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Legislative Agenda & Policy Initiatives for the 113th Congress

Committee Report

BY PETE PETERSON, CHAIR

Amid the end-of-year clamor to get a budget done, several members of the Veterans' Affairs Committees in both houses held a press conference. They were supported by some two dozen
veterans service organizations, including VVA.

"If there is one thing people in Washington and across America agree on, it's that we should never let funding for veterans become a casualty of Washington gridlock," said Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.), chair of the House Veterans'Affairs Committee.

"Chairman Miller and I understand when it comes to the men and women who put their lives on the line to defend this country, we are going to go above partisanship, and we are going to work together in an effective and congenial way," said Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Miller's counterpart in the Senate.

"Not only is it both sides of the Capitol, it's both parties that are engaged in moving this piece of legislation forward," added Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska), a member of Sanders' committee. He was referring to H.R.813, Putting Veterans Funding First Act, which would move the rest of the Department of Veterans Affairs under Advanced Appropriations. This has proved successful in its implementation for the VA's trio of medical accounts, which represent some 86 percent of that department's discretionary budget.

"This is not about a Democrat or Republican idea," Sen. Begich added. "It's about making sure veterans get taken care of."

Rep. Mike Michaud (D-Maine), ranking member of the HVAC, added the House Democratic voice to this issue by noting: "Now is the time to extend the advance appropriation to the remaining of the discretionary accounts within the Department of Veterans Affairs, and I join everyone here today in calling on the Speaker to schedule a vote on this very important bill."

Rep. Phil Roe (R-Tenn.), who was very skeptical of the chances for success of the idea of Advance Appropriations, is now convinced that this is the right way to proceed.

Sen. John Boozman (R-Ark.) noted: "Protecting veterans during budget fights isn't the only reason to do this. To me, this seems like common-sense budgeting that would enable the VA to have greater certainty and better planning for programs they are implementing for our men and women who have served. So let's work together to pass this bill and get our veterans the certainty they deserve."

CUTTING VA BONUSES
The headline in The Hill read: "House to Punish VA by Cutting Bonuses." We thought Congress was finally getting serious about dealing with VA officials who reap bonuses for doing nothing. We were doomed to disappointment. One of the provisions of H.R.1405, introduced by Rep. Dina Titus (D-Neb.), which has passed the House of Representatives and is still awaiting Senate action, "would chop bonuses for [VA] workers by at least 14 percent."

Currently, some $400 million out of the VA's budget each fiscal year goes for bonuses to managers and senior executive service staff. All will have to expect a bit less, or some will have to get nothing if the Senate goes along with the House in capping bonus payments for five fiscal years (2014-18) at $345 million annually.

Perhaps as important as any other element is that these bonuses are reserved only for the bosses. Nothing has been awarded to outstanding VA bedside nurses who often have to work double shifts, yet continue to provide excellent and compassionate care. The extraordinary service of so many people in VA patient care services and areas such as maintenance that directly affect medical care needs to be respected and rewarded.

Maybe if this cap is enacted, it will motivate the VA to demand stellar performance from those in top positions. If they do, we will hail them and lobby Congress to remove the cap.

In addition, bonuses ought only to be given to employees who agree to remain with the VA for a given period of time. A report from the VA Inspector General found that "retention incentives have been awarded to employees who have stated their intention to retire in the very near future."

REPORT ON RESOLUTIONS
G-7 Service Connection for Hepatitis C: There has been no progress on this resolution. Part of the inactivity is that we have had good success in getting direct service connection via existing evidence, and there is an effective hepatitis C standard of care at VA.

G-9 Awarding of the Combat Medevac Badge (CMB): No activity.

G-10 Endorsement for Legislation To Create Minimum Private-Sector HealthCare Coverage for Uninsured and Underinsured Veterans and Their Families: The committee requests permission to retire this resolution. The Affordable Care Act, P.L. 111-148, signed by the President on March 23, 2010, provides affordable and accessible health coverage for all Americans.

G-13 Cessation and Prohibition of the Utilization of the U.S. Military Personnel as Non-Consensual Participants in the Testing by the U.S. Government of Vaccines and Other Medical Treatments: VVA continues to press DOD on nonconsensual inoculations that are not FDA approved.

G-14 State Veterans Homes: VVA continues to support this resolution by working with the Conference of State Council Presidents, the National Association of State Directors of Veterans Affairs, the National Association of State Veterans Homes, and the National Governors Association to ensure that state veterans homes receive proper funding.

G-15 Vietnam War In Memory Memorial Plaque Project: VVA is making progress on this issue, working collaboratively with AVVA as we initiate adjustments to the In Memory Plaque placement, lighting, and legibility as befits an important part of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial site in Washington, D.C. Most of this progress has been achieved by working with the appropriate federal entities.

G-16 Sexual Harassment: Provisions 1-4 of this resolution were adopted when the President signed P.L. 113-66, the National Defense Authorization Act for FY2014, Title XVII, Sexual Assault Prevention and Response and Related Reforms, which provides provisions to reform sexual assault in the U.S. military. VVA will not retire, but rather amend, this resolution to reflect our support for zero tolerance in the U.S. military of sexual harassment and sexual assault.

G-17 Proper Use of Real Estate at West Los Angeles VA Medical Center: VVA has consistently opposed the use of the undeveloped property at the West Los Angeles VA Medical Center for purposes other than those consistent with the intentions of the original donor.

In 2011 VVA joined with the ACLU and sued the VA for wrongful misuse of this land. A partial victory was achieved in 2013 in the court's ruling on our suit. VVA will continue to support this resolution to ensure the proper use of land that was donated to the federal government in 1888 with the clear understanding that it be used in perpetuity to help veterans. The VA, under several administrations, has been a terrible steward of this property. At the same time, Los Angeles has the largest population of homeless veterans in the nation.

Below you will find topics of recent government relations testimony. Click on any of the summary links to read the testimony summary, or the complete testimony link to read or print the complete testimony.

March 6, 2014

Before the House and Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committees Regarding VVA’s Legislative Agenda & Policy Initiatives

  Complete Testimony
October 30, 2013

Before the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee Concerning Pending Legislation

  Complete Testimony
May 9, 2013

Before the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs Regarding Pending Legislation

  Complete Testimony
March 6, 2013

Before the House and Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committees Regarding VVA’s Legislative Agenda & Policy Initiatives

  Complete Testimony
February 5, 2013

Before the Subcommittee on Disabilities and Memorial Affairs Committee on Veterans’ Affairs United States House of Representatives

  Complete Testimony
September 14, 2012

Before the House Subcommittee on Insurance, Housing and Community Opportunity Regarding Housing for Heroes:  Examining How Federal Programs Can Better Serve Veterans

Complete Testimony
March 21, 2012

Presented by John Rowan National President Before the Senate and House Veterans’ Affairs Committees

Complete Testimony Letter to Senate and House Veterans’ Affairs CommitteesRegarding POW/MIAs
March 14, 2012
Before the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee Regarding  “Ending Homelessness Among Veterans.”
Complete Testimony
March 8, 2012
Before the Committee on Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity United States House of Representatives Regarding H.R. 3329, H.R. 3483, H.R. 3610, H.R. 3670, H.R. 3524, H.R. 4048, H.R. 4051, H.R. 4057 and H.R. 4072
Complete Testimony
January 30, 2012

For The Subcommittee On Disability Assistance And Memorial Affairs
Committee On Veterans Affairs U.S. House Of Representatives Regarding "Rating The Rating Schedule- The State Of Va Disability Ratings In The 21st Century"

Complete Testimony

 

 


 


Looking Back on 20 Years of The VVA Veteran Coverage: West LA, Who's VA Is it Anyway

To read more:
“West L.A. Land Grab, Part II” Source:  February/March 2000 The VVA Veteran

“This Space for Rent: Leasing Veterans Land in West LA” Source: January/February 2010 The VVA Veteran

“New Directions in LA” January/February 2011 The VVA Veteran

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