AMVETS in Action

Category: Legislative

From ‘Go Home’ to ‘Welcome Home’ for Sheboygan man


Every Thursday morning Joe Glover Jr. volunteers at the Sheboygan Police Department, alphabetizing the judge’s records, mailing documents or feeding officers with food from his wife.

His work in the municipal court is quiet, and often done alone. Yet he is known around the police department for his outgoing, cheery disposition —he is always trying to make other people smile.

SPD Volunteer Coordinator Penny Weber said despite being one of the department’s newest volunteers, he already has built a positive reputation.

“If you met Joe, you know he is probably one of the most positive people you will ever meet. He always has a smile on his face. He is just one happy person,” Weber said.

The woman who volunteered before him would bring in cookies for the officers, affectionately becoming known as “The Cookie Lady.” When she retired, Joe took over her working duties, and eventually, he found out about her baking reputation and took up the mantle himself.

Joe was a volunteer at the Blood Center before he went to Coffee with a Cop at McDonalds and learned of the police department’s volunteering programs.

Joe’s decision to help the police department is remarkable given that he happily works for the same department that racially profiled him on several occasions more than 40 years ago.

His path to becoming a retired volunteer in Sheboygan is a long one that didn’t even start here.

Joe grew up in Milwaukee’s 53206 zip code, an infamously rough neighborhood now being featured in a documentary for having the highest incarceration rate in the country.

He grew up in private schools, graduating in a class that only had six minority students. He also had a machinery apprenticeship in Milwaukee and became a skilled laborer.

Those skills brought him to Sheboygan Jan. 5, 1970 to work for Hayssen Manufacturing, running the lathe machine. According to Joe, he was harassed by the white workers whom saw him as a threat to their job.

“Guys would be balling up clay, spitting it through straws, hitting you all over,” Joe said. “You’d turn around and they’d be standing there like, ‘Well who do you pick did it?’”

One day, a fellow black coworker was beat up in the bathroom before Joe saw him running across the machine floor. He went to physically defend the man—a decision that resulted in him and the man being fired, according to Joe.

That was two weeks after his first day.

The job didn’t even outlast the temporary living at the YMCA Hayssen provided. He had two more weeks to live there for free. Joe met a woman there, who was white, who would become his wife—Mary. Those last two weeks were the beginning of a courtship that lasted several months before Joe was drafted for service.

He noted that he was stopped by police both before and after he was fired. But according to Joe, they’d leave him alone when they found out he was employed.

“I’d get stopped here, stopped there,” Joe said. “I never knew about (Sundown towns) at the time. I didn’t see it immediately, I just was wondering, ‘Why are they doing this? Why do I have to be out of here at dark?”

Was Sheboygan a sundown town?

Census data dating back to 1860 shows that the black population of Sheboygan did not reach double-digits until 1970, peaking with nine in 1910. Through the 1920’s and 30’s, there were no black residents in Sheboygan, with one in the 1940 census and eight in the 1950 census.

According to research by Professor James W. Loewen, who taught race relations for 20 years at the University of Vermont, there is evidence to suggest Sheboygan may have been a “Sundown Town” – a place where people of color were forced to leave the city after sunset.

Loewen compiled an online map allowing people to find out more about the racial history of their towns, identifying thousands of likely and confirmed sundown towns across the U.S.

Sheboygan is labeled as having possible sundown status. It is unknown whether there was an ordinance or sign specifically prohibiting black people from staying, but the testimonials he lists indicate a certain amount of racial animus.

Loewen received a report of a black social worker from Madison’s state office had to stay at a smaller hotel outside of Sheboygan in 1976 because she couldn’t stay in Sheboygan’s main hotel.

Other testimonies to Loewen showed similar patterns.

“’I recall being told when I moved to Sheboygan in August 1970 that in previous years blacks had not been allowed to stay in the city overnight. There was no generalized policy in that regard by 1970, but I suppose reminisce[sic] of the one-time prohibition might have been carried on informally.

“’We lived on the city’s south side initially and later on the southwest, mostly in the working class section. And I saw no evidence of blacks being prohibited per se, that the black population was quite low.

“’We had a black mailman between 1970 and 1975, but at the junior high school I taught at in those years, also on the south (side), I don’t recall any black students,” Loewen said he was told by Donovan Walling, a former Sheboygan resident, in 2002.

Loewen’s testimonies are remembered, secondary accounts. The Sheboygan Press archives also tell a story of discriminatory local discourse and policy.

The very rumor of a sundown ordinance prompted then-Mayor John Bolgert in 1959 to outright deny that Sheboygan had any sundown laws. He cited as proof that black people we able to live in the city when they were playing baseball for the local minor league team. The same story reported a local pastor as saying there was no prejudice toward black people because there were none here.

Four years later in September of 1963, Professor Spencer Hildahl, then chair of the sociology department at Lakeland College spoke to the Sheboygan Evening Optimist Club about welcoming “negroes” into the city.

“Negroes are coming to Sheboygan just as surely as Christmas is coming next December,” Hildahl said. “We have to assume, whether people accept the fact or not, that Sheboygan is going to have a population that includes Negroes and other minority groups in the not too distant future.”

One of the unnamed Optimists present asserted that an ordinance existed that prohibited black people from living in Sheboygan.

“The same Optimist asserted that present city officials deny that Sheboygan has an ordinance preventing Negroes from living in Sheboygan. But, he claimed, Sheboygan adopted such an ordinance in 1887 —‘that no Negroes will be housed in Sheboygan — and it is still on the books,’” the Press reported.

Confirming ordinances or signs that explicitly gave a town sundown status is difficult because ordinances are revised and recodified.

The city clerk’s office has only two old ordinance books, both of which were from 1976. One of those has been updated. The city attorney’s office has a 1975 book that was updated in 1998 and a 1965 copy that was updated in 1975. The Sheboygan County Historical Research Center also has a 1928 copy of the ordinances, but it is abridged. No such ordinance is mentioned in any of those copies.

Even if the ordinance never officially was on the books, it is still possible that sundown policy was institutionalized here, according to Loewen.

“It’s typically difficult or impossible to actually find copies of the ordinances. Matter of a fact, most towns, you might ask the clerk to show you the double-parking ordinance,” he said. “I bet they can’t find that, but if you double-park you’re going to get a ticket. So the issue typically is many sundown towns never even claimed to have passed an ordinance.”

Legalized discrimination: The 1968 “Fair Housing Ordinance”

Even if there was no specific sundown ordinance, discrimination was occasionally on the books. On Monday Oct. 7, 1968—four years after the federal Civil Rights Act was passed—the Sheboygan Common Council passed an ordinance in a 15-0 vote that banned housing discrimination with two exemptions.

Religious organizations could discriminate based on religious reasons and owners of owner-occupied two-family homes could discriminate in rentals on the bases of “race, color, religion or national origin.”

The first exemption was narrowly added back into the ordinance after a motion to do so narrowly passed in an 8 to 7 vote. It had been deleted two weeks before the final vote by the Committee of the Whole. Alderpersons also rejected 11-4 a last-ditch effort to delete the second exemption from the ordinance.

The State of Wisconsin had already passed a fair housing statute in 1966, but it had several exemptions as well, which left it to cover only about 25 percent of housing in the state, according to an April 1966 Press article.  In that article, local leaders were urging the Common Council to pass a fair housing, open occupancy ordinance to ensure minorities who came to Sheboygan were not confined to a “big city ghetto.”

In the months following the ordinance’s passage, several local organizations including the Sheboygan County Council of Churches and the Sheboygan City of Elm Amvets Post 18 called for the exemptions to be deleted.

The fight was mainly over the religious exemption, not the one that allowed for racial discrimination in shared dwellings. And in February of 1969, a motion to remove just the religious exemption was defeated. The ordinance exemptions were legal until state laws, federal laws and court decisions made the exemptions illegal, according to a January 1976 Press article.

 “There’s no negroes here after dark”

Those instances of discrimination were epitomized when Joe and Mary were relaxing one night outside of the same YMCA. That was when one police officer made the situation clear to him.

“I was parked with Mary, we were having popcorn and root beer. Because of the humidity the back windows fogged up, you know, And all of a sudden this cop knocks on the back window and I’m like, ‘What’s he doing?’

“I said, ‘I bet he thinks we’re making out or something.’ She was driving because I didn’t have my license. And she’s just laughing. I rolled down the window and said, ‘Can I help you?’

“He’s looking in the back of the car—‘What’re you guys doing here?’ the officer said. I said, ‘We’re just having a beer.’ (He responded) ‘You’re not supposed to be drinking in the car!’ I said, ‘Root beer,’ trying to be funny.”

The officer was not amused and continued by asking Joe and Mary where they lived. Mary told the officer her address and Joe said he lived at the YMCA. The officer asked him where he worked and Joe explained he had recently been laid off.

“He said, ‘No then you got to get out of town.’ I said, ‘Pardon me? Why do I have to leave?’” Joe said. “He said, ‘We don’t have negroes here after dark.’ And that’s when I went, ‘Woah!’”

The officer went on to tell him it was city law that no “negroes” could be in town, unless they had a job. That was when Joe moved back to Milwaukee.

“180 degree difference”

In 2008, years after Joe first met Mary at the YMCA, they moved back to Sheboygan.

Joe spent 34 years in Milwaukee as a plumber, with Mary working at various locations over the years. Joe’s parents and his only remaining brother all died within 90 days of each other, all of whom lived in Milwaukee.

They moved here to take care of Mary’s mother. That was when Joe retired and started volunteering. He said it was also when he noticed the police are more approachable.

“180 degrees (difference). You can talk with them. You can joke with them. You can say something smart with them, you know I am sassy,” he said. “It’s like when you were a little kid and a cop gave you bubble gum and a baseball card. That’s what it feels like… You just feel happy when you see them and you’re grateful for what they do.”

Joe said he appreciates how different the policies and the police are today.

“To go from being kicked out of town to working for the police,” Joe said. “I think that’s pretty awesome.”

Joe said he never held anger or animosity toward the police department. In the ‘70s, he thought the law was the law and the officers were just doing their jobs, enforcing it.

“It was just a shock when I came here,” he said. “And you forgot about. It was ‘70 when that happened and then you go in the service and you forget about everything.”

Time has changed Joe’s perception of the police and it has also allowed for change within the department. Those explicit laws and policies are gone, and the department performs training with officers to reduce racial biases.

Sheboygan is growing too. The black population more than doubled from the 2000 to the 2010 census, although it is still only 1.8 percent of the total population. But even as Sheboygan becomes more diverse, there are still implicit disparities. Black people made up 18.9 percent of all arrests in 2015, according to documents obtained by the Sheboygan Press.

And while at 21 percent of the city of Sheboygan is either black, Asian, Hispanic and/or Latino, only 5 percent of the police department’s officers are, according to a 2015 USA-TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin article.

Nonetheless, Joe still sees the police department as better, and moving in the right direction.

“Even though it seems like I’m by myself in here, I got a whole community now,” he said. “The officers pat you on the back. Everybody sees you, (they say), ‘Hey thanks for volunteering.’ It’s a nice feeling to have the other way. Instead of ‘go home’, it’s ‘welcome home.’”


(, USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin6:57 p.m. CDT July 10, 2016)

Photo: Miller/Jozwiak, USA Today)

“The Big 6” United Behind Veterans First Act

“The Big 6” United Behind Veterans First Act

(Washington, D.C.)–The Veterans Service Organizations who are most often called before Congress for testimony on the state of Veterans Affairs, known in D.C. as “The Big 6,” are joining together to call on the Senate to vote on the Veterans First Act. While each has been engaged separately in traditional methods of calling for votes–such as letter-writing and email campaigns– they’re maximizing the power of social media to expand their outreach and get more veterans engaged.

“The AMVETS family is in full support of the Veterans First Act. Eliminating arbitrary eligibility requirements is crucial to ensuring family caregivers of veterans from all eras receive the support they deserve and need. We support the mandate on VA to research the association between toxic exposures and health effects among exposed veterans’ offspring.”–Joe Chenelly, Executive Director, AMVETS

“We’ve recognized that Congress is starting to respond to pressure from social media, so we are doing the best we can to optimize the impact each of our members has by enlisting them to assist in less traditional ways. While Twitter may not be used by most Vietnam veterans on a regular basis, our kids and our grandkids use it. Our families will be helped most by the Toxic Exposure Research provisions within the Veterans First Act, and we are glad to bring them into the fold so they can help us let the Senate know that we all deserve a vote.”–John Rowan, National President, Vietnam Veterans of America

“The VFW strongly supports passage of the Veterans First Act because it rightfully eliminates arbitrary eligibility requirements to ensure family caregivers of veterans from all eras receive the recognition and support they deserve. It requires the VA to research the association between toxic exposures and adverse health effects among the descendants of exposed veterans, and it makes urgently needed improvements to the choice program, which would ensure veterans who receive care from private sector doctors are not erroneously billed for that care.”–Robert E. Wallace, VFW Executive Director.

“The provision within the Veterans First Act that allows for the expansion of the Family Caregiver Program is a top priority for Paralyzed Veterans of America members. Caregivers are life-sustaining for veterans with a spinal cord or disease. They are the most critical component of our rehabilitation and eventual recovery, and their well-being directly impacts the quality of care provided to veterans. Caregivers for veterans of all wartimes should be provided with adequate benefits and resources, yet caregivers of pre-9/11 are made to bear the responsibility—and the toll it takes on their own personal and professional lives—alone. We urge the prompt passage of this legislation so that this inequity will finally be addressed.”– Sherman Gillums, Jr, Paralyzed Veterans of America Executive Director

“The American Legion stands with our sister Veteran Service Organizations to support the Veterans First Act. This bipartisan legislation has one third of the senate as cosponsors and will ensure that veterans have access to a Department of Veterans Affairs that maintains accountability, organized leadership, and parity of services for all generations of caregivers.”–Verna Davis, Executive Director, The American Legion

“DAV strongly supports Senate passage of the Veterans First Act, which would extend comprehensive caregiver support to veterans of all eras. The legislation would also increase veterans’ options for long-term care through medical foster homes; enhance VA’s efforts to recruit and retain the best and brightest medical professionals; reform claims and appeals processing by creating a fully developed appeals pilot program; and make dozens of other positive changes to improve the lives of the men and women who served. DAV looks forward to working together with leaders in both chambers of Congress, the VA, and other key stakeholders to enact comprehensive legislation to help keep the promise to all eras of America’s veterans.”–Garry J. Augustine, Executive Director, Disabled American Veterans

The Big 6 Veteran Service Organizations are asking their members, families, and supporters to join them during this campaign by using the hashtag #Vote4Vets1st in our Twitter Storm. The Veterans First Act is a bipartisan effort to improve accountability at the Department of Veterans Affairs, provide critical benefits to veterans in need, and improve existing programs. The veterans’ community deserves a vote on the Senate floor before Congress is dismissed for summer recess. In order for the Department of Veterans Affairs to fulfill Lincoln’s promise “to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow, and his orphan,” they must prioritize veterans over politics and pass the Veterans First Act.

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AFSP Honors White House Staffer Bess Evans for Exceptional Service



WASHINGTON (June 14, 2016) – Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the United States. The nation’s largest organization dedicated to saving lives and bringing hope to those affected by suicide, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention gave a Federal Award on Tuesday, June 14 at the Allies in Action Awards ceremony to White House staffer Bess Evans for her dedication to suicide prevention. Ms. Evans is the Associate Director and Senior Policy Advisor for the Office of Public Engagement & Domestic Policy Council. Ms. Evans lost a close college friend to suicide.

“We thank Ms. Evans for collaborating with organizations like AFSP, which has led to an important dialogue on how to advance suicide prevention,” said Bob Gebbia, AFSP CEO.

Through her own work in the White House, Bess has tirelessly promoted suicide prevention and mental health policies throughout the federal government, including the Affordable Care Act and efforts to ensure that people across the nation have health coverage for mental health and substance use disorders.

Ms. Evans has been working at the White House for over four years and rose from being a Senior Policy Advisor for Public Engagement in the Office of Science and Technology Policy to her current role. Prior to joining the White House, Evans worked for the Justice Department and also worked on President Obama’s campaign. Originally from Evanston, Illinois, Evans earned her bachelor’s degree from DePauw University in sociology and communications.

** Photos of the award being presented available upon request. **

For media requests: Alexis O’Brien, AFSP PR Director, 347-826-3577 or

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention is dedicated to saving lives and bringing hope to those affected by suicide. AFSP creates a culture that’s smart about mental health through education and community programs, develops suicide prevention through research and advocacy, and provides support for those affected by suicide. Led by CEO Robert Gebbia and headquartered in New York, and with a public policy office in Washington, D.C., AFSP has local chapters in all 50 states with programs and events nationwide. Learn more about AFSP in its latest Annual Report, and join the conversation on suicide prevention by following AFSP onFacebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.

Women Veterans ROCK! Hosts The Region’s First Women Veterans Summer Leadership Retreat

Women Veterans ROCK! Hosts The Region’s First Women Veterans Summer Leadership Retreat with our very own AMVETS Diane Zumatto on June 17-19, 2016

On June 17, 2016, The Women Veterans Summer Leadership Retreat will commence on the beautiful campus of Regent University in Virginia Beach, VA to Engage, Emerge and Empower America’s Women Veterans. This Workforce and Leadership Development Summer Retreat is dedicated to transforming the “Spirit of Military Service” into a post-military “Spirit of Civic, Community & Business Leadership.” The theme of this year’s summer leadership retreat is “Living A Higher Life.”

During the 2016 Women Veterans Summer Leadership Retreat, transitioning Military Women and Women Veterans will participate in exciting and interactive workshops uniquely designed and presented by the region’s leading women in: Military, Civic, Community, Business and Faith Leadership roles. Participants will engage in “How To” Workshops, Panel Discussions and Round Table Breakout Sessions to practice their new Advocacy, Public Speaking, Negotiating, Power Networking and Civic Leadership Skills.

The Women Veterans Summer Leadership Retreat features a dynamic and legendary collection of national women leaders. Kicking off the weekend is Paula White of Paula White Ministries who is an international teacher, author, evangelist, inspirational figure, and popular TV personality. Other legendary speakers include: Lee Brazzell, President of The National Association of Women Business Owners, Richmond; Verna Jones, Executive Director of The American Legion – who serves as its first female executive director and first African-American to serve in this role; Diane Zumatto, National Legislative Director of AMVETS; Krysta Jones, Founder & CEO of The Virginia Leadership Institute; Rev. Dr. Helen Stafford Fleming, Founder & Executive Director of the Women Veterans Resources Center of Washington, DC; Gloria Sinclair Miller, Board of Directors at the USO; and Deborah Harmon-Pugh, President of The Healthy Caregiver Community Foundation and National Campaign Chair of Women Veterans ROCK!

“The Women Veterans Summer Leadership Retreat is a stimulating, gender-specific, leadership development environment for today’s transitioning Women Veterans and Military Millennial Women, says Deborah Harmon-Pugh, National Campaign Chair.

The Women Veterans Summer Leadership Retreat will host 300+ Women Veterans, Active Duty Servicewomen, Reservist, National Guard, ROTC Cadets, Military Spouses, Military Moms, and Military Supporters from: PA, DE, NJ, NY, MD, DC, VA, WV, NC, SC, GA, FL. Women Veterans are key decision makers in military families. This is a great opportunity for area recruiters and resource fair vendors to reach women veterans.

This summer leadership weekend retreat is open to all military women. Participants must register online to attend at Please contact Angel Livas of DC Media Connection, for media inquiries.

# # #

About Women Veterans ROCK!
“Women Veterans ROCK!” is a Coalition of Women Veteran Organizations and Women Advocacy Organizations Supporting Women Veterans & Military Families. The Women Veterans ROCK! Advocacy Campaign is sponsored by The Healthy Caregiver Community Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit community organization headquartered in Philadelphia, PA. For more information,

Read more:

The White House Internship Program and the D.C. Scholars Program

For Immediate Release



Do you know leaders interested in interning at the White House for the Obama Administration?  Encourage them to apply today for the Fall 2016 White House Internship Program – the final internship opportunity in the Obama Administration.  This select group of young men and women from across the country dedicate their time, talents, energy, and service to better the White House, the community, and the nation.

Applicants must be U.S. citizens, 18 years of age or older before the first day of the internship, and meet at least one of the following criteria:

  • Currently enrolled in an undergraduate or graduate degree program at a college, community college, or university (two-to-four year institution)
  • Graduated from an undergraduate or graduate degree program at a college, community college, or university (two-to-four year institution) no more than two years before the first day of the internship
  • A veteran of the United States Armed Forces who possesses a high school diploma or its equivalent and has served on active duty, for any length of time, in the two years preceding the first day of the internship

Every summer since the start of the Obama Administration in 2009, graduating high school seniors from public and charter high schools in the District of Columbia have been invited to apply for a part-time summer internship opportunity at the White House through the D.C. Scholars Program at the White House.

Additional information on both programs, including eligibility requirements, application materials, and internship timelines are available on our website:

How can you help?

  • Promote the White House Internship Program at your alma mater.  Email internship_info@who.eop.govfor more information.
  • Encourage eligible applicants to apply before the deadline – the final intern application cycle in the Obama Administration!  The Fall 2016 White House Internship Program application cycle closes on Sunday, April 17, 2016 at 11:59 PM, EST and the application for the D.C. Scholars Program at the White House closes on Sunday, April 24, 2016 at 11:59 PM EST.  Application questions should be directed to intern_application@who.eop.govand
  • Distribute the attached flyers to potential applicants and other contacts who may be interested in the program.


Iran Nuclear Agreement

Hon. John A. Boehner
Speaker of the House
US House of Representatives
1011 Longworth HOB
Washington, D.C. 20515-3508

Hon. Nancy Pelosi
Minority Leader
US House of Representatives
233 Cannon HOB
Washington, D.C. 20515-0512

Hon. Mitch McConnell
Majority Leader
United States Senate
317 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510-1702

Hon. Harry Reid
Minority Leader
United States Senate
522 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510-2803

Dear Representatives Boehner & Pelosi and Senators McConnell & Reid:

On behalf of the 23 million American Veterans in this country, AMVETS, a leader since 1944 in preserving the freedoms secured by America’s armed forces and providing support for Veterans, Active Duty military, the National Guard/Reserves, their families and survivors, I would like to offer our staunchest opposition to the proposed Iran Nuclear Deal.

The most important reason that AMVETS opposes the Iran Nuclear Deal is because, as currently written, it does not adequately eradicate the threats to our national security or other vital interests of the United States.

Among the many concerns AMVETS has regarding the Iran nuclear agreement are the following provisions, that:

  • Iran gets to keep the majority of its nuclear infrastructure;
  • intercontinental ballistic missiles are NOT banned;
  • surprise inspections by outside entities are not permitted;
  • approved or not, Iran will still get $150 billion out of the nuclear deal;
  • the agreement allows Iran, and most importantly, only Iran to inspect itself;
  • the restrictions are short-term rather than permanent; and
  • Iran gets to continue conducting nuclear research

AMVETS is also greatly concerned that Iran, which historically has violated over 20 international agreements and is the leading state sponsor of terrorism, is simply not trustworthy.

Perhaps our biggest concern is the fact that Iran and the United States are not equals in the global scheme of things, so why are we allowing them so much power in these proceedings?

Finally, what are the tangible benefits to the U.S and out allies, especially, Israel? This agreement will actually enable Iran to become far more dangerous, render the Mideast still more unstable and introduce new threats to American interests as well as our allies.


Diane M. Zumatto
National Legislative Director

AMVETS, RAC Chairman Testify in Support of Gulf War Research Legislation

Washington, DC – AMVETS National Legislative Director Diane Zumatto testified regarding AMVETS’ strong support of H.R. 4261, Gulf War veterans’ Gulf War Health Research Reform Act, in a bill hearing of the U.S. House of Representatives Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations on March 25.

Also testifying in strong support of this restorative legislation was The Honorable James Binns, outgoing Chairman of the Congressionally chartered federal Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans’ Illnesses (RAC).

To further read the testimony and exhibits that were presented visit

AMVETS National Commander Testifies before Joint Hearing of Senate

VSOs share legislative priorities and concerns regarding veterans’ affairs

WASHINGTON, D.C. March 6, 2014 — On Thursday March 6, AMVETS National Commander John H. Mitchell, Jr. testified on behalf of the quarter of a million AMVETS members before a Joint Hearing of the Senate and House Committees on Veterans’ Affairs.

This annual event brings together the leaders of all of the major Veteran Service Organizations and allows those members of Congress directly responsible for Veterans’ Affairs to hear first-hand the issues of most concern to veterans. This year, Commander Mitchell addressed many of the critical issues that veterans face, especially the top AMVETS priorities for 2014.

Among AMVETS’ issues for 2014 include:

  • Veteran unemployment and discrimination – AMVETS is strongly pushing for passage of HR 2654 & S1281, the Veterans and Servicemembers Employment Rights and Housing Act of 2013, which would make it illegal, at the federal level, to discriminate against individuals based on their military or veteran status in the workplace. At least 12 states have enacted similar legislation at the state level. This comprehensive, nearly cost-neutral legislation would enhance veteran access and equity in all areas and it would provide legal recourse to veterans experiencing any form of discrimination;
  • VA accountability – Supporting a number of bills aimed at holding VA more accountable by modifying the currently antiquated and morbidly dysfunctional civil service system and ensuring that Inspector General recommendations concerning public health or patient safety issues are addressed; and,
  • Toxic Wounds and Gulf War Illness – AMVETS will be strenuously advocating for passage of legislation related to these long-overdue issues as well as other types of medical conditions caused by various toxic exposures.

“As we near the end of the longest, continuous military engagement in the history of this nation, come to grips with massive fiscal and economic uncertainty, and, as the VA continues to face growing demands, it is more important than ever that we recognize and honor the steadfast dedication of our men and women in uniform,” said AMVETS National Commander John H. Mitchell, Jr. “It is the sacred obligation of this body, on behalf of a grateful nation, to ensure that the promises made to those who have paid for the freedoms we enjoy every day, are kept.”

Some additional legislation issues that AMVETS is actively engaged on behalf of all veterans and servicemembers include:

  • The extension of advance appropriations to all VA discretionary and mandatory programs, services and benefits
  • The eradication of Military Sexual Trauma from all service branches
  • The creation of a culture of VA accountability
  • Elimination of the VA claims backlog

To see a more in-depth account of AMVETS’ legislative priorities presented to the Joint Senate and House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, you can visit For questions regarding this testimony or any of our legislative priorities, please contact AMVETS, National Legislative Director Diane Zumatto at or 301-683-4016.

A leader since 1944 in preserving the freedoms secured by America’s armed forces, AMVETS provides support for veterans and the active military in procuring their earned entitlements, as well as community service and legislative reform that enhances the quality of life for this nation’s citizens and veterans alike. AMVETS is one of the largest congressionally-chartered veterans’ service organizations in the United States, and includes members from each branch of the military, including the National Guard and Reserves. To learn more visit

Full Testimony

Read the Commander’s full testimony to the joint hearing of the Senate and House Committees on Veteran’s Affairs here.
» Download – Word file (81 KB)

2014 Legislative Priorities

Guided by our core imperatives, AMVETS seeks to enhance and defend the earned benefits of all Americans who have served honorably and selflessly in our Armed Forces.

» Download – PDF file (9.2 MB)


Anti-Discrimination Initiative

AMVETS is seeking protected status for all American veterans. Employment discrimination is the most important area in which veterans are at a disadvantage when compared to non-veterans.

» Download – PDF file (329 KB)

H.R. 3274 Fallen Heroes

The Honorable Rob Barber
U.S. House of Representatives
1029 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515-0302

Dear Congressman Barber:

On behalf of the quarter million members of AMVETS (American Veterans), a leader since 1944 in preserving the freedoms secured by America’s armed forces and providing support for veterans, active duty military, the National Guard/Reserves, their families and survivors, we heartily offer our support for HR 3274, Fallen Heroes and Families Assistance Act.

As a result of the current, deplorable lapse in federal appropriations, the Department of Defense (DoD) apparently does not have the legal authority to make death gratuity payments or provide burial benefits or travel expenses for funeral services or dignified transfers at Dover Air Force Base. As if the loss of a loved one is not painful enough, now our government is providing no assistance to grieving families. This one-two-punch, is not only completely unconscionable, it is unacceptable.

This much needed legislation prevents the shameful and dishonorable treatment of those who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country and their survivors by requiring the Department of Defense to acknowledge and fulfill the sacred obligation owed to every member of the Armed Forces, including the payout of:

  • Death gratuity benefits;
  • Monetary reimbursement for funeral expenses;
  • Payment of Survivor Basic Allowance for Housing (BHA);
  • Monetary reimbursement for funeral travel expenses; and
  • Monetary reimbursement for travel associated with dignified transfer.

The responsibility for this final recognition of the ultimate sacrifice of a member of our Armed Forces, on behalf of a grateful nation, belongs to the Department of Defense as noted above. We must not allow the tragic consequence of the current government shutdown to increase the burden placed upon the shoulders of the survivors of our fallen heroes. If even one American Veteran is disrespectfully treated or his/her survivors deprived of benefits, then that is one veteran or family too many.

AMVETS thanks you for introducing this important piece of legislation and for all you do in support of American Veterans.


Diane M. Zumatto
AMVETS National Legislative Director
301-683-4016 /

Guidance for Implementation of Pay Our Military Act

SUBJECT: Guidance for Implementation of Pay Our Military Act

Appropriations provided under the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, 2013 (P.L. 113-6) expired at midnight on Monday, September 30, 2013. Hours before that occurred, the Congress passed and the President signed the Pay Our Military Act. That Act provides appropriations for specified purposes while interim or full-year appropriations for fiscal year 2014 are not in effect, as is currently the case.

First, the Act appropriated such sums as are necessary to provide pay and allowances to members of the Armed Forces, “including reserve components thereof, o perform active service during such period [.].” This provision provides the Department with the funds necessary to pay our military members (including Reserve Component members) on active duty or full-time National Guard duty under Title 32, U.S. Code.

Second, the Act appropriated such sums as are necessary to provide pay and allowances to contractors of DoD who the Secretary determines are providing support to members of the Armed Forces in active service. The Department’s lawyers are analyzing what authority is provided by this provision.

Third, the Act appropriated such sums as are necessary to provide pay and allowances to the civilian personnel of the Department of Defense “whom the Secretary … determines are providing support to members of the Armed Forces” performing active service during such period. The term “pay and allowances” includes annual leave and sick leave.

This Memorandum provides instructions for identifying those civilian personnel within the Department who “are providing support to members of the Armed Forces” within the meaning of the Act. The responsibility for determining which employees fall within the scope of this statute resides with the Military Department Secretaries and Heads of other DoD Components, who may delegate this authority in writing. This guidance must be used in identifying these employees. The guidance does not identify every activity performed by DoD’s large civilian workforce, but rather it provides overarching direction and general principles for making these determinations. It should be applied prudently, and in a manner that promotes consistency across the Department.

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