President Biden believes we have a sacred obligation to our nation’s veterans and their families. Since taking office, President Biden has signed into law over 25 bipartisan bills that address some of the most important issues facing veterans today, including the landmark PACT Act to address toxic exposures. On education, housing, and health care, the Administration and Congress have worked together to connect veterans and their families to much-needed resources. As we mark this Veterans Day and honor all those who have worn the uniform of the United States, the Administration is continuing to support our veterans by:
Delivering timely, high quality benefits and services. Under the Biden-Harris Administration, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is delivering more benefits and health care, more quickly, to more veterans than ever before. In 2022, VA processed an all-time record 1.7 million veteran claims-breaking the previous record by 12%. In total, VA delivered $128 billion in earned benefits to 6.1 million veterans and survivors during 2022. Over the last two years, VA has provided more than 220 million health care engagements to veterans-the most for a two-year time period in VA history.
Addressing toxic exposures. Earlier this week, VA began screening all veterans enrolled in VA health care for toxic exposures, thanks to a bipartisan bill President Biden got through Congress-marking the biggest expansion of VA health care in nearly 30 years. In August, President Biden signed the bipartisan Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act and announced that the Secretary of Veterans Affairs would make all presumptive conditions effective immediately. This new law makes it easier for veterans to get benefits and services they have earned. Since enactment, more than 137,000 toxic exposure related claims have been filed and more veterans are now eligible for health care. Thanks to this new law, 31 new clinical sites will be opened and more providers hired to deliver the care. The Department of Defense (DOD) also announced updates to its policies related to burn pits – thereby decreasing exposure for troops in the future.
Reducing veteran suicide. Since releasing a comprehensive public health strategy for reducing military and veteran suicide last year, the Biden-Harris Administration has continued to improve suicide prevention efforts. This year, both DoD and VA have reported declines in suicide deaths, marking progress in federal efforts to prevent suicide. VA awarded $52 million in grants for 80 community-based organizations to deliver or coordinate suicide prevention programs and services for veterans and their family members. In July, the 988 Veterans Crisis Line went live to provide veterans and their loved ones an easy to remember number to help veterans in crisis.
Ending veteran homelessness. Thanks to efforts by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the US Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH), and VA, as well as historic investments from the President’s American Rescue Plan, the number of veterans experiencing homelessness declined by 11% between 2020 and 2022 – the largest decline in the last five years – and our nation is on track to permanently house 38,000 veterans in 2022 alone. To further this progress, last month, VA awarded $130 million to support programs to help veterans and their families find stable housing. VA also released three new grant opportunities to provide veterans with rapid re-housing services, 11,000 temporary beds, and case managers who can help find community-based assistance and permanent housing.
Supporting women veterans. Women are the fastest growing group of veterans who use VA services. The Biden-Harris Administration is committed to addressing and providing resources for the specialized health care needs of women veterans including increasing cancer screenings, improving mental health care and access, addressing infertility and reducing intimate partner violence. Over the past year, VA has expanded access to reproductive health services to include abortion counseling and abortion services in limited circumstances, committed to improving maternal health, and placed a Women’s Mental Health Champion at every VA Medical Center to ensure women feel welcome and receive equitable treatment and care.
Removing barriers to services for LGBTQ+ veterans. The Biden-Harris Administration is committed to protecting and serving our LGBTQ+ veterans. The Administration ended the ban on transgender service and directed a review of all policies and practices to ensure greater inclusivity of LGTBQ+ veterans. VA also committed to providing gender affirming care and resources in an inclusive environment. Last month, VA also announced it was extending survivor benefits for certain survivors of LGBTQ+ veterans.
Protecting service member and veteran education benefits. For too long, service members and veterans have been targeted by predatory marketing practices from for-profit educational institutions. In October, the Department of Education closed the 90/10 loophole in the Higher Education Act that allowed for-profit colleges to aggressively recruit veterans and service members. The revised definition means institutions will no longer be able to count money from veteran and service member benefits toward the 10% revenue requirement from non-federal sources requirement.
Protecting veterans and military families from fraud. In 2021 alone, veterans, military personnel, and their families reported fraud losses exceeding $267 million