In This Issue:
1. House Committee Marks up Vet Bills
2. Healthcare Bill for Women Veterans Cleared
3. House VA Committee Hearings
4. Japan Apologizes to American POWs
5. McHugh Tapped for Army Secretary
1. House Committee Marks up Vet Bills: Several VFW-supported bills cleared their respective subcommittees this week. All of the bills now move to the full committee for consideration.
HR 952 would expand the meaning of combat with the enemy to mean active duty service in a combat theater during a time of war not just during actual combat. The bill aims to shorten the claims process for many veterans suffering from psychological injuries.
HR 2270 would establish a compensation fund for certain WWII veterans who were not eligible for readjustment benefits. Those eligible would receive a monthly payment of $1000
HR 1037 would authorize $10 million annually to implement a five-year pilot program to expand work-study activities for veterans on campuses.
HR 1098, The Veterans' Worker Retraining Act of 2009 would increase educational assistance for veterans pursuing internships or on-the-job training. It also increased the monthly training assistance for eligible veterans and their dependents under the Survivors and Dependents Educational Assistance program.
HR 2180 would waive housing loan fees for veterans with service-connected disabilities called to active duty.
HR 1821, The Equity for Injured Veterans Act of 2009 would extend VA's Vocational Rehabilitation program to 15 years following discharge or release from active duty. It also authorizes single parents participating in the program up to $2000 a month for child care services.
For more information on any of the bills cleared visit the House VA website at: http://veterans.house.gov/
OR type the bill # into the box at http://thomas.loc.gov/
2. Benefits Bill for Women Veterans Cleared: A comprehensive bill that will improve health care for female veterans cleared the House Veterans' Affairs Subcommittee on Health this week. HR 1211, The Women Veterans Health Care Improvement Act is a VFW priority goal. The bill as passed would:
**Authorize $4 million to VA to study barriers women face in accessing care and another $5 million for an assessment of the VA's health care services and programs provided to female veterans.
**Create a new program to offer graduate medical education, training and certification to mental health professionals who provide counseling, care and services for veterans suffering from sexual trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder.
**Authorize $1.5 million in 2010 and 2011 for a pilot program to provide child care to veterans who are receiving mental health or other intensive care services at VA facilities.
**Provide health care services for the newborns of female veterans who delivered at VA facilities for 7 days after birth.
Last month, the Senate VA Committee passed similar legislation in a large health care bill. VFW thanks both Senator Patty Murray and Representative Herseth-Sandlin for their leadership on this most important bill.
3. House VA Committee Hearings
Wednesday: The Full Committee met to discuss homeless veterans. Committee Chairman Bob Filner (D-CA) talked about the commitment to end homelessness by the Administration and the growing number of OIE/OEF and female veterans at risk because of poverty and lack of support from family, friends and program availability. Panelists discussed VA programs that have proven successful such as the Grant and Per Diem program which helps public and non-profit organizations establish and operate transitional housing and service centers. Many suggested increasing the per diem amount for the program as it uses an antiquated system that does not allow for geographic differences and changes in service costs. Witnesses all agreed that a more comprehensive strategy to combat homelessness to include more outreach by VA would help prevent veterans from becoming homeless in the first place. VA reported that the number of veterans who are homeless has decreased from 195,000 in 2005 to 131,000 in 2008.
Thursday: The Subcommittee on Health held a hearing on meeting the needs of family caregivers of veterans. The hearing hoped to identify gaps in supportive services to those family members providing care to severely disabled veterans. Witnesses included representatives from the Wounded Warrior Project, National Military Family Association, VA, DOD, HHS, and groups that provide in-home and respite care for individuals in need. Chairman Michael Michaud (D-ME) asked panelists to comment on recent legislation introduced and what the committee can provide by way of economic and other support for those caring for their wounded family members. Lack of coordination between VA and DOD when providing services was the most common complaint of witnesses. Retired Cmdr. Rene Campos, Deputy Director for government relations, Military Officers Association of America said it best when she commented as a part of her testimony that "There needs to be a commitment from VA and DOD to work together to build a total package that will meet the needs of the servicemember and their families now and into the future."
For more information on the hearings or to view the recorded webcast go to: http://veterans.house.gov/
4. Japan Apologizes to American POWs: Japan's Ambassador to the U.S. delivered his government's historic apology to the former POWs of Japan, their families, and friends at the last convention of the American Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor (ADBC) on May 30 in San Antonio, Texas. In the Pacific Theater, during World War II, over 29,000 American military personnel were captured by the Japanese. Nearly 40 percent of those POWs died in captivity as a result of the Bataan Death March and the horrific conditions that existed in the Japanese POW forced labor camps and enslavement at private Japanese companies. The ADBC, for decades, has been pressing Japan for an apology for the inhumane treatment American POWs suffered under Japan's colonial rule during WWII. They also seek an apology from Japanese industry for their inhumane actions and to include the American POWs in a new and permanent Peace, Friendship, and Exchange Fund. Note: The VFW has been working closely with the ADBC and the U.S. State Department over the past six months to facilitate this apology, and to pressure Japan to include American POWs in the Peace, Friendship, and Exchange program.
5. McHugh Tapped for Army Secretary: President Obama has nominated Congressman John McHugh to be Secretary of the Army. McHugh represents New York's 23rd Congressional District and is the Republican Ranking Member on the House Armed Services Committee. He is presently serving in his 9th term in the U.S. House of Representatives and if confirmed by the Senate will become the 21st Secretary of the Army.