VA Committee hears trio of bills authored by Tester

By Missoula Current

The Senate Veterans’ Affair Committee on Wednesday considered new legislation authored by Sen. Jon Tester and supported by a bipartisan coalition of senators.

Tester, a ranking member of the committee, said the measures include a bill aimed at VA accountability and whistleblower protection, and another that will require the VA to better meet the needs of female veterans.

That later bill, dubbed the Deborah Sampson Act, would require the VA to reflect the service of women and improve the privacy and security of female patients at VA medical facilities. It would also place a primary care provider specialized in women’s health at every VA facility, Tester said.

“Women are courageously signing up to serve our country at a higher rate than ever before, and we need to make sure every resource is available to them when they return from deployment,” Tester said.

The Deborah Sampson Act is cosponsored by Sen. John Boozman (R-Ark.) and 17 other members of the U.S. Senate.

“The Deborah Sampson Act will empower women veterans, honor their sacrifices, and ensure the VA is holding up its end of the bargain to our sisters, mothers and daughters,” Tester said.

Also up for consideration is the VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act, cosponsored by Tester and Sens. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.). That effort is expected to be voted to the Senate floor, just as the Performance Accountability and Contractor Transparency Act moves forward.

That effort, known as PACT, would required contracts worth more than $100 million to be made public to hold contractors accountable for their work.

Tester said the bill also demands that VA contracts include measurable metrics of a contractor’s performance. The bill creates penalties if a contractor doesn’t meet a high standard of performance.

“Too often, government contractors are awarded big VA contracts that cost taxpayers millions and then aren’t held accountable for the services they provide to veterans,” said Tester. “It’s past time that we hold contractors like Health Net accountable for dropping the ball.”