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OPINION

Doing Right By Our Veterans With Meaningful VA Reforms

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
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Charles Dharapak

There have been long standing problems and challenges for many of our nation’s veterans obtaining needed VA benefits.  These veterans — brave and patriotic men and women — have sacrificed much for our country, and we owe them the highest levels of care and support upon returning to civilian life.

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While the Veterans Administration (VA) strives to provide the best possible care, it is widely acknowledged that they are plagued by a six-figure backlog that is actively endangering our veterans. The VA is one of the largest and most complex agencies in the U.S. government. The last two decades of war have produced the greatest number of veterans since the Vietnam War, and the system’s cracks are starting to show as backlogs get longer and backwards incentive programs emerge.

So there has been a lot of talk for a long time about fixing and reforming things at the VA. But in the past, it was too often only talk or in some cases, actually harmful, counter-productive legislation. But now, there is finally some good news on the horizon.

Recently introduced H.R. 1822 - the PLUS for Veterans Act of 2023, is a bipartisan piece of legislation introduced by Representative Jack Bergman (MI-01) and currently cosponsored by Rep. Lou Correa (CA-46), Rep. Nancy Mace (SC-01), Rep. Trent Kelly (MS-1), Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks (IA-1), Rep. Doug Lamborn (CO-5) and Rep. Gregory Murphy (NC-3). This legislation will safeguard veterans from fraud, abuse, and bad actors who seek to take advantage of them when they seek VA disability benefits. The bill will also protect Veterans’ rights to seek private assistance, if they so choose, when they are navigating the complex system. 

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Some past legislative proposals have sought to ban all private organizations that help veterans. While there have been some bad actors who have taken advantage of veterans, there are a great number of legitimate organizations that provide assistance to veterans when they need help getting the VA benefits that they deserve and have earned. But banning the helpful and worthwhile organizations will harm veterans and limit their choices. So the PLUS for Veterans Act provides needed reforms and fixes in a meaningful way. 

As Rep. Bergman stated, “It’s imperative that we close the loopholes that bad actors exploit and protect our Veterans from abuse. At the same time, we must ensure that every Veteran has the right to seek whatever private help they deem necessary when navigating their VA assistance.” 

The PLUS for Veterans Act provides for an accreditation system for organizations that assist Veterans, and it includes strict penalties for bad actors who try to take advantage of veterans.

Rep. Mace described the bill as “a testament to our commitment to honoring the sacrifices and service of our brave men and women in uniform. She also summarized the legislation as follows:  “The Plus for Veterans Act ensures veterans can access the benefits and services they deserve without unnecessary bureaucratic hurdles, streamlining the process and providing them with the support they need. It also ensures bad actors who take advantage of veterans are severely punished. We are committed to working towards a system which properly takes care of those who have served our country.”

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Rep. Correa expressed his pride in joining his colleagues to introduce much needed bipartisan legislation to help our veterans and reform processes at the VA and how veterans can obtain the help that they need.

At Frontiers of Freedom, we launched the VA Disability Initiative to call attention to Congressional efforts that would limit a veteran’s ability to choose how they secure the disability benefits many of them rely upon. This bill takes the opposite approach by expanding a veteran’s options while ensuring any bad actors are heavily policed and punished. Our nation’s veterans have sacrificed much for our country, and we owe them the highest levels of care and support. The PLUS for Veterans Act is a great leap forward in this effort! 

We occasionally see legislation that is misnamed with names that give the wrong impression as to what the bill will actually do. So many Americans may be skeptical, but as an organization that has been working, long and hard on this issue, and have been hoping for a day when there would be legislation that we could wholeheartedly endorse, we are pleased to endorse the PLUS for Veterans Act and report that it is precisely what it purports to be. If we applied truth in labeling laws to this legislation, it would pass with flying colors and we hope that it passes both the House and the Senate because this is a real and meaningful reform whose time has come and is desperately needed. 

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