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Legislative Update: The Elizabeth Dole Veterans Program Improvement Act of 2023

Legislative Update: The Elizabeth Dole Veterans Program Improvement Act of 2023

Groundbreaking legislation to expand services and support for caregivers and veterans being considered by the Senate.

This week, the Senate is considering S. 326: The Elizabeth Dole Veterans Program Improvement Act of 2023.  

Named after our trailblazing founder and leader, this proposal contains five pieces of legislation that prioritize caregivers and veterans and implement groundbreaking services and support for our community. Aspects of this package—specifically the original text of the Elizabeth Dole Home Care Act and the RESPECT Act—were heavily influenced by caregiver input and experiences.  

These bills include:  

S. 106: The Commitment to Veteran Support and Outreach Act

  • Authorizes VA to distribute grants to states in order to help enhance veterans outreach activities, assist veterans in submitting claims, and increase the number of county or tribal veterans service officers serving in the state. 
  • Priority for grants would be given to areas with a critical shortage of county or tribal veterans service officers and areas with high rates of veteran suicide or Veterans Crisis Line referrals.

S. 141: The Elizabeth Dole Home Care Act

  • Expedites and expand access to VA Home and Community-Based Services to all VA Medical Centers in 2 years, including leveraging caregiver-inclusive language. 
  • Requires VA to use a standardized assessment tool to understand a veteran’s family needs. 
  • Creates a digital hub for caregiver resources located on the VA’s website. 
  • Establishes seamless enrollment in the Program of General Caregiver Support Services (PGCSS) for those who want it. 
  • Commissions a VA report with recommendations on how VA might expand mental health services and support for caregivers. 

S. 185: The Native American Direct Loan Improvement Act of 2023

  • Authorizes VA to extend the Native American Direct Loan Program to existing mortgage loans. 
  • Requires VA to partner with certain entities for performing outreach and education to Native American veterans who seek to qualify for mortgage financing. 

S. 216: The RESPECT Act of 2023

  • Amends the Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers (PCAFC) to make certain mental health professionals and neurological specialists participate in the evaluation and assessment process for veterans.  
  • Creates an assessment waiver process for caregivers of veterans with chronic or degenerative conditions.  
  • The RESPECT Act would also make sure that certain caregivers have access to valuable mental health resources in the community.

S. 326: The VA Medicinal Cannabis Research Act of 2023

  • Requires VA’s Office of Research and Development to conduct proactive clinical trials on the effects of cannabis in treating Chronic Pain and post-traumatic stress disorder. 
  • This five-year, comprehensive study would require VA to utilize varying forms and potencies of cannabis and would require annual updates to Congress as it progresses. 
  • Requires VA to ensure both studies have demographic representation that accurately represents the population of veterans in the US. 

The Senate will vote on this legislation in the coming week. We cannot overstate the significance of Congress prioritizing veteran caregiver issues in their first bill out of this new session. We are grateful to Senators Moran, Tester and Hassan and Representatives Brownley and Bergman for championing these critical bills. 

To help us drive our mission forward, we encourage you to use your voice and contact your representative to tell them how important S. 326: The Elizabeth Dole Veterans Improvement Act is. You can find them using the directory, here.    

Caregivers are leaders within their communities, engaged with their local governments, and are incredibly knowledgeable about public policy—all while caring for their loved ones. Their voices are strong, and this legislation is the result of their hard work. 

 It is an honor to have this package be named after Senator Elizabeth Dole, and we will continue to work closely with Congress to get this passed.