November 27, 2018
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine) introduced the Department of Energy Veterans’ Health Initiative Act, a bipartisan bill that would help improve veterans’ health care. The bill seeks to increase collaboration among federal agencies and authorize the Department of Energy (DOE) to develop new technologies that improve our understanding of the health challenges facing veterans. A version of the legislation passed the House of Representatives unanimously in September. In addition to Senator King, the bill is also supported by Senators Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), and Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.).
“America’s veterans have made immense sacrifices for our nation. Through their service they have earned not only our eternal gratitude, but also the best support that we can possibly provide,” said Senator King. “In order to live up to our duty, we must strive to improve the care they receive, taking steps like utilizing cutting-edge technology and increasing communication between government agencies. By improving our overall knowledge of the healthcare challenges facing our veterans, we can improve the quality of care they receive.”
The Department of Energy Veterans’ Health Initiative Act will build on current interagency collaborative efforts—like the Million Veterans Program Computational Health Analytics of Medical Precision to Improve Outcomes initiative—by authorizing a program within the DOE to develop technologies to help solve complex data challenges by analyzing data sets from federal agencies, higher education institutions, non-profits and the private industry. In addition, this bill authorizes a DOE research program to spur development to accommodate for large data sets.
Senator King has been an advocate for veterans issues during his time in Washington. Earlier this month, he honored Maine’s veterans in a speech at Messalonskee Middle School’s annual Veterans Tribute Assembly, where he highlighted students’ work on their projects, honored veterans in the room, and underscored the importance of living up to the sacred responsibility of caring for those who have served. In October, he attended the 6th Annual Women Veterans’ Luncheon in Rumford where he recognized and commended the attendees, who represented all branches of military service. Earlier that month, he joined Maine veterans at the 21st Annual Homeless Veterans Stand Down at Togus VA Medical Center to highlight services and resources for veterans who are homeless or in transitional housing. In September, he joined a panel featuring veterans’ healthcare experts and caregivers at the Portland Community Based Outpatient Clinic (CBOC), to discuss common suicide risk factors and warning signs for suicide and provide information about VA mental health and suicide prevention resources. Also in September, he applauded the House and Senate’s passage of the MilCon-VA Conference Report, which aims to consolidate and improve VA community care programs and reform the VA’s existing facilities to best serve veterans. In June, his bill to strengthen accountability of senior executives at the VA was signed into law.
In April, Senator King visited the Travis Mills Foundation Veterans Retreat in Rome, which brings injured veterans and their families to Maine in order to help the veterans overcome physical obstacles with the support of family members. Senator King also highlighted the important place of veterans in Maine by dedicating his November 2017 and December 2017 podcasts to the subject, with Travis Mills as one of the guests on the latter show. In December 2017, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced it will fund three new positions in Maine to better serve justice-involved Maine veterans confronting homelessness, mental health or substance abuse issues – a move which followed a February 2017 letter from Senator King to the VA urging additional resources on the topic.