Friday, June 29, 2012

VFW Washington Weekly

National Healthcare Upheld
The Supreme Court upheld the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act challenge on Thursday. The reversal would have had little to no impact on service-connected veterans served by the Department of Veterans Affairs or on military members and retirees served by military medicine or enrolled in TRICARE. This is because VFW led the fight back in March 2010 to get Congress to recognize all VA and Defense Department health programs as meeting minimal acceptable coverage standards as required by a proposed national healthcare bill that had failed to include VA health programs for widows, disabled children, and almost 90 percent of military TRICARE programs. With the strong support of then-House Armed Service Committee Chairman Ike Skelton (D-Mo.) and Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.), and the grassroots advocacy of thousands of VFW members and supporters, the new, more encompassing legislation quickly passed Congress and was signed into law by the president on May 27, 2010. Read the high court's ruling.

Stolen Valor Act Overturned
Thursday, VFW was very disappointed to learn that the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the Stolen Valor Act of 2005 in a 6-3 decision. Still, the high court did mention in their decision that a more narrowly defined law in the future might survive a First Amendment free speech trial. Despite the ruling, VFW National Commander Richard DeNoyer said, "VFW will continue to challenge far-fetched stories, and to publicize these false heroes to the broadest extent possible as a deterrent to others." Read the justices' opinions.

What do you think? Let us know what you think of the Supreme Court's decision on Stolen Valor by taking our poll and leaving comments on our blog.

VFW Supported Bills Clear Subcommittees
The House VA Committee had a busy week of mark-ups. A list of some of the bills cleared by subcommittees is below. All of the legislation now moves to the full committee for a vote. To read about the VFW-supported legislation and to read our complete testimony on several of the measures passed, click here.
The Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigation cleared:

  • H.R. 3730, Veterans Data Breach Timely Notification Act, would require VA, within ten days of a data breach, to notify Congress and each individual whose sensitive personal information is involved in the breach.
  • H.R. 5948, Veterans Fiduciary Reform Act of 2012, would provide further protections and more oversight of veteran fiduciaries to ensure the veterans' needs are being handled properly.

The Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs cleared:

  • H.R. 5735 establishes a Tomb of Remembrance at Arlington National Cemetery.
  • H.R. 5880 authorizes VA to contract with private companies for examinations to help in the processing of disability claims.

The Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity cleared:

  • H.R. 4115HIRE at HOME Act, requires states to consider some military training received by a veteran as valid for certification towards: 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. 4057 would direct VA to develop a comprehensive outreach and transparency policy for veterans regarding information received about higher education institutions.
  • H.R. 5747 would prohibit the sale, foreclosure or seizure of property for a year after a service member is discharged or deployed by the military. It also provides credit protections and asks large mortgage companies to maintain a toll-free number for addressing any financial concerns.

The Subcommittee on Health cleared:

  • H.R. 3337, the Open Burn Pit Registry Act, would direct VA to create a registry of all service members who have been exposed to open air burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan. As further research opens doors to new and improved treatments for health issues related to toxic inhalations, this registry will help VA target those resources to those who most need them.
  • H.R. 4079, the Safe Housing for Homeless Veterans Act, will ensure housing for homeless veterans meets safe living standards.

For more information on all the bills that were cleared, visit the House VA Committee website.

Senate Reviews Health and Benefit Bills for Vets
This week, The Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee held a hearing to discuss over 25 health- and benefit-related bills still pending. Among the legislation discussed was several VFW-supported provisions that would enhance services for homeless veterans, improve access to VA mental healthcare, provide reproductive services for catastrophically disabled veterans and authorize VA to include immunizations as a part of preventive medicine within VHA. Other bills included:

  • S. 2259, Veterans Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment Act, which increases the rates of disability compensation for service-disabled veterans and the rates of DIC for survivors (effective December 2012).
  • S.1849, Rural Health Care Improvement Act, would require VA to develop a 5-year plan for improving access to, and quality of, healthcare services for veterans in rural areas.
  • S. 1391, would improve VA's disability compensation evaluation procedure  for veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder or mental health conditions related to military sexual trauma.
  • S. 2320, Remembering America's Forgotten Veterans Cemetery Act of 2012, would give the American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) authority to care for Clark Cemetery.

For a complete list of all the bills considered or to view the recorded webcast, click here.

VFW Applauds State AGs for Protecting Student-Vets
The VFW applauded the work of 20 state attorney generals, who announced this week that the website,, had officially been turned over to the Department of Veterans Affairs, and that the site's owner, QuinStreet, would pay $2.5 million to states as part of a settlement for fraudulent recruiting practices. To see highlights from this week's press conference, announcing the settlement, and to learn about the VFW's ongoing efforts to protect student-veterans, click here.

Sean P Eagan

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Former Chairman American Cold War Veterans
Life Member Veterans of Foreign Wars
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