VETERAN-RELATED LEGISLATIVE ACTIONS
The House of Representatives and Senate were both in session this week. The House was originally scheduled for a week's recess starting July 18. However, due to the debt ceiling-budget talks taking up much of Congress' agenda, the House will stay in session.
Senate Stands Up on Agent Orange
On Wednesday, July 20 The American Legion called upon its membership to tell Congress to strike down an amendment to the MILCON/VA appropriations bill closed with the passage of the bill through the Senate without the controversial amendment. Senate Amendment 564 to H.R. 2055 was introduced by Senator Tom Coburn (OK) and would have radically changed the fundamental scientific threshold of evidence, making it nearly impossible for future disorders to be added to the presumptive disability list associated with Agent Orange, and possibly negatively affected other veterans suffering from exposures to Gulf War hazards and other exposures. By a vote of 69-30 with one Senator not voting, Congress struck down the amendment and passed the clean bill subsequently with only two opposing votes.
The American Legion was extremely active yesterday in opposition to this amendment, writing critical analysis on the blog "The Burn Pit", issuing a press release from the National Commander, and calling for action through the Legislative Action Center. The American Legion called and membership raised their voice to Congress to stop the change before it could cause great damage to the Agent Orange veterans.
National Commander Jimmie Foster praised the defeat of the cost cutting measure, noting "I'm pleased that common sense, compassion and fairness prevailed. We can't balance the budget on the backs of those who have already contributed so much."
The amendment stood to change the standard of scientific evidence needed to associate disorders with Agent Orange from a "positive association" which has been the standard since the Agent Orange Act of 1991 to the far more onerous "causal relationship." In medical research, establishing a causal relationship requires far more exhaustive study, yet most treatment techniques and health advice is based on positive associations, as the more intricate causal relationships can often be almost impossible to pin down.
LEGISLATIVE FOCUS FOR THE WEEK: Update on American Legion Charter
H. R. 2369, the bill to amend the charter of The American Legion is now posted on THOMAS, the Library of Congress tracking website for Congressional legislation and can be found here: http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c112:H.R.2369:
The bill amends the charter of The American Legion to facilitate credit card processing of online membership renewal and other purposes. The bill has been referred to the Judiciary Committee of the House of Representatives. It currently has 192 cosponsors.
Update on Flag Amendment Bills
Senator Orrin Hatch's (UT) office continues to solicit additional cosponsors for Senate Joint Resolution 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 now stands at twenty-three.
To date, H.J. Res. 13 - the House companion to the Senate measure - has accumulated 53 cosponsors, with the addition this week of Rep. Steven Palazzo (MS). Please contact your representatives' 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.
National Commander's Testimony
It is not too early to begin making your plans to attend the presentation of the new National Commander's testimony before the joint House and Senate Veterans' Affairs committees on September 21. More information on this will be forthcoming.