Ernst, Gardner unveil DOE health care bill to help U.S. veterans

U.S. Sens. Joni Ernst (R-IA) and Cory Gardner (R-CO) last week introduced the bipartisan Department of Energy Veterans’ Health Initiative Act to establish a research program in artificial intelligence and high-performance computing aimed at improving health care for America’s military veterans.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) “have a good partnership when it comes to research and development,” said Sen. Ernst, who sponsored S. 3656 on Nov. 26.

“With the bipartisan Department of Energy Veterans’ Health Initiative Act, we will see greater collaboration between the two agencies to solve complex data challenges and advance veterans’ health care,” the senator said.

S. 3656 is the U.S. Senate version of the same-named H.R. 6398, introduced on July 17 by U.S. Rep. Ralph Norman (R-SC), along with 20 cosponsors, including U.S. Reps. Barbara Comstock (R-VA), Lamar Smith (R-TX), Frank Lucas (R-OK), and Randy Hultgren (R-IL).

The U.S. House of Representatives approved H.R. 6398 in September and advanced the bill to the U.S. Senate, which received it on Sept. 26 and referred it for consideration to the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. The committee held hearings Nov. 29 on H.R. 6398 as it works toward reconciling it with the new S. 3656, which it is also considering.

“This legislation will help provide world-class care to our veterans by leveraging cutting-edge technologies at our National Labs,” said Sen. Gardner, an original cosponsor of S. 3656 along with U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM). “The Department of Veterans Affairs and our National Labs are already collaborating successfully to benefit our veterans and I’m proud to lead this bipartisan effort with my colleagues to make sure this work continues.”

Sen. Heinrich added that the proposed legislation “is a great example of how our Department of Energy national laboratories like Los Alamos and Sandia can put their high performing computing capabilities to practical use solving complex, big data challenges.”

If enacted, the bill would authorize a program within the DOE to develop technologies to help solve such complex data challenges by analyzing data sets from federal agencies, higher education institutions, nonprofits, and the private industry, according to a summary provided by Sen. Gardner’s office.

Additionally, the bill would authorize a DOE research program to spur development that would accommodate the large data sets, according to the summary.