Inhofe, Lankford Praise Senate Passage of Veterans Healthcare & Education Priorities

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC), and U.S. Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) today praised the passage of S. 3021, a bill that advances key healthcare and education priorities for our veterans. The bill passed the Senate on Dec. 10 by unanimous consent.

Improving health care and education benefits for our veterans has been one of my top priorities for my entire tenure in Congress,” said Inhofe. “I am glad the Senate passed the important legislation and I look forward to finishing this work in both chambers early next year. Building on recent changes in leadership and the third party investigation of the VA centers in Oklahoma, this legislation ensures that care will continue to improve in Oklahoma and across the country as VA’s regional directors are permanently empowered to hire qualified third party entities to audit their health care facilities.  This will hold them accountable to providing care at the same level of excellence as private hospitals.”

I am also proud that this legislation fixes a frivolous law that prevented veterans from fully exercising their GI benefits at Career & Technical Education Centers,” Inhofe continued. “Career & Technical Education Centers equip our veterans for the workforce and teach skills that translate into good paying jobs. We have a responsibility to those who have served and we must work to ensure they have access to opportunities that will ensure their success after they return home; this legislation does just that.”  

“This bill will ensure veterans have access to educational assistance and career training at accredited career technical training centers in Oklahoma and across the country,” said Lankford. “This also fixes issues with veteran access to vocational rehabilitation services. I’m pleased this bill was advanced by the Senate and I look forward to it passing in both chambers and becoming law next year. Veterans are a civic asset and this legislation will ensure veterans transition seamlessly to civilian industry.”

Background

On June 29, U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) delivered remarks at a Senate Veterans Affairs Committee’s legislative hearing in support of S. 3021.

On June 7, U.S. Sens. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), and James Lankford (R-Okla.) introduced amendment #4479 to the FY 2017 NDAA that would support veterans’ eligibility under the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Improvements Act of 2010 for education benefits when attaining postsecondary career and technical education (CTE) programs. Amendment #4479 is the same text as S. 3021, which was introduced the previous day.

On Feb. 23, Sen. Inhofe announced on the Senate floor that the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has committed in writing to conduct investigations of Oklahoma’s VA hospitals in coordination with an outside entity, a condition made by Inhofe prior to allowing confirmation of the VA Inspector General nominee.

On Feb. 12, Sens. Inhofe & Lankford introduced S. 2554, the Veterans Affairs Accountability Act which expanded authority at the Department of Veterans Affairs to allow directors of Veterans Integrated Services Network (VISN) chapters to remove or demote any VA employee within their network whose performance warrants such action and to authorize VISN directors to contract with an outside entity to conduct investigations of their VA medical facilities.

On Dec. 23, 2015 Inhofe contacted VISN 19 Network Director Ralph Gigliotti and requested his personal assistance in ensuring proper care is provided to the five veterans identified in the Dec. 23, 2015, USA Today article. Inhofe continues to work with the VA on care for these veterans to include addressing existing medical issues and any future medical issues.

On Nov. 30, 2015, VISN 19 sent two teams to investigate operations at the Muskogee VA center, one that looked at quality of care and the other that looked at management of the facility. Their visits resulted in the immediate shut down of intermediate surgeries at the Muskogee facility due to issues that were discovered. It also prompted the removal of the facility’s Chief of Staff on Feb. 9, who was temporarily reassigned until the completion of VA’s review of VISN 19’s report.