TREA: The ENLISTED ASSN
NEWS FOR THE ENLISTED
FOR SEPTEMBER 14, 2012
Congress is back. And the fur is already flying. On Tuesday Washington (and the rest of the country) stopped to remember the 9/11 attacks. On Thursday Washington stopped to remember Neil Armstrong. And 50 Marines have been sent to Libya to protect our diplomats. It has been a very somber week.
We hope next week will be much happier and that many of you will join us at TREA’s National Convention in Jacksonville Florida. It is at the Hyatt Regency Jacksonville and it is still not too late to decide to come.) We will have plenty time to talk about what is happening in Washington and hear your concerns. HOPE TO SEE YOU IN JACKSONVILLE
We do not expect to put out an Update unless something important occurs. If something does we will, of course, write it up and send it out to you.
1) SVAC Passes New Omnibus Bill For Veterans
The Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Wednesday passed an omnibus bill that would, among other things, allow veterans who had become infertile due to battlefield injuries to receive fertility treatment from the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA). Also included in the measure was an amendment that would provide veteran ID cards to ALL veterans, regardless of whether they receive care from the VA or not.
The bill, S. 3457, sponsored by Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chair Patty Murray (D-WA), authorizes the Department of Veterans Affairs to cover the cost of in vitro fertilization and other advanced reproductive technologies for veterans and their spouses.
According to Pentagon figures released by Murray's office more than 1,830 veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have suffered pelvic or genital injuries since 2003 that could affect their ability to reproduce.
Ranking Member Richard Burr (R-NC) successfully introduced amendments allowing VA to provide adoption assistance to veterans with infertility conditions incurred in combat and to require the VA to report annually the number of veterans receiving treatment and the cost of that treatment.
Burr also had a proposed amendment to S.3340, a veterans’ mental health bill, fail on an 8-7 party-line vote that would pay veterans to go to all of their mental health counseling and appointments.
Burr’s amendment would have created a three-year pilot program in four of VA’s 22 regions. Veterans who attend all of their VA-prescribed mental health counseling and treatment would get a stipend as long as they keep their appointments, and would continue to be paid when treatment is over if they remain disabled. The stipend would be determined by VA.
Chairman Murray opposed Burr’s amendment, saying she had “a great deal of trouble with the implication that veterans would fake symptoms or actively seek to remain injured in order to game the system and receive more compensation.”
She also made the point, echoed by Senator Mark Begich (D-AK) that Burr's proposal would not resolve a problem that comes from not having enough mental health professionals to treat veterans.
TREA will keep you updated on any developments to this bill.
Yesterday, TREA’s Washington Office Executive Director Deirdre Parke Holleman and Legislative Director Larry Madison met with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and several other House Democratic Leaders to discuss legislation important to veterans and military personnel. Pelosi has held regular meetings with veterans groups since she first became Minority Leader several years ago and they continue through her term as Speaker of the House and now, again, with her position as Minority Leader.
One of the main topics of discussion was the looming sequester (budget cuts agreed upon by both parties earlier this year) and concern about whether some veterans benefits and services could be cut if the sequester goes into effect. Unfortunately, no guarantees were given that come cuts to the VA budget would not happen.
Congressman Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, who is the top Democrat on the House Budget Committee, explained that the main concern about the sequester was the large cuts that will affect the defense budget. He said that the Democrats had proposed an alternative budget to replace the sequester budget, but it contained provisions that would increase taxes and the Republican leadership in the House refuses to consider tax increases.
Instead of tax increases the Republican would reduce the defense cuts and instead cut other parts of the federal budget even more than are now scheduled to take place. Van Hollen said his party has already agreed to budget cuts as contained in the sequester budget and they’ve agreed to additional cuts in their proposed replacement budget. However, they will not agree to balancing the budget only through budget cuts.
And so the finger pointing goes on and Congress is still deadlocked. Perhaps the election will help solve this problem. But then again, perhaps not.
The House of Representatives on Wednesday passed the Stolen Valor Act of 2011 (H.R. 1775) which makes it a crime to knowingly benefit from lies about receiving military awards. The bill, introduced by Congressman Joe Heck ( R-NV) in May of last year, makes a key change to the Stolen Valor Act of 2005 which was ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court on the grounds that it infringed upon free speech rights. Rep. Heck's bill, which unanimously passed the House Judiciary Committee on August 1, will withstand constitutional scrutiny because the legislation narrowly focuses on those who seek to benefit from their misrepresentations of receiving military awards - not the lie itself. Having passed the House, the bill now moves to the Senate for consideration where Senator Scott Brown's (R-MA) companion bill has bipartisan support. Rep. Heck's Stolen Valor Act of 2011 passed the House by a vote of 410 to 3.
"The need to protect the honor, service, and sacrifice of our veterans and military personnel is as strong today as it has ever been. Our service men and women who have been decorated - some of them posthumously - for their exemplary service and heroic sacrifice defending our nation and the freedoms we enjoy as Americans deserve the valor they displayed to be defended against those who would seek to benefit from lying about military decorations," Rep. Heck said. "The Stolen Valor Act of 2011 achieves this objective while ensuring we protect the constitutional liberties for which they fought. I urge the Senate to follow the strong bipartisan example set by the House and bring this bill to the floor for a vote."
Background on the Stolen Valor Act of 2011:
• The bill, as amended and passed by the House Judiciary Committee on August 1, 2012, exempts individuals who wear military medals or decorations that do not belong to them from penalties outlined in the bill. This was due to concerns raised in the United States v. Alvarez decision in which the SCOTUS stated that simply wearing medals was considered free speech.
• The new text enforces penalties against individuals who, with the intent to obtain money, property or anything of value, fraudulently hold themselves out to be recipients of a military decoration or medal.
• Under the bill, punishments against such individuals would include fines or imprisonment of no more than a year, or both. Previous text had higher crimes for Congressional Medal of Honor, Special operations service, and service in a Combat Zone. The new text makes the punishment uniform.
Twenty veterans were part of the United States Paralympic Team that just finished competing in London on Sunday. These members returned with 12 medals. (The United States finished 6 in the overall medal count, down from 3rd 4 years ago.) They were part of the VA’s Paralympic Program that was established in 2010 Chairman of the House VA Committee Representative Jeff Miller (R-Fl) congratulated them on Thursday saying:
“ I could not be more proud of the veterans who represented the United States at the London Paralympics. These men and women, who once wore our nation’s uniform, donned a new uniform this summer. Tonight, our veterans return home to the hero’s welcome they deserve.
“The VA-U.S. Paralympic Program was established in 2010 to help wounded warriors recover from their injuries through adaptive sport. The success of this program is in the numbers: 16,000 have participated at the community level at hundreds of locations as part of the rehabilitation process. This program also has given our warriors the chance to go for the gold with 20 veterans making the 2012 team, bringing home 12 medals. But more important, the program has given these heroes the opportunity to play sports with their children and friends again.
“The world saw firsthand what willpower, courage, and ability, not disability, can do not only for the body, but the spirit. ‘Pursue success’ is the advice gold medalist and closing U.S. flag-bearer, Navy Lt. Brad Synder, who was blinded in an IED explosion in Afghanistan one year ago, gave us in London. That is true wounded or not, and America’s wounded warriors have set an example for us all to follow.”
The Department of Defense is planning to observe National Hispanic Heritage Month by focuising on the contributions Hispanic Americans have made to the U.S. military. The Month long observance runs from September 15-October 15. (Yes, that does seem a bit unusual.)
In 2011 Hispanic Americans (who according to the latest census figures are the largest minority group in the United States) made 11% of the active duty force and 17% of last year’s recruits.
To find out what events are being planned throughout the federal government go to http://hispanicheritagemonth.gov
Below please find a press release from the National Park Service asking for help. If you are interested please go to nationalmall.org/volunteer. The Mall has been being worked on for well over a year and it looks great.
September 10, 2012
Trust for the National Mall and National Park Service Seek New Recruits for Volunteers-in-Parks Program
WASHINGTON (September 10, 2012) — The Trust for the National Mall and the National Park Service (NPS) are seeking applicants for the Volunteers-in-Parks (VIP) program, which enlists volunteers to assist and educate visitors on the National Mall.
The program is part of the Trust and NPS’s mission to connect visitors to the National Mall's rich history and develop engaging programs and events that will educate and inspire current and future generations.
“The National Mall is home to the history, heroes and hope of America,” said Caroline Cunningham, President of the Trust for the National Mall. “VIPs bring American history to life and play a crucial role in creating a more engaging and educational visitor experience.”
VIPs are stationed throughout the National Mall giving interactive educational tours, engaging visitors, and assisting the public with general inquiries, information and directions. They have the opportunity to work directly with NPS personnel and receive training on National Mall history, the Trust for the National Mall, tour management, National Mall attractions, and the local flora and fauna.
“Our VIPs truly are ‘Very Important People,’” said Jenn Kaye, Acting Volunteer Program Manager, National Mall and Memorial Parks. “They provide the Park Service with much-needed support and their enthusiasm and dedication helps make the National Mall a better place for its 25 million annual visitors.”
The Trust and NPS are looking for volunteers who are at least 21 years of age, available for a minimum of two days per month in whole or half-day increments, and interested in a long-term commitment. Applicants should have teaching, docent, or public speaking experience and an interest in or knowledge of American history and Washington, DC.
For more information about the Volunteers-in-Parks program, or to apply, visit nationalmall.org/volunteer.
The Trust for the National Mall is the official non-profit partner of the National Park Service dedicated to restoring and improving the National Mall, while providing new educational and volunteer opportunities that connect the park’s 25 million annual visitors to the Mall’s rich history. For more information on the Trust for the National Mall, please visit www.nationalmall.org
If you need to change the email address that receives the Legislative Update, go to: http://www.capwiz.com/trea/mlm/verify/
At the bottom of the page, enter the email address that currently receives the update, verify who you are, and change your email address. If you have any problems email email@example.com
Continue to send emails to your Senators and Representatives about the bills that are of interest to you. Remember we have prepared emails available for you.
If you do not receive the Legislative Update delivered to your email box, click the above link, and sign up!
Don’t forget to "Tell A Friend” about our Legislative Updates, GoodSearch & GoodShop.