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tv   Rep. Mark Takano  CSPAN  March 11, 2021 1:42pm-2:03pm EST

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for veterans would do is to basically empower and enhance the veterans health insurance to be able to anticipate the increased utilization of va health care. we're looking at higher -- increased rates of veteran unemployment during the pandemic and anticipating that many veterans -- many, many veterans are going to need to return to the va for their health care. the va is doing everything it can to vaccinate all 6 million of its enrolled veterans that are in the system as well as look at ways in which we can alleviate the co-pays. most of the veterans that qualify for va health care are lower income veterans and so
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during the pandemic these co-pays and fees were waived. some of the veterans were able to pay these fees. but for many veterans, those fees were waived and we anticipated that we -- that the -- that these payments were going to come due and we basically, in this bill, take care of those fees and we're offering to go back and pay back those veterans who actually paid those fees even though they were waived. enhanced attention to veteran mental health care. we're looking at the backlog claims processing that needs to be addressed and any number of other sorts of things that are pandemic related. >> as we talk about veterans issues with the chairman of the house veterans affairs committee, should note a special line in this segment for
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veterans in this country. if you're listening, if you want to call in, 202-748-8003 is the number, otherwise, phone lines as usual, democrats 202-748-8000, republicans 202-748-8001, independents 202-748-8002. what would that bill do and why wasn't it included in this larger package? >> well, we looked at including it in the larger package. and my ranking member mike bost had an amendment to do so and -- in committee when we were marking up the coronavirus package. the american rescue plan. under the rules of reconciliation, there has to be an impact on the budget and this bill was basically scored at
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zero. so that's how the score would work. and so the impact of -- it was basically a policy change that we were seeking which would give authorization to the secretary of the va to authorize the administration a vaccine to veterans who are not eligible mainly because of income. what we wanted to address was the situation where we had to turn away world war veterans that met the age requirements but weren't eligible for va care because their income was too high. most americans would feel, can you administer vaccine to, you know, people in their 90s and their 80s and areas where local vaccine distribution was very
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difficult for most of the citizens in those local areas. the va is there to help veterans. this veteran vaccine act basically allows that flexibility to the va secretary during national emergencies, which this is, and it will continue to allow the secretary that flexibility in future pandemics and future national emergencies. we had to get the bill right, making too many people eligible would have meant a surge in people seeking vaccines at va medical centers. it still hasn't passed the senate. it hasn't been signed into law. but i think our bill gets the authorization right. we were working with the secretary -- we were working with the office of general counsel at va for several weeks when this issue first came to our attention several weeks ago, many of our florida members.
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that's where these media stories first began to happen which were capturing, you know, the images of veterans being turned away, elderly veterans being turned away from the va. this basically allows -- this bill would allow, you know, veterans that meet the eligibility criteria of a local area and would also permit their family caregivers that are in va programs to also be vaccinated. that seems to make a lot of sense to people as well. but we didn't believe in making the bill so broad that it would mean that a lot of civilians were jumping the line before veterans -- >> do you know how many people total this bill would impact and have you gotten any sort of of a commitment about the vote in the senate? >> i don't have a commitment yet
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in the senate. but i can tell you that there is growing support among the vso community and we'll see. i think the va is evaluating the legislation and -- but i think we we were working -- i think we've got the right calibration for what we want to achieve, right calibration in the legislative language. and it was bipartisan. my ranking member -- republican ranking member, not my ranking member, but the republican ranking member, mr. bost, was very supportive and most -- all of the republicans and all of the democrats on the committee supported legislation and we had a small victory in getting it passed on a unanimous consent, even members of the tea party
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caucus were wanting to exact roll call votes on every suspension bill, i think people understood this was a commonsense bill. it was a victory for america and it was a bipartisan victory in a very tense moment. will is up first out of michigan. good morning. >> caller: good morning, sir. i have a question. since when is the secretary of the va a noble person from royal blood? i have now been trying for the last two weeks to get in touch with the secretary, and nobody at the va even knows how to get in touch with him. >> what would you ask him about, if you were able to get in touch with him? >> well, my question is this, since covid affected -- tomorrow
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will be one year since i was supposed to have a virtual hearing via computer. i can go to my medical facility now, but the same facility that would have done the hearing, can't do it. and it's been it's been since 1 when the va decided that my whereabouts were unknown, yet they did an audit the same day that they closed my case. and my new address was in there. so i've been fighting with the va now for 30-some odd years. >> give you a chance to talk to the chairman of the veterans affair committee congressman. >> well, this sounds like an issue of trying to get a hearing. i don't know what c-span's policy is. but if you can pass will's name onto me and we can be in contact with him. i'll have my committee staff
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reach out to will and try to troubleshoot what's going on. >> will, if you're willing to do that stay on the line and we'll get your information as we talk to a few more callers. karen is in tulsa, oklahoma. karen is a republican. karen, good morning, also a veteran. >> actually i'm not the veteran myself. i'm the wife of a veteran who has been put into a nursing home with alzheimer's. and i have been working for almost two years to be able to get his benefits increased and to get him the care that he needs. and it seems like there are too many silos in the va as far as who does what, when and where and the right hand doesn't know what the left hand is doing. and i end up going around in circles, and it's very confusing. i'm not sure exactly what can be done, but it would be helpful if
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there was a place to go. i had signed up with bso who's not helpful and it's like i said a little confusing. >> karen, who's your member of congress? >> as far as the house it would be kevin hern. >> okay. and you work from oklahoma, right? i suggest you also get in touch with your member of congress regardless of party, usually have a caseworker. some more than one caseworker that are dedicated to troubleshooting veterans issues. so i would recommend you do that in addition to working with the vso. some states also have resources at the county level and at the
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state level. it depends on the state. so those folks can -- for instance in riverside county where my congressional district is nested in, we have even a county staff but it's a large county. i realize not all counties across the country have the same resources. and often my congressional office caseworker he has relationships with the vsos but often we will engage directly with the va on behalf of a veteran who's opened up a case with us. so you might want to open up a case with your local member of congress. and of course, you know, i can
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also similarly take your name if you're willing through c-span. and i'll work with my republican ranking member because he also has a staff as well at the level of congress. but your local member of congress should also have a caseworker as do your senators, your senators from oklahoma would also have case workers as well. sometimes that's extra -- people often don't know that they can turn to their members of congress to also troubleshoot benefit issues. that's our job is to advocate for you. >> happy to help with that case work especially when you're on, congressman. karen, if you'd be willing to do that stick on the line for just a second. congressman, karen brings up vsos. can you explain what a vso does and their connection to va?
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>> so vso stands for veteran service organization. and some of the vsos that are more widely known are veteran organizations like the american legion, the veterans of foreign wars, vietnam veterans of america, disabled american veterans. pva, paralyzed veterans of america. they focus on veterans with spinal cord injuries or paraplegics, and disabled american veterans. an organization of veterans that have, you know, recognized service connected disabilities. these vsos, there are three of them that are chartered by
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congress. there actually may be more but i think there's at least three chartered by congress. and they often have in the state and local organizations, they often have counselors and service officers that are trained to help guide veterans and their families through the maze of benefits and the ways in which you have to pursue those benefits. and the va is a large -- it's the second largest federal department in the federal government. so it can be intimidating, admittedly. and so folks should not -- folks should know that's a resource that's out there. and again, i would your local member of congress or your senator can be helpful as well. >> congressman, i believe we might have one of your
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constituents on the line. >> hi, good morning. i'm actually in my congressman's district. i had a big and a small question. so we have mental health wards at the va hospital and such. the laws are governed although they're control by the states. the federal government doesn't control all the laws in those wards because that's a state by state thing. what are the democrats and just congress in general doing to get those laws in line universally throughout the country? if we're going to have a affordable care act it doesn't make sense why my tax dollars or to be paying for different -- is there any agenda that democrats are going to be doing where
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they're going to be bringing this in mind? and my second question was back when covid started and they were repatriating people back to the united states you seemed to oppose them repatriating people in your backyard, and i wondered if you want to clarify for people why you kind of had a negative stance towards that repatriation of people. and i'll stay on the line if you have any follow-ups for me. >> robert, actually i'll answer the second question first and then i want some clarification on the first question. no, robert, i don't think -- i don't know where you're getting the impression i opposed the repatriation of americans. in fact, i worked very, very hard to work with the initial plane that was initially going to go to ontario airport but
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then was redirected to the reserve base when the top health officials i think assistant secretary or under-secretary of hhs and the head of the cdc redfield and i was called literally the night before this -- the night before they had made other decision to redirect them from ontario international airport to marcho reserve base in my district. it was not a matter of me choosing. it was a matter of that they were informing. i worked with the local board of supervisors. in fact, the local board of supervisors and the county health officials were already,
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you know, working with the federal officials and the state officials. and if you review the communications that came out of my office, we were doing everything possible to inform the community and keep the community calm, and my public statements were to the effect that we were evacuating the families of -- families of state department workers, of people who work on behalf of the american people from the wuhan region. there were others also on that plane. and -- but i later found out, which you may be referring to is i later found out that federal officials were less than
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prepared than they should have pin. they were less than transparent. i was given assurance by assistant secretary kedlic that he would brief me on the procedures that they were following up, and indeed there was an internal investigation under way, and that was being used as an excuse to not brief me. but i felt that i was owed that briefing because this was happening in my congressional district. and hhs officials and cdc officials needed to be as transparent as they could, and actually that's an understatement. i even feel during the pandemic health officials need to be transparent, period. and there were a lot of fears about how the virus could be
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spread. we didn't know enough and we did not have adequate testing. in fact, there was a lot of evasive and deceptive language in the response to my written inquiries to hhs about who had been tested. and in fact, you know, the folks that were in quarantine at that time -- we're going to leave this program and take you live to a hearing with post master general lewis dejoy live here on c-span 3. >> members are responsible for muting and unmuting themselves. if i notice you have not unmuted yourself i will ask you if you would like the staff to unmute you. if you indicate approval by nodding staff wil

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