House Passes Congresswoman Elaine Luria’s Bill to Help Disabled Veterans
WASHINGTON – The House today passed Congresswoman Elaine Luria’s (VA-02) bill to direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to conduct a study and submit a plan to Congress that would make VA websites accessible for veterans affected by blindness or hearing loss.
A 20-year Navy veteran who took office in January, Congresswoman Luria has experienced great success with her legislative portfolio during her first term. With today’s passage of the VA Website Accessibility Act (H.R. 1199), Congresswoman Luria now has three House-passed bills, including two signed into law.
The latest triumph developed after Congresswoman Luria, the Chair of the Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs Subcommittee, met with the Blinded Veterans Association in March to better understand the unique challenges they face in garnering online access to the benefits they have earned.
“Our servicemembers put themselves in harm's way to protect American freedom. It is only right that Congress uphold our end of the promise by giving disabled veterans the care they earned,” Congresswoman Luria said. “I’m grateful the House has advanced my effort to eliminate barriers preventing some of our bravest men and women from receiving quality medical care, as well as disability, vocational, and educational benefits.”
No later than 180 days after Congresswoman Luria’s bill becomes law, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs would have to conduct a study of all websites of the Department of Veterans Affairs to determine whether the websites are accessible to individuals with disabilities. (In this case “websites” include kiosks at VA medical facilities, which often are required to check in for scheduled appointments.)
Within 90 days of the study’s completion, the Secretary would be required to submit a comprehensive report to Congress highlighting websites, files, or web-based applications that are not accessible to individuals with disabilities. As part of the report to Congress, the Secretary would provide a plan to bring the online material into compliance.
The compliance standard would be Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
Congresswoman Luria spoke on the House Floor ahead of passage of the bill. Video can be seen HERE, and the full text of the speech is below.
I rise today in support of this commonsense and bipartisan bill to make VA websites accessible and understandable for all veterans.
Our servicemembers put themselves in harm's way to protect American freedom. It is only right that Congress uphold our end of the promise by giving them the care that they earned.
One of my top priorities in Congress is eliminating barriers preventing our bravest men and women from receiving quality medical care, as well as disability, vocational, and educational benefits.
I met with a group of blinded veterans, and they explained that the structure of VA websites makes it difficult for them to learn about treatments and schedule their doctor appointments.
I knew I had to act. To remedy this problem, I introduced the VA Website Accessibility Act, which will require the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to conduct a study of the accessibility of VA websites for veterans with disabilities.
Upon completion of the study, the Secretary would be required to report to Congress on the study's results and provide a plan to improve the websites.
This bill will ensure that the ailments and trauma our servicemembers endured during battle will not prevent them from using the resources that VA websites have to offer.
Veterans affected by blindness or hearing loss have sacrificed for our nation. They deserve equal access to all VA services, and I am honored to champion their cause.
Our heroes should not have to wait one day longer. Today, we can help thousands of veterans receive better access to health care resources. I urge support of the VA Website Accessibility Act, H.R. 1199, and yield back. Thank you.
Congresswoman Elaine Luria represents Virginia’s 2nd Congressional District. She serves on the House Armed Services Committee, where she is the Vice Chair of the Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee, and the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, where she serves as Chair of the Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs Subcommittee.