President to sign FOR VETS bill

The American Legion and other veterans service organizations (VSOs) will now be able to obtain a wide range of federal surplus goods (e.g., computers, vehicles, appliances and land) at no cost to support veterans. The amended FOR VETS Act of 2013 cleared the U.S. Senate and is ready for President Obama’s signature.

The original FOR VETS Act suggested that the no-cost availability of government surplus goods to VSOs be restricted to items aiding veterans’ education and health care. The new law clarifies that language and essentially lifts those restrictions.

A House version of the Formerly Owned Resources for Veterans to Express Thanks for Service (FOR VETS) Act of 2013 passed by a near unanimous vote on July 8. The next day, American Legion National Commander James E. Koutz sent a letter to one of the Senate companion bill’s co-sponsors, Sen. Thomas Carper, D-Del., asking him to move the Senate version of the FOR VETS bill (S. 573) forward so it can be voted on before Congress recesses in August. Carper, an original co-sponsor of S. 573, chairs the Senate Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs Committee where the measure was being considered. True to the commander’s wishes, the bill was passed by the Senate on the evening of Aug 1.

In his letter, Koutz said that the new bill would enable the Legion and colleague organizations to "gain increased opportunities to federal surplus property to educate, train and improve quality of life for veterans, their families and the communities in which they live."

The FOR VETS bill reflects the intent of Resolution 331, passed by The American Legion in August 2012 at its national convention in Indianapolis. The resolution supports legislation that enables VSOs to gain access to surplus federal property (distributed through state agencies) by making VSOs "their own category of eligibility."

Another veteran-friendly measure is also headed to President Obama’s desk — Helping Heroes Fly Act. The bill directs the Department of Homeland Security to develop ways to expedite TSA security screenings at airports for severely injured servicemembers and disabled veterans. Family members and other traveling companions of the wounded warriors and vets would still be subject to full TSA screenings.