Newly elected National Commander Jimmie L. Foster addresses members of the Legion’s Legislative Commission. Photo by Craig Roberts

Down to the final two minutes

Using a sports analogy, American Legion National Commander Jimmie Foster called for a full-court press from Legionnaires when dealing with Congress during the final days of the 111th session.

Addressing members of the Legislative Commission and other Legionnaires on the eve of his testimony before a joint session of the U.S. House and Senate Veterans Affairs committee, Foster said that while time is running down for the 111th Congress, there is still plenty of work to do for America's military and veterans.

"The fact that about 10 legislative days remain until (Congress adjourns) makes this sort of like the final two minutes of a basketball game. Unfortunately, the veterans are down two points and with no fouls to give," Foster said. "We haven't seen the (Department of Defense), the VETS or the VA budgets passed yet. We are this close to a veterans omnibus benefits bill, and legislation that doesn't cost a penny is tied up in the Senate.

"How can we possibly win this game? We can sit there and watch the game as they pass the ball to one another and effectively waste a whole bunch of time - acting only when they want and on issues that they want. Or we pressure them to act, hoping they do something that will benefit The American Legion and, in the end, our nation's veterans. I'm ready to apply that pressure, and I'm hoping you're ready to do the same. "

Legionnaires also received a briefing on the organization's legislative priorities featured on what was called a "drop sheet" - with the idea being a copy would be dropped on every member of Congress' desk. The drop sheet included this year's priorities - the fiscal 2011 appropriations bills, the fiscal 2011 defense authorization bill and the omnibus veterans benefit bill - as well as the top issues facing the 112th Congress. Those include the disabled veterans tax, the flag amendment and Medicare reimbursement for VA.