Veterans will see significant help through the American Rescue Plan, VA Secretary Denis McDonough told the House Veterans Affairs Committee March 25 during a virtual hearing.
McDonough said the American Rescue plan will provide “significant resources that will help us continue to provide Veterans the best care and services during the pandemic.”
Veterans have seen delayed health care, including mental health care, due to COVID-19. Based on previous economic downturns, he noted that Veterans who lose their jobs and health care benefits often turn to VA for assistance.
“As the pandemic ebbs, we expect, and we are planning for, a surge in requests for care and services,” he said. “The ARP investments will be important for that effort.” (3:20)
The secretary also addressed the impact on the processing of compensation and pension claims. The claims backlog has increased from 76,000 cases in March 2020 to over 200,000. VA aims to decrease the compensation and pension claims backlog by over 112,000 by the end of 2022.
Another ARP resource will allow VA to reimburse copayments Veterans have made since April 2020. He said that will alleviate the burden through September of this year.
“Co-payments should not be an obstacle to care during the pandemic,” he said.
Other new resources will help VA build new facilities and improve operations and living conditions in State Veterans’ Homes. The secretary added that the plan helps train Veterans who are unemployed due to the pandemic into high-demand occupations and high-tech education programs.
“In short, the vital support the American Rescue Plan provides will help alleviate some of the pandemic’s most devastating effects,” he said. “Veterans have made their down payment – sometimes in blood and invisible wounds that may affect them the rest of their lives. Their sacrifices have earned them the care and services we provide. We exist to best serve them – not to do what is easy for VA.”
McDonough reiterated that every Veteran should feel welcome and safe whenever engaging with VA.
“We’ll welcome all Veterans, including women, Veterans of color, and LGBTQ Veterans,” he said. “Every person entering a VA facility must feel safe, free of harassment and discrimination. We will never accept discrimination, harassment or assault. Diversity is a strength, never a weakness, among Veterans, VA employees and indeed, all of America.”
To read more about the American Rescue Plan, visit https://blogs.va.gov/VAntage/86147/american-rescue-plan-aids-va-helping-veterans/.
VA is extending debt relief for Veterans through Sept. 30, 2021, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Read more at https://blogs.va.gov/VAntage/86511/va-extends-debt-relief-veterans/.