Bill would require Spanish translations on all VA fact sheets

The GI Bill, Explained

Editor's Note: This article by Patricia Kime originally appeared on, a leading source of news for the military and veteran community.

Addressing an audience at a House Veterans Affairs Committee hearing Thursday in Spanish, Committee Chairman Rep. Mark Takano, D-California, pressed for legislation that would require all VA fact sheets to be published in English and Spanish. A bill sponsored by Rep. Gil Cisneros, D-California, would do that.

Takano, whose Riverside area district is 60% Hispanic, said he is concerned that the fact sheets and training modules for the Mission Act, the legislation that introduced new urgent and community care programs for veterans earlier this month, were only printed in English.

This caused a delay in implementation of the act in Puerto Rico, as employees needed to translate and reproduce the materials on their own when a contracted firm's translations proved inadequate.

Takano also noted that another vital service, the Veterans Crisis Line, which provides help to veterans struggling with mental health issues and thoughts of suicide, operates only in English. And while the VA Medical Center in Puerto Rico has established its own local crisis line in Spanish, the line did not answer when Takano tried to call it.

"Think about that for a moment: help is only available at the VA if you understand English," Takano said.

Rep. Mark Takano of California's 41st congressional district, right, talks to 163d Attack Wing Vice Commander Col. Keith Ward, second from right, while touring the wing's new Hap Arnold Center Feb. 23, 2017 at March Air Reserve Base, California. (Air National Guard photo/Crystal Housman)

Rep. Mark Takano of California's 41st congressional district, right, talks to 163d Attack Wing Vice Commander Col. Keith Ward, second from right, while touring the wing's new Hap Arnold Center Feb. 23, 2017 at March Air Reserve Base, California. (Air National Guard photo/Crystal Housman)

Speaking, reading and writing English fluently is a requirement to serve in the U.S. military. But with the veteran population expected to rise from 7% to 11.2% of the total U.S. population in the next 20 years, Takano said failing to provide veterans with "clear explanations of their benefits in Spanish" meant they would miss out on crucial benefits available to them, such as the GI Bill, VA home loans or health care.

Related Content: Major VA Change Info Coming to Your Mailbox

"No es sufficiente que el Departamento de Veteranos ya tenga una regla en vigor. Nosotros, como miembros de esta cara legislativa," Takano said.

That's roughly translated as, "It's not enough that this is a VA regulation; we must make this the law."

A department official said VA agrees language should not be a barrier to services and it already publishes many forms in both English and Spanish, including enrollment forms and annual benefits guide.

VA is also implementing a language access plan that is more comprehensive than the legislation currently being considered, said Larry Mole, VA's chief consultant for population health services.

The VA's program includes maintaining a Language Access Working Group responsible for implementing a language access plan across VA facilities. The goal, according to the plan, is for personnel at VA facilities to identify veterans, caregivers and their advocates who have limited English proficiency and ensure they have access to translators, translations and other language services.

"Given the breadth and complexity of the VA [language] program, VA favors this more systematic and flexible approach, as opposed to a statutory mandate for one form of document," Mole said.

He assured Takano that VA would look into the issues of VA Mission Act implementation and the Veterans Crisis Line in Puerto Rico.

According to VA, veterans who feel they have not received appropriate language assistance or were denied help can call the VA's External Complaints Program at (888) 566-3942.

This article originally appeared on

More articles from

SEE NEXT: After the VA missed a spine-eating infection, a loophole kept him from suing. A new bill would change that for other vets

WATCH ALSO: Once Political Foes, These Vets Groups Are Teaming Up To End The 'Forever Wars'

Hospital Corpsman, 3rd Class, Jennifer Rooney, who was immediately promoted after selection through the Meritorious Promotion Program, was pinned in a ceremony Sept. 20, 2019, by her father, Robert Rooney, and grandfather, John Rooney. (U.S. Marine Corps/Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael Molina)

A U.S.S. Manchester, CL-83, hat firmly tucked on his head, John Ronney, pierced the collar of his granddaughter, Jennifer Rooney's new rank during a special pinning ceremony at Naval Medical Center Camp Lejeune on Sept. 25.

By Rooney's side was his son and Jennifer's father Robert, a Navy veteran. Together, three Navy veterans brought together for military tradition.

"They are the two people who taught me everything I needed to know about the Navy," said Jennifer.

Read More Show Less

CAMP PENDLETON — The military prosecution of a Coast Guardsman accused of murder began Wednesday with a preliminary hearing at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton.

Seaman Ethan W. Tucker, 21, was arrested August 28 after a seven-month Coast Guard investigation into the January death of Seaman Ethan Kelch, 19, who served on the same ship as Tucker— the Kodiak, Alaska-based high endurance cutter Douglas Munro.

Read More Show Less

ANKARA (Reuters) - President Tayyip Erdogan said on Saturday Turkey would press on with its offensive into northeastern Syria and "crush the heads of terrorists" if a deal with Washington on the withdrawal of Kurdish fighters from the area were not fully implemented.

Erdogan agreed on Thursday in talks with U.S. Vice President Mike Pence a five-day pause in the offensive to allow time for the Kurdish fighters to withdraw from a "safe zone" Turkey aims to establish in northeast Syria near the Turkish border.

Read More Show Less

President Trump stoked confusion Friday by declaring the U.S. has "secured the Oil" in the Middle East amid continued fallout from the Turkish invasion of northern Syria that he enabled by pulling American troops out of the region.

It wasn't immediately clear what the president was talking about, as there were no publicly known developments in Syria or elsewhere in the Middle East relating to oil. White House aides did not return requests for comment.

Read More Show Less

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A U.S. State Department investigation of Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server while she was secretary of state has found no evidence of deliberate mishandling of classified information by department employees.

The investigation, the results of which were released on Friday by Republican U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley's office, centered on whether Clinton, who served as the top U.S. diplomat from 2009 to 2013, jeopardized classified information by using a private email server rather than a government one.

Read More Show Less