Congress returns Nov. 13, to face a crowded agenda. Many items on the agenda are still controversial, and there are lengthy matters that remain as well – especially those bills already passed by the House but have not been acted upon in the Senate. Among the highest profile bills:
Other pending legislation includes Senate Bill 3276, which extends authorities of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which is set to expire at year's end and is considered essential by U.S. intelligence officials.
House, Senate veterans' committees will see changes:
With the 2012 congressional elections essentially finished, Congress will begin the process of filling vacancies and re-arranging committee assignments for the upcoming 113th Congress. The Veterans' Affairs committees are no exception. Below is a brief look at the departures from each committee:
In other news:
Community center set up for D.C. veterans: The Economic Division went on a site visit Nov. 6 to the Department of Veterans Affairs new Community Resource and Referral Center (CRRC) in Washington, D.C. The CRRC is the first of its kind in the D.C. area and will serve as a 24/7 hub to combat homelessness among veterans. It is one of 17 centers the Department of Veterans Affairs plans to locate across the nation. These facilities centralize federal and local partners to provide services to homeless and at-risk veterans.
Although not a shelter, the CRRC provides services to assist veterans and their family members. The building includes a Primary Care Clinic, a complete kitchen, laundry and shower facilities, a food pantry and a play room for children, as well as a host of other community services.
Job fair boosts Sandy recovery: Following the devastation of Superstorm Sandy, Bob Looby, Economic and Employment chairman for the Department of New Jersey, began spearheading an expedited building-trade specific job fair to hasten the recovery and rebuilding process. Looby developed the plan, and scheduled the event in one day. All partners from the Department of Labor, U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve are on board and ready to proceed with a job fair at American Legion Post 129 in Toms River, New Jersey on Nov. 24.
Jobless rate: The U.S. unemployment rate is 7.9 percent (October 2012), while the rate for Iraq war veterans is 10 percent. The jobless rate for female veterans is 15.5 percent (down from last month's 19.9 percent).
Help for low-income veterans: Supportive Services for Veterans Families (SSVF) is a new program that granted 151 groups awards ranging from $89,950 to $1 million in fiscal 2011. General information and resources for the program can be found at www.va.gov/homeless/ssvf.asp .
The SSVF program's purpose is to improve very low-income veteran families' housing stability. Grant recipients, in the form of private non-profit organizations and consumer cooperatives, will provide eligible families with outreach, case management, and assistance in obtaining VA and other benefits. Such areas include health-care services, financial planning services, transportation services, legal assistance and child-care services.
SWS site visits: Senior field service representative Warren Goldstein and national task force member Patrick Rourke conducted a System Worth Saving site visit in Buffalo, N.Y. This week, the health policy unit will be conducting a System Worth Saving site visit in Togus, Maine, on Nov. 14. The staff conducting the site visit will be the System Worth Saving chairman, Ralph Bozella, deputy director of health care Jacob Gadd and national field service representative, Roscoe Butler.