Government Affairs

Montana Legislative Issues


Montana’s Dept of Military Affairs Memorial Day Ceremony

Please join us in honoring our military heroes through this virtual Memorial Day Ceremony by clicking on the link below.

             https://drive.google.com/file/d/1w8gepMaT4AJy11ePzJ3Q1Ibo0JDAaMZk/view


Update Montana VA Health Care System

03/23/2020 06:16 PM EDT

VA has a comprehensive plan in place to protect the health of everyone who receives care or works at one of our facilities. Using an abundance of caution, all VA medical facilities are implementing screening measures for signs of respiratory illness and exposure to COVID-19. This protocol will be in place until further notice. Onsite, we will use standardized screening questions at strategic entry points. Please arrive 30 minutes early for your appointment and please come alone unless you need assistance from a direct caregiver and/or it is medically necessary. No one under the age of 18 will be permitted in any VA facility or clinic, and visitation is limited. Exceptions will be made on a case by case basis. We appreciate your cooperation and patience during this time. More information.


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.

Senate Veterans Affairs Committee Passes Pending Legislation

Today, Wednesday, August 5, 2020, the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, Chair Jerry Moran, R-Kan and Ranking Minority Member Jon Tester-D-MT, passed the following 12 legislative bills out of  committee and 2 were withdrawn by members.

Veterans Legislation

1. S. 3282 (Cassidy/Tester) Protecting Business Opportunities for Veterans Act of 2020. Passed

2. S. 2558 (Sinema/Cramer) Nursing Home Care for Native American Veterans Act; A bill to amend title 38, United States Code, to authorize the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to make certain grants to assist nursing homes for veterans located on tribal lands.  Passed

3. S. 3643 (Loeffler/Sinema/Blackburn) VA Mission Telehealth Clarification Act. Passed

4. S.2950 (Sullivan/Manchin/Tillis/Rounds/Boozman) Veterans Burn Pits Exposure Recognition Act of 2019 (Committee Print); A bill to amend title 38, United States Code, to concede exposure to airborne hazards and toxins from burn pits under certain circumstances, and for other purposes.  Passed

5. S. 4384 (Sullivan/Blumenthal) K2 Toxic Exposure Study; A bill to require the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to address exposure by members of the Armed Forces to toxic substances at Karshi-Khanabad Air Base, Uzbekistan, and for other purposes.    Passed

6. S. 4393 (Tillis) Toxic Exposure in the American Military Act of 2020 (Committee Print); A bill to improve the provision of health care and other benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs for veterans who were exposed to toxic substances, and for other purposes. Withdrawn

7. S. 711 (Tester/Moran) CARE for Reservists Act of 2019. Passed

8. S. 332 (Blumenthal) Agent Orange Exposure Fairness Act of 2019 (Committee Print);  A bill to amend title 38, United States Code, to remove the manifestation period required for the presumptions of service connection for chloracne, porphyria cutanea tarda, and acute and subacute peripheral neuropathy associated with exposure to certain herbicide agents, and for other purposes. VVA AO-17 Convention Resolution.   Recognition was given by Senator Blumenthal-CT  to VVA member Gerry Wright-CT for his hard work on the bill during the hearing as the bill Passed.

9. S. 805 (Tester/Boozman/Brown/Blumenthal) Veterans Debt Fairness Act (Committee Print); A bill to amend title 38, United States Code, to improve the processing of veterans benefits by the Department of Veterans Affairs, to limit the authority of the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to recover overpayments made by the Department and other amounts owed by veterans to the United States, to improve the due process accorded veterans with respect to such recovery, and for other purposes.  Passed

10. S. 514 (Tester/Boozman) The Deborah Sampson Act (Committee Print) – Passed

11. S. 629 (Tester/Murray/Blumenthal/Brown) Accountability in Department of Veterans Affairs Scheduling and Consult Management Act (Committee Print) – Passed

12. S. 2216 (Peters/Blackburn) TEAM Veteran Caregiver Act (Committee Print); A bill to require the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to formally recognize caregivers of veterans, notify veterans and caregivers of clinical determinations relating to eligibility for caregiver programs, and temporarily extend benefits for veterans who are determined ineligible for the family caregiver program, and for other purposes. Passed

13. S.____ (Moran/Tester/Boozman/Rounds/Sinema/Tillis/Daines/Peters/Wyden/ Lankford/Carper) Veteran Benefits Enhancement and Expansion Act of 2020. Withdrawn 

14. S. 3235 (McSally/Kaine) Veterans Posttraumatic Growth Act – Passed


VA Delays Rollout of Electronic Medical Records

In a May 20 story for Military.com, Patricia Kime reports the COVID-19 pandemic is taking its toll on the VA’s new eletronic health record system. VA officials told congressional leaders last month that the system’s initial rollout, already delayed once this year, will be suspended indefinitely during the pandemic to let health care professionals focus on patient care.
Read More…

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.
Read More…

 


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.
Read More…

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?

  • Veterans
    • 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.
  • Caregivers
    • 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.

Required credentials.

  • Veterans
    • 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.
  • Caregivers
    • Eligible caregivers will receive an eligibility letter from VA’s Office of Community Care.
    • If you are a primary family caregiver under the PCAFC and lose your eligibility letter, please call 1-877-733-7927 to request a replacement.  Please allow two weeks for processing.

      For more information regarding these privileges and access to military installations, visit http://www.militaryonesource.mil/expanding-access