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116th Congress }                                          { Report
                        HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
 1st Session   }                                          { 116-158

======================================================================
 
PROVIDING BENEFITS INFORMATION IN SPANISH AND TAGALOG FOR VETERANS AND 
                              FAMILIES ACT

                                _______
                                

 July 18, 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. 2943]

      [Including cost estimate of the Congressional Budget Office]

    The Committee on Veterans' Affairs, to whom was referred 
the bill (H.R. 2943) to direct the Secretary of Veterans 
Affairs to make all fact sheets of the Department of Veterans 
Affairs in English and Spanish, having considered the same, 
report favorably thereon with amendments and recommend that the 
bill as amended do pass.

                                CONTENTS

                                                                   Page
Purpose and Summary..............................................     2
Background and Need for Legislation..............................     2
Hearings.........................................................     3
Subcommittee Consideration.......................................     4
Committee Consideration..........................................     4
Committee Votes..................................................     5
Committee Oversight Findings.....................................     5
Statement of General Performance Goals and Objectives............     5
New Budget Authority, Entitlement Authority, and Tax Expenditures     5
Earmarks and Tax and Tariff Benefits.............................     6
Committee Cost Estimate..........................................     6
Congressional Budget Office Estimate.............................     6
Federal Mandates Statement.......................................     7
Advisory Committee Statement.....................................     7
Constitutional Authority Statement...............................     7
Applicability to Legislative Branch..............................     7
Statement on Duplication of Federal Programs.....................     7
 Section-by-Section Analysis of the Legislation..................     8
Changes in Existing Law Made by the Bill as Reported.............
    The amendments are as follows:
  Strike all after the enacting clause and insert the 
following:

SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.

  This Act may be cited as the ``Providing Benefits Information in 
Spanish and Tagalog for Veterans and Families Act''.

SEC. 2. FACT SHEETS.

  (a) Languages.--The Secretary of Veterans Affairs shall make versions 
of all fact sheets of the Department of Veterans Affairs in English, 
Spanish, and Tagalog.
  (b) Website.--The Secretary of Veterans Affairs shall establish and 
maintain a publicly available website of the Department of Veterans 
Affairs that contains links to all fact sheets of the Veterans Benefits 
Administration, Veterans Health Administration, and of the National 
Cemetery Administration. The website shall be accessible by a clearly 
labelled hyperlink on the homepage of the Department.
  (c) Report.--Not later than 180 days after the date of the enactment 
of this Act, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs shall submit a report to 
Congress regarding fact sheets described in subsection (a) and details 
of the Language Access Plan of the Department of Veteran Affairs. The 
report shall include the following:
          (1) What the Secretary determines constitutes a fact sheet of 
        the Department for purposes of this Act.
          (2) How such fact sheets are utilized and distributed other 
        than on and through the website of the Department.
          (3) How such Language Access Plan is communicated to 
        veterans, family members of veterans, and caregivers.
          (4) The roles and responsibilities of patient advocates in 
        the coordination of care for veterans with limited English 
        proficiency, family members of such veterans, and caregivers.
          (5) Other demographic information that the Secretary 
        determines appropriate regarding veterans with limited English 
        proficiency.

    Amend the title so as to read:
    A bill to direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to make 
all fact sheets of the Department of Veterans Affairs in 
English, Spanish, and Tagalog.

                          PURPOSE AND SUMMARY

    H.R. 2943, was introduced by Representative Gilbert 
Cisneros on May 23, 2019. H.R. 2943 as amended, directs the 
Secretary of Veterans Affairs to make all fact sheets of the 
Department of Veterans Affairs in English, Spanish and Tagalog.

                  BACKGROUND AND NEED FOR LEGISLATION

    Veterans deserve the highest level of customer service from 
the Department of Veterans Affairs when attempting to access 
the benefits they have earned. VA has facilities in Puerto Rico 
and the Philippines where English is not the predominant 
language. A language barrier should not stand in the way of 
veterans' access to benefits, and the burden should not be 
placed on veterans or their spouses, dependents, and caregivers 
to request and then wait for a translator to be provided by the 
Department of Veterans Affairs. Unless understandable 
information is readily available for these veterans, they and 
their spouses, dependents, and caregivers will lose out on GI 
bill benefits, VA home loans, healthcare programs, and their 
survivors will not be able to receive their burial benefits if 
they do not understand English.
    With the changing demographics of the U.S. population 
overall trending towards a more racially and ethnic diverse 
majority, the veteran population is diversifying at a similar 
rate. The Pew Research Center reports that the share of 
veterans who are Hispanic is expected to nearly double from 7 
to 13 percent between 2016 and 2045. According to the U.S. 
Census Bureau, Filipino Americans make up the third largest 
Asian American subgroup, with an estimated 4 million living in 
the U.S.
    A recent example of how VA is not using its current 
authority to provide easily understandable communications for 
veterans whose first language is not English, came to the 
attention of the Committee on Veterans' Affairs when staff 
visited Puerto Rico on July 6, 2019 to study and observe 
disaster preparedness. What they found was disappointing; many 
veteran facing fact sheets were not available in Spanish, the 
predominant language there. The following are excerpts are from 
the report filed for the Committee record:

          ``In separate meetings with veterans service 
        organizations (VSOs), Committee staff heard harrowing 
        stories about the lack of support veterans had received 
        from the San Juan VAMC in the wake of Hurricane Maria. 
        HVAC staff also discovered a lack of emergency response 
        plans, little to no outreach to ``high-risk'' veterans 
        who could be stranded during the next natural disaster, 
        an absence of senior leadership familiarity with the 
        readiness of the emergency 
        medical cache, nonexistent marketing materials in 
        Spanish provided by VA Headquarters, a Spanish suicide 
        prevention hotline that is not consistently staffed, 
        and an under staffed facility due to issues with 
        recruitment and 
        retention . . .
          At the time of the visit, veterans had not received 
        any information-- written or verbal--to be better 
        prepared for a future disaster after Hurricane Maria. 
        Medical Center staff reported that Spanish language 
        materials are rarely mailed or emailed, especially 
        materials produced by VA headquarters. Veterans 
        reported they had not been contacted by VA for their 
        safety plan or asked where they plan to shelter, who 
        will know their whereabouts, or asked to provide other 
        key data for making contact with them following a 
        storm. The facility created its own Spanish language 
        Suicide Hotline but when HVAC staff called the number 
        at different times during the day, staff were not 
        consistently able to speak with a responder. These 
        inconsistent results raise concerns about how well the 
        number is staffed and monitored by the facility. San 
        Juan has only two Suicide Prevention Coordinators 
        despite statistics showing that suicides increase after 
        natural disasters.''\1\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \1\``SAN JUAN VAMC FACES SIGNIFICANT READINESS CHALLENGES IN 
PROVIDING EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS AND DISASTER ASSISTANCE,'' Staff 
Report, U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Veterans' Affairs, 
June 6, 2019.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

                                HEARINGS

    On June 20, 2019, the Committee on Veterans' Affairs 
conducted a legislative hearing on various bills introduced 
during the 116th Congress, including H.R. 2943.
    The following witnesses testified: The Honorable Phil Roe, 
U.S. House of Representatives, the First Congressional District 
of Tennessee, The Honorable Luis Correa, U.S. House of 
Representatives, the 46th Congressional District of California; 
The Honorable Gilbert R. Cisneros, U.S. House of 
Representatives, the 39th Congressional District of California, 
The Honorable Gus Bilirakis, U.S. House of Representatives, the 
12th Congressional District of Florida; Mr. Adrian Atizado, 
Deputy National Legislative Director, Disabled American 
Veterans; Mr. Travis Horr, Director, Government Affairs, Iraq 
and Afghanistan Veterans of America; Dr. Igor Grant, Director, 
Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research, University of 
California, San Diego; Mr. Carlos Fuentes, Director, National 
Legislative Service, Veterans of Foreign Wars; Mr. Derek 
Fronabarger, Director, Government Affairs, Wounded Warrior 
Project; Larry Mole, Pharm.D., Chief Consultant, Population 
Health. Veteran Health Administration; U.S. Department of 
Veterans Affairs.
    Statements for the record were submitted by: Ms. Thelma 
Roach-Serry, BSN, RN, NE-BC, President, Nurses Organization of 
Veterans Affairs (NOVA); Mr. Eric Goepel, Founder & CEO, 
Veterans Cannabis Coalition (VCC); Mr. Morgan D. Brown, 
National Legislative Director, Paralyzed Veterans of America 
(PVA); Mr. J. David Cox, Sr., National President, American 
Federation of Government Employees (AFGE); Mr. Randy Erwin, 
National President, National Federation of Federal Employees 
(NFFE); Mr. William Attig, Executive Director, Union Veterans 
Council, AFL-CIO; Mr. Brett W. Copeland, Executive Director, 
Veterans Healthcare Policy Institute; Mr. David J. Holway, 
National Association of Government Employees (NAGE); Mr. Justin 
Strekal, Political Director, National Organization for the 
Reform of Marijuana Laws--(NORML).

                       SUBCOMMITTEE CONSIDERATION

    There was no Subcommittee consideration of H.R. 2943.

                        COMMITTEE CONSIDERATION

    On June 11, 2019, the Full Committee met in an open markup 
session, a quorum being present, and ordered H.R. 2943 as 
amended, reported favorably to the House of Representatives by 
voice vote.
    During Full Committee consideration on June 11, 2019, an 
Amendment in the Nature of a Substitute to H.R. 2943 offered by 
Representative Cisneros of California was adopted by voice 
vote. The ANS adds Tagalog to the requirement in the original 
bill that all Department of Veterans Affairs fact sheets be 
available in English and Spanish. The reason for this amendment 
is that Tagalog is the official language of U.S. veterans and 
their families in the Republic of the Philippines, where there 
is a large U.S. military presence and where the Department of 
Veterans Affairs maintains a VA Health Clinic and a Regional 
Office to process the claims of veterans living there.
    Ranking Member of the Committee on Veterans' Affairs, David 
P. Roe of Tennessee, offered an amendment to the amendment in 
the nature of a substitute. Dr. Roe's amendment requires that 
the Secretary of Veterans Affairs establish and maintain a 
single location on its publicly available website of the 
Department of Veterans Affairs that contains links to all fact 
sheets of the Veterans Benefits Administration, Veterans Health 
Administration and the NationalCemetery Administration. The 
website is to be accessible by a clearly labelled hyperlink to the 
homepage of the Department. In addition, the amendment requires that 
the Secretary of Veterans Affairs submit to Congress a report no later 
than 180 days after enactment regarding the fact sheets described 
above, and the details of the VA Language Access Plan. This report will 
include how the Secretary determines what constitutes a VA fact sheet; 
how such fact sheets are utilized and distributed other than on and 
through the website of the Department; how the Language Access Plan is 
communicated to veterans, family members and caregivers; the roles and 
responsibilities of patient advocates in the coordination of care for 
veterans with limited English proficiency, family members of such 
veterans, and caregivers; and other demographic information that the 
Secretary determines appropriate regarding veterans with limited 
English proficiency. The amendment to the amendment in the nature of a 
substitute offered by Representative Roe of Tennessee passed 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. 2943 as amended reported to the 
House. A motion by Ranking Member David P. Roe of Tennessee to 
report H.R. 2943 as amended 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 
as amended: to remove barriers to accessing benefits for 
veterans, spouses, dependents and caregivers whose first 
language is not English by requiring that the Department of 
Veterans Affairs provide all fact sheets of the Department in 
English and Spanish and Tagalong and provide a report to 
Congress regarding details of the fact sheets and the Language 
Access Plan of the Department of Veterans Affairs.

   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. 2943 as amended 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. 
2943 as amended 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. 2943 as amended provided by the Director of the 
Congressional Budget Office pursuant to section 402 of the 
Congressional Budget Act of 1974:

                                     U.S. Congress,
                               Congressional Budget Office,
                                     Washington, DC, July 17, 2019.
Hon. Mark Takano,
Chairman, Committee on Veterans' Affairs,
House of Representatives, Washington, DC.
    Dear Mr. Chairman: The Congressional Budget Office has 
prepared the enclosed cost estimate for H.R. 2943, the 
Providing Benefits Information in Spanish and Tagalog for 
Veterans and Families Act.
    If you wish further details on this estimate, we will be 
pleased to provide them. The CBO staff contact is Logan Smith.
            Sincerely,
                                         Phillip L. Swagel,
                                                          Director.
    Enclosure.

[GRAPHIC NOT AVAILABLE IN TIFF FORMAT]
    

    H.R. 2943 would require the Department of Veterans Affairs 
(VA) to provide on its website all departmental fact sheets in 
English, Spanish, and Tagalog. The bill also would require VA 
to report to the Congress on how veterans obtain the 
department's fact sheets other than on its websites and on VA's 
efforts to communicate with veterans whose proficiency in 
English is limited.
    Many of the VA's fact sheets are already available in 
Spanish, and several are available in Tagalog. VA provides most 
of the information from its fact sheets in Spanish and Tagalog 
to veterans at VA's regional offices in Puerto Rico and the 
Philippines, respectively. In addition, the department 
currently provides its various fact sheets on several webpages. 
Because the department has satisfied most of the requirements 
of the bill, CBO estimates that implementing H.R. 2943 would 
cost less than $500,000 over the 2019-2024 period; any spending 
would be subject to 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. 2943 as amended 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. 
2943 as amended.

                   CONSTITUTIONAL AUTHORITY STATEMENT

    Pursuant to Article I, section 8 of the United States 
Constitution, H.R. 2943 as amended 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. 2943 as amended 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. 2943 as amended 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

    Section 1 would establish the ``Providing Benefits 
Information in Spanish and Tagalog for Veterans and Families 
Act''.

Section 2--Fact sheets

    Section 2 requires that the Secretary of Veterans Affairs 
make versions of all fact sheets of the Department of Veterans 
Affairs in English, Spanish, and Tagalog.
    Section 2(b) requires that the Secretary of Veterans 
Affairs establish and maintain a publicly available website of 
the Department of Veterans Affairs with links to all fact 
sheets of the Veterans Benefits Administration, Veterans Health 
Administration, and of the National Cemetery Administration. 
The website shall be accessible by a clearly labelled hyperlink 
on the homepage of the Department.
    Section 2(c) not later than 180 days after the date of 
enactment of the Act, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs shall 
submit a report to Congress regarding the fact sheets described 
in subsection (a) and details of the Language Access Plan of 
the Department. The report shall include the following:
          (1) What the Secretary determines constitutes a fact 
        sheet of the Department for purposes of this Act.
          (2) How such fact sheets are utilized and distributed 
        other than on and through the website of the Department
          (3) How such Language Access Plan is communicated to 
        veterans, family members of veterans, and caregivers.
          (4) The roles and responsibilities of patient 
        advocates in the coordination of care for veterans with 
        limited English proficiency, family members of such 
        veterans, and caregivers.
          (5) Other demographic information that the Secretary 
        determines appropriate regarding veterans with limited 
        English proficiency.

                                  [all]