Veterans

September 12, 2012

Congress courts veterans leading up to election

Kevin Freking
Associated Press

Congress is using its relatively few working days before November’s general election to send a message of support to the nation’s 21 million-plus veterans. No legislative breakthroughs are expected, but lawmakers in both parties hope the late push will help them make their case to a critical voting bloc.

Senate Democrats are pushing President Barack Obama’s proposal to establish a job corps for veterans. The bill would dedicate $1 billion over five years for the hiring of veterans as police officers and firefighters and for employing others to restore and protect public lands.

House Republicans plan a series of hearings reviewing the Veterans Affairs Department’s performance on key issues, such as its lack of progress in reducing the disability claims backlog.

Lawmakers want to return to their districts to campaign for re-election as soon as possible. House members could leave as early as Sept. 14 and are expected to stay in Washington no later than the end of next week. The Senate is likely to have a shortened September schedule too.

That means almost no time to pass substantive legislation – but enough time to try to score some points with voters.

For example, Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, a key Democratic Party strategist, wants a procedural vote on the House Republican budget plan written by Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, the GOP vice presidential nominee. In the House, Republicans are promising a vote on a bill called the No More Solyndras Act, which would phase out Energy Department loan guarantees for solar and wind energy companies. It’s unlikely to come up for a vote in the Democratic-controlled Senate.

California-based Solyndra Inc. went bankrupt last year after receiving a federal loan guarantee, even as some White House aides raised red flags. The company is a focal point for Republican criticism of President Barack Obama’s green-energy policy.

In a nod to veterans, the Senate is scheduled to vote on whether to proceed with a bill to establish the Veterans Jobs Corps. The legislation borrows from the concept of the Civilian Conservation Corps, which put nearly 3 million people to work during the Great Depression planting trees and building roads and parks.

The unemployment rate for veterans had been dropping gradually when it hit a bump in the latest jobs report, which showed the unemployment rate for Iraq and Afghanistan vets at 10.9 percent. That was nearly 2 percentage points higher from the previous month. Economists warn not to put too much stock into one month’s report.

Obama unveiled the Veterans Jobs Corps proposal in early February. Neither chamber moved swiftly to act on the proposal, but Democrats have now brought the measure from Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., to the floor.

“The heroes who fought for their country overseas shouldn’t have to fight for a job once they get home,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said Sept. 10.
The Senate’s veterans’ jobs program bill would be paid for mostly by requiring the IRS to recover more money from Medicare providers who are delinquent on their tax bills and by requiring the State Department to rescind or deny passports to anyone who owes more than $50,000 in unpaid taxes.

Veterans groups have largely been supportive of establishing the jobs corps, but there has not been a clamoring for that specific program. It’s considered one of several steps that could improve the jobs picture for veterans.

Ramsey Sulayman, legislative associate at the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, said he understands that it’s an election season and “everybody’s angling,” but he also believes lawmakers in both chambers are making a good-faith effort to help veterans as the session winds down.

“You hope people are doing things for altruistic reasons, but the bottom line is, if they’re helping out veterans, we’re happy with that,” Sulayman said.

Even if the Senate ends up passing the measure, it probably will go nowhere in the House. Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., chairman of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, said his committee has received few details about the program and said he’s focused on expanding existing job-training programs with the VA.
“What we’re focused on is helping veterans find long-term unemployment and not some gimmick,” Miller said.

Meanwhile, the House committee will be focusing on oversight. A hearing scheduled for next week will look at an array of challenges that the VA is facing, such as lengthy wait times that many veterans have experienced when seeking mental health care or in resolving disability claims.

“This is not political in any sense,” Miller said. “Lives are at risk and the VA needs to be laser-focused on finding solutions to ensure our veterans who are suffering from the invisible wounds of war are treated quickly when they reach out for help.”




All of this week's top headlines to your email every Friday.


 
 

 

Reunions

Sept. 7-9 603rd AC&W Radar Sqdn (Germany, 1960-1966) Kansas City, Mo. For more information, contact Roger Kirby at 417) 358-3654 or email rakmak@sbcglobal.net. Sept. 9-14 58th Ftr Assn (58th & 474th, WWII-2014) Norfolk, Va. For more information, contact Jean Kupferer at (812) 945-7649 or email jkupferer@twc.com. Sept. 10-15 Army Air Corps Pilot Classes of WWII...
 
 

VA outlines actions taken to improve access to care, implement IG recommendations from

The Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General Aug. 26 released the final report of its review of systemic issues with patient scheduling and access issues at the Phoenix VA Health Care System. VA concurred with the recommendations in the final report and, in many cases, has already implemented action plans and made improvements...
 
 

HUD, VA, USICH announce 33 percent drop in veteran homelessness since 2010

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, and U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness Aug. 26released a new national estimate of veteran homelessness in the United States. Data collected during the annual Point-in-Time Count conducted in January 2014 shows there were 49,933 homeless veterans in America, a decline of 33...
 

 

VA announces new grants to help end veterans homelessness

Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert A. McDonald announced Aug. 11 the award of approximately $300 million in grants that will help approximately 115,000 homeless and at-risk veterans and their families. The grants will be distributed to 301 community agencies in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. Under the...
 
 

VA funds SoCal agencies in battle to end homelessness

Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert A. McDonald announced Aug. 11 the award of $23.1 million in homeless prevention grants to counties in Southern California. The grants will serve approximately 4,400 homeless and at-risk Veteran families as part of the Supportive Services for Veteran Families program. This award will serve Veteran families associated with 17 different...
 
 
DOD photograph by EJ Hersom

Obama signs act to give VA new money, authorities

DOD photograph by EJ Hersom President Barack Obama signs the Veterans’ Access to Care through Choice, Accountability, and Transparency Act into law at Fort Belvoir, Va., Aug. 7, 2014. President Barack Obama today signed into ...
 




0 Comments


Be the first to comment!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>