As he readies to leave Congress, U.S. Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., the outgoing chairman of the U.S. House Veterans Affairs Committee, scored a legislative final win this week.
On Tuesday, the U.S. House passed without opposition a bill named after Miller and U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Ct., the top Democrat on the U.S. Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.
The “Jeff Miller and Richard Blumenthal Veterans Health Care and Benefits Improvement Act” makes a number of changers including streamlining the disability claims process for veterans and their families; adding two more judges to the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims in order to clear the backlog of claim cases; extending education benefits for surviving spouses of veterans killed at the start of the War on Terror; expanding adult immunization access for veterans; ensuring the VA makes annual reports on medical centers and treatment; getting more homeless veterans access to medical care; and reforming how medical heath professionals are hired.
Blumenthal took to the Senate floor to praise the legislation on Tuesday.
“This omnibus measure with more than 70 provisions is broad and comprehensive in scope and scale,” said Blumenthal. “More veterans, including many at risk of homelessness, will receive the care and benefits they need and deserve. VA hospitals will have better management of mental health counselors and emergency room doctors. Veterans’ families will be helped by extending critical education benefits to surviving members. Work will finally begin to help descendants of veterans exposed to toxic substances. I urge my colleagues in the Senate to pass this critical legislation without delay, and forge ahead to ensure no veteran is left behind.”
“When I took over as chairman in 2015, I promised to do everything I could to see to it that we are never ceasing to make improvements to the care and benefits that our veterans have earned,” said U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., the chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. “We will never play politics with our veterans on my watch, and when we find a problem, we are going to fix it. I am proud of what we have accomplished through this bipartisan package of bills that will improve many aspects of the care and benefits that our veterans receive at the VA. I applaud today’s action by the House, and I hope my colleagues in the Senate will follow suit without delay to pass this important measure.”
Miller ushered the bill along with other measures including legislation mandating VA doctors report if their colleagues are acting unethically and creating a pilot program for software allowing veteran patients to self-schedule through the House on Tuesday.
“These bipartisan bills are designed to help improve health care, benefits and services for those who are most deserving – our nation’s veterans,” Miller said. “I’m especially proud of the provision in H.R. 6416 that brings transparency and accountability to VA’s often-abused administrative leave system. I applaud my colleagues for passing this meaningful legislation to improve care for our nation’s veterans and honor those who have fallen.”
Miller has been mentioned as a possible VA secretary in President-elect Donald Trump’s administration.