U.S. Congressman Brian Mast (FL-18), the newest member of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, released the following statement after the House of Representatives passed the VA MISSION Act with overwhelming bipartisan support, 347 to 70:
“Since opening the first-ever Congressional office inside a VA facility, we’ve met with hundreds of veterans and opened more than 100 cases to help veterans that are having issues with the VA. As I’ve seen firsthand with my own healthcare from the VA, there are many great doctors who go above and beyond for our veterans, but it’s also clear that there are many areas where the VA needs to seriously step up its level of service. The VA MISSION Act is great progress toward ensuring that veterans get more choice and the high level of care that they were promised when they put on a uniform in defense of our country becomes a reality for everybody.”
The legislation accomplishes five objectives:
- Consolidates and strengthens the VA’s community care programs;
- Funds the existing Veterans Choice program to ensure veterans continue to receive care through the Choice program until the new, consolidated Veterans Community Care Program takes effect;
- Creates new flexibilities to aid the VA in managing its infrastructure portfolio through an Asset and Infrastructure (AIR) review process;
- Expands the Caregivers program to include eligible veterans from all eras of service;
- Strengthens the VA’s workforce.
Prior to his election to Congress, Rep. Mast followed in his father’s footsteps by serving in the U.S. Army for more than 12 years, earning medals including The Bronze Star Medal, The Army Commendation Medal for Valor, The Purple Heart Medal, and The Defense Meritorious Service Medal. While deployed in Afghanistan, he worked as a bomb disposal expert under the elite Joint Special Operations Command. The last improvised explosive device that he found resulted in catastrophic injuries, which included the loss of both of his legs.
In Congress, Rep. Mast has emerged as a leader on veterans issues, and earlier today, he became the newest member of the House Veterans Affairs Committee.
Rep. Mast also opened the first-ever Congressional office inside a VA facility in January. Through this office, veterans from around the area have improved access for assistance with any VA-related issues. The office is located in room 1A-366 of the West Palm Beach VA. Since the opening of the office, many other Members of Congress have asked Rep. Mast about the process to open his office so that they can replicate the service for veterans at their local VA facilities. Unfortunately, opening the office took more than a year of navigating bureaucratic red tape. That’s why he introduced the Improving Veterans Access to Congressional Services Act to cut down on this bureaucracy by requiring the Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs to permit a Member of Congress to use a facility of the Department of Veterans Affairs for the purpose of meeting with constituents of the Member. Rep. Mast testified before the VA committee on this bill earlier today.
He also introduced and got signed into law The Department of Veterans Affairs Expiring Authorities Act. This bipartisan bill extended a number of expiring authorities impacting veterans’ benefits, health care, and homeless programs, including nursing home care, support services for caregivers, transportation, child care assistance, adaptive sports programs and housing and home loan services.