Wicker Helps Advance Veterans and Defense Bills

Senate Sends Major VA Reforms to President Trump to Become Law

May 29, 2018

In the days leading up to Memorial Day, the Senate advanced two important bills: One would support our military veterans, and the other would support those currently serving in our armed forces.  In no small way, these bills help honor the legacies of the brave Americans we remember on Memorial Day – the heroes who have paid the ultimate price to defend our freedom.

Non-VA Providers, Telemedicine Broaden Health Care for Veterans

Supporting our veterans and ensuring they receive the benefits owed to them are bipartisan and bicameral goals.  Both houses of Congress passed the “VA MISSION Act” with strong majorities.  Once signed by President Trump, the bill will update the health-care reforms that were ushered in with the “Veterans Choice Act” four years ago. 

Specifically, the “VA MISSION Act” would broaden access to health care, allowing veterans to see an approved non-VA provider regardless of how far they live from a VA facility or how long they have waited for care.  It would also promote telemedicine, giving veterans in Mississippi, for example, the opportunity to have a telemedicine appointment with a doctor in another state.  State lines should not become barriers standing in the way of the care our veterans need.

2019 Defense Bill Builds on SHIPS Act Momentum

Meanwhile, to support our current service members, the Senate Armed Services Committee has passed the “National Defense Authorization Act” for 2019.  The annual defense bill is designed to map out our military’s current and future needs, addressing and anticipating what is required by our troops to fulfill their missions amid new and evolving challenges. 

Last year, I was successful in adding my “SHIPS Act” to the 2018 defense bill, making it the national policy of the United States to meet the Navy’s minimum requirement for 355 ships.  As the chairman of the Seapower Subcommittee, I am focused on taking the proper steps in this year’s bill to build up our fleet quickly and economically.  Our naval commanders have already expressed concerns about the fleet’s ability to protect our nation’s maritime interests. 

Wicker Champions More JROTC Programs

Preparing our military for the future also means developing the next generation of military leaders.  One of the amendments I have proposed for the 2019 defense bill would add 100 Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (JROTC) programs in high schools.  Currently, some 200 schools across the nation are on the waiting list for these programs.  My measure would provide more opportunities for students to participate, especially those who live in rural or underserved parts of the country. 

My own ROTC experience was not until college, but it proved to be a formative part of my life prior to joining the Air Force.  JROTC units are shown not only to improve graduation rates and discipline issues, but they also teach lifelong lessons about service, citizenship, and leadership.  This is evident when you look at some of today’s leaders with JROTC experience, such as Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson, who have continued to serve their country in various ways.

The history of ROTC and JROTC programs goes back more than 100 years, demonstrating their time-tested value.  As we remember past heroes on Memorial Day, we should also look ahead to what will be asked of America’s current and future heroes.