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OCTOBER 20, 2011 DATELINE: CAPITOL HILL Legion charter legislation passes Senate, on to House T e American Legion


now provides its members with a service that allows them to renew their membership and pay their dues online. Last year, the Legion’s National Convention adopted an amendment to the national constitution to authorize this new service. Previously, all dues payments from members had fl owed to the national organization from posts through the departments. Online renewal has raised a concern, however, that because some dues monies now fl ow from the national organization to the departments and posts, that the national organization has “control” over those departments and posts. In order to resolve this


issue, the Legion has sought legislation to change its corporate charter to clarify the autonomous, independent nature of posts and departments. As a congressionally-chartered veterans service organization, Congress must pass, and the president must sign into law, any amendment to the Legion’s corporate charter. T is action comes on the


heels of National Commander Fang Wong’s testimony before a joint session of the House and Senate Veterans’ Aff airs committees on Sept. 21. In addition to this appearance, Wong spent two weeks in the nation’s capital, meeting with dozens of members of Congress. One of his constant talking points was a plea for passage of these measures as expeditiously as possible. On Oct. 6, the Senate passed


S. 1639, a bill to make changes to the Legion’s congressional charter. T e measure passed that body by unanimous consent, sending the measure to the House of Representatives, three days aſt er the bill was introduced. A House companion measure, H.R. 2369, is awaiting action by that chamber. It is currently in the House Judiciary Committee, and has 371 co-sponsors. T e Legion hopes that fi nal action on these measures can take place later this year, before Congress recesses.


Continuing resolutions keep


government running Legislative gridlock in


the 112th Congress resulted in


fi scal 2012 appropriations missing the crucial deadline of Oct. 1. As a result, Congress passed two continuing resolutions (CRs) to temporarily fund federal-government operations.


Both chambers


Dan Dellinger Chairman, National Legislative Commission


of Congress were scheduled to be in recess during the last week of September, but on Sept. 26 the Senate worked some overtime, passing two CRs to avoid another looming federal-government shutdown. During a pro forma session on Sept. 29, the House


passed the fi rst CR by unani- mous consent. T at fi rst CR, which included


$2.65 billion in disaster-relief funding, kept the government functioning until Oct. 4. President Barack Obama signed that measure into law on Sept. 30 as Public Law 112-33. Aſt er returning from recess,


the House then passed the second CR by a vote of 352-66. T is measure will fund the federal government until Nov. 18. It was signed by the president on Oct. 5 as P.L. 112-36.


President signs


veterans measure On Oct. 5, the president


signed P.L.112-37, the “Veterans Health Care Facilities Capital Improvement Act of 2011.” T e bill passed the House on Sept. 20 by a vote of 412-3, and was approved by the Senate three days later by unanimous consent. Among its many provisions


the measure: 


Authorizes VA to carry


out certain fi scal 2012 major medical-facility construction projects, including seismic corrections to VA medical facilities in Seattle, West Los Angeles, St. Louis and San Juan, Puerto Rico; major construction at facilities in Palo Alto, Calif., and Fayetteville, Ark.; and the expansion of construction


projects in Orlando, Fla.; 


Authorizes leases for outpa-


tient centers and clinics in Columbus, Ga.; Fort Wayne, Ind.; Rochester, N.Y.; Salem, Ore.; San Jose, Calif.; South Bend, Ind.; and


Springfi eld, Mo..; 


Extends to Dec. 31, 2018,


specifi ed authority for the treatment, rehabilitation and


additional services for seriously mentally ill and homeless veterans, housing assistance for homeless veterans and VA’s Advisory Committee on Homeless Veterans.


Senate appropriations panel


approves spending bills In September, the Senate


Appropriations Committee set a frantic pace. Trying to make up for lost time, the panel sought to complete work on the 11 spending bills it had not yet approved. T e sole exception was the Military Construction/Depart- ment of Veterans Aff airs bill, which had been passed by the committee on June 30 and by the full Senate on July 20. Between Sept. 7 and Sept. 21, the Senate panel approved 10 of the remaining 11 appropriations measures for fi scal 2012. On Sept. 21, the Senate


Appropriations Committee approved S. 1599, the funding bill for the departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies. Funding for DoL’s Veterans’ Employment and Training Service (VETS) would total $258.6 million, an amount that is $3 million more than fi scal 2011 but $2.4 million less than requested by the Obama administration. During his meetings with members of Congress, Wong stressed the need for federal assistance to combat high unemployment among the nation’s veterans. On the same day, the


committee also approved S. 1601, the appropriations bill to fund the State Department and Foreign Operations. T e measure provides $44.6 billion in total discretionary funding, which is $3.5 billion less than the funding levels for fi scal 2011 and $6.1 billion less than the president’s request. Specifi c areas of interest to the


Legion include: 


$7.9 billion in total global


assistance to global health programs, including the fi ght against HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, measles, malaria and a possible


infl uenza pandemic; 


Afghanistan; 


$3.5 billion in economic and security assistance to


$3.1 billion in military


assistance to Israel; 


enforcement; 


$2.2 billion for international narcotics control and law


$1.5 billion in economic and military aid to Egypt;


 $1 billion in border security/ anti-terrorism military aid to


Pakistan; 


military aid to Jordan; 


$660 million in economic and $627 million in assistance for


nations of Europe, Eurasia and Central Asia. T e House Appropriations


Committee has yet to approve measures for either DoL or State-Foreign Operations. It is hoped that fi nal funding for federal-government operations can be completed before the end of this year.


House passes veterans


measures; Senate next step On Oct. 11, the House


passed a number of veteran-related bills, all by voice votes. T ese measures now go to the Senate for further action. T e bills were: H.R. 2074, the “Veterans


Sexual Assault Prevention Act.” Introduced by Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle, chairman of the House Veterans’ Aff airs Subcommittee on Health, this measure directs VA to set up a centralized and comprehensive policy on reporting and tracking sexual assaults and other safety incidents at each VA medical facility. H.R. 2302 directs VA to


notify Congress of conferences sponsored by that department. It was introduced by Rep. Marlin Stutzman. H.R. 2349, the “Veterans'


Benefi ts Training Improvement Act of 2011.” T is measure, introduced by Rep. Jon Runyan, chairman of the House Veterans’ Aff airs Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Aff airs, directs VA to annually assess the skills of certain employees and managers of the Veterans Benefi ts Administration. H.R. 1263, a bill to


amend the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act to provide surviving spouses with certain protections relating to mort- gages and mortgage foreclo- sures. It was introduced by House Veterans’ Aff airs Committee Ranking Member Rep. Bob Filner . H.R. 1025 recognizes


the service in the reserve components of certain persons by honoring them with a status as veterans under law. T is measure was introduced by Rep. Tim Walz. On Oct. 12, the House


passed H.R. 2433, the “Veteran Opportunity to Work (VOW) Act of 2011.” T e recorded vote was 418-6. T is measure was


one of the focal points of Wong’s testimony and meetings with members of Congress. As passed by the House,


H.R. 2433 would: 


Direct DoL, from Jan. 1, 2012,


to March 31, 2014, to provide for monthly payments, through VA, of up to 12 months of retraining assistance to certain veterans from 35 to 60 years of age applying by Oct. 1, 2013, who: (1) were last discharged from military active-duty service with an honorable discharge, (2) have been unemployed for a designated period of time, and (3) are ineligible for specifi ed veterans-benefi t educational assistance; and also sets forth the maxi- mum number of eligible veterans who may participate in the program and the permitted forms of education


and training; 


Revise the guidelines for


stationing Transition Assistance Program (TAP) personnel to require DoL to contract with a private entity or entities to provide specifi ed counseling, employment


and training services; 


Require the mandatory


participation of all armed forces members eligible for employment assistance and other transitional services, unless a documented urgent-operational requirement


prevents attendance; 


Modify the demonstration


project on credentialing for armed forces active duty servicemembers transitioning to civilian employment by requiring the assistant secretary for Veterans' Employment and Training to: (1) select at least fi ve but not more than 10 (currently, at least 10) military occupational specialties, and (2) enter into a contract with an appropriate entity representing a coalition of state governors to identify credentialing, certifi cation and licensing requirements incorporating the necessary skills for


such specialties; 


Create a three-year pilot


program requiring DoL to make grants and enter contracts for veterans employment and training services with any of the 10 states with the highest unemployment rates


in the nation; 


Prohibit full-time disabled


veterans' outreach program specialists (DVOPs) and local veterans’ employment representatives (LVERs) from performing non-veteran-related duties and services.


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