The American Legion Washington DC Office *HOT ISSUES*

May 16, 2013 – ISSUES–

VA Medical Leases

The VA&R and Legislative division are working together on a Legislative Grassroots message regarding Senate Bill 412.  The bill was to reauthorize medical leases for the 26 clinics that are expiring this year.   In the bill’s current form, it does not address the Congressional Budget Office change to their scoring methodology that required VA to submit their funding requests for leases as capital rather than operational.   The original cost to renew these leases were $18 million and under the change to scoring, VA would be required to pay for the 20 year facility cost upfront at a cost of $2.5 billion.  Because of the scoring change, these leases are in jeopardy of expiring as well as any future expansion of
Community Based Outpatient Clinics will be affected.   The Spring NEC approved Resolution 24 – Congressional Budget Office Scoring of VA Medical Center facilities two weeks ago and VA&R and the Legislative division are crafting a statement for a Legislative Action Network update to all Legion departments.  Additionally, staff is working with Congress and the local media on the implications of these leases expiring and the
increased travel veterans will face in driving to VA Medical Centers.

ACTIONS –

  • Hosted a briefing from Department of Justice representatives on consumer fraud and how VSO’s can help protect Veterans from becoming victims.
  • Staff met with Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims Judge and PNC Al Lance, Judge Robert Davis and Mary Hagy, CEO of cWyze, Inc. to discuss improved outreach and mentoring to Veterans seeking to start their own business.
  • Staff attended a briefing by the War Related Illness and Injury Study Center (WRIISC) that provided an update on research and programs addressing TBI and PTSD treatment.
  • Staff will be meeting with Paul Fain, Senior Reporter, Inside Higher Education, to discuss higher education policies, legislation, and begin identifying panel members and participants for The American Legion’s National Convention upcoming Education Roundtable.
  • Staff will be briefing the National Press Club American Legion Post 20, Washington, DC on the Legion’s national legislative priorities and how the national office operates.

Background: American Legion Post 20 was founded at the National Press Club on November 11, 1919, one year after the signing of the armistice which ended the First World War. The Post also was called the Pershing Post or the Black Jack Post in honor of General John J. Pershing. Pershing, who had served as commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force was an associate member of the Club, in his capacity as Chief of Staff of the War Department, then in retirement. The Post has been an active part of the National Press Club since its founding. One of its best known projects was the sponsorship of the World War II canteen at the Club. Enlisted men from the Allied Forces were entertained at the Club on Saturday afternoons and Post members served drinks and hotdogs to all. Today, American Legion Post 20 hosts regular programs at the Club.

Staff is participating in a working group at the Department of Energy with representatives from NIBS (National Institute of Building Sciences), GSA, FEMP, and some veterans credentialing experts to discuss how the various pieces of our workforce efforts fit together: the national commercial workforce certifications with NIBS, the EE Hub Competency Model, the Federal Building Personnel Training Act, and the Veterans Skills to Jobs Act.

  • Staff will meet with Phillip Trigg, Vice President of Vet Transition Forum – an organization dedicated to providing veteran Entrepreneurial Training and Franchise start-up. The organization operates out of the George Mason University Enterprise Center, where they provide entrepreneurial training to veterans. The Economic Division will discuss ways we can assist each other in
    programmatic outreach and perhaps work together in the future.
  • Staff attended the VET-Force meeting held at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to hear updates on the state of VA’s Vet First Program, VA’s National Veterans Small Business Conference, and SBA’s progress on the Boots to Business Entrepreneurial pilot program in compliance with the VOW Act, along with their progress in finding ways to increase access to capital for veterans.
  • Staff participated in a conference call with Sen. Murray’s (WA) staff to discuss support for the HAVEN Act. If enacted the HAVEN Act would establish a pilot program to authorize the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to make grants to nonprofit organizations to rehabilitate and modify homes for disabled and low-income veterans.
  • Staff met with Senators Reed (RI) and Johanns (NE) staff to discuss support for the HAVEN Act.
  • Staff spoke with Representative Green (TX) staff to discuss HAVEN Act. Rep. Green reintroduced this bill in the 113th Congress – we discussed co-sponsorship and strategizing on how to get the bill through the House.
  • Staff will be meeting with Senator Sanders staff to discuss HAVEN Act.
  • Planning continues for Job Fairs in Michigan, North Carolina, Oregon, and Washington.
  • Staff met with Senator Hatch’s office to discuss his sponsorship of the Flag Amendment.  Senator Hatch plans on introducing the legislation on Friday, the 14th of June (Flag Day).  Also, Staff met with representatives from AFGE to discuss legislation relevant veterans preference and employment.
  • Staff participated in a Seniors Advisory Council meeting hosted by Senator Bernie Sanders (VT) to discuss strategies for protecting COLA from the threat of Chained CPI.  Also, Staff met with representative from Rep Gabbard’s (HI) office and Rep Duckworth (IL) to discuss TAL legislative priorities and pending legislations that is being sponsored by the House Armed Services Committee.
  • Staff attended an event sponsored by The Heritage Foundation titled – “Serving Those Who Serve”.  The briefing focused on the needs of transitioning Veterans.

HEARINGS-

May 21st

House Veterans Affairs Committee

Legislative Hearing on Draft Legislation, ‘The Veterans Integrated Mental Health Care Act of 2013’; Draft Legislation, ‘The Demanding
Accountability for Veterans Act of 2013’; HR 241; HR 288; HR 984; and HR 1284.

May 22nd

House Veterans Affairs Committee

Expediting Claims or Exploiting Statistics? An Examination of VA’s Special Initiative to Process Rating Claims Pending Over Two Years