Why it matters: Serving our country in uniform is an extremely noble undertaking. Our nation has a responsibility to honor our promise to the men and women who selflessly place themselves in harm’s way to protect our nation and ideals.
Where I stand: As the son of an Air Force Master Sergeant, I learned at an early age about the sacrifices of our men and women in uniform, as well as the unique challenges military families face. I brought these values with me to Washington where I am working to enhance the quality of life for our servicemembers, veterans and military families.
I am committed to using my role as the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies—as well as my seats on the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense and the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee—to affect positive change at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). We have seen movement in the right direction in recent years, much of which has been brought about by bipartisan efforts in Congress.
The VA MISSION Act of 2018 [P.L. 115-182] is a significant addition to Congress’s list of bipartisan efforts to help veterans. This law consolidates and strengthens VA community care programs so veterans will have access to healthcare services in their own communities, improves the VA’s ability to hire high-quality healthcare professionals, expands VA caregiver benefits and creates a process to evaluate and reform VA medical facilities so they can best serve veterans. That same bipartisan spirit needs to be put into action to ensure this sweeping veterans’ healthcare reform law is properly implemented.
Accessing healthcare is just one of the many challenges veterans face as they transition from military to civilian life. Ensuring veterans can lead successful lives after they have separated from service also means fighting for training programs and educational benefits that prepare veterans for jobs in the modern economy. We must also continue to support programs that help homeless veterans find housing and a path forward to a stable life. And we must exhaust every effort to ensure that the veterans who need it get the mental health support they deserve. This is key to reducing the rate of homelessness, opioid abuse and suicide that we tragically see among our veterans.
Our veterans should never face an uphill battle when seeking healthcare services, educational assistance, retirement income or any other earned benefit. I am committed to utilizing my roles on these key committees to ensure that does not happen and to improve the quality of life for the men and women who have sacrificed for our freedoms.
What I've done: In January 2021, President Donald Trump signed into law the Johnny Isakson and David P. Roe, M.D. Veterans Health Care and Benefits Improvements Act of 2020 which included the Boozman-championed Deborah Sampson Act, legislation that will eliminate barriers to care and services many women veterans face and helps ensure the VA can address the needs of women veterans – critically important reform given the reality that women veterans are more likely to face homelessness, unemployment and lack of access to needed health care.
Boozman also authored additional provisions to enhance education, pensions, burials and compensation that were included in the legislation signed into law:
- Expanding wartime benefits to veterans who served in the Vietnam War and have been ineligible for assistance because of differences between the war era dates at the Department of Defense (DoD) and the VA. Currently, DoD recognizes the Vietnam War era as November 1, 1955 to May 15, 1975, while the VA recognizes the Vietnam War era as February 28, 1961 to May 7, 1975. This discrepancy has prevented members of the U.S. Military Assistance Advisory Group from qualifying for wartime veterans benefits like the veterans pension.
- Increasing the number of health care providers who are allowed to conduct the required medical exam for veterans applying for benefits in order to help reduce the existing backlog.
- Improving access to specialized training that would ensure VA grant-funded cemeteries meet and maintain the National Cemetery Administration’s (NCA) National Shrine Commitment.
- Updating the VA’s funeral benefits to treat all non-service connected deaths equally, regardless of where the veteran passes away.
- Closing a loophole that prevents the VA from putting the names of veterans’ family members on headstones in private cemeteries. Currently, the VA is only authorized to put veterans’ family members’ names on headstones in national, state and tribal veterans’ cemeteries.
- Modernizing the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) to permit servicemembers to deliver notice of termination of residential and car leases electronically, including by email.
- Expanding the list of work-study activities to include working in congressional offices for work-study allowances under the VA’s rehabilitation, training and education programs.
In October 2020, President Trump signed into law the Commander John Scott Hannon Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act of 2019 which includes a Boozman initiative to create a VA grant program that leverages and supports veteran-serving non-profits and other community networks in order to reduce and prevent veteran suicides.
President Trump signed into law Boozman’s Forever GI Bill Housing Payment Fulfillment Act to hold the VA accountablefor its failure to fully comply with housing reimbursement rates for student veterans after the VA missed or underpaid benefits owed to these men and women who served our country. Boozman also helped lead the charge on the now-passed SIT-REP Act, which ensures student veterans are not forced to endure additional financial burdens and are not denied access to school facilities due to delayed processing of G.I. Bill benefit payments.
Boozman has authored legislation that funds military construction and veterans programs. The FY 2019 bill included a provision to protect veterans from clinical errors at VA facilities by requiring the Secretary of the VA to submit a departmental response plan to Congress that can be applied at the Fayetteville VA Medical Center and all future cases of clinical disclosures and provide recommendations about changes necessary to prevent such incidents.
In 2018, Boozman led successful efforts to allow the transfer of nearly 141 acres of land at Camp Robinson to the Arkansas Department of Veterans Affairs in order to secure more burial space for Natural State veterans. This provision was included in the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act.
Also included in the Fiscal Year 2020 NDAA was Boozman’s language to broaden wounded warrior adaptive sports programs to allow veterans who were enrolled in their respective service’s Wounded Warrior Program prior to their date of separation to continue rehabilitative services for one year.
Boozman introduced the Purple Heart and Disabled Veterans Equal Access Act of 2018, legislation that would extend commissary and exchange privileges to more veterans including Purple Heart recipients, Medal of Honor recipients, former prisoners of war, veterans with service-connected disabilities and their designated caregivers. This legislation was included in the Fiscal Year 2019 National Defense Authorization Act that was signed into law.
In 2016, the President signed into law the Combat-Injured Veterans Tax Fairness Act of 2016. Boozman introduced this bill in the Senate to refund veterans who have been separated from service for combat-related injuries and received a severance payment that was improperly taxed by the federal government.
Senator Boozman led efforts to improve the VA’s processing of veterans’ benefits by requiring the department to update its IT systems so that claimants are able to electronically review and revise information about dependents.
Boozman fought to get clarification and expansion on the definition of homeless veterans who are eligible for assistance under the Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program.
Boozman’s language to honor as veterans National Guard and Reserve retirees who served honorably for a minimum of 20 years was included as a provision in H.R. 6416 that was approved by Congress and signed into law in 2016.
Boozman-authored language to establish a National Desert Shield and Desert Storm War Memorial in the nation’s capital was included in the National Defense Authorization Act and signed into law in December 2014. Boozman also worked to secure a location of prominence for the memorial near the National Mall.
Boozman championed emergency legislation to protect student veterans from losing their GI Bill benefits because of college closings related to the coronavirus outbreak. The Emergency GI Fix for Coronavirus School Closures bill was signed into law by President Trump. It gave the VA temporary authority to continue GI Bill payments uninterrupted in the event of national emergencies, allowing for continued payment of benefits even if the program has changed from on-site learning to online education.
In August 2020, the Office of Secretary of Defense (OSD) announced it will work with the VA to enable members of the Guard and Reserve to concurrently use Federal Tuition Assistance and GI Bill benefits to fund their education, similar to active duty servicemembers. The decision achieves the goals of the Montgomery GI Bill Parity Act, legislation introduced by Boozman, to enable Guard and Reserve members to receive the full education benefits to which they are entitled.
In the 115th Congress, Boozman introduced the Veteran Employment Through Technology Education Courses (VET TEC) Act to expand and strengthen the VA’s pilot program that covers the costs of non-traditional technology education programs and the GI Bill Fairness Act that ensures wounded members of the National Guard and Reserve receive the education benefits they earned through the GI Bill. Both bills were included the Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2017, a comprehensive GI Bill reform package that was signed into law.
In the 112th Congress Boozman introduced legislation to update the Transition Assistance Program (TAP). Language from his bill was included in a larger veterans package that was signed into law.
Boozman authored the Veterans’ Traumatic Brain Injury Rehabilitative Services’ Improvements Act of 2011. This was included in a larger legislative package to improve veterans’ benefits that was signed into law in 2012.