Friday, November 4, 2011

Pending Legislation in Congress (Full Version)

807 Maine Ave., SW ■ Washington, D.C. 20024-2410 ■ Phone (202) 554-3501 ■ Fax (202) 554-3581 
October 2011 

Uncertainty for VA Programs as Federal Budget and Deficit Debates Remain Unresolved
On October 5, 2011, President Obama signed a short-term continuing resolution to keep
the federal government operating until November 18, at which time a new funding measure will
have to be adopted.  By November 23, less than one week later, the congressional Joint Select
Committee on Deficit Reduction (often referred to as the “Super Committee”), must make its
recommendations to the House and Senate about how to reduce the national debt by at least $1.2
trillion over the next ten years.  This Joint Committee was established in August with passage of
the Budget Control Act of 2011 (Public Law 112-25), which also enacted spending caps to
reduce future spending by almost $1 trillion over ten years as part of a deal that allowed the
federal debt ceiling to be raised.  

After the Super Committee makes its recommendations, Congress must vote within one
month (by December 23) on legislation to either accept or reject these recommendations to
reduce the long-term debt of the United States.  If such legislation is approved by Congress, the
President must then either enact or veto the legislation.  If no debt reduction legislation is
enacted through this process, then the enforcement mechanisms contained in Public Law 112-25
would trigger automatic across-the-board cuts resulting in an additional $1.2 trillion reduction in
federal spending over the next ten years.  

As we consider how these budget and deficit showdowns may affect veterans and the
Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), it is important to remember that the VA health care
system is already funded for the current fiscal year that began on October 1, thanks to the
advance appropriations process that we fought so hard to enact a couple years ago.  As a result,
veterans seeking medical care through the VA health care system should be at little risk of
having their treatment interrupted or disrupted even if there is any type of government shutdown
this year.  

But while VA health care operations and personnel are funded for the balance of this
fiscal year through next September 30, there still remain tens of thousands of VA personnel,
including benefit claims processors, vocational rehabilitation counselors, and employment
specialists, who could face work disruptions if Congress is unable to secure a longer term
agreement on the budget or deficit reduction.  Veterans, survivors or dependents who receive
mandatory federal benefit payments, such as disability compensation, can expect to continue
receiving these benefits even in the event of a government shutdown, although there is some
possibility that payments could be delayed, especially with respect to new claims.  

Moreover, based on our interpretation of the Public Law 112-25 and prior budget laws,
and after consultation with outside budget experts, it appears that VA health care and benefit
programs would be exempt from any automatic budget cuts, including those mandated by a
process called sequestration.  However, it is important to note that VA programs would not be exempt from the Super Committee process itself, should it recommend cuts to VA programs,
services or benefits.  For this reason, we are working closely with both the House and Senate
Veterans’ Affairs Committees as they consider making recommendations to the “Super”
Committee later this month.  We are also reaching directly to Members of the “Super”
Committee and other congressional leaders to ensure that any legislation being considered to
reduce spending or the deficit does not attempt to balance the budget on the backs of America’s
veterans, especially disabled veterans.

Legislation Passed in the House 

On Tuesday, October 11, 2011, the House of Representatives passed four veterans bills.
The House passed the amended bill, H.R. 2074, by voice vote.  The bill requires the VA to report
and track sexual assaults at its medical facilities and train employees on security issues relating
to such assaults.  Additionally, the bill requires that the VA outline consistent procedures for
investigating sexual assault and safety incidents and create clinical guidance for treating sexual
assaults reported more than 72 hours after the incident.

H.R. 2349, as amended, requires the VA to carry out a pilot program to assess the skills
and training provided to claims processors at the Veterans Benefits Administration. The bill also
allows those found by VA to be “mentally incapacitated, deemed mentally incompetent or
experiencing an extended loss of consciousness” to purchase or transport firearms, unless a
judicial authority determines the people are a danger to themselves or others.

H.R. 2302, as amended, directs the VA secretary to notify Congress of conferences
sponsored by the department.

H.R. 1025, provides honorary veteran status to individuals who served at least 20 years in
the reserves, are younger than 60 and were never called to active duty.

On Wednesday, October 12, 2011, the House voted on and passed H.R. 2433, which
offers college training to unemployed veterans.  The legislation allows 100,000 unemployed
veterans ages 35 through 60 to apply for benefits through the Department of Labor. Eligible
veterans could choose to enhance their skills with up to a year of training for high-demand fields
such as technology and health care.  

 These bills will now go to the Senate for its consideration.

Pending Legislation

H.R. 2148, to amend title 10, United States Code, to extend military commissary and
exchange store privileges to veterans with a compensable service-connected disability and to
their dependents.

H.R. 2318, to amend title 38, United States Code, to authorize the Secretary of Veterans
Affairs to increase the amount of the Medal of Honor special pension provided under that title by
up to $500.

H.R. 2424, to amend the Small Business Act to ensure that certain federal contracts are
set aside for small businesses, to enhance services to small businesses that are disadvantaged,
and for other purposes.

H.R. 2433, to amend title 38, United States Code, to make certain improvements in the
laws relating to the employment and training of veterans, and for other purposes.

H.R. 2530, to amend title 38, United States Code, to provide for increased flexibility in
establishing rates for reimbursement of State homes by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs for
nursing home care provided to veterans.

H.R. 2534, to provide that the public debt limit shall not affect timely payment of certain
Social Security, public debt, defense, veterans, and Medicare obligations.

H.R. 2559, to amend title 38, United States Code, to make certain improvements in the
laws administered by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs relating to homeless veterans, and for
other purposes.

H.R. 2590, to ensure that seniors, veterans, and people with disabilities who receive
Social Security and certain other federal benefits, as well as federal, state, and local government
retirees, receive a one-time $250 payment due to there being no cost-of-living adjustment in

H.R. 2646, to authorize certain Department of Veterans Affairs major medical facility
projects and leases, to extend certain expiring provisions of law, and to modify certain authorities
of the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, and for other purposes.

H.R. 2711, to provide relief payments for non-COLA years to recipients of Social
Security, supplemental security income, railroad retirement benefits, and veterans disability
compensation or pension benefits.

H.R. 2875, to amend title 38, United States Code, to provide for the reemployment of
certain persons following absences from a position of employment for the purpose of obtaining
medical treatment for certain injuries and illnesses, and for other purposes.

H.R. 2996, to amend title 38, United States Code, to extend the period of time in which
the Secretary of Veterans Affairs presumes the service connection of certain disabilities of
veterans who served in the Persian Gulf War, Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi
Freedom or Operation New Dawn, and for other purposes.

H.R. 3016, to direct the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to
jointly operate the Federal Recovery Coordination Program, and for other purposes.

H. Res. 376, calling for the repatriation of POW/MIAs and abductees from the Korean

S. 1154, to require transparency for Executive departments in meeting the governmentwide goals for contracting with small business concerns owned and controlled by servicedisabled veterans, and for other purposes.

S. 1172, to amend title 38, United States Code, to improve the efficiency of the appeals
process under the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims by improving staff
conferences directed by such Court, and for other purposes.

S. 1184, to amend title 38, United States Code, to revise the enforcement penalties for
misrepresentation of a business concern as a small business concern owned and controlled by
veterans or as a small business concern owned and controlled by service-disabled veterans, and
for other purposes.

S. 1334, to amend the Small Business Act to ensure that certain federal contracts are set
aside for small businesses, to enhance services to small businesses that are disadvantaged, and
for other purposes.

S. 1391, to amend title 38, United States Code, to improve the disability compensation
evaluation procedure of the Secretary of Veterans Affairs for veterans with post-traumatic stress
disorder or mental health conditions related to military sexual trauma, and for other purposes.
S. 1474, to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to provide for a deduction for
travel expenses to medical centers of the Department of Veterans Affairs in connection with
examinations or treatments relating to service-connected disabilities.

H.R. 2309, the Postal Reform Act of 2011

On June 23, 2011, Representative Darrell Issa (R-CA) introduced H.R. 2309, the Postal
Reform Act of 2011.  The bill was approved by the Subcommittee on Workforce, U.S. Postal
Service and Labor Policy on September 21.

Direct mail is DAV’s largest source of fundraising.  With the proposed 10 percent
increase per year over six years, our postal expense would almost double. This dramatic increase
in one expense category would require DAV to eliminate some portions of our fundraising mail.
Further, we would have to significantly reduce the amount of first class stamps we buy and affix
to our return envelopes. Naturally, this would greatly reduce the percentage of response and
number of donations we receive.

Specifically, Section 403 would cripple DAV’s fundraising effort by drastically reducing
our direct mail program, which in turn would reduce contributions and directly impact the level
of service DAV would be able to provide to disabled veterans. During times of economic
uncertainty, charities struggle to meet ever-growing needs. Disabled veterans are
disproportionately impacted by unemployment – especially those just returning from the
battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan, many of whom have endured multiple combat tours. They
and veterans from all generations are our nation’s heroes, deserving the finest services and
advocacy our nation can provide.

 Please send the prepared e-mail from our website,
http://capwiz.com/dav/issues/alert/?alertid=53979501, if you have not already done so, asking
your Representative to vote “no” on H.R. 2309 if Section 403 is not removed.

 All DAV testimony can be read in full on our DAV website, at:

 On July 11, 2011, DAV submitted testimony for the record to the House Veterans'
Affairs Subcommittee on Health discussing our organization’s concerns with and providing
recommended changes to VA’s proposed interim final rule to implement title I of the Caregivers
and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act of 2010, Public Law 111-163.  

 On July 15, 2011, DAV submitted testimony for the record to the House Veterans'
Affairs Committee concerning H.R. 2433—the Veterans Opportunity to Work Act of 2011, H.R.
1941—the Hiring Heroes Act of 2011, and H.R. 169—a bill to require VA to create a hyperlink
to the VetSuccess website on its own website.

On July 20, 2011, DAV testified before the House Veterans' Affairs Subcommittee on
Oversight and Investigations on three legislative measures:  H.R. 2243—the Veterans
Employment Promotion Act, H.R. 2383—the Modernizing Notice to Claimants Act, and H.R.
2388—the Access to Timely Information Act.  

 On July 25, 2011, DAV testified on several health-related measures before the House
Veterans' Affairs Subcommittee on Health including: H.R. 198, H.R. 1154—the Veterans Equal
Treatment for Service Dogs Act, H.R. 1855—the Veterans Traumatic Brain Injury Rehabilitation
Service’ Improvements Act of 2011, H.R. 2074—the Veterans Sexual Assault Prevention Act,
and H.R. 2530—a bill on reimbursement rates for State Veterans Homes and two draft measures
related to spina bifida and VA capital infrastructure issues.

New Web Content Weekly

 Beginning in October 2011, the DAV legislative staff will be adding content weekly on
subjects of interest to members.  Some will require action from our DAV Commander’s Action
Network (CAN) and others will be used to keep you informed of progress on various issues
before Congress and the Administration.  Please check http://capwiz.com/dav/home/ regularly to
stay informed on legislative actions.

Women Veteran Surveys 

On July 15-17, 2011, over 700 women veterans and VA Women Veterans Program
Managers gathered in Washington, D.C. for the National Training Summit on Women Veterans.
DAV was a proud co-sponsor of this special event.  During the opening session of the Summit
VA Secretary Shinseki addressed the participants and made a call-to-action to help improve the
services provided by VA to our nation’s women veterans.  The Secretary asked for all women
veterans to provide him one or two key issues that need to be addressed immediately.  During the
Women Veterans Seminar at DAV’s National Convention in New Orleans, we asked women 6
attending to complete a brief informal survey to share with VA.  The completed surveys have
been turned over to the VA for review.  We will report the results when they are provided to us.


To ensure the successful enactment of the legislation that we support, our DAV and
Auxiliary members must become active members of DAV’s grassroots – DAV CAN — and all
of us must do our part to let our elected officials know about our support for legislation that
builds better lives for our nation’s service-disabled veterans, their families and their survivors.
Please make a pledge to redouble your efforts to communicate our concerns to your elected
officials.  This is a key to our success.

National Legislative Director

No comments:

Post a Comment