Veterans Legislative Report
2018 Session of the 87th Iowa General Assembly
Prepared and Submitted by
Bruce Beeston, Vice President for Legislative Affairs
VNRC Legislative Agenda for 2018
Our agenda for the 2018 General Assembly consisted of 7 legislative goals which would, if passed, benefit the veterans community, especially those with PTSD (post- traumatic stress disorder) or TBI (traumatic brain injury).
- 24 Hour hold for patients threatening suicide.
- MST/MSA Secondary Jurisdiction
- Adequate funding for Veterans not eligible for Medicaid to enter Iowa Veterans Home
- Fireworks Control
- Peripheral Neuropathy
- Protection for Service Animals in housing access
- Revise Medical Marijuana law to expand authorized treatment
24 Hour hold for patients threatening suicide.
The 24-Hour Hold legislation was widely discussed, and was proposed as an amendment to the Mental Health bill which was signed by Governor Reynolds. Unfortunately, it was not in the final bill.
Support for the 24-hour hold legislation has come from the Iowa Hospital Association, the Medical Society, Mental Health Professionals, NAMI, the Nurses Association, and some of the law enforcement groups.
All the groups listed above and VNRC will be participating in hearings of the State Health Policy Council over the summer and fall preparing for introduction of legislation to update and amend Chapters 229 and 230 of the Iowa Code. There will be input from VNRC in this important legislation.
RECOMMENDATION: I recommend the 24-Hour Hold item be included in the 2019 agenda.
MST/MSA Secondary Jurisdiction
MST/MSA Jurisdiction was addressed by the Iowa National Guard JAG. However, that language did not become part of the final bill. JAG officers agree this needs to be clarified in the Iowa Code.
RECOMMENDATION: I recommend this item be included in the 2019 agenda.
Adequate funding for Veterans not eligible for Medicaid to enter Iowa Veterans Home
Iowa Veterans Home. Admissions criteria to the IVH are governed by federal Medicaid rules, which includes restrictions on mental health admissions to IVH. The good news is that VA is now adding facilities to care for more post-911 veterans with mental health/PTSD issues. IVH is admitting post-911 veterans with more serious physical disabilities. The youngest vet at IVH is 36 years old. Comment: We can discuss this in the fall when we better know the political climate. RAK
Fireworks Control has become a sticky, partisan subject in the Legislature, especially in the House. A bill was proposed to strike local control from the code. It did not go beyond the study bill stage in the House. Comment: We can discuss this in the fall when we better know the political climate. RAK.
Peripheral Neuropathy is a federal (VA) matter. That will be addressed by the US House, hopefully in the Fall.
I recommend not including this item on the 2019 agenda. Challenge. We can discuss in the fall after we see what the VA does. RAK.
Protection for Service Animals in Housing Access
Service Dogs, now referred to as Service Animals, has received support in both houses, with a vote this year on SF2365 in the Senate, where it passed 49-0. The bill was sent to the House. Amendment H-8388 was filed and the bill was sent to the Unfinished Business file where it languished the remainder of the session. It will be refiled, with the amendment next session.
RECOMMENDATION: This item on the 2019 agenda.
Revise Medical Marijuana law to expand authorized treatment
Medical Marijuana. A plethora of bills were proposed, and one even passed the Senate, only to be killed in the House. Speaker Upmeyer, along with a small but powerful group in the House, fears some kind of federal retaliation if a Medical Marijuana bill is passed and signed by the Governor.
HF2313 and SF2372 were the most prominent bills introduced on the subject of Medical Cannabis. The bills were similar, both with additions to the list of conditions and maladies that would be legal to treat with cannabidiol extracts. Several diseases and conditions/injuries common to veterans, i.e. Parkinson’s Disease, PTSD, TBI, Cancer, and chronic pain, were on the proposed list. SF2372 passed the Senate. It was killed in the House.
I have met with Rep. Forbes and Senator Greene, both pharmacists, about a new approach next session. Some new ideas about legislative language, and committee assignments are being discussed.
RECOMMENDATION: This item be included in the 2019 agenda.
Some interesting bills were introduced outside of the VNRC and Iowa Commission of Veterans Affairs agendas. Some addressing issues not discussed in our organizations, some an idea from a constituent that his legislator found to be a good idea.
Fee Disclosure for outside VA Claim Work
The best example is SF2200, a bill that requires businesses who offer to file a claim with the VA and charge the filer for the work, to disclose the fee. Most firms doing this work don’t tell a prospect up front about the charge, which can be substantial. The bill, which was signed by Governor Reynolds, requires such firms to disclose that they do charge, and how much, and inform prospects that the services are available free from county veterans affairs officers, from VSO’s, and VA claims personnel.
Hyperbaric Pressure Treatment for PTSD and TBI
SF2355 was introduced by Rep. Pettengill, to provide private funding for vets seeking this kind of treatment (Hyperbaric Pressure Treatment) for PTSD or TBI. The treatment is as yet unproven, however, VA is testing the method in four VAMC’s and there is some treatment being offered at civilian hospitals. The bill passed the House, but was bottled up in the Senate. I intervened in the process and negotiated moving the project to VNRC. We will be discussing the project at our next meeting.
Right To Try Law
SF404 is Right to Try, for patients with terminal diseases. Patients will be allowed to request and receive treatment with experimental drugs without permission from a state board or their insurance company. It is a possible back door for some cannabis applications,
Given the Legislature’s focus on education, mental health, and tax issues this session, it is a miracle anything passed for our community this session. Bills that passed will be of help to Iowa veterans, yet much more needs to be done.
I will submit new ideas for submission to the upcoming 88th General Assembly later this summer. Some of what we present to legislators will mirror the agenda of the Commission of Veterans Affairs; some will be much different. A united front will be necessary to achieve our goals. I will recommend a short agenda to present to Congress in September.
Vice-president, Legislative Affairs,
Veterans National Recovery Center
President’s Special Thanks:
It was a difficult year on the Hill in Des Moines, due in part to tight budgets and the national mood of divisiveness. But our team worked hard, and we look forward to a better 2019. Special thanks to Bruce as our full-time lobbyist on the Hill – and the only full time lobbyist for a veterans organization in Iowa. Special thanks also to Shelly Servadio who spent quite a few days at the Capitol working VNRC veterans’ issues. Also thanks to VNRC activists and Board members who attended Veterans Day on the Hill this session. These include James Marren, Joe Stutler, Mike Jesse, Rev Ken Briggs and Ron Healy.
2018 Iowa General Assembly
- 24 HOUR HOLD FOR VETS THREATENING SUICIDE. Iowa’s vet suicide rate is 20% higher than the national average for post-911 war vets. This bill requires a 24-hour observed hold by ANY veteran requesting admission at a hospital or psychiatric facility due to suicidal tendencies. Does not require new facility construction. Only the physical presence of a nurse for 24 hours.Currently it is House File 482.
- MST/MSA SECONDARY JURISDICTION. Allow Iowa civilian courts to hear cases regarding military rape and military sexual assault (MSA) even though the incident may have occurred while the Reservist or Guardsman was covered by federal law. There is a need for this bill, especially in the Reserve forces, because of scarce legal resources within the military. Sexual assault incidents are reported with no follow through. Iowa needs to take care of its own, and punish those that act in this reprehensible manner.
- ADEQUATE FUNDING TO IVH FOR VETERANS NOT ELIGIBLE FOR MEDICARE The VNRC released a statistical analysis showing that younger vets are denied admission to the Iowa Veterans Home on a regular basis. This is because funding for younger vets requires IVH and the state to pay 30% of costs, as opposed to 10% of costs for veterans that are eligible for Medicare beginning at age 62. Many veterans of the post 9-11 wars need long term residential treatment because they are not capable of long term stability on their own. Also, these same Post 9-11 veterans have fewer options for care than do older veterans.
- FIREWORKS CONTROL. The VNRC unsuccessfully opposed last year’s fireworks deregulation bill. Sice, public outrage and numerous complaints have caused many cities of initiate total bans on fireworks. While VNRC strongly supports these local total bans, VNRC also supports undoing the new dangers the bill created for PTSD veterans statewide.
- PERIPHERAL NEUROPATHY. We ask that a concurrent resolution be passed and sent to Washington to request that the VA change the regulation relating to Peripheral Neuropathy and give redress to those veterans that have been denied VA treatment because of the regulation. Peripheral Neuropathy is a condition that occurs when the nerves in toes and feet die. It leads to amputations and is usually associated with Diabetes. However, Vietnam Veterans with a history of Agent Orange contact have contracted the condition without being diabetic. Unfortunately, VA regulation requires that the condition be reported within a year of the event. The initial acquisition of peripheral neuropathy without the companion blood sugar issues means that it is often overlooked by doctors. Consequently, the illness is overlooked by doctors until an emergency occurs several years later. This results in a denial of services by the VA.
- SERVICE DOGS PROTECTED FOR HOUSING ACCESS & PUBLIC SERVICES FOR DISABLED VETS Service dogs are an increasingly important rehabilitation asset for veterans with PTSD. Generally, accessibility to these dogs by the veteran at all times is necessary to the veteran’s ability to integrate into civilian society. We support legislation to insure housing access, including subsidized housing, and access to all public accommodations to veterans with service dogs that have been prescribed as an element of therapy. There is a legislation on the subject of service dogs in the works.
- REVISE MEDICAL MARIJUANA TO ALLOW VETS WITH PTSD, TBI, MST TO BE ELIGIBLE. Last year’s medical marijuana bill was a disaster for veterans with PTSD, TBI and MST. It effectively forces many PTSD vets – especially those from the Vietnam era – to break the law to mitigate their affliction. We support any effort to reverse what occurred in the Iowa House and restore the original intent of the Senate bill.
Legislator Point of Contact for these issues is Bruce Beeston, Vice President, Legislative Affairs, Veterans National Recovery Center.