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116th Congress   }                                    {         Report
                        HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
 1st Session     }                                    {        116-127

======================================================================



 
                  VA WEBSITE ACCESSIBILITY ACT OF 2019

                                _______
                                

 June 25, 2019.--Committed to the Committee of the Whole House on the 
              State of the Union and ordered to be printed

                                _______
                                

  Mr. Takano, from the Committee on Veterans' Affairs, submitted the 
                               following

                              R E P O R T

                        [To accompany H.R. 1199]

      [Including cost estimate of the Congressional Budget Office]

    The Committee on Veterans' Affairs, to whom was referred 
the bill (H.R. 1199) to direct the Secretary of Veterans 
Affairs to conduct a study regarding the accessibility of 
websites of the Department of Veterans Affairs to individuals 
with disabilities, having considered the same, report favorably 
thereon without amendment and recommend that the bill do pass.

                                CONTENTS

                                                                   Page
Purpose and Summary..............................................     2
Background and Need for Legislation..............................     2
Hearings.........................................................     3
Subcommittee Consideration.......................................     3
Committee Consideration..........................................     4
Committee Votes..................................................     4
Committee Oversight Findings.....................................     4
Statement of General Performance Goals and Objectives............     4
New Budget Authority, Entitlement Authority, and Tax Expenditures     4
Earmarks and Tax and Tariff Benefits.............................     4
Committee Cost Estimate..........................................     4
Congressional Budget Office Estimate.............................     4
Federal Mandates Statement.......................................     5
Advisory Committee Statement.....................................     5
Constitutional Authority Statement...............................     5
Applicability to Legislative Branch..............................     5
Statement on Duplication of Federal Programs.....................     6
Section-by-Section Analysis of the Legislation...................     6
Changes in Existing Law Made by the Bill as Reported.............     6

                          PURPOSE AND SUMMARY

    H.R. 1199, the ``VA Website Accessibility Act of 2019,'' 
was introduced by Representative Elaine Luria, Chair of the 
Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs, on 
February 13, 2019. H.R. 1199 would direct the Secretary of 
Veterans Affairs to conduct a study regarding the accessibility 
of websites of the Department of Veterans Affairs to 
individuals with disabilities.

                  BACKGROUND AND NEED FOR LEGISLATION

    According to the Blinded Veterans Association, there are an 
estimated over 130,000 legally blinded veterans in the United 
States, and another 1.5 million with low-vision. 20 USC 794d 
Sec. 508 (Section 508), of the Rehabilitation Act establishes 
requirements for electronic and information technology 
developed, maintained, procured, or used by the federal 
government. Section 508 requires federal electronic and 
information technology to be accessible to people with 
disabilities, including employees, and members of the public.
    For veterans, Section 508 requires VA websites to be 
accessible to people with disabilities. While it would seem 
clear that VA should comply with Section 508, VA has a long 
history of stating that they are ``working towards compliance'' 
while continually failing to ensure that all of their websites 
are accessible to the blind via use of electronic readers. This 
was especially concerning last year when the veteran crisis 
line was updated, and the chat feature became non-compliant--
leaving blind veterans unable to access this life-saving 
resource.
    Blinded veterans continue to face undue challenges 
accessing VA websites and mobile applications which are often 
the gateway to VA services and benefits. When reader apps or 
other devices do not work on VA websites as required by law, 
these veterans should not have to rely on friends and relatives 
to gain access and file benefits claims.
    Barriers visually impaired veterans have encountered on VA 
websites include:
           Tables that are not designed so they can be 
        navigated cell by cell to allow users of screen-readers 
        and magnification software to read them;
           Buttons that are too small, or hidden among 
        other items, thus making them hard to locate;
           Elements (such as checkboxes and buttons) 
        that are not properly labeled;
           Pop-Ups that interfere with the user's 
        ability to navigate the web page by redirecting the 
        focus of a screen-reader and cannot easily be 
        dismissed;
           Forms that are not designed to allow a 
        screen-reader or magnification program to be used while 
        filling them out; and a problem specific to the VA.gov 
        website,
           Password requirements that exceed industry 
        standards. This creates major challenges, especially 
        for seniors and others with cognitive challenges who 
        need to create and remember unnecessarily complex 
        passwords.
    H.R. 1199 does not propose any changes to Section 508. It 
requires VA to examine all websites (including attached files 
and web-based applications) to determine whether such websites 
are accessible to individuals with disabilities in accordance 
with Section 508. Websites are defined to include VA medical 
center informational kiosks. In addition, H.R. 1199 requires VA 
to compile a complete list of non-compliant websites and kiosks 
and submit a plan to Congress to make these websites compliant 
with the requirements of Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act.

                                HEARINGS

    On May 1, 2019, the Subcommittee on Disability Assistance 
and Memorial Affairs conducted a legislative hearing on various 
bills introduced during the 116th Congress, including H.R. 
1199.
    The following witnesses testified:
    The Honorable Mark Takano, U.S House of Representatives, 
41st Congressional District of California; The Honorable David 
P. Roe, U.S House of Representatives, 1st Congressional 
District of Tennessee; The Honorable Conor Lamb, U.S House of 
Representatives, 17th Congressional District of Pennsylvania; 
The Honorable Greg Steube, U.S. House of Representatives, 17th 
District of Florida; The Honorable Julia Brownley, U.S. House 
of Representatives, 26th Congressional District of Florida; Mr. 
Matthew Sullivan, Deputy Under Secretary for Finance and 
Planning, National Cemetery Administration; accompanied by Mr. 
Kevin Friel, Deputy Director for Pension and Fiduciary, 
Veterans Benefits Administration; Dr. Patricia Hastings, Deputy 
Chief Consultant, Post Deployment Health Service, Veterans 
Health; Mr. Derrick Curtis, Director, Software Testing & 508, 
Enterprise Portfolio Management Division, Office of Information 
Technology; Ms. Melanie Brunson, Government Relations Officer, 
Blinded Veterans Association; Mr. Karl R. Horst, Major General, 
U.S. Army (Ret), President and Chief Executive Officer, 
Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation; Ms. Allison Adelle 
Hedge Coke, Distinguished Professor of Creative Writing, 
University of California, Riverside; Mr. Carlos Fuentes, 
Director, National Legislative Service, Veterans of Foreign 
Wars; Mr. Rick Weidman, Executive Director, Policy and 
Government Affairs, Vietnam Veterans of America; Mr. Chanin 
Nuntavong, Veterans Affairs and Rehabilitation Division 
Director, The American Legion; Mr. Shane L. Liermann, Assistant 
National Legislative Director, Disabled American Veterans; and 
Dr. David A. Butler, Director, Office of Military and Veterans 
Health, Health and Medicine Division, The National Academies of 
Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine; accompanied by Dr. Ourania 
Kosti, Senior Program Officer, Principal Investigator, 
Radiation Effects Research Foundation, The National Academies 
of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.
    Statements for the record were submitted by:
    The Honorable Doug LaMalfa, U.S. House of Representatives, 
1st Congressional District of California; Mr. John Wells, 
Executive Director, The Military-Veterans Advocacy; Mr. Keith 
Kiefer, National Commander, National Association of Atomic 
Veterans; Mr. Robert Celestial, SGT, U.S. Army Retired 
(D.A.V.), Veteran who participated in Enewetak Cleanup; Mr. Ken 
Brownell, Veteran who participated in Enewetak Cleanup; and The 
American Federation of Government Employees, AFL-CIO.

                       SUBCOMMITTEE CONSIDERATION

    There was no Subcommittee consideration of H.R. 1199.

                        COMMITTEE CONSIDERATION

    On May 8, 2019, the Full Committee met in an open markup 
session, a quorum being present, and ordered H.R. 1199 reported 
favorably to the House of Representatives by voice vote.

                            COMMITTEE VOTES

    Clause 3(b) of rule XIII of the Rules of the House of 
Representatives requires the Committee to list the recorded 
votes on the motion to report the legislation and amendments 
thereto. There were no recorded votes taken on amendments or in 
connection with ordering H.R. 1199 reported to the House. A 
motion by Ranking Member David P. Roe of Tennessee to report 
H.R. 1199 favorably to the House of Representatives was agreed 
to by voice vote.

                      COMMITTEE OVERSIGHT FINDINGS

    In compliance with clause 3(c)(1) of rule XIII and clause 
(2)(b)(1) of rule X of the Rules of the House of 
Representatives, the Committee's oversight findings and 
recommendations are reflected in the descriptive portions of 
this report.

         STATEMENT OF GENERAL PERFORMANCE GOALS AND OBJECTIVES

    In accordance with clause 3(c)(4) of rule XIII of the Rules 
of the House of Representatives, the Committee establishes the 
following performance goals and objectives for this 
legislation: to remove barriers to accessing benefits for 
disabled veterans by requiring that the Department of Veterans 
Affairs conduct a study regarding the accessibility of websites 
of the Department to individuals with disabilities and provide 
a report to Congress describing those that are noncompliant 
along with a plan to bring them into compliance.

   NEW BUDGET AUTHORITY, ENTITLEMENT AUTHORITY, AND TAX EXPENDITURES

    In compliance with clause 3(c)(2) of rule XIII of the Rules 
of the House of Representatives, the Committee adopts as its 
own the estimate of new budget authority, entitlement 
authority, or tax expenditures or revenues contained in the 
cost estimate prepared by the Director of the Congressional 
Budget Office pursuant to section 402 of the Congressional 
Budget Act of 1974.

                  EARMARKS AND TAX AND TARIFF BENEFITS

    H.R. 1199 does not contain any Congressional earmarks, 
limited tax benefits, or limited tariff benefits as defined in 
clause 9 of rule XXI of the Rules of the House of 
Representatives.

                        COMMITTEE COST ESTIMATE

    The Committee adopts as its own the cost estimate on H.R. 
1199 prepared by the Director of the Congressional Budget 
Office pursuant to section 402 of the Congressional Budget Act 
of 1974.

               CONGRESSIONAL BUDGET OFFICE COST ESTIMATE

    Pursuant to clause 3(c)(3) of rule XIII of the Rules of the 
House of Representatives, the following is the cost estimate 
for H.R. 1199 provided by the Director of the Congressional 
Budget Office pursuant to section 402 of the Congressional 
Budget Act of 1974:

[GRAPHIC(S) NOT AVAILABLE IN TIFF FORMAT]


    H.R. 1199 would require the Department of Veterans Affairs 
(VA) to review all of its websites to determine if they comply 
with requirements in current law that they be accessible to 
individuals with disabilities. The bill would require VA to 
report to the Congress on its findings, and describe its plans 
to bring its websites into compliance.
    Using information about the cost of similar studies, CBO 
estimates that the study and report required under the bill 
would cost less than $500,000 over the 2019-2024 period; such 
spending would be subject to the availability of appropriated 
funds.
    The CBO staff contact for this estimate is Logan Smith. The 
estimate was reviewed by Leo Lex, Deputy Assistant Director for 
Budget Analysis.

                       FEDERAL MANDATES STATEMENT

    The Committee adopts as its own the estimate of Federal 
mandates regarding H.R. 1199 prepared by the Director of the 
Congressional Budget Office pursuant to section 423 of the 
Unfunded Mandates Reform Act.

                      ADVISORY COMMITTEE STATEMENT

    No advisory committees within the meaning of section 5(b) 
of the Federal Advisory Committee Act would be created by H.R. 
1199.

                   CONSTITUTIONAL AUTHORITY STATEMENT

    Pursuant to Article I, section 8 of the United States 
Constitution, H.R. 1199 is authorized by Congress' power to 
``provide for the common Defense and general Welfare of the 
United States.''

                  APPLICABILITY TO LEGISLATIVE BRANCH

    The Committee finds that H.R. 1199 does not relate to the 
terms and conditions of employment or access to public services 
or accommodations within the legislative branch.

              STATEMENT ON DUPLICATION OF FEDERAL PROGRAMS

    Pursuant to clause 3(c)(5) of rule XIII of the Rules of the 
House of Representatives, the Committee finds that no provision 
of H.R. 1199 establishes or reauthorizes a program of the 
Federal Government known to be duplicative of another Federal 
program, a program that was included in any report from the 
Government Accountability Office to Congress pursuant to 
section 21 of Public Law 111-139, or a program related to a 
program identified in the most recent Catalog of Federal 
Domestic Assistance.

             SECTION-BY-SECTION ANALYSIS OF THE LEGISLATION

    Sec. 1. Short title. The Act may be cited as the ``VA 
Website Accessibility Act of 2019''.
    Sec. 2. (a) Directs the Secretary to examine all VA 
websites to ensure they are accessible to individuals in 
accordance with the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 within 180 days 
of enactment.
    (b) Requires the Secretary to provide Congress with a 
report within 90 days that includes:
          (1) a list of noncompliant sites,
          (2) a description of why those sites are 
        noncompliant, and
          (3) the plan to bring the site to compliance.
    (c) Includes under the definition of VA website the VA 
kiosks used at medical facilities for appointment check in.

         CHANGES IN EXISTING LAW MADE BY THE BILL, AS REPORTED

    In compliance with clause 3(e) of rule XIII of the Rules of 
the House of Representatives, changes in existing law made by 
the bill, as reported, are shown as follows (existing law 
proposed to be omitted is enclosed in black brackets, new 
matter is printed in italics, existing law in which no change 
is proposed is shown in roman):

                                  [all]