Montana Legislative Issues
Honor and Remember Medallion
During the 2017 Legislative Session, Gov. Bullock signed into Montana state law the Honor and Remember Act, which authorizes the Honor and Remember Medallion (HRM) for family members of servicemen or women who have passed in the service of their country while engaged against hostile military forces. The Medallion – its appearance and presentation criteria – is based upon the Department of Defense and U.S. Congress’ determination of the Gold Star Family standard, and as adopted by Montana state statute. As such, specific family relationships are authorized the Honor and Remember Medallion – as designated on its application form. The Medallion’s presentation criteria honors previously relevant state laws that allowed for a Medallion, at no charge, for one family member; as well as, the recently passed legislation which expands the Medallion’s availability to all authorized family members (per Gold Star Family standards). Expanding the availability was the right thing to do, but it also significantly increased the cost of the program; therefore, there is a cost of $20 for any additional family member to receive the Medallion. While there was apprehension to include a fee, it was necessary for the greater good of the Honor and Remember Medallion program in that it could be, long-term, as financially self-sustaining as possible. While the $20 does not cover all the costs of the Medallion, its presentation case, the engraving and other expenses; it does – as augmented by donations – ensure its perpetual availability. Please visit the Montana Veterans Affairs Division website at mt.gov to obtain the application and instructions.
National Legislative Issues
Stay informed about the issues that affect Vietnam Veterans.
Rep Gil Cisneros Introduces the VALOR Act
Thousands of Korean-American Vietnam Veterans Could Receive VA healthcare Under This Bill
|As reported January 22 by Abbie Bennett for Connecting Vets, Korean Americans who fought as U.S. allies in the Vietnam War don’t qualify for health care through the Department of Veterans Affairs. A new bill from Rep. Gil Cisneros, D-Calif., would change that. About 3,000 Korean Americans, who are naturalized citizens, served as U.S. wartime allies in Vietnam, but those veterans do not have access to VA health care, unlike U.S. European allies of World War I and World War II. The Korean American Vietnam Allies Long Overdue for Relief (VALOR) Act would amend Title 38 of U.S. Code to treat troops who served in Vietnam as a member of the Republic of Korea Armed Forces as veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces for purposes of granting them access to VA health care. That change would entitle those veterans to hospital and home care and other medical services.
VA Disputes Findings
VA disputes science panel’s findings on proposed Agent Orange diseases; decision not expected until late 2020
|As reported by Patricia Kime January 29 for Military Times, under pressure from Congress to determine whether to add four diseases to the list of Agent Orange-related health conditions, VA officials have disputed a scientific panel’s findings and said they will wait for additional research to conclude before making what could be a $15.2 billion decision. In a report sent to the House and Senate Veterans Affairs committees on Monday, VA Secretary Robert Wilkie said VA experts “noted significant concerns and limitations” with several National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, or NASEM, reports concluding that there is suggestive or sufficient evidence linking development of bladder cancer, hypothyroidism, Parkinson’s-like tremors, and hypertension to exposure to herbicides for defoliation in the Vietnam War.
DOD to Extend Commissary Access January 1, 2020
Commissary, Military Service Exchange, and MWR access extended to more Veterans beginning January
According to the Department of Defense, starting Jan. 1, 2020, all service-connected Veterans, Purple Heart recipients, former prisoners of war (POW), and individuals approved and designated as the primary family caregivers of eligible Veterans under the Department of Veterans Affairs Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers (PCAFC) can use commissaries, exchanges, and morale, welfare and recreation (MWR) retail facilities, in-person and online.
Who is eligible Jan. 1, 2020?
- Purple Heart recipients
- former prisoners of war
- Veterans with 0-90% service-connected disability ratings
- Medal of Honor recipients and Veterans with 100% service-connected disability ratings are already eligible under existing DOD policy.
- On Jan. 1, individuals approved and designated as the primary family caregiver of an eligible veteran under the PCAFC will be eligible for these privileges.
- On Jan. 1, Veterans eligible solely under this act who are eligible to obtain a Veteran Health Identification Card must use this credential for in-person installation and privilege access. The card must display the Veteran’s eligibility status (i.e., PURPLE HEART, FORMER POW or SERVICE CONNECTED).
- Veterans eligible solely under this act who are not enrolled in or are not eligible to enroll in VA health care, or who are enrolled in VA health care, but do not possess a Veteran Health Identification Card will not have access to DoD and Coast Guard installations for in-person commissary, exchange, and MWR retail privileges, but will have full access to online exchanges and American Forces Travel.
- Medal of Honor recipients and Veterans with 100% service-connected disability ratings are eligible for DoD credentials under DoD policy.
VA Health Care Data for iPhone
In honor of Veterans Month this November, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is rolling out nationwide access for Veterans to their VA health data, alongside their health records from other health care providers in one place, in the Health Records section of the Health app for iPhone.
Now, patients will be able to see their medical information from various participating institutions, including VA, organized into one view. The view covers allergies, conditions, immunizations, lab results, medications and procedures and vitals. Veterans will also receive notifications when their data is updated.
“We have delivered Veterans an innovative new way to easily and securely access their health information,” said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie. “Veterans deserve access to their health data at any time and in one place, and with Health Records on the Health app, VA has pushed the Veterans experience forward.”
This capability was developed through VA’s Veterans Health Application Programming Interface (Veterans Health API), first revealed in February, and has topped 2,000 users. The Veterans Health API allows private sector organizations to create and deploy innovative digital applications that help Veterans access their health records in new ways. Health Records data is encrypted and protected with the user’s iPhone passcode, Touch ID, or Face ID.
Beyond this effort with Apple, VA plans to partner with other organizations to bring similar capabilities to other mobile platforms.
Senate Passes Veterans Benefits and Transition Act
The United States Senate passed Ranking Member Jon Tester’s 21st bipartisan bill, capping off a landmark Congress with numerous victories for America’s veterans.
Tester’s Veterans Benefits and Transition Act contains 18 bipartisan bills, including the following six bipartisan Tester-authored bills to honor Native American veterans, better protect student veterans, and increase the transparency and accountability of the VA’s historic electronic health records transition.
The Servicemembers Improved Transition through Reforms for Ensuring Progress “SIT-REP” Act:Forces schools that receive G.I. Bill benefits to adopt a policy that it will not impose a late fee, restrict a student veterans’ access to campus facilities, or otherwise punish a student veteran due to a late payment of tuition or fees from the VA.
Tribal Veteran Burial Benefits Act:Authored by Tester and Senator Dean Heller (R-Nev.), the VA can now provide headstones or burial markers to a Native American veteran’s spouse and dependents who wish to be buried alongside their loved one in a tribal veterans’ cemetery.
Veteran Debt Fairness Act:Following reports that the VA had been forcing veterans to repay benefits to the VA, Tester authored legislation with Senators Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) to require the VA to update its information technology systems so that affected veterans are able to review and revise information about their dependents electronically.
Veterans Fair Debt Notice Act:Tester authored this legislation with Senator Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) to require the VA to notify veterans with a straightforward, easy-to-understand electronic or standard mail notification of any debt that veteran owes to the VA and the steps they can take to dispute that debt.
Veterans’ Electronic Health Record Modernization Oversight Act:As the VA undertakes the largest electronic health records change in history, Tester and Blumenthal authored legislation to make the modernization program’s key planning and implementation efforts more transparent and hold the VA accountable by requiring the VA to notify Congress in the event of any significant cost increase, schedule delay, loss of veteran health data or breach of privacy.
Veterans’ Dental Care Eligibility Expansion and Enhancement Act:The VA is required to report on the possibility of expanding veterans’ access to dental care. By analyzing access and affordability through VA dental care, oral health needs of eligible veterans, and the number of providers needed to provide such care.
“This legislation is the product of hard work, compromise and bipartisanship,” said Tester, Ranking Member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee. “Sending another VA reform bill to the President’s desk sends a clear message to our nation’s veterans: Serving our men and women in uniform is a responsibility that we should all take very seriously. I have been honored to work with Chairman Isakson this Congress to accomplish so much for our nation’s veterans.”