AMVETS in Action

Category: Legislative

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 http://www.91outcomes.com/2014/03/amvets-rac-chairman-testify-in-support.html

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 www.AMVETS.org. For questions regarding this testimony or any of our legislative priorities, please contact AMVETS, National Legislative Director Diane Zumatto at dzumatto@amvets.org or 301-683-4016.

About AMVETS
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 www.amvets.org.


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.

Sincerely,

Diane M. Zumatto
AMVETS National Legislative Director
301-683-4016 / dzumatto@amvets.org

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.

» Download the full memorandum

Shinseki’s critics will eat their words

There is nearly universal agreement that too many American veterans are made to languish unnecessarily under the current Department of Veterans Affairs claims backlog. For many months, often years, our servicemen and women patiently wait to receive their hard-earned benefits, held up by a notoriously burdensome and antiquated government bureaucracy, which has only worsened as more than 2.5 million troops return from overseas service in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Some critics have even called for the resignation of VA Secretary Eric K. Shinseki. While justified in their outrage, their demands for the Secretary’s job are wrongheaded and would only make matters worse.

First, consider that many improvements have already been made. Knowing the backlog would rise, Shinseki had the leadership and moral courage to increase access for more veterans. His righteous decisions on presumptive conditions for Agent Orange, Gulf War Syndrome, PTSD and other issues ensured more than a million new veterans would receive the care and benefits they earned.

Second, Shinseki has a vision to end the backlog, a new electronic claims system. He has boldly staked his professional reputation and his career on a firm deadline for success by 2015. Few Washington officials, elected, appointed or otherwise, would so courageously set their objectives in stone, leaving no path for egress should they fail, yet the VA Secretary has done just that. He is committed.

Third, ask who would replace Secretary Shinseki if he were removed in disgrace. Five men have served as VA secretary since 9/11, an astounding turnover that, in and of itself, suggests that part of the problem at VA may be a lack of continuity among its senior leadership. How many months, or even years, would a new VA secretary require to fully gain control of the second largest U.S. government department behind the Department of Defense? Shinseki’s removal would certainly be a blow to all his initiatives, including his vision for ending the backlog by 2015.

Finally, consider that on June 12, VA Compensation Service Director Thomas Murphy declared, “We are at a tipping point,” as the total number of pending claims dropped by 44,000 in the previous 45 days. Backlogged claims, those pending more than 125 days, dropped by 74,000 in the same period, as reported by the Military Times’ Rick Maze. This trend indicates the Secretary’s goal of ending the backlog by 2015 is, in fact, attainable.

Clearly, the answer to the VA backlog isn’t to cut its leadership at the knees and end the career of the most capable man to take VA’s helm in years, a man House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller (Fla.), a Republican, called “an honorable, trustworthy gentleman.” Not one reputable veterans service organization has advocated such a shortsighted and ill-advised action. Rather, allow this proven leader with both the talent and wherewithal to effectively transform VA to realize his well-articulated vision. Secretary Shinseki has a plan and those in the know, including AMVETS’ leadership, believe he will successfully navigate VA through this storm, and chart a course that will serve America’s veterans for generations to come.

AmVets Announces Support For Shinseki, Rejects Calls To Resign

Executive director praises VA leader’s vision, endorses plans for new processing system   

WASHINGTON, March 22, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — In the wake of calls from a few vocal critics in the media and veterans’ community for Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric K. Shinseki to resign, AMVETS National Executive Director Stewart Hickey today announced his organization’s support for the VA leader’s continuation in his post.

Hickey argued only Shinseki, a man with a proven record as a transformational leader, with a clear and well-articulated vision for improving the VA claims backlog, is capable of successfully leading VA through the necessary planned changes that will make services and benefits more readily available to those veterans who have earned them.

“There is a reason major veterans service organizations, including AMVETS, are standing with Secretary Shinseki,” said Hickey. “It’s because we’re working alongside VA to connect thousands of veterans with their benefits each year, and we understand the organizational challenges VA faces. We know the Secretary is on the right path, prioritizing older and more complex claims, and instituting a new electronic processing system.”

Hickey also lauded Shinseki for adding more than a million veterans to VA’s rolls for care and benefits through his decisions on presumptive conditions associated with Agent Orange, Gulf War Syndrome and PTSD.

“The Secretary’s call to serve more veterans despite the existing backlog challenge was nothing short of courageous,” said Hickey. “We need this leader who has consistently made the right calls to advocate for the veterans who depend on their government’s assistance. Instead of calling for Secretary Shinseki’s resignation, those wanting change should urge Congress to adopt the recommendations of The Independent Budget, and guarantee sufficient, timely and predictable funding for VA.”

About AMVETS:

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 Reserve. To learn more, visit www.amvets.org.

Media contacts: David Gai, dgai@amvets.org, (301) 683-4035

Veterans Retraining Assistance Program (VRAP)

Last fall, Congress passed, and the President signed into law, the VOW to Hire Heroes Act of 2011 in order to help veterans find jobs.  The VOW to Hire Heroes Act of 2011 is now being implemented, and with that, unemployed veterans ages 35-60 can apply for retraining under the Montgomery GI Bill for in-demand jobs.

Included in this new law is the Veterans Retraining Assistance Program (VRAP). VRAP offers up to 12 months of training assistance to unemployed Veterans. The Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) and the Department of Labor (DOL) are working together to roll out this new program on July 1, 2012.
The VRAP offers 12 months of training assistance to veterans who:
  • Are at least 35 but no more than 60 years old;
  • Are unemployed (The Department of Labor defines “unemployed” as “People who are jobless, looking for jobs, and available for work.”  All three criteria must be met to be considered unemployed);
  • Received an other than dishonorable discharge;
  • Are not be eligible for any other VA education benefit program (e.g.: the Post-9/11 GI Bill, Montgomery GI Bill, Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Assistance);
  • Are not in receipt of VA compensation due to unemployability; and
  • Are not enrolled in a federal or state job training program
The program is limited to 45,000 participants from July 1, 2012, through September 30, 2012, and 54,000 participants from October 1, 2012, through March 31, 2014.
Participants may receive up to 12 months of assistance equal to the monthly full-time payment rate under the Montgomery GI Bill–Active Duty program (currently $1,473 per month). DOL will offer employment assistance to every Veteran who participates upon completion of the program.
Participants must be enrolled in a VA approved program of education offered by a community college or technical school. The program must lead to an Associate Degree, non-college degree, or a certificate, and train the veteran for a high demand occupation.  To learn more about the program, eligibility, and important dates, please click here.  Be sure to spread the word to other veterans!

It's Resolution Time

It’s Resolution Time

If your AMVETS Department has any resolutions they would like to submit for consideration, now is the time to act. If there’s an issue that you feel needs to be brought before the membership in August, you’ll need to draft a resolution and forward it to AMVETS National Headquarters no later than June 29, 2012.

Unfortunately, resolutions submitted after that date will not be eligible for consideration at this year’s conference and will be held for the following year.  If you have any questions please email Diane Zumatto, National Legislative Director, at dzumatto@amvets.org.

From the Blog: This Week on Capitol Hill

LANHAM, Md., May 9, 2012 Today is a big day for the House Armed Services Committee as the full committee comes together to consider Chairman Buck McKeon’s FY 2013 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA); also known as HR 4310.  At $554 billion, approximately $4 billion above the Pentagon’s request, and  with some contentious provisions (outlined below) the committee will have its work cut out for them .

Read Full Story at AMERICANVETERANMAGAZINE.BLOGSPOT.COM