January 20, 2022

Chairman Takano Speaks on House Floor in Support of his EVEST Act

Bill would automatically enroll eligible veterans in VA healthcare

Press Contact

Jenni Geurink (202-819-4684) 

WASHINGTON, D.C—Today, House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Chairman Mark Takano (D-Calif) delivered remarks on the House floor in support of his bill, H.R. 4673, as amended, the Ensuring Veterans’ Smooth Transition, or EVEST Act. This legislation will automatically enroll eligible servicemembers in VA healthcare during their transition out of the military.



See a video of the Chairman’s remarks here


Chairman Takano’s remarks as prepared:  

I rise today in support of H.R. 4673, as amended my bill, the Ensuring Veterans’ Smooth Transition, or EVEST Act.  

I have made suicide prevention a top priority for the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee. 

Last Congress, we passed bipartisan, bicameral mental health legislative packages, including the Commander John Scott Hannon Veterans Mental Health Improvement Act and the Veterans’ COMPACT Act. This Congress, we continued this work by passing the Sgt. Ketchum Rural Veterans Mental Health Act into law--but there is always more work to be done.    

EVEST builds on our work and finally closes one of the most glaring gaps for veterans being able to successfully access high quality VA health services – the enrollment process.  

We shouldn't be trying to hide VA care from those who've earned it. 

We know that the months following transition out of the military can be very stressful and particularly risky for new veterans in terms of mental health. With the EVEST Act, servicemembers will be automatically enrolled in VA care during their transition out of the military, with the choice to opt-out. This helps simplify the process and prevents veterans from potentially missing out on lifesaving care. It also keeps veterans   from having to opt-in to VA care later and attempt to navigate a new bureaucracy on their own.   

The symptoms of PTSD can be significantly improved in veterans who receive prompt mental health care. A 2014 study led by researchers at the San Francisco VA Medical Center looked at nearly 40,000 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who received VA mental health care between 2001 and 2011 and had a post-deployment diagnosis of PTSD. They found that veterans who sought and received care soon after the end of their service had lower levels of PTSD upon follow-up a year after they initiated care. For each year that a veteran waited to initiate treatment, there was about a 5 percent increase in the odds of their PTSD either not improving or worsening. Mr./Madam Speaker, I ask unanimous consent to enter the study from the San Francisco VA Medical Center into the record. 

A smooth care transition from DoD to VA can help support veterans as they adjust to the next phase of their lives and provide easy access to health care should any challenges arise.  

Everyday Americans find it difficult and frustrating to sign up for health care. Now imagine that you’ve just come off active-duty military service, where for years you were told when and where to show up for your health care – you probably heard something about VA services during your transition assistance program, but frankly, you were focused on everything you had to do to finalize your separation, and possibly looking for new employment and relocating your family.  

Now you’re a veteran, and maybe for the first time, you have to figure out how to check your eligibility for VA health care and navigate the system while potentially also facing some new stress in your personal and family life. This is completely avoidable with EVEST, which simply enrolls you in the VA health care for which you’re already eligible, ensuring that when you need VA, there aren’t any unnecessary roadblocks to seeing a doctor.  

Let me say that again – this legislation has nothing to do with a veteran’s eligibility – nor does it change VA standards or who is eligible. It only connects eligible veterans to VA care faster and easier. 

We know that veterans are much more likely to use VA services and care when the process is simple. And we know that VA care is world-class. EVEST is a straightforward tool that will allow us to simplify the transition process and take steps toward preventing veteran suicide.  

Automatic enrollment is something policymakers and Veterans Service Organizations and stakeholders have been trying to advance for years, and with EVEST, it will finally become a reality.  Paralyzed Veterans of America and Disabled American Veterans have formally endorsed this legislation.  

The Nurses Organization of Veterans Affairs; the American Federation of Government Employees; the Veterans Health Policy Institute; and the American Psychological Association also support EVEST and again, Mr./Madam Speaker, I ask unanimous consent to enter into the record letters of support from the Nurses Organization of Veterans Affairs and the Veterans Health Policy Institute. 

 I wish to thank Speaker Pelosi and Leader Hoyer for considering this legislation today, and I urge the rest of my colleagues to support this vital legislation to increase access to care and ensure a smooth transition to civilian life for veterans.