Kiggans Introduces Legislation to Better Serve Veterans Battling Cancer

WASHINGTON, DC: Today, Congresswoman Jen Kiggans (VA-02) introduced the bipartisan Counting Veterans’ Cancer Act of 2024, which aims to improve healthcare and research outcomes for America’s veterans by increasing collaboration between the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and state cancer registries. Specifically, the legislation requires the Veterans’ Health Administration to share national cancer data with state cancer registries. Additionally, the bill requires the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to assist registries in sharing veteran cancer data with the VA, ensuring maximum cooperation between federal and state agencies. 

Joining Congresswoman Kiggans on this legislation is Congresswoman Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick (FL-20). Senator Mark Kelly (D-AZ) and Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC) have introduced companion legislation in the United States Senate (S.1994).

“As a veteran and geriatric nurse practitioner, I’ve seen firsthand the devastation that cancer has wreaked on Americans, particularly in our veteran community,” said Congresswoman Kiggans, Chairwoman of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee’s Oversight & Investigations Subcommittee. “Ensuring that every veteran has a VA healthcare system they can trust and be proud of is a goal I work toward every day. By increasing cooperation and data sharing between the VA and state cancer registries, I’m hopeful my bipartisan legislation will provide the doctors and researchers caring for our veterans with the tools they need to more effectively fight cancer.”

“By requiring VA to share cancer rate data with states, we can get a more accurate picture of the health challenges we need to tackle,” said Congresswoman Cherfilus-McCormick, Ranking Member of the Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Technology Modernization. “This bipartisan legislation would give cancer researchers and doctors the data they need to save lives.”

BACKGROUND

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) cares for more than 450,000 veterans with cancer and makes an average of 43,000 cancer diagnoses every year.

State cancer registries collect data on cancer type, severity, treatment, and outcomes, which is then submitted to two national registries: the Center for Disease Control’s National Program of Cancer Registries (NPCR) and National Institute of Health’s Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results Program (SEER). None of this data provides individually identifiable patient information. Data from these registries are the basis for cancer tracking, prevention, and control research. 

While individual state laws require new cancer data to be reported to state registries, only some Veterans Affairs (VA) medical facilities report data to their relevant state registries, only reporting to the VA Central Cancer Registry. The VA Central Registry does not feed into the NPCR or SEER registries.

It is estimated that tens of thousands of cases are missed each year by central cancer registries because of a lack of VA reporting to the central registries. Consequently, the national registries miss a significant portion of veteran cancer data and are limited in the scope of veteran research.

The full text of the Counting Veterans’ Cancer Act of 2024 can be found here.

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