Ever talk to a vet? Ever get frustrated by the knee-jerk conservatism that many vets have, despite the evidence that the Democrats are the party that supports their issues the most? I have, and it's damn frustrating.
However, the VFW just released it's wish list for the end (thank God) of the 112th Congress. And...Surprise! Surprise!...it backs up the fact that the GOP is blocking needed legislation.
More after the squiggly-thing.
The VFW breaks this down into both broad issues as well as specific legislation. Most of the broad issues have to do with the defense cuts scheduled as part of sequestration. They are not amused by these, which, of course are entirely due to the GOP debt ceiling nonsense:
Across-the-board defense cuts will adversely affect the readiness and safety of our troops who are still being sent into harm’s way. Congress must find a bi-partisan solution to avoid these cuts prior to January’s deadline. VA medical care accounts are protected from cuts, but VA administrative accounts may be affected. There has been no determination on what constitutes an administrative account. Congress and the Administration must clearly define “Administrative Accounts,” and ensure that these cuts don’t affect access to benefits or care.Furthermore, the VFW lists a number of bills that it supports being passed. Democrats' bills outnumber the GOP's by 17-6. The Dems' bills cover the range from mental health issues to jobs. While not all of the GOP sponsored bills are crap, most are limited and don't go to the heart of real vet issues.
Let's take a look at the specifics with the help of the LOC's THOMAS:
H.R. 1025: Proposed by DEMOCRAT Timothy Walz (MN-01)--recognizes the service of reservists who served 20 years and considers them veterans--no benefits would come from this status and the CBO has scored it as neutral.
H.R. 2243: Proposed by DEMOCRAT Jerry McNerney (CA-11)--Veterans Employment Promotion Act - Directs the Secretary of Labor to establish and maintain an Internet website to publicly disclose information concerning the number of veterans employed under federal contracts of $100,000 or more for the procurement of personal property and nonpersonal services.
H.R. 4057: Proposed by Gus Bilrakis Republican (FL-9): Improving Transparency of Education Opportunities for Veterans Act of 2012 - Directs the Secretary of Veterans Affairs (VA) to develop a comprehensive policy to improve outreach and transparency to veterans and members of the Armed Forces through the provision of information on institutions of higher learning. Requires the Secretary, in developing the policy, to conduct a market survey to determine the availability of a commercially available off-the-shelf online tool that: (1) allows veterans to determine whether they are academically ready to engage in postsecondary education and training opportunities, and (2) provides a list of providers of such opportunities.
Directs the Secretary to report to the congressional veterans committees on: (1) the policy developed, (2) a plan to implement the policy, and (3) survey results.
H.R. 4072: Proposed by Jeff Miller, Republican (FL-01): Consolidating Veteran Employment Services for Improved Performance Act of 2012 - Transfers, as of October 1, 2013, to the Secretary of Veterans Affairs (VA) specified veterans-related programs of the Department of Labor, including: (1) job counseling, training, employment, and placement services; (2) administration of employment and reemployment rights of members of the reserves; and (3) homeless veterans reintegration programs. Directs the President, for FY2014 and thereafter, to include in the budget request funding for the VA for such functions.
Establishes a Deputy Under Secretary for Veterans' Employment and Training, to formulate all VA policies and procedures with respect to veterans' employment, unemployment, and training programs.
Consolidates provisions establishing VA disabled veterans' outreach program specialists and local veterans' employment representatives into a single provision establishing veteran employment specialists, which shall perform both tasks. Provides similar eligibility and reporting requirements for such specialists.
H.R. 4115 Proposed by Steve Stivers, Republican (OH-15): Helping Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans Return to Employment at Home Act or HIRE at HOME Act - Directs the Secretary of Veterans Affairs (VA), as a condition of a grant or contract to a state for certain veterans' employment and training programs, to require the state to demonstrate the consideration of any military training received by a veteran when approving or denying a commercial driver's license or a certification to be a nursing assistant or certified nursing assistant, a registered nurse, or an emergency medical technician.
H.R. 5747: Proposed by DEMOCRAT Elijah Cummings (MD-07): Military Family Home Protection Act - Amends the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act to allow a court, in an action to enforce an obligation on real or personal property secured by a mortgage against a servicemember on active duty, a totally disabled veteran, or the surviving spouse of a member who died during military service, to either: (1) stay the proceedings for a period of time as justice and equity require, or (2) adjust the obligation to preserve the interests of all parties. Prohibits the sale, foreclosure, or seizure of the subject property for the service period, as well as the 12-month period after: (1) the servicemember is discharged or redeployed from a contingency operation, (2) the veteran is retired, or (2) the death of the servicemember (in the case of a surviving spouse). Increases the civil penalties for violations of the sale or foreclosure prohibitions. Prohibits an individual from being denied or refused credit solely by reason of eligibility for relief under this Act.
Requires each lending institution acting as a creditor to such servicemember, veteran, or surviving spouse to designate an employee responsible for ensuring the institution's compliance with the requirements of this Act. Requires any such institution that had prior annual assets of $10 billion or more to maintain on its primary website a toll-free number for information with respect to the protections afforded under this Act.
H.R. 5845: Proposed by Ted Poe, Republican (TX-02): Veterans Back to Work Act of 2012 - Amends the Internal Revenue Code to: (1) extend through 2013 the work opportunity tax credit for hiring qualified veterans (veterans receiving compensation for a service-connected disability and other federal assistance), and (2) allow employers who hire qualified veterans an exemption through 2013 from employment and railroad retirement taxes. Appropriates amounts to the Social Security Old-Age and Survivors Trust Fund and the Federal Disability Insurance Trust Fund to cover any revenue loss to such Funds resulting from this Act.
H.R. 5948: Proposed by Bill Johnson, Republican (OH-06): Veterans Fiduciary Reform Act of 2012 - Requires that, in any case in which the Secretary of Veterans Affairs (VA) must determine whether a VA beneficiary needs a fiduciary for purposes of the administration of VA laws and benefits, the Secretary shall consider the following when adjudicating whether such beneficiary should be considered mentally incapacitated or incompetent: (1) any such determination made by a court; and (2) an evaluation made by a medical professional, taking into account the role of financial management in the beneficiary's rehabilitation. Allows an individual determined to be mentally incapacitated or incompetent to appeal such determination. Requires the Secretary, in hearing such appeal, to consider court determinations, medical evidence, and evidence offered by the appellant. Allows a person determined to be competent and for whom a fiduciary has been appointed to file a claim for the termination of such fiduciary. Directs the Secretary to maintain a list of state and local agencies and nonprofit social service agencies that are qualified to act as a fiduciary. Requires a fiduciary to use a secure, encrypted connection when conducting Internet activity relating to financial information of the beneficiary.
Directs the Secretary, in inquiring into or investigating a proposed fiduciary, to conduct: (1) a face-to-face interview within 30 days after the inquiry or investigation begins, and (2) a background check. Requires each fiduciary to disclose the number of beneficiaries that the fiduciary acts on behalf of. Requires the Secretary to: (1) maintain records of any person who has previously served as a fiduciary and had such status revoked, and (2) notify the beneficiary within 14 days after learning that the fiduciary has been convicted of a crime.
Directs the Secretary, upon reason to believe that a fiduciary may be misusing all or part of a beneficiary benefit, to: (1) conduct a thorough investigation, and (2) report results to the Attorney General and the head of each federal department or agency that pays a beneficiary benefit to such fiduciary. Allows the Secretary to require that a fiduciary serve only with respect to VA benefits, with exceptions.
Requires each Veterans Benefits Administration regional office to maintain specified fiduciary information.
Provides for the predesignation of a fiduciary.
Allows a beneficiary for whom the Secretary has appointed a fiduciary to file a claim for removal and appointment of a new beneficiary. Requires the continuation of benefits during such period.
Provides for fiduciary commissions.
Requires (under current law, permits) a fiduciary to file an annual accounting of the administration of beneficiary benefits.
Requires a report from the Secretary to the congressional veterans committees on the implementation of this Act.
S. 490: Proposed by Daniel Akaka DEMOCRAT (HI): Makes a child eligible for medical care under the Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Department of Veterans Affairs (CHAMPVA) eligible for such care until the child's 26th birthday, regardless of the child's marital status.
Makes such provision inapplicable before January 1, 2014, to a child who is eligible to enroll in an employer-sponsored health care plan.
S. 1184: Proposed by Maria Cantwell, DEMOCRAT (WA): Directs that any business determined by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs (VA) to have misrepresented its status as a small business owned and controlled by veterans or service-disabled veterans in order to increase its contracting opportunities shall be debarred from contracting with the VA for not less than five years (under current law, for a reasonable period as determined by the Secretary).
Requires the Secretary to commence the debarment action within 30 days after the misrepresentation determination, and to complete such action within 90 days after such determination. Includes in the debarment all principals in the business.
S. 1391: Proposed by Jon Tester, DEMOCRAT (MT): Directs the Secretary of Veterans Affairs (VA) to accept as proof of service-connection of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) alleged to have been incurred in or aggravated by active military service a diagnosis of PTSD by a mental health professional, together with written testimony by the veteran and a written determination by the professional that such disorder is related to the veteran's service, notwithstanding the fact that there is no official record of such incurrence or aggravation in such service, and to resolve every reasonable doubt in favor of the veteran. Allows such service-connection to be rebutted by clear and convincing evidence to the contrary.
Provides the same conditions (with the same authorized rebuttal) with respect to acceptance of proof of service-connection of certain mental health conditions alleged to have been incurred or aggravated by military sexual trauma experienced during active military services.
S. 1799: Proposed by Jon Tester DEMOCRAT (MT): Access to Appropriate Immunizations for Veterans Act of 2011 - Includes within authorized preventive health services available to veterans through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) immunizations against infectious diseases, including each immunization on the recommended adult immunization schedule established by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices.
Requires the inclusion, in an annual report from the Secretary of Veterans Affairs on VA preventive health services, of programs conducted to ensure that veterans have received each immunization on such immunization schedule at the appropriate time.
Directs the Secretary to develop and implement quality measures and metrics to ensure that veterans receiving VA medical services receive each immunization at the time indicated on the schedule. Requires statistics related to such quality measures and metrics to be included in the annual report described above. Provides deadlines for the establishment and implementation of the measures and metrics.
S. 1849: Proposed by Al Franken, DEMOCRAT (MN): Rural Veterans Health Care Improvement Act - Requires the Director of the Office of Rural Health of the Veterans Health Administration of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to develop and transmit to Congress a five-year strategic plan for improving access to, and the quality of, health care services for veterans in rural areas.
S. 2179: Proposed by Jim Webb, DEMOCRAT (VA): Military and Veterans Educational Reform Act of 2012 - Allows the Secretary of Veterans Affairs (Secretary) or a state approving agency (SAA) to approve, for purposes of veterans' educational assistance provided through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), a course that leads to an associate or higher degree only when such course is an eligible program offered by an institution of higher education that has entered into and is complying with a program approved by the Secretary of Education under the Higher Education Act of 1965. Provides conditions under which the Secretary or a SAA may approve a course that does not lead to an associate or higher degree.
Prohibits the approval of a non-degree course of education unless, among other things, the course is determined to further the purposes of the VA program. Provides additional requirements for the VA approval of nonaccredited courses. Requires additional requirements imposed by SAAs to be approved by the Secretary prior to use under the VA program.
Provides additional requirements for the approval of programs of educational assistance for persons enlisting for active duty.
Requires educational institutions to inform participants on matters relating to accreditation and educational outcomes as a condition of approval under educational assistance programs offered by the VA and Department of Defense (DOD).
Directs an educational institution with 20 or more VA program participants enrolled, prior to approval, to provide adequate academic and student support services, including remediation, tutoring, and job placement counseling.
Requires each SAA, as a condition of receiving VA reimbursement for program approval activities, to conduct education and outreach activities to assist participants in making well-informed choices about their education and successful transition into an educational environment. Requires SAAs to conduct annual audits of institutions that have VA program participants. Directs the Secretary to conduct mandatory annual compliance reviews of such institutions.
Directs the Secretary to provide individualized, one-on-one counseling to veterans and members of the Armed Forces who are considering a program of education with assistance through the VA or DOD.
Requires the Secretaries of VA and DOD to each establish a process whereby individuals are able to submit complaints regarding educational institutions relevant to the provision of educational assistance, including complaints regarding misrepresentation, fraud, waste, and abuse.
S. 2206: Proposed by Frank Lautenberg DEMOCRAT (NJ): GI Educational Freedom Act of 2012 - Requires any individual eligible for veterans' educational assistance through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to be provided educational and vocational counseling services before the receipt of such educational assistance, unless the individual specifically declines such counseling. Outlines information to be included in such counseling. Directs the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to make such information available to the public.
Repeals the $6 million fiscal year limit for VA contracting for such counseling services.
Directs the Secretary to establish a system to collect, process, and track complaints submitted by individuals enrolled in VA programs of education to report instances of fraud, waste, and abuse with respect to benefits and services provided by educational institutions. Requires a state approving agency, when considering whether to approve a course of education at an educational institution, to review and take into consideration the complaints processed and tracked by such system. Provides for the confidentiality of such complaints.
S. 2241: Proposed by Patty Murray, DEMOCRAT (WA): GI Bill Consumer Awareness Act of 2012 - Directs the Secretary of Veterans Affairs (Secretary), on an ongoing basis, to make available to veterans, members of the Armed Forces (members), and spouses and dependents eligible to receive, or who are receiving, educational assistance through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) or the Department of Defense (DOD) specified information about educational institutions and the programs of education available to such veterans and members.
Directs the Secretary of Defense, on an ongoing basis, to make available to individuals eligible to receive, or who are receiving, assistance under the DOD Military Spouse Career Advancement Account program specified information about the types of accreditation available to educational institutions and programs of education, a general overview of federal student aid programs and the implications of incurring student loan debt, and educational program results.
Provides additional requirements for institutions providing programs of education under VA and DOD educational assistance programs, including employee training about benefits and assistance available to veterans and members, and special advising and support services for such veterans and members. Prohibits the approval of a course of education if the institution: (1) requires a student enrolled to waive the right to legal recourse or submit to arbitration, or (2) imposes onerous legal notice provisions in the case of a dispute with the institution. Directs the Secretary to enter into a memorandum of understanding with each institution to carry out requirements protecting individuals receiving VA or DOD educational assistance.
Requires the VA and DOD Secretaries to jointly develop policies to curb the aggressive recruiting (for enrollment) of veterans and members by educational institutions. Directs the Secretaries to establish a working group to: (1) coordinate consumer protection efforts of VA and DOD with respect to educational assistance provided, and (2) develop policies related to postsecondary education marketing and recruitment of veterans and members.
Directs the Secretaries to assess, and report to Congress on, the quality and delivery of career information and counseling provided to veterans and members enrolled in programs of VA or DOD educational assistance.
Makes eligible for VA educational and vocational counseling an individual serving on active duty in any state who has served in the Armed Forces on active duty for at least 180 days.
Requires the Secretary to: (1) establish procedures for the submission of complaints by students pursuing programs of VA or DOD educational assistance, (2) collect and disseminate information about best practices for the provision of educational assistance to veterans and members, and (3) report to Congress on the receipt of VA educational assistance.
Directs the Secretary of Defense to establish and report on metrics for tracking the successful completion of DOD education and workforce training programs.
S. 2246: Proposed by Jon Boozman, Republican, (AR): TAP Modernization Act of 2012 - Directs the Secretary of Labor, during the three-year period beginning on the date of enactment of this Act, to provide the Transition Assistance Program (TAP) to veterans and their spouses at locations other than military installations in at least three and up to five states selected by the Secretary based on the highest rates of veteran unemployment.
Requires reports from both the Secretary and the Comptroller General to Congress on such TAP training.
S. 3049: Proposed by Mark Begich, DEMOCRAT (AK): Includes as a homeless veteran, for purposes of eligibility for benefits through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), a veteran or veteran's family fleeing domestic or dating violence, sexual assault, stalking, or other dangerous or life-threatening conditions in the current housing situation, including where the health and safety of children are jeopardized, there is no other residence, and there is a lack of resources or support networks to obtain other permanent housing.
S. 3233: Proposed by Robert Casey, DEMOCRAT (PA): Servicemembers Access to Justice Act of 2012 - Waives a state's sovereign immunity with respect to the enforcement of uniformed services members' employment or reemployment rights or benefits under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA).
Makes unenforceable agreements between an employer and employee requiring arbitration of disputes arising under USERRA. Provides exceptions. Requires the validity and enforceability of such an agreement to be determined by a court (as opposed to the arbitrator).
Provides increased liquidated damages, and authorizes punitive damages, against state or private employer violations of USERRA. Provides a right to a jury trial in such cases.
Requires (under current law, authorizes) the award of attorney fees in actions to enforce USERRA.
Requires (under current law, authorizes) a court to use equitable relief, including injunctions and restraining orders when appropriate, for USERRA violations.
Requires federal procurement contracts to include a notice that the contractor may have USERRA obligations.
Requires a Comptroller General study on the effectiveness of federal education and outreach programs on employer obligations under USERRA.
S. 3236: Proposed by Mark Pryor, DEMOCRAT (AR): Servicemember Employment Protection Act of 2012 - Makes unenforceable any clause of an agreement between and employer and employee requiring arbitration of a dispute arising under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA). Provides an exception when both parties voluntarily agree to arbitration. Requires any issue as to whether such requirement applies to an arbitration clause to be determined by federal law and the validity or enforceability of an agreement to arbitrate to be determined by a court rather than an arbitrator.
Protects under USERRA an individual who is absent from employment in order to receive medical or dental treatment for an injury or illness incurred or aggravated in the line of duty.
Authorizes the suspension, termination, or debarment of federal contractors for repeated failures or refusals to comply with USERRA protections.
S. 3309: Proposed by Patty Murray, DEMOCRAT (WA): The Homeless Veterans Improvement Act of 2012: A bill to amend title 38, United States Code, to improve the assistance provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs to homeless veterans, and for other purposes.
S. 3313: Proposed by Patty Murray, DEMOCRAT (WA): Women Veterans and Other Health Care Improvements Act of 2012 To amend title 38, United States Code, to improve the assistance provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs to women veterans, to improve health care furnished by the Department, and for other purposes.
S. 3340: Proposed by Patty Murray, DEMOCRAT (WA): Mental Health Access Act of 2012