Senator Sits on Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee
CLEVELAND, OH – October 13, 2021 – U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) today hosted a virtual roundtable with Ohio veterans and veterans’ mental health advocates from around the state to discuss ways to support veterans in crisis and those struggling with the transition to civilian life. Brown’s office will take the veterans’ priorities and ideas back to Washington, where the Senator sits on the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee.
“Our veterans answered the call to serve, and we have a responsibility to make sure they have everything they need to care for their mental and physical health, and ensure they have the support and resources needed to help transition back to civilian life,” said Brown.
“Servicemembers take an oath to keep us physically safe – we need to do a better job at keeping them mentally safe,” said Samantha Barbarek, Franklin County Municipal Court Military and Veterans Services (MAVS) Special Docket Coordinator. “The mental health stigma in American society is slowly but surely being broken, but much more work needs to be done in the military and veteran community. It is vital to listen to the needs and feedback of service members; provide a clear, navigable program to aid in the transition from military to civilian life; practice compassion, understanding, and cognizance; and recognize relative factors inside and outside the military when it comes to the mental health of veterans. Servicemembers and veterans took an oath to serve and protect this country – it’s important we now do the same for them.”
As a member of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, Brown has long fought to improve mental health access for servicemembers:
Brown is pushing to get his bipartisan legislation, the Daniel J. Harvey Jr. and Adam Lambert Improving Servicemember Transition to Reduce Veteran Suicide Act, included in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The bill, which was included in the House-passed NDAA, would help support the mental health needs of servicemembers and veterans as they return to civilian life in their local communities. It would create a pilot program to add a new component to the Transition Assistance Program (TAP). Specifically, the bill is designed to counsel servicemembers about mental health, the challenges that they might face during transition to civilian life and how that might affect their mental health, and the services available to them at their local Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) medical facility.
This builds on Brown’s earlier work to improve the transition process for servicemembers. In 2018, Brown introduced bipartisan legislation with U.S. Sen Mike Rounds (R-SD), the Better Access to Technical Training, Learning, and Entrepreneurship for Servicemembers Act (BATTLE) for Servicemembers Act, which will better connect servicemembers with resources to secure quality education and good-paying jobs as they transition from military service to civilian life. According to a 2017 GAO report, only 14 percent of servicemembers completed at least one additional two-day training program after completing the three day required portion of TAP. Currently, TAP training covers a curriculum that includes sessions on veterans’ benefits, financial planning, and post-service employment. The BATTLE for Servicemembers Act will now supplement the current training and better tailor the sessions to fit the needs of servicemembers.
Some of Sen. Brown’s recent actions on the Veterans Committee also include:
In August, Senator Brown sent a letter to Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Denis McDonough expressing concern over the growing number of disability claims being filed with the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA). Due to COVID-19, the VA temporarily paused in-person Compensation and Pension (C&P) examinations, which led to a significant backlog of claims.
Brown joined colleagues in reintroducing legislation that would mandate the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) reimburse veterans’ emergency health care expenses from non-VA facilities that are not covered by the veteran’s private insurance. This bicameral legislation follows the 2016 Staab v. McDonald and 2019 Wolfe v. Wilkie decisions, both ruling that the VA must reimburse veterans for these emergency medical expenses.
A modified version of Brown’s bipartisan legislation – the SFC Heath Robinson Burn Pit Transparency Act – to help veterans who have been harmed by exposure to toxic burn pits, was reported out of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee in May as a part of a larger legislative package, the Comprehensive and Overdue Support for Troops (COST) of War Act of 2021.