American Legion Deputy Director of Health Policy Katie Purswell testified July 23 before the House Committee on Veteran’s Affairs on several pieces of legislation impacting veterans.
In the era of the COVID-19 pandemic, the mission of The American Legion has never been more clear, Purswell said during her testimony. She highlighted a few ways Legionnaires have supported their community members and veterans since the pandemic started, such as by collecting and delivering food, hygiene and cleaning supplies; hosting blood drives; and making face masks.
“Our national commander’s call for 'Buddy Checks' have increased by our members to ensure we are meeting the needs of our veterans. We have held financial workshops, resume writing seminars, virtual career fairs, townhall and networking meet-ups,” she added.
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced in April that they were seeing dramatic increases in telemental health care use during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“Legislation like H.R. 3228 (the VA Mission Telehealth Clarification Act) will afford veterans the ability to see a health care provider more quickly through telehealth by allowing veterans to be seen by a larger portion of VA,” Purswell said.
In addition to the health crisis caused by COVID-19, the pandemic has also put many veterans in precarious financial situations due to unemployment or reduced income. The American Legion believes H.R.7111, the Veterans Economic Recovery Act of 2020, will help bring down the unemployment rate of veterans who have lost jobs and critical income due to COVID-19.
“The current unemployment rate for veterans has more than doubled in the last year,” Purswell said. “With nearly 17,000 servicemembers leaving active duty service every month, these numbers will not fall any time soon. If done correctly, the Economic Recovery Act will help veterans, young and old, transition into new jobs.”
Members of the National Guard have been greatly impacted by COVID-19, as they have been constantly mobilized and demobilized to support first responders during the crisis.
“At one point in June, nearly one quarter of our entire National Guard, 120,000 soldiers, were mobilized in our communities,” Purswell stated. “These servicemembers deserve to return to the lives they were living without fear of being jobless. The USERRA Protections for State Active Duty will allow these servicemembers to fall under the current USERRA guidelines.
“The American Legion will continue to serve our veteran population and others because that is who we are and what we do. But we need Congress to meet us halfway by providing sound legislation that supports our veterans.”
To view the full hearing, click here.