On Saturday, June 1, Rep. Grace F. Napolitano (CA-32) along with Rep. Robert E. Andrews (NJ-01) hosted two public forums: one at the California National Guard Armory in Azusa to allow Veterans to meet one-on-one with Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) representatives to receive updates on pending medical and disability claims and help expedite the process, and a second at City of Hope National Medical Center in Duarte to inform and educate physicians and medical service providers of the benefits of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA).
"Eliminating the claims backlog must be our top priority in addressing the needs of our heroes who have come home from the battlefield," Napolitano said. "Our veterans and their families have sacrificed so much for our communities and for our nation, and it is critical that we ensure timely access to the benefits they have earned."
"I am encouraged that Secretary Shineski has recently announced that the VA will implement a new expedited-claims process because we have constituents who have bravely served our country in need of benefits," said Andrews. "Far too many veterans cannot afford to wait for the logjam to pass before receiving their hard earned benefits, so I am joining Congresswoman Napolitano to ensure that these claims are handled expeditiously and appropriately."
Napolitano and Andrews toured the Armory, welcomed Veterans, and greeted National Guard troops who were there for training. Participants also heard from Shelia Jackson, Interim Director of the VA Los Angeles Regional Office; Isabela Duff, Director of the Long Beach VA Hospital, and representatives from the VFW, American Legion, American GI Forum, and the Vet Hunters Project.
More than 150 Veterans from the 32nd District and surrounding area were registered at the event, seen by the VA Mobile Clinic for physical exams and psychiatric evaluations, and updated on their pending claims. Azusa Mayor, Joseph Rocha, brought together dozens of volunteers from the community including 30 students from Azusa High School, to help make the forum a great success.
Later that day, Napolitano and Andrews held a roundtable discussion on the ACA with physicians and service providers at City of Hope in Azusa. Discussion participants were 35 members of Napolitano's 32nd Congressional District Mental Health Consortium, a group of local mental health professionals who advise her on mental health issues and policy. Andrews, an original author of the ACA, which was signed into law in March 2011, answered questions relating to the continued implementation of the landmark law.
"Our district is very grateful to Congressman Andrews for sharing his time and expertise with us today," Napolitano said at the roundtable. "Many of the provisions of health care reform have already proven to be critical for working families across my district. More children are now able to find coverage, and outlawing the worst industry practices has allowed patients to count on their healthcare being there when they need it most. I thank all of the members of the Consortium here today and encourage them to continue to ask questions, get educated, and inform others."
"I was honored to join the members of the Mental Health Consortium for the extremely insightful discussion on the future of our nation's health care system," said Congressman Andrews. "As the new health reform law continues to be implemented, it is important to continue the dialogue about our nation's pressing need to rein in health care costs and improve our standards of care. The reforms that became law just a couple years ago are about ensuring that every American has access to affordable and quality health care, and it is discussions like this one that will allow us to build off of the many accomplishments in this law and make America's health care system even better."
In the ensuing years, these provisions of the ACA will take effect:
* Effective January 1, 2014: Americans who earn less than 133% of the poverty level (approximately $14,000 for an individual and $29,000 for a family of four) will be eligible to enroll in Medicaid
* Effective January 1, 2014: If your employer doesn't offer insurance, you will be able to buy it directly in an Affordable Insurance Exchange
* Effective January 1, 2015: Physician payments will be tied directly to the quality care they provide