Text: H.R.542 — 110th Congress (2007-2008)All Bill Information (Except Text)

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Introduced in House (01/17/2007)


110th CONGRESS
1st Session
H. R. 542

To require the Department of Veterans Affairs to provide mental health services in languages other than English, as needed, for veterans with limited English proficiency, and for other purposes.


IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
January 17, 2007

Ms. Solis introduced the following bill; which was referred to the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs


A BILL

To require the Department of Veterans Affairs to provide mental health services in languages other than English, as needed, for veterans with limited English proficiency, and for other purposes.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

SECTION 1. Provision of mental health services by Department of Veterans Affairs for veterans with limited English proficiency.

(a) In general.—

(1) REQUIREMENT.—Chapter 17 of title 38, United States Code, is amended by inserting after section 1712B the following new section:

§ 1713. Mental health services; languages other than English

“(a) Availability of counseling in languages other than English.—In providing counseling and other mental health services authorized by law to a veteran with limited English proficiency, the Secretary shall ensure that such counseling and services are available to that veteran in both English and a language other than English in which the veteran is proficient, if requested by the veteran.

“(b) Identification of veterans with limited English proficiency.—For purposes of this section, the Secretary shall develop procedures for identifying veterans with limited English proficiency and of informing those veterans of the provisions of subsection (a).”.

(2) CLERICAL AMENDMENT.—The table of sections at the beginning of such chapter is amended by inserting after the item relating to section 1712B the following new item:


“1713. Mental health services; languages other than English.”.

(b) Effective date.—Section 1713 of title 38, United States Code, as added by subsection (a) shall take effect at the end of the 120-day period beginning on the date of the enactment of this Act.

SEC. 2. Codification for Department of Veterans Affairs of requirements of Executive Order 13166.

(a) System for access to services.—The Secretary of Veterans Affairs shall implement a system by which persons with limited English proficiency can meaningfully access the services provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs consistent with, and without unduly burdening, the fundamental mission of that Department. The Secretary shall work to ensure that recipients of financial assistance under programs of the Department provide meaningful access to applicants and beneficiaries with limited English proficiency.

(b) Plan.—The Secretary shall implement a plan to improve access to programs and activities of the Department of Veterans Affairs by eligible persons with limited English proficiency. The plan shall be consistent with the standards set forth in the guidance document issued by the Attorney General in conjunction with Executive Order 13166, issued August 11, 2000, and shall include the steps the Secretary will take to ensure that eligible persons with limited English proficiency can meaningfully access the programs and activities of the Department.

SEC. 3. Implementation.

In developing and implementing the plan under section 2(b), the Secretary shall, at a minimum, carry out the following:

(1) The Secretary shall conduct a thorough assessment of the language needs of the population served by the Department of Veterans Affairs, including identifying the non-English languages that are likely to be encountered.

(2) The Secretary shall develop and implement a comprehensive language assistance program, which shall include—

(A) hiring bilingual staff and interpreters for patient and client contact positions; and

(B) translating written materials (such as consent forms, notice of free language assistance, and outreach materials) into languages other than English.

(3) The Secretary shall train staff of the Department on the access policy of the Department with respect to persons with limited English proficiency and on carrying out that policy.

(4) The Secretary shall establish vigilant monitoring and oversight to ensure that persons with limited English proficiency have meaningful access to health care and services.

(5) The Secretary shall establish a task force to evaluate implementation and to prioritize needed actions to implement the access plan for persons with limited English proficiency.

(6) The Secretary shall develop a specific plan to ensure seamless transition of veterans and their families from benefits and services provided by the Department of Defense to benefits and services provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs, including bilingual readjustment and bereavement counseling.

(7) The Secretary shall establish a process to translate vital documents and other materials, including materials on the World Wide Web, brochures distributed as part of outreach efforts to servicemembers transitioning into civilian life, and the post-deployment health reassessment program.

(8) The Secretary shall conduct outreach to veterans and their families in communities which may have higher proportions of populations with limited English proficiency to ensure they are aware of eligibility for benefits and services from the Department of Veterans Affairs.

SEC. 4. Report on implementation by Veterans Health Administration of directive on improving access to services for persons with limited English proficiency.

(a) Report required.—Not later than 180 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs shall submit to the Committees on Veterans’ Affairs of the Senate and House of Representatives a report on the implementation by the Veterans Health Administration of the Department of Veterans Affairs of the directive of the Veterans Health Administration designated “VHA Directive 2002–006” that was issued by the Under Secretary for Health of the Department of Veterans Affairs on January 31, 2002, and that issued policy to implement prohibitions on discrimination on the basis of national origin for persons with limited English proficiency in Federally-conducted programs and activities and in Federal financial assisted programs.

(b) Capacity To provide services to servicemembers with limited English proficiency.—The Secretary shall include in the report an analysis of the capacity of the Department of Veterans Affairs to provide services to members of the Armed Forces with limited English proficiency.