From the Hill – April 2021

Kristen McCone Gordon

Dear New England PVA members,

I’m pleased to share the following updates from our growing (and now nationally recognized!) Government Relations program. As always, please reach out to me with any questions, concerns, or to join our advocacy team!

Sincerely,
Kristen McCone Gordon
Government Relations Director

SAVE Lives Act becomes law

On March 24, 2021 President Biden signed the SAVE LIVES Act into law, providing expanded access to the COVID vaccine for veterans, their caregivers, and spouses. The expanded authority depends on readily available COVID-19 vaccine supply and requires VA to continue to prioritize vaccinations and healthcare delivery for our nation’s Veterans enrolled in VA care. To date, VA has successfully fully vaccinated over one million Veterans in a safe environment, and has pledged to take the same care to plan in a way that keeps these additional groups safe.

Those eligible under the new legislation include:

  • All enrolled Veterans
  • Non-enrolled Veterans as defined in the new legislation, including those without service-connected disabilities and who have incomes above VA’s threshold. o Overseas Veterans who rely on the Foreign Medical Program.
  • Veteran caregivers who are enrolled in either the Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers or the Program of General Caregiver Support Services.
  • Veteran caregivers enrolled in certain Geriatrics and Extended Care Programs, such as Veteran Directed Care, Bowel and Bladder, Home Based Primary Care and VA’s Medical Foster Home Program, and Civilian Health and Medical Programs of the Department of Veterans Affairs recipients.
  • Veteran spouses.

We are thrilled to see that VA Boston began implementing this policy in early April. To learn more about VA Boston’s efforts, visit here: https://www.boston.va.gov/emergency/index.asp. Veterans, caregivers, spouses, and CHAMPVA beneficiaries newly eligible under the law can also go to www.va.gov/covid-19-vaccine to register and indicate their interest in receiving a vaccine from VA. Signing up will also give users regular updates about VA’s vaccine rollout process.

Nominate a female veteran for the MA Deborah Sampson Award

The Massachusetts Women Veterans Network is now accepting applications for the Deborah Sampson Award. 

The Deborah Sampson award proudly recognizes a female veteran who has gone above and beyond to serve her fellow women veterans throughout the year.  The award will be presented to the recipient at the annual Women Veterans Appreciation Day Ceremony. For more information on how to nominate a female veteran who resides in Massachusetts, please contact The Women’s Veterans’ Network at dvswomen@vet.state.ma.us or 617-210-5755. The deadline for nominations is May 7, 2021. Best of luck to all of our female members!

Opportunity for CT members to help shape state disability policies

The Connecticut Council on Developmental Disabilities is sponsoring a survey about the needs of all individuals who live with disabilities in CT. The information gathered in this survey will be compiled by the Council and summarized in reports to state and local officials to help identify unmet needs in communities throughout the state. NEPVA encourages our CT members to participate and make the needs of paralyzed veterans known.

If you are a resident of CT who lives with a disability,

  • or a family member of a person who lives with a disability,
  • or a caregiver to a person who lives with a disability,
  • or a provider of services to people who live with disabilities,

Please complete this brief survey to help identify ways in which your community can better serve your needs: https://ctcdd.ca1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_eFeEIWmoKY70otM

Amtrak settlement fund

I’m pleased to share the following update from our colleagues in the National office:

Amtrak has entered into a Settlement Agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice to resolve a lawsuit brought under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”). The Settlement Agreement resolves alleged violations of the ADA. If you were harmed by Amtrak’s lack of accessible transportation services between July 27, 2013 and December 2, 2020 you may be eligible to receive payment from a compensation fund established by Amtrak.

Amtrak was supposed to be in compliance with the ADA in 2010, 20 years after passage of the law. However, many architectural barriers still remain. This includes: physical access to stations, parking, a path of travel to and throughout the station, restrooms, drinking fountains, audio announcements, train platforms, access boarding the train, reservation counters and websites. If you feel you were harmed by some of these barriers or other instances of discrimination, we encourage you to submit a documentation of the event.

To be eligible for consideration for possible payment, you must submit a claim by May 29, 2021. You may obtain information on how to submit a claim in several ways: (1) by visiting www.AmtrakDisabilitySettlement.com (2) by sending an email with your name, address, and telephone number to info@AmtrakDisabilitySettlement.com, or (3) by calling the Fund Administrator at (888) 334-6165 or TTY: (866) 411-6976.

Advocating for paralyzed veterans 

Our Chapter continues to advocate for PVA’s 2021 priorities to the New England Congressional Delegation.

This month, we met with Congressman Pappas’s office. Given the Congressman’s interest in VA oversight, we discussed the importance of protecting access to VA’s specialized services, as well as the need to ensure proper implementation of VA’s Comprehensive Caregiver Program. It’s our hope to also see the Congressman sign onto the AUTO Act, which would help so many service-connected veterans in New Hampshire and across the country. If you live in the Congressman’s district, I encourage you make your support for these issues known by participating in our Voter Voice efforts.

I’m also thrilled to report that our advocacy efforts our working! This month, Congresswoman Pingree (D, ME) signed on to the AUTO Act as a cosponsor. We’ve thanked the Congresswoman’s office for her support for this legislation, but I’m sure they would love to hear from you as well! If you are a constituent, or are so inclined as a member at large, please contact the Congresswoman’s office and thank her for supporting paralyzed veterans!

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