Two veterans measures enacted

On Aug. 9, President Barack Obama enacted Public Law (P.L.) 113-27, the Helping Heroes Fly Act. This measure updates the Wounded Warriors Screening Program established in 2005 to let disabled veterans and severely injured servicemembers request expedited screening from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).

The bill would direct the assistant secretary of Homeland Security for TSA to develop ways of easing airport screenings. Nothing in the bill prohibits more security screening of a servicemember if law enforcement officials deemed it necessary. As amended by the Senate, the bill will not allow expedited screening for family members accompanying the veterans and servicemembers.

Under the amendment by Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., family members could still contact the TSA to make arrangements for the military personnel covered by the program. The Senate passed the amended bill on Aug. 1, with the House agreeing to the Senate version on Aug. 2.

Also on Aug. 9, Obama signed into law P.L. 113-26, the FOR VETS Act of 2013. The bill was introduced by Rep. Dan Benishek, R-Mich.

This legislation adds veteran services to the list of eligible uses for surplus federal property offered to not-for-profit groups through the Federal Surplus Personal Property Donation Program. When federal agencies no longer need property such as office supplies, furniture or motor vehicles, the surplus items are eligible to be donated to public service organizations for education or health-care related services.

In 2010, Congress added veterans service organizations to the list of eligible organizations. However, under current law, veteran service organizations cannot receive surplus property to use toward the full range of services they provide to veterans.

Meanwhile, 10 of 12 fiscal year 2014 appropriations measures have been approved by the House Appropriations Committee, while its Senate counterpart has approved 11 to date. The House has passed four of those 10 measures – two of them being Defense and the Military Construction/Department of Veterans Affairs spending bills – but the Senate has not acted on any of their measures.

Much of the delay can be attributed to debate over possible rising of the debt ceiling, which allows the U.S. government to borrow funds to pay its bills. The current debt ceiling is scheduled to be reached sometime in October.

It too is becoming apparent that Congress will rely on the passage of a series of continuing resolutions (CRs) to keep the government funded. These CRs will keep the government funded for a certain period of time, but at the same level of funding that was approved for the current fiscal year.

American Legion Family members are encouraged to contact their members of Congress and ask them to pass all 12 appropriations bills as stand-alone measures to avoid the use of CRs.