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.
Helping Veterans Exposed to Toxic Burn Pits
Senators Tillis and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) have led bipartisan efforts to assist veterans exposed to toxic burn pits while serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. The burning of waste on military bases exposed many service members to a variety of potentially harmful substances and potential effects include cancer, neurological effects, reproductive effects, respiratory toxicity, and cardiovascular toxicity. Troops who have worked in these areas are subject to higher rates of asthma, emphysema, and rare lung disorders.
Senators Tillis and Klobuchar worked together to lead the successful passage of Helping Veterans Exposed to Burn Pits Act, which was codified into law in 2018. The bipartisan law will create a center of excellence within the VA to better understand the health effects associated with burn pits and treat veterans who become sick after exposure, in turn ensuring that veterans who need help will be able to get that help from the VA.
There was no waiting line for our men and women in uniform when they raised their right hands and volunteered to serve. There shouldn’t be a waiting line when they return home and need our help getting the care they’ve earned. We must do right by our veterans. We can’t let burn pits become this generation’s Agent Orange.
Senators Tillis and Klobuchar
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.
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, which became law in 2018.
The bipartisan legislation will strengthen 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 will:
Strengthening Accountability at the VA
Thom co-sponsored the bipartisan Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act, which was signed into law in 2017. 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 of 2018 to strengthen accountability of senior executives at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Thom’s bipartisan legislation became law in 2018.
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.
Senators Tillis and Burr have pressed the VA for answers on behalf of Camp Lejeune veterans who were exposed, and they have led the bipartisan fight for justice.
Following the pressure from Senators Tillis and Burr, the VA finally granted disability status to the victims who were diagnosed with one of nine illnesses. Senators Tillis and Burr then successfully pressed the Office of Management and Budget to quickly grant the disability benefits to the veterans.
One year later, the VA published a regulation announcing compensation payments to Marines suffering from health problems caused by tainted water at Camp Lejeune.
I want to thank both North Carolina Senators Burr and Tillis for their steadfast commitment to our plight and seeking justice for the nearly one million Camp Lejeune veterans, their families, and the thousands of loyal civilian employees who were unwittingly exposed to this negligence by their own leaders.
Master Sergeant Jerry Ensminger
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:
Improving Customer Service at the VA
Several years ago, the Chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee tasked Thom with working with President Obama’s VA Secretary on the “MyVA Breakthrough Priorities” in order to turn the VA into a more efficient, customer-service and results-driven organization that consistently delivers exceptional health care services to veterans.
Since then, Senators Tillis and Jon Tester (D-MT) have held regular bipartisan meetings with the VA Secretaries in both the Obama and Trump administrations, forging close relationships and ensuring the VA is following through on its long-term plan to improve the customer service experience for veterans.
My personal thanks also to Senators Thom Tillis and Jon Tester for meeting with us repeatedly to hone our transformation plans. I believe they know MyVA is about fulfilling the Nation’s obligation to those who have served and that they share our vision for VA to become the Number One customer-service agency in the Government.
VA Secretary Robert McDonald
Creating Job Opportunities for Veterans
Thom co-introduced The Veteran Apprenticeship and Labor Opportunity Reform (VALOR) Act, which was signed into law in 2017. 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 joined Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and John Cornyn (R-TX) to 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 law in 2018.
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 included as a provision in the FY2016 omnibus that was signed into law by President Obama.
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 Healthcare Collaboration
In 2017, VA Secretary David Shulkin announced that the VA would adopt the same Electronic Health Record (EHR) system as the Department of Defense for veterans’ medical records.
Thom secured provisions in the FY2018 NDAA 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.