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Rep. Kelly Stands Up for Veterans’ Health Care on House Floor
WASHINGTON — Representative Mike Kelly (PA-03) delivered the following remarks on the floor of the House of Representatives this evening in support of H.R. 357, the GI Bill Tuition Fairness Act, which requires public institutions to give all veterans (discharged within the last three years) in-state tuition rates as a pre-condition for receiving GI Bill education benefits. Rep. Kelly used the occasion to highlight a part of the bill which includes, H.R. 1792, the Infectious Disease Reporting Act, of which he is a co-sponsor. Section 13 requires the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to report each case of a reportable infectious disease that occurs at a VA facility to the appropriate state entity, as well as to the accrediting organization of such facility.
“Mr. Speaker, I rise in strong support of H.R. 357, the GI Bill Tuition Fairness Act of 2013 — a bill introduced by my friend Representative Jeff Miller, Chairman of the Veteran Affairs Committee.
“I wish to highlight Section 13, which includes H.R. 1792, the Infectious Disease Reporting Act — a bill introduced by my friend Representative Mike Coffman, Chairman of the Veteran Affairs Committee’s Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations. The Infectious Disease Reporting Act is a bill that I am proud to co-sponsor.
“Section 13 simply creates requirements for the Department of Veterans Affairs to report infectious disease at VA facilities.
“This commonsense provision is necessary to respond to infectious disease issues at VA facilities nationwide, including the deadly outbreak of Legionnaire’s Disease at the Pittsburgh VA in 2011 and 2012 that killed at least 5 veterans and sickened as many as 22.
“This facility became ‘ground zero’ for the Veteran Affairs Committee’s investigation, which found gross mismanagement by the Pittsburgh VA in response to the 2011 outbreak.
“This is particularly troubling to me as many veterans in my district rely on the Pittsburgh VA for health care.
“Currently, VA facilities are not required by law to report infectious disease at VA facilities to state and local health officials, even though the VA is one of our nation’s largest health providers.
“Yet while the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Hospital is required to report infectious diseases, the Pittsburgh VA – only a few hundred feet away – is not. This inconsistency makes no sense and leaves the VA off the hook.
“Section 13 simply requires the VA to report infectious disease at a VA facility in compliance with the laws of the state in which the facility is located as well as to the accrediting organization of the VA facility.
“In other words, this bill holds VA facilities accountable to the same standards as other medical facilities located in the same state.
“As medical experts and really just plain common sense show, prompt, complete, consistent reporting by medical facilities is necessary to respond to and prevent the spread of infection.
“This bill also has teeth: it allows a civil penalty action to be brought against the VA for failure to report infectious disease as required.
“Our veterans, who have sacrificed so much, deserve far better. This bill is a step in the right direction to ensure that veterans require safe, high-quality healthcare at the VA.”