Larsen Hears Veterans’ Concerns, Successfully Pushes For Changes in Defense Bill

May 15, 2015 Issues: Supporting our Naval Bases, Veterans

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Rep. Rick Larsen, WA-02, today continued his efforts to ensure servicemembers transitioning out of the military have access to jobs and the health care they need. Larsen successfully advocated for these provisions in the annual defense policy bill, the National Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 1735), which Larsen voted for and the U.S. House of Representatives passed.

“When our service women and men leave the military, we should be doing everything we can to ease their way into civilian life,” said Larsen, a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee. “That is why I pushed to open more doors for our veterans to find jobs, a longtime priority of mine, and to make sure they can keep receiving the medications they need.”

One of Larsen’s provisions would create a credential process to translate six military specialties, such as police and security roles, into civilian jobs.

“Our women and men in uniform gain specialized skills during their service. Our communities and our economy can and should benefit from their professional experience, which is why I pushed to make a clearer pathway for our servicemembers to succeed in the civilian job market,” Larsen said.

Another provision Larsen supported comes in response to concerns he heard from veterans at recent town hall meetings. These veterans had trouble maintaining their prescription medications when they transitioned out of the military because the Department of Defense and the VA have different policies for the medications they cover. The disruption to medications is particularly problematic for veterans suffering from psychological conditions, sleep disorders, and those who are managing chronic pain. The bill fixes this issue by requiring DoD and the VA to work together on joint coverage policies for prescription medications.

“Of the dozens of things servicemembers have on their minds when they leave the military, keeping their prescription medications should not be one of them. The DoD and the VA should be working together to make a simple change with big implications for our veterans’ health,” Larsen said.

After hearing from constituents, Larsen also pushed to help Afghan citizens who work with the U.S. military to get visas more easily.

“Afghan citizens who help our troops often face threats on their lives and those of their families. Their service is critical to helping our women and men on missions in Afghanistan. If they want to immigrate to the United States, we should honor their sacrifices by helping them come here,” Larsen said.  

Larsen disagreed with some of the funding decisions in the policy bill and called on his colleagues to end the spending caps in place for both defense and non-defense spending.

“I disagree with Republicans’ decision to evade budgetary caps by adding $38 billion in regular defense spending to the war funding account, which is exempt from sequester caps. We should address the harmful effects of sequester across all of our national priorities, rather than using tricks to protect just one part of the budget.

“The budgeting gimmick in this bill does not override the important advances we are making for our service women and men, as well as our national security. I will continue working with my colleagues on upcoming spending bills to make sure we fund our country’s priorities – from national defense to infrastructure to education – responsibly,” Larsen said.