American Legion Daily News Clips 12.3.19

Good morning Legionnaires and veterans advocates, today is Tuesday, December 3, 2019 which is International Day of Persons with Disabilities, International Spirit of the Game Day, National Apple Pie Day and Giving Tuesday.

This Day in History:

· In a letter dated December 3, 1776, General George Washington writes to Congress from his headquarters in Trenton, New Jersey, to report that he had transported much of the Continental Army’s stores and baggage across the Delaware River to Pennsylvania.

· 1818: Illinois achieves full statehood on this day. Though Illinois presented unique challenges to immigrants unaccustomed to the soil and vegetation of the area, it grew to become a bustling and densely populated state.

· On December 3, 1967, 53-year-old Louis Washkansky receives the first human heart transplant at Groote Schuur Hospital in Cape Town, South Africa.

· 1989: Meeting off the coast of Malta, President George Bush and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev issue statements strongly suggesting that the long-standing animosities at the core of the Cold War might be coming to an end. Commentators in both the United States and Russia went farther and declared that the Cold War was over.


· Military Times: Why the US military can’t recruit more mental health professionals

· More Than 100 Military Bases Now at Risk of Water Shortages, GAO Finds

· AP: NATO under friendly fire as leaders ready for London summit

· Stripes: ‘We were forced to find answers’: Burn-pit injury and advocacy shape the lives of veteran and his wife

· Bill Would Make it Easier for Some Children of Deployed Troops to Become Citizens

· Design Approved for Gulf War Memorial on National Mall

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Military Times: Why the US military can’t recruit more mental health professionals

By: Patricia Kime   13 hours ago

Low pay, fewer advancement opportunities and an excessive workload rank as the top reasons the military services fail to recruit and retain psychiatrists, psychologists and other mental health providers, according to a new Defense Department report.

With more than 50 percent of psychiatrists nationwide able to run cash-only practices, with many making six-figure salaries, the Army, Navy and Air Force lack a competitive advantage when it comes to paying civilians and drawing military providers, as noted in a report Nov. 29 to Congress.

Add in a slow hiring process, onerous paperwork and little say in assignments — particularly overseas — and the services can’t keep up with demand.

The challenges are a threat to morale, and subsequently, retention, the report states.

“When combined with the Defense Health Agency’s access-to-care standards, this reality creates a demoralizing situation in which providers can perform initial behavioral health evaluation but are subsequently unable to provide therapeutic interventions,” the report noted.

Providers who wear uniforms also face additional burdens that prompt many to leave, including frequent changes of duty station and low opportunities for advancement.

The Army promotion system “validates and rewards leadership while often clinical career pathways,’ which can force effective providers out of the service, the report stated.

In the Navy, psychologists who reach the rank of lieutenant rarely make the next rank “due to a preponderance of operational billets where the psychologist is not being ranked against peers.”

And while the Air Force is exploring new residency training and recruiting platforms for developing therapists and mental health nurse practitioners, its efforts to recruit already qualified psychologists have not “met with much success,” the report said. Losses of psychiatrists due to separation and retirement from the Air Force also are outpacing the training pipeline and recruiting.

The demand for mental health services has risen across the United States in the past decade as the number of providers is has not kept pace and is barely holding steady. The Health Resources and Services Administration projects a shortfall of 250,000 providers by 2025.

And some geographic regions are harder hit by the mental health provider shortage. In these areas, the Defense Department faces even more difficult challenges hiring and retaining an adequate number of personnel.

The report does not note how many mental health professionals may be needed by the services, nor does it provide the number of jobs that are unfilled. In May, Navy Capt. Mike Colston, the Defense Department’s director of mental health policy and oversight, told members of the House Armed Services Personnel Subcommittee that roughly 10,000 mental health providers in behavioral health clinics, within primary care and embedded in units.

But according to the report, the number is far fewer: the estimate for 2020 is 6,627 providers, up from 6,599 in 2018. That’s roughly one provider for every 462 active-duty and active-duty family members — not including retirees and their family members, many of whom have access to mental health services at military treatment facilities.

According to the report, the Air Force will face the biggest shortage in the next year, expecting to lose nearly 600 mental health providers, down to 1,011 in 2020, from 1,601 in 2018.

The Army and Navy will see increases: from 3,108 in 2018 to roughly 3,134 in 2020 for the Army, and from 1,601 in 2018 to 1,700 for the Navy.

The largest gains of mental health personnel are likely to be seen in the Washington, D.C., metro region, according to the report. The National Capital Area, as its called, had 289 civilian and uniformed providers in 2018; in 2020, it is expected to have 782.

The report noted that the D.C. area is one of the most challenging in the country to hire mental health providers; more than 80 percent of psychiatrists, psychologists and license clinical social workers do not take insurance, operating on a cash-only basis. More Than 100 Military Bases Now at Risk of Water Shortages, GAO Finds

2 Dec 2019 | By Richard Sisk

More than 100 military bases are at risk of water shortages in an era of climate change, according to a Government Accountability Office report released last week. Some have already experienced water restrictions.

The GAO report to the Senate Armed Services Committee identified 102 bases vulnerable to "not having sufficient water available to meet their mission needs" for drinking, training, weapons testing, fire suppression and sanitation.

The list of bases cited by the report was not limited by geographical area and ranged from Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, South Carolina in the East to Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, and Camp Pendleton, California in the West.

Some of the bases on the list are already experiencing water shortages or have been warned by local authorities that their access to water sources could be restricted, according to the report.

Related: Pentagon Ranks Utah Base as Most at Risk in Climate Change

Officials at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho, stated that water use on the installation was significantly curtailed in 2017 and 2018, and could be restricted again in 2019, "due to the inability to produce sufficient quantities of water to meet demand," the GAO said.

At F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Wyoming, officials said drought is a continuing threat, and city officials in nearby Cheyenne have warned that they may have to impose water restrictions on the installation if the area does not receive more rain and snowmelt.

Officials from Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Arizona, also stated that future mission activities could be impacted by water scarcity, "especially as the population of the installation continues to grow with the arrival of additional air squadrons."

The GAO report did not dwell on the debate over climate change, but cited the 2018 Fourth National Climate Assessment by the U.S. Global Change Research Program, the leading federal authority on global change science, which reported that warming temperatures will continue to cause worsening droughts and the decline of surface water quality.

Despite the known risks, the Defense Department may not have reliable information on which installations are at risk for water scarcity, according to the report.

It said that the GAO’s comparison of Office of the Secretary Defense assessments of water shortage risk to separate assessments conducted by the military branches found that "they varied markedly, raising questions about their quality" and the sources of information used to conduct them.

The Defense Department should consider whether to conduct a new department-wide assessment, or rely on the reports of the military branches, to get a better analysis of the risks of water scarcity at installations, the report recommended.

In its response, the Defense Department concurred with the GAO’s recommendation.

The full GAO report and the list of at-risk bases can be seen here.

AP: NATO under friendly fire as leaders ready for London summit

By: Lorne Cook, The Associated Press   20 hours ago


BRUSSELS — NATO leaders will gather in London on Tuesday as the world’s biggest military alliance, marking its 70th birthday, battles with one of the most confounding of adversaries: Itself.

As thousands of troops stand ready along Europe’s eastern flank to deter Russia — the reason the trans-Atlantic alliance was founded in 1949 — or help keep the peace in places like Afghanistan and Kosovo, the leaders of countries with NATO’s largest armies are wildly taking pot shots at each other.

Before the two-day summit, to include receptions at Buckingham Palace and Downing Street plus a working session at a golf resort in outer London, Karen Donfried, president of the German Marshall Fund think tank, said the 29 NATO allies are approaching this meeting “with a sense of foreboding.”

“Few anticipate a gathering that will both unify and stop the growing cracks in cohesion. Alliance leaders carry the responsibility to articulate NATO’s common purpose and ongoing relevance. If they do not, Vladimir Putin will be raising a glass in Moscow to the fraught state of the alliance at 70,” she said, in reference to Russia’s president.

In recent months, U.S. President Donald Trump has declared that peace is nigh in Afghanistan — NATO’s longest and most costly operation in terms of lives and cash — only to call off talks with the Taliban. Now, it seems, they are on again. All the while, U.S. troop numbers are declining. Other allies are unsure what to make of it.

Last month, he precipitously pulled troops out of northern Syria. Turkey took that as a green light to launch an invasion that has alarmed its European NATO partners, many already struggling with the political fallout sparked by the arrival of tens of thousands of Syrian refugees via Turkey in 2015.

French President Emmanuel Macron, complaining of a U.S. leadership vacuum and sensing an opportunity for France to fill it and boost Europe’s security credentials, has lamented the “brain death” of NATO and says the allies need “a wake-up call.”

Macron wants strategic talks about where NATO is going, who its adversaries really are, how to tackle terrorism, what to do about an unpredictable ally like Turkey, and how to improve relations with Russia, rather than a spend a third summit in self-flagellation about Trump’s favorite topic: military spending.

In the latest act of political friendly-fire, Turkey accused Macron of supporting terrorism for agreeing to hold talks with a Syrian Kurd politician whom Ankara considers to be part of an extremist group.

“You should get checked whether you’re brain-dead,” Erdogan said Friday, in remarks directed at Macron. “Kicking Turkey out of NATO or not, how is that up to you? Do you have the authority to make such a decision?”

Meanwhile, Erdogan plans to test a new air defense system, purchased from Russia, that its partners refuse to allow near any NATO military equipment.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, in the final period of her reign, has played the go-between, trying to keep the NATO leadership train on the rails.

From the outside, and quite possibly from the Kremlin, it looks like a great act of self-harm.

NATO has no real wars to fight but its power, and Europe’s security, lies in the abilities of the allies to deter adversaries like Russia and potential ones such as China. That deterrence depends on a balanced mix of military posturing and shows of political resolve by speaking with one voice.

Since Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014, NATO has deployed more than 4,000 troops to Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland to discourage further military adventurism by Putin. The allies also ended their post-Cold War budget cuts and stepped up defense spending.

But it is the very public infighting among alliance heavyweights that undermines NATO’s security efforts.

“The leaders have a responsibility for not undermining deterrence,” said Tomas Valasek, senior fellow at the Carnegie Europe think-tank.

“Deterrence is not just about having bombs, bullets, missiles, airplanes or these days cyber geeks you can deploy against the adversary. Deterrence is also about communicating that we mean it when we say we’re an alliance of 29 and we are ready to respond as 29 when something bad happens,” Valasek said.

“Our adversaries are constantly looking for chinks in our armor. For cracks or signs of division. God knows there have been plenty of those,” he added.

On its 70th birthday, NATO’s summit declaration — should it survive the hail of friendly fire — will focus on the future; issues like new disarmament talks, the alliance’s role in space, and its policy toward China. Its main challenge today could be surviving its go-it-alone leaders.

Stripes: ‘We were forced to find answers’: Burn-pit injury and advocacy shape the lives of veteran and his wife


Published: December 2, 2019

ROBSTOWN, Texas — Army Reserve Capt. Le Roy Torres’s 2007 deployment to the Iraq War left a clear demarcation in the lives of him and his wife, Rosie Lopez Torres. Everything about their marriage fits neatly on either side of the line — before the war, and after.

Before the war, Le Roy was serving in the military like his father did during the Korean War. After transitioning from active duty to the Army Reserve, he became a Texas state trooper working in and around Robstown, the south Texas town where he grew up.

Rosie, from San Antonio, worked at the Department of Veterans Affairs, primarily with its homeless program. She did much of the work raising their three children while Le Roy’s jobs kept him away from home.

When Le Roy returned in November 2008 from Iraq, Rosie was relieved to see him across the tarmac of the airfield.

“I thought, ‘Great. He’s not missing any limbs. We’re good. We survived this. Everything’s good. We’re back.’ Now it’s about getting back to where we were,” Rosie said.

That was not to be.

After just three weeks at home, Le Roy went to the emergency room with a severe cough and chest pains, and that’s when life after the war began.

Since the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, a contentious debate has raged over the effects of burn pit exposure. Thousands of veterans have linked their chronic medical issues, including cancer and severe respiratory illnesses, to burn pits. The VA contends that there isn’t enough conclusive research to prove the connection.

A just-released 2019 annual report from the Wounded Warrior Project said about 70% of 134,000 veterans surveyed reported exposure to hazardous chemicals or substances. Only 9% of those veterans reported being treated through the VA while 12% said they tried, but did not receive toxic exposure treatment at the VA.

For more than 10 years, Le Roy and Rosie’s lives have revolved around his medical needs and veterans advocacy related to burn pit exposure. They formed a nonprofit with Rosie as the executive director and have worked to raise awareness of post-9/11 veterans who suffer medical problems caused by breathing toxic fumes from massive piles of burning trash on U.S. military bases in Iraq and Afghanistan. Their goal is for the government to recognize presumptive illnesses from burn-pit exposure and award disability benefits.

“In his case, we were forced to find answers, which in a way was good and, in a way, we lost ourselves,” Rosie, 45, said. “There’s times that I’ve cried because I’m like, ‘Should we ever have pursued it that much to find out what was going on?’”

Le Roy, 47, acknowledged the struggle. “We were dealt this card with this mission. … We can’t go back. We’re just moving forward,” he said. “But now it’s helping thousands of other people.”

Through their nonprofit Burn Pits 360, the couple advocated in Washington for the creation of a voluntary national registry of burn pit exposure in 2014 at the Department of Veterans Affairs. More than 187,000 veterans to date have provided their information. Before getting the legislation passed for the VA registry, Burn Pits 360 began its own registry, which it still maintains today. They worked with Texas lawmakers to pass a law this year to begin one at the state level. It is still in development.

Each registry collects slightly different information in different ways. While Burn Pits 360 allows family members to submit information on behalf of a veteran as well as update the information as symptoms worsen or change, the VA registry is static and only for veterans. The VA registry does not track veteran deaths like the others do. The Texas registry will function more like the nonprofit’s when it comes to data collection.

Le Roy has also filed a lawsuit against the state of Texas because he believes that he was forced out of his job as a state trooper based on his war-related illness — a violation of the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994, or USERRA, which protects civilian employment of service members.

The Texas Supreme Court picked up the case in September and its opinion, expected early next year, could set precedent on the rights of thousands of National Guard and Reserve service members who hold civilian jobs at a state agency. The ruling in Texas could also impact how other states interpret the federal law.

How it began

Le Roy spent 2007 surrounded by toxic fumes from a 10-acre burn pit at Camp Anaconda in Balad, Iraq — the military’s largest burn pit in the country, he said. His unit’s living area was within a mile of the pit, where everything no longer needed was burned: medical waste, aircraft engines, computers, tires.

“It was dirty and nasty,” Le Roy recalled while sitting in the conference room of the Burn Pits 360 headquarters in Robstown. “I eventually started putting a sheet over my head … because it was so nasty you could smell it” in the housing unit where he lived.

He was sick every few weeks of the deployment, including one instance when he was quarantined. Most of the time, he treated his symptoms with over-the-counter medications.

“I’d wake up with headaches. It was painful, but I was able to deal with the headaches. There toward the end of my deployment, it started to get worse and the intensity was much more,” he said.

When he made his first ER visit to a civilian hospital post-deployment, the doctor asked him whether he’d been recently exposed to anything harmful. Le Roy described the burn pit and the doctor said he had “Iraqi crud.” The doctor provided Le Roy cough medicine and antibiotics, telling him to expect the “crud” to stick around for a couple months before clearing.

Le Roy’s symptoms ebbed and flowed over time and began to impact his work as a state trooper.

“I was on a foot pursuit one morning. … After I apprehended the guy, I thought I was having a stroke. I was having chest pains, like this pressure and burning. And that’s when I realized there’s something wrong.”

The Texas Department of Public Safety moved Le Roy to temporary assignment in a driver’s license office, where he was assigned to the phone room and wore a surgical mask over his nose and mouth. His symptoms continued to worsen. In August 2010, he said he was told to take time off to figure out what was going on with his health.

“And that’s when the far journey started,” Le Roy said. That night he and Rosie drove the two hours to San Antonio to the Audie L. Murphy Memorial Veterans’ Hospital. Over the following days and weeks, he was seen in emergency rooms at Brooke Army Medical Center and Lackland Air Force Base.

“It sounded like he was going to cough up a lung,” Rosie said. “It even got to the point where he collapsed in the bathroom and our boys were like trying to pick him up and get him to call 911. … We were desperate.”

He was prescribed everything from cough drops to psychiatric medication, as some doctors told Le Roy his illness was all in his head. Eventually Rosie discovered an online community of spouses and widows of service members with similar symptoms and found her way to the research of Dr. Robert Miller at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tenn.

In 2011, Miller published a study of 38 cases of constrictive bronchiolitis in soldiers who deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan, which he linked to prolonged exposure to sulfur fires and burn pits on deployment. The diagnosis required a lung biopsy, an invasive surgery to remove a piece of lung tissue.

The couple paid their own way to Nashville, and Le Roy underwent a lung biopsy at Vanderbilt. As the doctors wheeled him into the operating room, they paused to allow Rosie to say goodbye.

“And she said, ‘We’re going to do something about this. We’re going to fight. We’re going find answers. We’re going to get help,’” Le Roy recalled as his wife teared up at the memory. “And that’s where Burn Pits 360 began.”

‘A dark place’

Miller diagnosed Le Roy with nonreversible constrictive bronchiolitis, a small-airway disease that limits lung capacity and causes a dry cough. Years later, a scan of Le Roy’s brain showed he suffered from toxic brain injury, which is similar to a disease attributed to people with repeated brain injuries or concussions, such as professional football players. Essentially, portions of Le Roy’s brain are so constricted that there isn’t blood flow. He struggles with short-term memory and mood regulation. It also puts him at higher risk for vision problems and dementia.

With his initial diagnosis in hand in August 2010, the Torreses took their findings to Texas DPS along with a memo outlining the type of work Le Roy was able to perform. He wrote how he could still be of service to the state without being a state trooper patrolling the highway.

“That’s what I was asking for — just a job. Even noncommissioned. Of course, with the same pay, because that’s what USERRA calls for,” Le Roy said.

Instead, Le Roy said his service commander asked him to meet at a gas station. There, he gave Le Roy a memo telling him he was unable to return as a state trooper, because of the diagnosis.

“That’s when I already knew, they’re going to pressure me to leave,” he said.

He said he was pressured to resign, which he did in 2012. He said he was told that in order to apply for disability retirement, he first had to resign. The state rejected his application.

It wasn’t easy for Le Roy to realize that uniforms and financial stability did not define him. Photos on the walls of the couple’s home showcase Le Roy’s service to the state and to the country. In most photos, he is wearing some type of uniform.

A black-and-white sketch near the hall door features Le Roy and his constant companion and service dog, Hope. This drawing, along with framed copies of the laws the couple have helped pass, give a glimpse into their post-war life.

The couple built the home on family land, but nearly lost it in foreclosure in the years after his resignation from DPS.

Late one night in 2016, Le Roy said he slipped into “a dark place.” He shut the door to his office and found his 12-gauge shotgun.

Hope, his service dog, became confused and ran to get Rosie, who opened the door to find Le Roy in his chair, gun in his mouth.

“I remember the look in his eyes; there’s no turning back,” Rosie said. She screamed to Hope for help. The German shepherd threw its 104-pound body onto Le Roy, biting his shorts and ripping him out of the chair to the ground. The gun fell out of Le Roy’s mouth.

“I remember him telling me DPS took everything from me. I can never give you what I used to give you. I’m never going to be that man,” Rosie said wiping away tears. Le Roy, too, wiped tears as his wife relived the memory.

“People need to know the reality behind how it affects people and how the hardship drives you to the point of no return, and so I knew the look in his eyes. I was trying to come up with every excuse for him to come back to me,” she said.

Le Roy said he didn’t name his dog, but it’s clear to him now why someone did.

Hope saved his life that night.

‘A long road’

Le Roy’s lawsuit, filed in 2017 in Nueces County, has yet to be heard.

USERRA states that if Le Roy wanted to continue to work, DPS was required to make accommodations for his service-connected disability. He’s asking for more than $1 million in lost wages and retirement pay.

“All this ordeal and with job loss, I couldn’t sit,” Le Roy said. “Even through my ailments, I had to do something. We’re going to fight hard for it. For our entitlement. And that’s what I’ve been doing for 10 years. It’s been a long road.”

The state contends that the suit should be thrown out because Texas has sovereign immunity against private damage suits unless Congress has waived its immunity. Without that waiver, only the U.S. government can sue the state for a federal law, not a citizen.

Texas has its own similar laws, but Brian Lawler, Le Roy’s San Diego-based attorney, said he is suing under USERRA because it offers greater protections.

“If the state wins, no service member employed by the state of Texas will have the right to sue under USERRA in Texas state court,” Lawler said. “That’s an absurd result.”

Winning would give every service member employed by the state that right, and a similar lawsuit with Lawler’s firm is pending — waiting for the court’s decision.

“It’s all or nothing, and a rather big deal if you ask me,” Lawler said. The state agrees on the impact, stating in court documents that the outcome will impact millions of Texans.

A decision on Torres’s lawsuit could come as early as January. If the judges rule in Le Roy’s favor, the case will go back to Nueces County to be heard, but Lawler assumes the state will petition the U.S. Supreme Court. If he loses, that is what he intends to do.

God’s will

Earlier this year, the city of Robstown donated a building in its quiet downtown, allowing Burn Pit 360 to move from the Torres home and open as the Warrior Outreach Center — part headquarters, part gathering space, part educational center.

Derek Fronabarger, legislative director at the Wounded Warrior Project, described Rosie Torres as one of the most knowledgeable individuals about burn pits. He works alongside her and about a dozen other organizations on the Toxic Exposure in the American Military coalition. The group meets twice a month, and thanks to a grant from the Wounded Warrior Project, Rosie is able to travel to Washington to attend meetings in person.

“You get a lot of people who can bring anecdotal stories to the table which really help in trying to push the narrative. You have others that bring policy, wonky, they just know the issue really well, but they may not have the emotional connection. She actually brings both,” he said. “She’s personally been affected by this issue, but she’s also dedicated her entire life and her professional career now on really understanding the policy.”

Burn Pits 360 is working to raise awareness across the country. Rosie and Le Roy accept speaking engagements, as do members of their board who are scattered across the country. They recently teamed up with comedian Jon Stewart, who successfully lobbied on behalf of first responders who suffered toxic exposure from 9/11. They quickly recorded a public service announcement, which garnered buzz online.

Their legislative advocacy would be easier if the couple moved to Washington or had a more regular presence there, but family is important. Le Roy’s mother is nearby, so they remain in Robstown to help care for her.

In rare moments at home, the two are learning what it means to be empty-nesters. Their three children are in their 20s; one of their two sons is an Army specialist serving in Hawaii. Le Roy had no reservations about his son’s decision to serve.

“I took him to the recruiting office,” Le Roy said. “What happened to me — they way I see it is every war has its price. It was obviously God’s will for me, the way things happen.”

Just before Le Roy was medically retired from the Army, he tried to transfer to become a chaplain. He believes that through Burn Pits 360 he is ministering to people — just not the way he imagined before the boundary separating the couple’s lives was drawn by war.

“I would do it all over again, if I had a choice,” he said. “If the Army called to say, ‘You know what, maybe you can come back in.’ I would.” Bill Would Make it Easier for Some Children of Deployed Troops to Become Citizens

2 Dec 2019 | By Oriana Pawlyk

Lawmakers are scheduled to consider new legislation this week to revise a current policy that makes it more difficult for some children of service members stationed overseas to obtain U.S. citizenship.

The House will take up H.R. 4803, the "Citizenship for Children of Military Members and Civil Servants Act," to update a 2004 rule that stipulates children not granted automatic citizenship need to physically establish residency in the U.S. in order to become a citizen. The bipartisan bill, introduced in October, would grant these children residency despite them living overseas with a U.S. service member or federal employee parent.

The bill is in response to a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services policy update published in August.

The policy announcement stated that, "Effective October 29, 2019, children residing abroad with their U.S. citizen parents who are U.S. government employees or members of the U.S. armed forces stationed abroad are not considered to be residing in the United States for acquisition of citizenship."

Related: Here’s Who’s Affected by New Citizenship Policy for Children of Troops Serving Overseas

At least one parent had to be a U.S. citizen, according to that policy.

"Similarly, leave taken in the United States while stationed abroad is not considered residing in the United States even if the person is staying in property he or she owns," it said.

Additionally, "U.S. citizen parents who are residing outside the United States with children who are not U.S. citizens should apply for U.S. citizenship on behalf of their children under [the policy], and must complete the process before the child’s 18th birthday."

The announcement, which officials called a "residency reminder" at the time, caused immediate uproar because it was initially interpreted by some to mean that the U.S government would start revoking automatic birthright citizenship for those born to U.S. government employee or troops serving abroad.

The new policy "[does] not affect anyone who is born a U.S. citizen, period," USCIS Acting Director Ken Cuccinelli said in a statement to at the time.

However, there were some new obstacles created by the update.

According to the policy, children who did not acquire citizenship at birth are not considered to be residing in the U.S. just because their parents are citizens. These parents would then have to apply for U.S. citizenship for their child, which could make adoptions more complicated for some families.

As a result, Reps. Jerrold Nadler, D-New York, and Doug Collins, R-Georgia, both members of the House Committee on the Judiciary, introduced H.R. 4803 to create greater flexibility for these families.

Under the bill, the policy’s final requirement — to reside in the U.S. in the citizen parent’s legal and physical custody — is "fulfilled if a foreign-born child is (1) living in the legal and physical custody of the citizen Armed Services member or government employee who has been stationed abroad (or the accompanying spouse of such a citizen), and (2) lawfully admitted for permanent residence in the United States," it states.

"American citizens who are deployed members of our military or government officials working abroad should have confidence their children will receive U.S. citizenship," Collins said in a release following the bill’s introduction. "The Citizenship for Children of Military Members and Civil Servants Act would ensure children born abroad who do not currently satisfy the residency requirements for acquiring automatic citizenship because their parents are deployed will now satisfy those requirements."

"Families making tremendous sacrifices to serve our country shouldn’t have to jump through additional hoops for their children to become American citizens," he added.