Thom’s Commitment
to Veterans

One of Senator Tillis’ top priorities has been ensuring that Congress is doing everything in its power to keep its promises to North Carolina’s nearly 800,000 veterans, repaying the tremendous debt of gratitude we owe the brave men and women who have served our nation. Thom has worked across the aisle to secure a number of wins for veterans, including major reforms to make the VA more efficient, effective, and accountable.

Supporting Veterans’ Access to Quality Health Care

Thom has worked across the aisle to help improve veterans’ ability to receive timely and quality health care, including championing the bipartisan Maintaining Internal Systems and Strengthening Integrated Outside Networks (MISSION) Act.

The bipartisan legislation strengthens healthcare services at the VA while streamlining the department’s community care programs to ensure veterans receive efficient, timely, and quality care, whether inside the VA system or from providers in their communities.

The bipartisan legislation also includes two provisions championed by Senator Tillis that:
  • Allows the VA to use a third-party entity to electronically process health care claims from medical providers.
  • Authorizes the VA to implement pilot programs for new and innovative payment and delivery models for VA health care that will allow the department to modernize and adapt to the ever-changing needs of the veteran population.

Helping Veterans Exposed to Toxic Substances

For thousands of servicemembers who sacrificed to serve our country, that selfless service included exposure to chemical and environmental hazards, both in the United States and abroad, resulting in real and potential health risks. To ensure that these veterans receive the support and resources necessary to address these toxic exposures, Thom introduced a historic bill that fundamentally reforms and improves how veterans exposed to toxic substances receive health care and benefits from the VA. The TEAM Act received strong bipartisan support and was later codified into law by Congress.

The TEAM Act:

  • Expands VA health care for veterans exposed to toxic substances. Treatment for conditions related to toxic exposures will be covered free of charge.
  • Requires VA to respond to new scientific evidence regarding diseases associated with toxic exposure and establish new presumptions of service connection when supported by the science.
  • Establishes an independent scientific commission to research the health effects of toxic exposure in veterans and report the commission's findings to VA and Congress.
  • Ensures VA enters into agreements with the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine to review scientific studies regarding associations between diseases and exposure to toxic substances during military service.

Protecting Veterans and their Families from Predatory Lending

Senators Elizabeth Warren and Thom Tillis Introduce Legislation to Help Veterans

One of the ways we repay our debt of gratitude to those who served our nation is through the VA Home Loan Program, which provides veterans and service members with the opportunity to purchase their own homes through a VA insured mortgage from a private lender. The VA Home Loan Program has provided more than 20 million loans to help veterans become home owners.

Unfortunately, a small number of lenders are abusing the program by utilizing misleading advertising tactics and engaging in a practice known as “churning” – the refinancing of a home loan over and over again to generate fees and profits for lenders at the direct expense of veterans and their families, often without their knowledge. This practice has potentially targeted thousands of veterans in North Carolina in recent years.

To solve this problem, Thom teamed up with Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) to introduce the Protecting Veterans from Predatory Lending Act of 2018, bipartisan legislation that would protect veterans from targeted predatory home loan practices by requiring lenders to demonstrate a material benefit to veterans when refinancing their mortgages.

Senators Tillis and Warren worked together to build a bipartisan coalition of other senators in support of their legislation, and it was codified into law in 2018.

Strengthening Accountability at the VA

Thom co-sponsored the bipartisan Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act. The bipartisan legislation reforms the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) by providing the secretary with broader authority to dismiss bad employees and ensure appropriate due process protections for whistleblowers.

Additionally, Senator Tillis and Senator Angus King (I-ME) introduced the bipartisan VA Senior Executive Accountability (SEA) Act to strengthen accountability of senior executives at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Thom’s bipartisan legislation was signed into law.

Thom’s bipartisan legislation solves a longstanding problem at the VA where senior VA executives used their leadership positions as leverage to be reassigned to another position for their own personal gain, or were reassigned—rather than disciplined—for poor performance.

Senior VA executives should not be using their positions for personal gain nor should the VA be using reassignments in place of disciplinary action or firing senior executives who have acted improperly. The VA Senior Executive Accountability Act will address these problems by improving transparency and accountability within the VA and ensuring our veterans are being provided the best people to give them the care they need and deserve.

Senator Thom Tillis

Fighting For Justice For The Victims of Toxic Water Contamination at Camp Lejeune

For years, bureaucratic red tape and internal resistance at the VA had delayed a final decision on granting Camp Lejeune veterans disability status due to health issues linked to toxic water exposure. The VA estimates that more than 900,000 service members could have been exposed to toxic water.

Senator Tillis has pressed the VA for answers on behalf of Camp Lejeune veterans who were exposed.

Following pressure from Senator Tillis, the VA finally granted disability status to the victims who were diagnosed with one of nine illnesses.

One year later, the VA published a regulation announcing compensation payments to Marines suffering from health problems caused by tainted water at Camp Lejeune.

OSenator Tillis also played a major role in introducing the Camp Lejeune Justice Act, bipartisan legislation to provide veterans and their families who are suffering due to water contamination at Camp Lejeune with long overdue judicial relief. Congress subsequently codified the legislation into law.

Expanding Educational Opportunities for Veterans

One of Thom’s key priorities is ensuring veterans have access to quality and affordable education as they transition back to civilian life. That is why Thom has teamed up with a number of his Democratic colleagues to lead a bipartisan effort to expand educational opportunities for veterans.

Thom’s legislation codified into law includes:
  • The Veterans Education Experience Improvement Act, bipartisan legislation Thom introduced with Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) that improves veterans’ experience when using GI Bill education benefits and provides resources and training for the officials at educational institutions who serve student veterans, helping them achieve positive education outcomes.
  • The Veterans Education Relief and Reinstatement Act, bipartisan legislation Thom introduced with Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) that reinstates lost benefits to veterans whose Post-9/11 GI Bill education benefits are affected by the permanent closure of certain educational institutions.
  • The Veterans Education Priority Enrollment Act, bipartisan legislation Thom introduced with Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) that ensures veterans, servicemembers, and surviving spouses and children of servicemembers who have died in the line of duty can take full advantage of their education benefits.
  • The Yellow Ribbon Improvement Act, bipartisan legislation Thom introduced with Senators Bill Cassidy (R-LA) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) that extends Yellow Ribbon Program benefits to Fry scholarship recipients.
  • The Career-Ready Student Veterans Act, bipartisan legislation Thom introduced with Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) that requires that programs of education designed to prepare students for licensure or certification by a state, or for employment subject to the approval of a state board or agency, must meet any state curriculum requirements or be approved or licensed by the appropriate state entity in order for the course to be approved for VA educational benefits. The bill was signed into law.

Creating Job Opportunities for Veterans

Thom co-introduced The Veteran Apprenticeship and Labor Opportunity Reform (VALOR) Act, which was signed into law in by then-President Trump. The legislation increases access to apprenticeship-training programs for veterans by streamlining the certification process for non-federal apprenticeship programs based in more than one state.

Thom also helped introduce bipartisan legislation that streamlines and eases the burden on the process whereby active-duty military, reservists, and veterans apply for their commercial driver’s license. The legislation became subsequently law.

Thom and Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) introduced The Wounded Warrior Employment Improvement Act, which requires the VA Secretary to develop and publish an action plan for improving the training and rehabilitation provided by the VA for veterans with service-connected disabilities. The legislation was subsequently codified into law.

Additionally, Thom teamed up with Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) to introduce the Boosting Rates of American Veterans Employment (BRAVE) Act, bipartisan legislation that would support job creation for America’s veterans by encouraging and incentivizing VA contractors to employ veterans on a full-time basis.

Modernizing the DoD & VA Health Care Collaboration

In 2017, the VA announced that it would adopt the same Electronic Health Record (EHR) system as the Department of Defense for veterans’ medical records.

Thom then secured provisions to expand authority and allow military treatment facilities to provide healthcare to servicemembers, dependents, veterans, and civilians. The services can maintain critical wartime medical readiness skills while also providing state-of-the-art specialty care to underserved medical communities.