On Feb. 3, the Senate approved the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act, S. 167 – a bill named after a Marine veteran who had post-traumatic stress disorder and committed suicide in 2011. It now heads to the White House for President Barack Obama to sign.
The measure, which passed the House on Jan. 12, would require the Pentagon and Department of Veterans Affairs to submit to independent reviews of their suicide prevention programs and make information on suicide prevention more easily available to veterans. It also would offer financial incentives to psychiatrists and other mental health professionals who agree to work for the VA and help military members as they transition from active duty to veteran status.
House passes Hire More Heroes Act
On Jan. 6, the House of Representatives passed the Hire More Heroes Act of 2015, H.R. 22, by a vote of 412-0. This measure is aimed at encouraging companies to hire more American veterans by allowing veterans who are covered by VA healthcare or TRICARE to not be counted as employees for the purpose of triggering the so-called "employer mandate."
The Affordable Care Act mandates that employers who employ 50 full-time workers must provide health care, a provision that many view as overly burdensome for small businesses. This law would encourage small businesses to hire veterans by allowing veterans who are otherwise covered to not count toward the numbers for the purposes of the mandate. The Senate introduced a companion measure, S.12.
Senate passes Keystone XL Pipeline bill
On Jan. 29, the Senate approved the bill S. 1, mandating the construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline. The bill has been amended from the version passed by the House and now goes back to the House to be approved as amended. If the House does not accept the amended bill, it will go to a conference committee to resolve the differences. If a conference committee is convened, the final legislation must be approved by both chambers.
"Constructing Keystone would pump billions into our economy," said Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). "It would support thousands of good American jobs and as the president’s own State Department has indicated, it would do this with minimal environmental impact."
President Obama has vowed to veto the bill. His official response is the administration is awaiting an environmental review by the U.S. Department of State.
Legion supports H.R. 182
On Jan. 20, The American Legion sent a letter of support to Rep. Ken Calvert (R-Calif.) for H.R. 182, legislation that which would streamline veteran education benefits at community colleges by directing the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to permit the centralized reporting of veteran enrollment by certain groups, districts and consortiums of educational institutions.