of the hardworking employees who provide that care. I am confident that the comprehensive requirements mandated in this bill will resolve the deficiencies the GAO uncovered and ensure that the VA health care system is a safe and secure place for our veterans and their families to seek care.

I have been working furiously since last October, when this provision first passed the House, to get it through the Senate and signed into law by the President. I am very pleased and relieved that the day has finally come--and not a moment too soon--for those who need it. However, my oversight does not stop at the President's desk. With this statement, I am putting the VA on notice that I will remain vigilant in ensuring that the legislation is implemented swiftly, as intended, to protect veterans and employees at VA medical facilities.

Also included in this bill, Mr. Speaker, is a measure that would allow for greater flexibility in establishing rates for reimbursements to State homes for nursing home care that is provided to certain service-connected veterans. This proposal was also included in H.R. 2074.

I want to thank the gentleman from Maine and ranking member of the Subcommittee on Health for his very hard work in introducing this provision and the manner in which he continues to embody a true bipartisan spirit to advance legislation for the benefit of our veterans, as well as their families. Additionally, the bill includes a measure to expand the ability of worthy nonprofit entities to obtain grants to provide services for homeless veterans.

Our colleague from the State of Washington, Dave Reichert, has been a strong advocate for establishing these important enhancements. I am pleased that this provision he introduced is included in the bill. I'm pleased that this provision for which he has been a strong advocate has been included. There are so many other important provisions, including improving rehabilitative care to veterans with traumatic brain injury, waiving the collection of co-payments for telehealth and telemedicine, establishing an initiative to expand beneficiary travel reimbursements to veterans, clarifying the access rights of service dogs on VA property and VA facilities, and providing medical care for certain veterans and their families who were exposed to contaminated water at Camp Lejeune.

It has been an honor for me, Mr. Speaker, to work with my colleagues in the House and the Senate on this legislation. In particular, I am grateful for the hard work, as well as the leadership, of our chairman, Mr. Miller of Florida.

Mr. Speaker, I urge all of my colleagues to join me in supporting this legislation.

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