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Begich Helps Pass Comprehensive Veterans Bill


A comprehensive bill to improve veterans’ health care, housing, education, and care for homeless veterans, including a provision sponsored by U.S. Sen. Mark Begich to waive telehealth co-payments, has passed the Senate and is on its way to the House of Representatives. It is expected to be voted on next week and sent to the president for signature.

The Honoring America’s Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act of 2012 passed the Senate by unanimous consent last week combining a number of important provisions of the Veterans Programs Improvement Act of 2011 and the Honoring American Veterans Act of 2011, both supported by Begich, a member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.

The Veterans Programs Improvement Act of 2011 was a bill introduced by Sen. Begich authorizing the waiver of the collection of copayments for telehealth and telemedicine visits of veterans. It also included provisions to end homelessness among veterans; establish centers of excellence for rural health research, education and clinical activities; and a provision to promote the VA and the Social Security Administration to streamline processes for providing survivor benefits.

“This bill really puts the best of the best ideas to help veterans into one piece of legislation that will result in a number of improvements for veterans and their families,” Begich said. “The waiver of the telehealth co-payment will mean an estimated 200 Alaska veterans enrolled in the VA’s telemedicine program will no longer have to pay up to 50 dollars per visit. Making health care more affordable and accessible for veterans is one of my key priorities.”

The Honoring America’s Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act of 2012 includes a number of other important items including:

  • Extending health care for some individuals stationed at Camp Lejeune who were affected by contaminated water;
  • Expanding specially-adapted housing programs for disabled veterans;
  • Improving the way the VA reimburses states for veterans homes;
  • Addresses the backlog in VA claims by streamlining and eliminating some processes;

<>·Expands and reauthorizes a number of programs to help homeless veterans and expands the eligibility for the VA’s emergency shelter services to include homeless veterans who are not seriously mentally ill.

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