The federal government must live up to its responsibilities to properly support those who served in our armed forces and their families. I firmly believe that this is one of our nation’s chief responsibilities. As a nation, we must pledge that when our troops return home, we leave no soldier behind. We owe our troops more than words of appreciation; we owe them real actions to provide meaningful support.
What I am Doing for You
Veteran’s Claims Backlog
It is unacceptable that our veterans wait so long for their benefits. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has made significant progress on its huge backlog of veterans’ benefits cases, in which delays at the Oakland Regional VA Office were among the worst in the nation. I’ve co-sponsored bills intended to speed up the VA claims processing and increase its efficiency. I will continue to work to ensure that those who proudly serve our country receive the benefits and care they have earned.
VA Medical Care
Long wait times and scheduling problems at VA Medical Centers are deeply concerning, and I am working to ensure veterans are receiving timely access to quality care. After learning of long wait times at VA Medical Centers, I wrote a letter to the VA Secretary requesting a system-wide audit of scheduling practices and wait times. I’ve also visited the VA facility in Livermore and have been assured by the director and her staff that while long wait times and access issues are occurring at VA centers across the country, this is not the case in the Bay Area. I will diligently work to ensure this remains true and to improve care for all veterans around the country.
This Congress, I cosponsored H.R. 3400, the Encourage New Legalized Immigrants to Start Training (ENLIST) Act, to provide the opportunity to pursue citizenship to legal immigrants through military service. The ENLIST Act would apply to DREAMers in the U.S. under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy.
I co-sponsored H.R. 2091, the Access to Contraception for Servicemembers and Dependents Act, to provide access to basic preventative health services to benefit service members and their families.
To help protect military families from financial hardship, I cosponsored H.R. 553, the Military Surviving Spouses Equity Act, which would repeal provisions that require the offset of plan annuities from amounts paid in dependency and indemnity compensation to surviving military spouses.
Along with colleagues from both sides of the aisle, I cosponsored H.R. 2617, the OATH Act, which would require the Department of Defense to input any Occupational Environmental Hazard exposure into a service member's records, which follow the servicemember throughout their career and into veteran status. This bill would also mandate that the DoD and VA retroactively update service records based on information contained in the Burn Pit Registry.
I also co-sponsored H.R. 3166, a bill that would require DoD to update any administrative forms containing racially insensitive terms.
To ensure that servicemembers have adequate access to high education, I co-sponsored H.R. 1652, the Veteran Education Empowerment Act. This bipartisan bill would direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to carry out a grant program to provide Veteran Student Centers at colleges and universities to assist veterans in the pursuit of higher education.
Recognizing the unique needs and contributions of all servicemembers, I co-sponsored the Voices for Veterans Act, which would extend and expand the membership of the Advisory Committee on Minority Veterans to include veterans who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender.
I co-sponsored the Give Veterans Home Loan Choices Act of 2017, which would ensure that veterans are provided all home loan options available to them, so that they can make a well informed decision when selecting a home loan for their families.
I also co-sponsored H.R. 3137, the Wounded Warrior Service Dog Act of 2019. This bipartisan bill would direct the Defense and Veterans Affairs departments to jointly establish the "K-9 Service Corps Program", which would award grants to nonprofit organizations to plan or operate programs to provide service dogs to certain military members and veterans.
To address the grave lack of mental health care available to our servicemembers, I co-sponsored the Veteran Urgent Access to Mental Healthcare Act. This bipartisan bill would require the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to provide initial mental health assessments and mental healthcare to veterans with ‘an other than honorable’ discharge’ who have deployed and served in combat zones. Generally, individuals who have such discharges are not eligible for any veteran benefits.
I also co-sponsored the Veteran Suicide Prevention Act, a bipartisan bill which would direct the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to complete a publicly available review of the deaths of all covered veterans who died by suicide during the preceding five-year period.
Recognizing the need for a proactive policy to protect servicemembers from chemical and environmental threats I co-sponsored the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2017, a bipartisan bill which grants presumptive Agent Orange exposure status to U.S. military personnel who served in the territorial seas of Vietnam during the Vietnam War, so that they can receive expedited consideration for benefits if they suffer from any of the diseases the U.S. Government has linked to Agent Orange. The bill became law in 2018.
In a previous Congress, I sent a letter to the Appropriations Committee supporting funding for Veterans Treatment Courts. Veterans Treatment Courts provide veterans with substance abuse issues an alternative to incarceration by allowing them to seek mental health services and rehabilitative care instead of being jailed for non-violent, minor drug-related crimes.
I also sent a letter to the Appropriations Committee's Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies in support of $164 million for veteran suicide prevention and outreach programs in FY 2017.
Rep. Swalwell and local students deliver Valentines for Vets at the Livermore VA Community Living Center, February 2016.
In my first term in Congress I co-sponsored a bill which would allow for veterans who have a service-connected, permanent disability rated as “total” to utilize no-cost, space-available travel on Department of Defense aircraft via the Space-A travel program.
I co-sponsored the Helping Heroes Fly Act, to add protections to improve the experience for severely wounded veterans when they go through airport screening. This bipartisan bill became law.
I co-sponsored the Homeless Veterans' Reintegration Programs Reauthorization Act of 2013, a bipartisan bill to extend the VA’s Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program through FY 2018.
I co-sponsored the Pay as You Rate Act, a bipartisan bill to require the VA to pay a veteran his or her disability compensation benefits as each element of a claim is reviewed rather than making them wait until the entire claim has been processed.
I voted for the Veteran Emergency Medical Technician Support Act. This bipartisan bill would provide states with funds to streamline the process by which veterans that were trained and worked as EMTs in the military could receive certification and licenses to serve as EMTs once they return to their home states.
I voted for the Veterans’ Access to Care through Choice, Accountability, and Transparency Act. This bipartisan bill, which was signed into law, increases transparency regarding the VA’s medical care system and allows veterans to seek private health care under certain circumstances such as long wait times or distance from a VA Medical Center.
Rep. Swalwell speaks at Castro Valley's Veterans Day ceremony, November 2015.
More on Veterans
LAFAYETTE, CA – Today Representatives Mike Thompson (CA-05), Mark DeSaulnier (CA-11), Jerry McNerney (CA-09) and Eric Swalwell (CA-15) hosted a ceremony to present 99 local veterans from Contra Costa County and the region with the Korean Ambassador for Peace Medal. This honor is bestowed on Korean War veterans in recognition of their service to the Republic of Korea and their sacrifice for the nation’s freedoms.
WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Representative Eric Swalwell (CA-15) released the following statement after today’s House Veterans Affairs Committee Hearing on Mismanagement at the Oakland VA Regional Office. Today’s hearing confirmed Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) Office of Inspector General report that over 14,000 informal claims went unprocessed by VA staff.
DUBLIN, CA – U.S. Representative Eric Swalwell (CA-15) today hosted the inaugural meeting of his Veterans Advisory Commission. He was joined at the meeting by Julianna Boor, the newly appointed Director of the Oakland VA Regional Benefit Office. The Advisory Commission discussed the appeals process for benefits, ending the benefits backlog, and vocational programs offered by Oakland VA.