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Tillis Works Across The Aisle To Create Opportunities For Veterans And Reform The VA

WASHINGTON, D.C. – During his first two years as a member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC) has worked across the aisle to advance proposals to reform the VA and expand education and job opportunities for veterans, with several of his bipartisan proposals being signed into law.

Tillis has been working directly with VA Secretary McDonald on the MyVA initiative to transform the VA.

“My personal thanks also to Senators Thom Tillis and Jon Tester for meeting with us repeatedly to hone our transformation plans. I believe they know MyVA is about fulfilling the Nation’s obligation to those who have served and that they share our vision for VA to become the Number One customer-service agency in the Government.” – VA Secretary Robert McDonald, January 21, 2016

Early last year, VA Committee Chairman Johnny Isakson praised Tillis’ proposals to reform the VA as “an outstanding template to begin to get a game plan for responding and dealing with the recommendations of the GAO and the IG of the Department.”

Chairman Isakson tasked Tillis with working with VA Secretary Robert McDonald on implementing the MyVA Breakthrough Priorities. Tillis and Secretary McDonald have formed a close working relationship, meeting regularly to track the progress of the goal of turning the VA into a more efficient, customer-service and results-driven organization that consistently delivers exceptional health care services to veterans.

Senator Tillis introduced bipartisan legislation to help veterans exposed to toxic burn pits.

“There was no waiting line for our men and women in uniform when they raised their right hands and volunteered to serve. There shouldn’t be a waiting line when they return home and need our help getting the care they’ve earned. We must do right by our veterans. We can’t let burn pits become this generation’s Agent Orange.” – Senators Tillis & Klobuchar

Earlier this year, Senator Tillis and Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) introduced The Helping Veterans Exposed to Burn Pits Act, which would create a center of excellence within the VA in the prevention, diagnosis, mitigation, treatment, and rehabilitation of health conditions relating to exposure to burn pits.

The legislation has helped raise public awareness of the health threats veterans faced in Iraq and Afghanistan, and has been endorsed by numerous groups, including the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, Sergeant Sullivan Center, American Lung Association, American Thoracic Society, and the Coalition for Pulmonary Fibrosis.

President Obama endorsed two veterans bills introduced by Senator Tillis.

“Taken together, these steps will ensure that Veterans have the opportunities and assistance they need to help grow our economy and realize the American Dream.” – Obama White House

On Veterans Day 2015, the White House announced President Obama’s endorsement of The Career-Ready Student Veterans Act and The Veterans Education Relief and Restoration Act, bipartisan legislation introduced by Senator Tillis and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT).

·       The Career-Ready Student Veterans Act requires that programs of education designed to prepare students for licensure or certification by a state, or for employment subject to the approval of a state board or agency, must meet any state curriculum requirements or be approved or licensed by the appropriate state entity in order for the course to be approved for VA educational benefits. The language of the bill was included in a broader veterans legislation that passed both chambers in Congress and was recently signed into law by President Obama.

·       The Veterans Education Relief and Restoration Act would provide veterans impacted by closures of education institutions certain relief and restoration of education benefits. The legislation restores entitlement for individuals who pursued a program of education with VA educational assistance and failed to receive credit as a result of the closure of their educational institution.

Senator Tillis has worked across the aisle to help wounded warriors find employment.

Senator Tillis and Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) introduced The Wounded Warrior Employment Improvement Act, which requires the VA Secretary to develop and publish an action plan for improving the training and rehabilitation provided by the VA for veterans with service-connected disabilities. The legislation was included as a provision in the FY2016 omnibus that was signed into law by President Obama last year.

Senator Tillis has joined Senator Burr’s fight for justice for the victims of toxic water contamination at Camp Lejeune.

“I want to thank both North Carolina Senators Burr and Tillis for their steadfast commitment to our plight and seeking justice for the nearly one million Camp Lejeune veterans, their families, and the thousands of loyal civilian employees who were unwittingly exposed to this negligence by their own leaders.” – Master Sergeant Jerry Ensminger

For years, bureaucratic red tape and internal resistance at the VA had delayed a final decision on granting Camp Lejeune veterans disability status.

In September 2015, both Senator Burr and Senator Tillis pressed the VA at a Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee hearing for answers on behalf of Camp Lejeune veterans who were exposed to contaminated water.

Months later, the VA finally granted disability status to the victims of Camp Lejeune’s poisoned water who were diagnosed with one of nine illnesses. Senators Burr and Tillis then successfully pressed the Office of Management and Budget to quickly grant the disability benefits to veterans.

Tillis also joined Senator Burr and Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) to introduce The Janey Ensminger Act of 2016, which requires the VA to provide medical care for all diseases that can be scientifically linked to exposure to toxic chemicals at Camp Lejeune, putting the ultimate determination in the hands of federal government scientists, rather than VA and OMB bureaucrats. 

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