Murkowski Votes to Protect Veteran Health Care and Jobs, Support Transportation and Infrastructure Efforts

Surface Transportation and Veterans Care Bill Heads to President’s Desk

Senator Lisa Murkowski cast her vote today for the Surface Transportation and Veterans Health Care Choice Improvement Act, a bill featuring several benefits for Alaska’s military community, construction sector and small businesses.  It provides three months of critical federal funding for transportation projects across Alaska that need the resources to continue for the remainder of this construction season. The bill also transfers $3.4 billion from the VA Choice Card Program to keep the nationwide VA healthcare system open through September 30th.

“I have been skeptical of the Choice Program because of its negative impacts on Alaska’s successful VA community health operations,” said Murkowski.  “I’m concerned and disappointed that this transfer of funds is necessary because of the VA’s poor organizational abilities. I demand that they make all necessary reforms so that they don’t need any additional acts of Congress to simply stay afloat.”

Additionally, the bill includes the House of Representatives version of the Hire More Heroes Act, one of the first bills Senator Murkowski co-sponsored this year, which incentivizes companies to hire more American veterans. This legislation exempts potential employees already receiving TRICARE or VA health care from being counted toward the 100 employee threshold for the Affordable Care Act’s employer mandate.

“This is one of my priorities to serve both our military and small business communities. It’s a win-win. This means jobs for our veterans and helps lessen the burdens of the ACA’s employer mandate for small business owners,” added Murkowski. “And this bill has a lot more to it, including infrastructure funds. It allows for three months of resources to fund construction projects as Alaska’s public works projects are faced with a funding freeze if Congress does not act.”

Background on Hire More Heroes: As Alaskan and American businesses consider filling job vacancies, many business owners are wary of hiring workers that will trigger the employer mandate.  The Hire More Heroes Act allows employees to stay under the 100 employee threshold if they hire veterans who are already covered through TRICARE or the VA, particularly of value in Alaska, which at 77,000 has the highest concentration (17 percent) of veterans in the nation.