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The U.S. Senate today passed its annual defense authorization bill with three key provisions championed by U.S. Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) to support Nevada’s disabled veterans and veterans struggling with mental illness and to remove the $30 million to store defense nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain that was included in the version approved by the U.S. House of Representatives. The legislation, formally named the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2019, increases funding for training across all service branches and authorizes a 2.6 percent pay raise for troops – the largest increase in nine years for U.S. service members. Moving forward, both chambers will need to convene a joint conference committee in which representatives, who are appointed by leadership in the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate, reconcile the two versions of the defense bill and must produce a final report.

Heller worked with the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee and the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee to keep funding and an authorization of funding to revive Yucca Mountain out of the U.S. Senate’s version of the NDAA. Earlier this year, Heller urged U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain (R-AZ) to honor the will of the U.S. Senate appropriators and to exclude any language that authorizes funding for Yucca Mountain in the NDAA. Heller’s letter to Chairman McCain can be found HERE.

“Congress has an obligation to support our men and women in uniform, and that’s why I welcome the U.S. Senate’s passage of legislation that will give Nevada’s service members the largest pay raise in nearly a decade, provide our military with the resources it needs to keep America safe, and support Nevada’s 300,000 veterans. I’m proud that this legislation includes my provisions to support Nevada’s disabled veterans and help our veterans who may be struggling with mental illness and having difficulty finding work,” said Heller. “Furthermore, unlike the U.S. House of Representatives-passed version of the bill that contains $30 million to revive Yucca Mountain, I’m pleased I was able to work with Chairman McCain and U.S. Senate appropriators to successfully ensure that our bill did not include a single dollar authorized for Yucca Mountain. So once again, while the U.S. House of Representatives charges forward with shipping nuclear waste to Nevada, I kill their efforts in the U.S. Senate. While this is progress, we still have more work to do to stop the U.S. House of Representatives from turning Nevada into a nuclear waste dump. I remain committed to doing everything that I can to make sure that Yucca Mountain remains dead.”

 

In addition to removing a provision authorizing $30 million to store defense nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain from the NDAA, Heller’s space-available travel legislation (S.116) was included in the NDAA and authorizes veterans who have a service-connected, permanent disability rated as 100 percent to travel on military aircraft on space-available status. The NDAA also includes an amendment that Heller filed to help veterans with post-traumatic stress, traumatic brain injury, or other mental health conditions who have received other-than-honorable discharges.

Heller’s provision to support veterans struggling with mental illness requires the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to review the effect of other-than-honorable discharges on employment opportunities for veterans, develop recommendations for legislative or administrative action to reduce the negative effect of such a discharge on employment outcomes, and examine agency outreach to inform veterans of their ability to seek a change to their character of discharge through a discharge review board. A senior member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, Heller has been an advocate for veterans struggling with mental illness. He fought for the passage of his Veteran Urgent Access to Mental Health Care Act, legislation that helps to expand mental health care services to veterans with other-than-honorable discharges. It was signed into law earlier this year.

The annual defense authorization bill also includes funding to: combat ISIS, modernize personnel management to improve effectiveness, recruitment, and retention, counter Russian and Chinese military aggression, and support the development and production for Israeli missile defense systems.

On background:

On May 24, 2018, the U.S. House of Representatives approved its version of the NDAA, which included $30 million to store defense nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain. Earlier this year, Heller urged U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain (R-AZ) to honor the will of the U.S. Senate appropriators and to exclude any language that authorizes funding for Yucca Mountain in the NDAA. Heller was also successful in ensuring that the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee’s Energy and Water Appropriations bill excluded the funding requested by the Department of Energy (DOE) and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to support and fund licensing activities at the Yucca Mountain nuclear repository.  Heller’s letter to Chairman McCain can be found HERE.

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