Amata reports on two pieces of VA legislation
Washington, D.C. — Congresswoman Uifa’atali Amata is an original cosponsor of legislation supporting establishment of a new committee of Veterans from throughout the five U.S. Territories and the three Freely Associated States to better advise the U.S. Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA) on Veterans’ issues affecting the insular areas.
The bill would create the VA Advisory Committee on the U.S. Outlying Areas and Freely Associated States, comprising Veterans from American Samoa, CNMI, Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and the Republic of Palau.
“Once again, all the representatives from the territories are working together for an improvement that would benefit all of our islands,” said Congresswoman Amata. “We have a commitment to our Veterans, and getting their direct advice and input could facilitate better communication and results. Thank you especially to my friend, Congressman Sablan, for his leadership on this legislation.”
H.R. 3730 is sponsored by Rep. Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan, CNMI, with the following original cosponsors upon introduction: Rep. Aumau Amata Radewagen, American Samoa; Rep. Jenniffer Gonzalez-Colon, Puerto Rico; Rep. Michael San Nicolas, Guam; Rep. Stacey Plaskett, USVI; Rep. Julia Brownley, CA-26; Rep. Kaiali’i Kahele, HI-2; and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Raul Grijalva, AZ-3.
This advisory committee would advise the VA Secretary on the availability and accessibility of services and benefits within the insular areas, and take part in discussions regarding how to improve that distribution of services and resources in these areas.
VA POLICE REFORM BILL PASSES HOUSE
Congresswoman Uifa’atali Amata is welcoming House passage of the bipartisan VA Police Improvement and Accountability Act (H.R. 2429), legislation introduced by Rep. Kathleen Rice (NY-04) and co-led by Rep. Aumua Amata Radewagen (American Samoa). The bill, which requires body cameras and strengthens oversight and accountability for the Department of Veterans Affairs’ police operations, passed the House unanimously.
“I’m pleased to see this accountability reform bill gather strong support and pass the House,” said Congresswoman Amata. “Through these transparency measures, we can put our Veterans first and make data available that can better serve both our Veterans and VA Police. Thank you to Rep. Rice for her leadership throughout this effort.”
“Across the country, there are reports of inappropriate conduct and a troubling lack of oversight and transparency among VA police force,” said Congresswoman Rice. “Our veterans deserve much better from the agency that exists to serve them. My bipartisan bill will address shortcomings in VA’s police force by requiring police officers to wear body cameras and enacting other important measures to strengthen oversight and accountability. I thank my colleagues in the House for supporting it today to help us better serve and protect our nation’s veterans.”
The VA Police Improvement and Accountability Act seeks to reform several shortcomings regarding current VA police policies and procedures that were exposed in a House Veterans’ Affairs Committee hearing on June 11, 2019, which was held following an incident when a veteran was mistreated and injured by VA police at the Northport VA Medical Center on Long Island.
Specifically, the bill would:
- Require VA police to use body cameras and requires the Department to issue guidance on their use. VA must develop and issue the guidance in consultation with relevant stakeholders, covering best practices to ensure that the use of body worn cameras is consistent with civil rights and privacy law.
- Strengthen oversight of the police force at VA facilities by improving data and reporting on police incidents. VA would be required to implement department-wide data systems to track and analyze police activity such as arrests, ticketing, use of force, complaints, and disciplinary actions.
- Require VA to provide information and points of contact, including on the Department’s website and those of individual facilities, related to VA’s law enforcement operations. Statistical information regarding arrests, use of force, and other key metrics would become publicly available.
- Require the VA Secretary to develop a plan on police staffing that establishes minimum standards for staffing at each VA facility, and requires VA to submit a report with respect to staffing needs of the police force following implementation.
Following passage in the House this week, the bill must next be passed in the U.S. Senate before it can be signed into law.