Government Relations Report:
May 14, 2020
VMSA|VA COVID-19 Update | “Phase 4” Stimulus Package
Monday marked the deadline for comments in response to VA’s initial Veterans Mobility Safety Act (VMSA) Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM). The first major VMSA-related Rulemaking activity since 2017’s public stakeholder meeting, the comments submitted—by NMEDA and other organizations—addressed VA’s proposed amendments to regulations governing the provision of monetary allowances for adaptive equipment. VA will now review the comments and, if the agency decides it is necessary, revise and re-release the NPRM for another round of commentary. A second VMSA-related NPRM regarding quality and safety standards for equipment and installers, as well as the additional program requirements outlined in VMSA’s legislative language, is currently scheduled for release in August 2020.
In other VA-related news, the agency recently announced a “three-phase plan” for resuming regular operations at its medical centers and benefit offices amidst the continuing COVID-19 pandemic. Although VA never technically “shut down,” normal operations were certainly disrupted, and VA’s recently released plan outlines how regional conditions (e.g., decreasing numbers of patients exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms, reduced numbers of people testing positive, and increased testing capacities, among others) will largely determine each facility’s approach and timeline to resuming normal operations. VA Secretary Wilkie has acknowledged that “some areas of the country will take longer to recover, while other areas have seen minimal cases…[and] that’s why we’re letting local conditions dictate our next steps.” While VA employee telework is expected to continue for the near future, certain face-to-face activities may soon resume (subject to safety protocols deemed necessary by local staff). To read more about VA’s plan for returning to pre-COVID operations, click here.
Finally, Congress continues to squabble over an additional (“Phase 4”) trillion-dollar Coronavirus legislative package. The latest stimulus bill is intended to help individuals (including a second wave of direct payments to Americans in the form of income-dependent $1,200 checks for individuals and $2,400 checks for married couples); front-line workers (via $600 million for local police departments and $200 billion dedicated to hazard pay for healthcare workers); small businesses (by making technical changes to the Paycheck Protection Program); and governors eager to leverage federal programs in an effort to stem further economic crisis. As of today, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has scheduled a vote on the 1,800-page bill for Friday while Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has already indicated that any future aid package will not be addressed until after Memorial Day.