LEGION-RELATED LEGISLATIVE ACTIONS
The House and Senate are in recess for the election campaigns. A lame-duck session will begin November 13. One third of the Senate seats and all 435 seats of the House are up for election on November 6.
CDL Measure Signed into Law
On October 19 President Obama enacted Public Law 112-196, the Military Commercial Driver's License Act of 2012. The bill essentially allows active duty military, military reserves, National Guard, active duty United States Coast Guard, or Coast Guard Auxiliary service members to earn their commercial driver’s licenses in states where they are stationed. This law was an initiative of The American Legion, the purpose of which was to remove regulatory barriers to civilian employment for those service members who gained skills during military service that could easily transfer to a civilian career.
Veterans COLA Bill Cleared for Senate Consideration
According to Senate staff, the Senate is expected to give approval to the legislation at the earliest possible moment in the lame-duck session. This session is scheduled to begin November 13. The House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed the Veterans’ Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment Act of 2012 (H.R. 4114) on July 9 and delivered the bill to the Senate July 10. However, the bill has been sitting on the Senate calendar waiting for consideration since that time. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced it can make processing adjustments in disability, survivors, and related veterans payments for January 1 payments if the Senate passes this legislation by the week of December 3.
A recent announcement by the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that Social Security recipients – and by extension veterans disability payment recipients – will receive a 1.7 percent cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) for 2013.
Indian Health Service linking its electronic health records with VA and DOD
In a decision supported by The American Legion, the Indian Health Service's (IHS) electronic health records system is now following the same joint electronic health record (EHR) plan as the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Defense Department. The IHS health information system is already in large part based on the VA's which VistA system. IHS will take tools used by VA and apply them to its system throughout the country.
IHS is an agency within the Department of Health and Human Services, and, as one of its missions, provides medical care services to veterans in its offices. It has about a $5 billion annual budget. IHS has health care facilities across 35 states and manages 45 agency-run tribal and federal hospitals, and several hundred clinics. Those range from large multi-specialty clinics to small Alaskan village clinics.
One problem IHS will have is finding resources and applying best practices to offices that sometimes are not equipped with modern Internet access. Another challenge is to make the technology infrastructure of IHS consistent across the country. When it comes to electronic health records, many IHS offices and clinics still run on a T1 Internet service platform. (A T1 line is one of the lowest tier commercial Internet lines.) Most large organizations use much faster fiber optic cables. Lastly, because IHS works with non-federal organizations (tribal organizations, local communities, etc.), the agency has to weigh federal requirements for online privacy with what is available from its outside partners.
Update: Silver Star Recipients Added to Valor Site
The Department of Defense (DOD) has added the names of those who have received Silver Star awards to its website listing recipients of the nation's highest awards for valor. The site was launched in July with the names of those who received the Medal of Honor, the nation's highest award for valor, since September 11, 2001.
On August 1, DOD added the names of those who have received the Distinguished Service Cross, the Navy Cross, or the Air Force Cross – the nation's second-highest valor awards. Now, the site lists those who have received the Silver Star.
The site was created to increase the public’s awareness of service members' heroism and to help in deterring those who falsely claim military honors. The website is located http://valor.defense.gov.
LEGISLATIVE DIVISION ACTIONS
Update on Flag Amendment Bills
Sen. Orrin Hatch’s (UT) office continues to solicit additional cosponsors for Senate Joint Resolution (S.J. Res.) 19, a proposed constitutional amendment to protect the American flag from physical desecration. Its text states simply: “The Congress shall have power to prohibit the physical desecration of the flag of the United States.” The cosponsor total for the Senate legislation stands at 36. To date, H.J. Res. 13 – the House companion bill to the Senate measure – has accumulated 90 cosponsors.
Please contact your representative’s and senators’ offices, and ask them to become cosponsors of the flag amendment in their respective chambers. If they are already cosponsors, be sure to thank them for their support.