WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-NY), a member of the House Appropriations Committee, announced today that she has passed several important measures into law to assist veterans. These items include provisions that Meng attached to the Energy and Water, Legislative Branch, and Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Act, which was recently signed into law by the President. The measures include the following:
· Requiring the VA to investigate easing the burden of filing disability claims for veterans who participated in nuclear clean-up activities in Palomares, Spain and on Enewetak Atoll in the Marshall Islands. Currently, these veterans are not presumed to have been previously exposed to radiation when filing claims for disability and medical assistance. Rep. Meng introduced the Mark Takai Atomic Veterans Healthcare Parity Act which would provide healthcare benefits to veterans who participated in the nuclear cleanup of Enewetak Atoll in the Marshall Islands during the late 1970s.
· Requiring the VA to research the prevalence of cholangiocarcinoma, a rare cancer that can be caused by exposure to parasites in undercooked fish in Vietnam, in veterans and report to Congress on current research efforts to combat the cancer. Rep. Meng believes efforts to understand and combat cholangiocarcinoma should be accelerated to help Vietnam veterans who may have the rare cancer.
· Requiring the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) to submit a formal report to Congress containing data pertaining to the number of female health care professionals hired in each of the past five years, their job types, and their job locations. This information will allow Congress to pursue measures in the coming year that will better serve the growing number of female veterans seeking medical care. Rep. Meng believes that the VHA should be able to ensure female veterans have the flexibility to choose the gender of their health care provider.
In addition to these wins, Meng was proud to work with her Democratic and Republican colleagues to ensure that the VA has the funds that are necessary to care for our veterans. Meng proudly supported efforts that secured $86.5 billion in funding for the VA for fiscal year 2019, which is $5 billion more than the 2018 enacted level. Of the total amount funded for the VA, $2 billion will improve the VA’s infrastructure and $348 million will expand opioid treatment and prevention programs for veterans. Meng also worked with her colleagues across the aisle to provide $8.6 billion for mental health and suicide prevention programs at the VA.
“Our veterans have answered the call of a nation and served honorably at home and abroad, sometimes being far away from family and loved ones for long periods of time,” said Meng. “That’s why I’m thrilled that my provisions to assist our veterans were included in this spending bill that was recently signed into law. We must ensure that our veterans have the care and resources they need and deserve to thrive in their communities. Caring for our veterans’ wellbeing is a top priority of mine and I look forward to continuing my work on the Appropriations Committee to assist veterans in the next fiscal year.”
The legislation funds the Department of Veterans Affairs through the end of fiscal year 2019.