HENRICO, V.A. – U.S. Representative Abigail Spanberger yesterday hosted an open, public telephone town hall focused on issues facing Central Virginia veterans.
During the event, Spanberger was joined by representatives from the Virginia Department of Veterans Services and answered questions directly from Seventh District veterans, their caregivers, and their families. Topics discussed included U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits, backlogged claims, transportation issues, Agent Orange exposure, mental health concerns, and veteran homelessness.
More than 5,300 Central Virginians tuned in for the event. Click here to watch a full recording of the event.
“Last night’s event was an opportunity to hear directly from Central Virginia veterans about the challenges they are facing as we rebuild and recover from the COVID-19 crisis. Throughout the pandemic, my team has heard from hundreds of veterans and their families about continued issues with healthcare access, benefits, and proper recognition of their service,” said Spanberger. “Our veterans deserve the strongest possible support we can provide, and I encourage anyone experiencing continued issues with the VA to please reach out to my office. As we continue our push for greater support and fair treatment of our nation’s veterans, I would like to thank the Virginia Department of Veterans Services for joining our interactive town hall — and I would like to thank all of our district’s veterans for their service and sacrifice.”
During the event, Spanberger also discussed her recent work in the U.S. House on behalf of Central Virginia’s veterans. Last month, Spanberger reintroduced her bipartisan legislation that would provide veteran firefighters with the fair compensation, healthcare, and retirement benefits they’ve earned through their service. And this week, she reintroduced her bipartisan bill to provide federal surplus and retired computers to veterans in need.
In her opening comments, Spanberger also shared an update on veteran-focused assistance found in the American Rescue Plan, which Spanberger voted to pass and President Joe Biden signed into law in March 2021.
The American Rescue Plan includes several major, veteran-focused provisions, including:
- Supporting veteran-focused healthcare services amid COVID-19-related delays. The American Rescue Plan includes $14.5 billion for COVID-19 related healthcare — including information technology and facility requirements, ensuring access for 9.2 million enrolled Veterans who may have delayed care or have more complex health care needs as a result of the pandemic. It also provides resources for Veterans currently receiving housing support, including an estimated 37,000 homeless Veterans.
- Tackling the claims backlog. The American Rescue Plan includes $262 million to reduce the backlog of compensation and pension claims, which has grown from 76,000 in March 2020 to more than 212,000 in March 2021. This funding will empower the Veterans Benefits Administration to reduce the claims backlog to around 100,000 by September 2022.
- Assisting veterans with medical and prescription drug costs. The American Rescue Plan includes $1 billion for debt forgiveness related to copayments or other cost sharing that Veterans paid for through VA healthcare, as well as for reimbursements to veterans who paid a copay or other cost sharing for care and prescriptions provided from April 6, 2020 through Sept. 30, 2021.
- Strengthening employment and retraining efforts. The American Rescue Plan includes $386 million to initiate a COVID–19 Veteran Rapid Retraining Assistance Program. This initiative will provide up to 12 months of training and employment assistance for unemployed Veterans to enter high demand occupations.
Thursday’s telephone town hall was Spanberger’s 15th open, public telephone town hall since the COVID-19 pandemic began. These events have focused on the impacts of the virus on Central Virginia families, healthcare professionals, small businesses, students, and seniors. Click here to watch full recordings of previous events.
The Virginia Department of Veterans Services has additional resources for Central Virginia veterans and their families related to federal and state benefits, support, quality care, and recognition they have earned. Their website has valuable resources for veteran suicide prevention, legal resources, resources for homeless veterans, and much more. Veterans and their families can also click here to see a map of their office locations, employment resources, and upcoming events near them.
Central Virginian veterans are also encouraged to reach out to Spanberger’s office with federal agency, program, or benefits issues. Constituents can reach out to her office by calling (804) 401-4110 or by filling out this form on Spanberger’s website.