National Commander Daniel Dellinger met with key congressional members last week even as the House and Senate worked through a busy floor schedule as budget deadlines draw nearer.
Dellinger met with Chairman Bernie Sanders of Vermont of the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs (SVAC) and Chairman Jeff Miller of Florida of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs (HVAC), as well as Rep. Mike Michaud of Maine to discuss the agendas of both committees. In addition to the leadership of the full committees, Dellinger also met with: Reps. Ann Kirkpatrick of Arizona of the Oversight and Investigation (O&I) subcommittee; Julia Brownley of California of the Health subcommittee; and staff for Chairman John Runyan of New Jersey and Dina Titus of Nevada of the Disability and Memorial Affairs (DAMA) subcommittee; and Chairman Bill Flores of Texas and Ranking Member Mark Takano of California of the Economic Opportunity (EO) subcommittee.
In all of the meetings, Dellinger provided copies of The American Legion's new publication "The War Within," which reports the findings and recommendations of the three-year study conducted by the Legion's Ad Hoc Committee on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). The commander also provided a preview of the upcoming annual report of the System Worth Saving Task Force, which focused on women veterans in the health-care system. Both documents generated a lot of interest on the Hill.
Other key topics included: advanced appropriations for all VA funding; protecting VA and the Department of Defense (DOD) from the deleterious budget cuts of sequestration; and Sanders' interest in ensuring VA health care is expanded to allow access for all veterans, including Category 8s, which is in line with American Legion resolutions supporting the priority for all veterans to access the health care they earned with their service.
Legislative Commission Chairman Brett Reistad and Legislative staff accompanied the commander on his visits on the Hill.
In other news:
Working with technology giant: The Economic Division attended and spoke at a Microsoft reception to honor America's servicemembers, veterans and their families. Rep. Sam Johnson of Texas and senior Microsoft executives were in attendance. This initiative is meant to assist servicemembers, veterans and their spouses successfully transition from the military to civilian employment. Through Microsoft's investments of more than $12 million in cash, software and related support, veterans and their eligible spouses can take advantage of resources including, technology skills training and certification, job placement, career counseling and other support services such as child care, transportation and housing to help in their transition to civilian life.
Career fairs: The Economic Division continued planning last week for upcoming Hiring Our Heroes job fairs in Kansas City and New York.
Claims: During the week ending Sept. 13, the Board of Veterans' Appeals reached dispositions on 146 American Legion represented appeals. Of those dispositions, 76.8 percent of the denials were overturned with outcomes favorable to the veteran. In 42 cases, the board granted benefits outright after considering The American Legion's arguments. In 71 cases, The American Legion was able to point out errors in the development of the veteran's claims that mandated corrective action under the law. Of the total number of dispositions, 31 (21.1 percent) were outright denials.