Congressman Panetta Introduces PROVIDE Act to Improve VA Support of Veterans Impacted by Major Disasters

December 17, 2020
Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Congressman Jimmy Panetta (D-CA) was joined by Representatives Clay Higgins (R-LA), Kathleen Rice (D-NY), Greg Steube (R-FL), Cindy Axne (D-IA), and Mikie Sherrill (D-NJ) to introduce the bipartisan Priority Response for Veterans Impacted by Disasters and Emergencies (PROVIDE) Act.  The PROVIDE Act directs the VA Secretary to ensure that veterans impacted by major disasters are eligible for expedited processing of disability claims.  Moreover, the legislation would establish flexible evidence requirements for veterans that experienced major disasters, such as wildfires.  Currently, evidence requirements for such claims fail to take into account that documents may have been damaged or destroyed.  The Representatives’ legislation would provide greater flexibility as to the type of evidence required for such VA disability claims.

“In the wake of major disasters, which the Central Coast experienced this year with wildfires, the VA needs to provide better and quicker support for our nation’s veterans,” said Congressman Panetta.  “The PROVIDE Act will ensure that veterans get that type of understanding and support with their disability claims after they’ve experienced a major disaster.  That type of expedited service and flexibility by the VA will allow our veterans to better access the resources they deserve and need to recover and succeed.”

“Veterans who suffer losses in natural disasters should not have to wait at the back of the line for their VA claims to be processed. Timely access to those benefits is critical,” said Congressman Higgins.  “This is something we saw first-hand following Hurricanes Laura and Delta. The PROVIDE Act gets government bureaucrats out of the way of Veterans trying to access their benefits and ensures priority processing status at the VA.  These changes are necessary to help Veterans overcome disaster-related hardships and begin the recovery process.  I’m proud to join Congressman Panetta in introducing this bipartisan bill.”

“We need to do a better job of taking care of our veterans in the aftermath of natural disasters,” said Rep. Kathleen Rice. “That’s why I am proud be an original cosponsor of the PROVIDE Act which gives veterans impacted by natural disasters access to expedited processing of VA disability claims.  I thank Congressman Panetta for leading this bipartisan effort to ensure our veterans receive the assistance they need when tragedy strikes.”

“After our veterans put their lives on the line to protect our country, the last thing they should have to worry about is how to access necessary resources and care following a major disaster or emergency,” Steube said. “While we have hit major milestones with VA reform and improving programs for our nation’s heroes, this legislation is an important next step to help get all struggling veterans back on their feet.”

“Over the past two years, Iowa has weathered devastating natural disasters. In a matter of minutes, homes, businesses, and livelihoods were destroyed by floods and hurricane-level winds.  But in the face of each crisis, our communities pulled together to respond, but we need more federal support,” said Rep. Axne. “That’s why I’m proud to join Rep. Panetta on this legislation to ensure that the Department of Veterans Affairs is ready to respond immediately and step in when veterans are impacted by disasters – helping them with housing, medical issues, and disability assistance right away.”

"The last thing a veteran needs when their life has been upended by a natural disaster is to worry about their VA benefits,” said Rep. Sherrill. “The PROVIDE Act will give these veterans the ability to have their benefits processed quickly so they can focus on recovering after a disaster. I'm proud to join Representative Panetta and my colleagues in introducing this legislation, which will improve the lives of our veterans."

“Unlike other federal agencies, natural disasters did not fall into an expedite category for the DVA,” said Dean Kaufman, Santa Cruz County Veterans Service Office.  “The PROVIDE Act will ensure that any veteran with a claim pending with DVA who has been impacted by a natural disaster will be guaranteed expedited processing.”

The PROVIDE Act has been endorsed by the County of Monterey Military and Veterans Affairs Office, the County of Santa Cruz Veterans Services Office, and the United Veterans Council of Monterey County.

The full text of the PROVIDE Act can be read here.