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Congressional Updates

Members of both the House and Senate recessed to go back to their home states and districts for the summer district work period, which is August 6 through September 10. Both chambers have pro-forma sessions every three days so that President Obama cannot make recess appointments.

The Commander’s Testimony before the joint House and Senate Veterans’ Affairs committees is scheduled for October 3.


Preparations for National Convention

As the Legislative Division prepares for the upcoming National Convention, a number of point papers are being prepared for distribution to members of the National Legislative Commission. These documents will give the Commission members some in-depth background to topics which will dominate congressional actions for the remainder of this year. These point papers include:

The Flag Amendment – Prospects for action on the flag protection amendment this year are dim. With elections in November, the likelihood for changes in Congress raises questions about the amendment moving forward in the next Congress. What actions should be expected in the 113th Congress?

The FY 2013 VA Appropriations – The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is projected to receive its largest funding amount in its history. Besides its base medical care programs, research into traumatic brain injury and post traumatic stress will be expanded.

The FY 2013 DOD Appropriations – With U.S. forces still committed to Afghanistan, and with unsettled conditions elsewhere, national security concerns will continue to dominate our country’s armed forces. Congress and the Obama administration are starting to explore ways to reduce current military spending levels. Eventually those “savings” would be funneled to domestic spending. Will our national security standing suffer, like the “hollow forces” of the post-Vietnam and Cold War eras?

The FY 2013 National Defense Authorization ActThe NDAA, as passed by the House, begins to restore fiscal sanity to the defense budget, reflecting concern about America’s mounting debt, but also ensuring that our armed forces have the resources they need to meet an increasingly dangerous world. A final version of this legislation has yet to pass Congress.

Licensing and Credentialing of Military Skills –Every year, skilled service members leaving the armed forces miss out on the chance to quickly move into good, high-paying, career-building jobs because they must undergo lengthy and expensive retraining in order to meet civilian licensure and certification requirements, often for the same type of jobs they held in the military. President Obama signed the Veteran Skills to Jobs Act of 2012 into law in July, which directs the head of each federal department and agency to treat relevant military training as sufficient to satisfy training or certification requirements for a federal license. However, federal leadership is still necessary to achieve the new law’s goals.

Stolen Valor Act – In United States v. Alvarez the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on June 28, 2012, that the Stolen Valor Act was an unconstitutional abridgment of the freedom of speech under the First Amendment, striking down the law in a 6 to 3 decision. Currently, there is legislation in both chambers awaiting action to address this problem. H.R. 1775 and S. 1728, rather than criminalizing the act of lying about military honors, would make it a crime to profit from those lies.

Sequestration – Last year, President Obama signed Public Law 112-25, the Budget Control Act of 2011 into law on August 2, 2011. This legislation was thought to be a workable compromise to end battles over increasing the federal debt ceiling and limiting government spending. After the failure of the “supercommittee” to agree to the size and scope of the budget reductions, automatic sequestration (withholding spending) of all non-exempt federal budget programs would be instituted. Although VA is mainly exempt from sequestration, P.L. 112-25 said “administrative costs” of VA are non-exempt. So far, the White House and OMB have failed to define this term, thereby leaving open what VA programs may be affected by sequestration.

These point papers will soon be made available on The American Legion’s website, .

Legislative Commission Meeting Speakers Announced

During the upcoming National Convention in Indianapolis, IN, the National Legislative Commission will hold a regular meeting to discuss its work for the upcoming Congress, as well as recommended a slate of resolutions to represent The American Legion’s legislative priorities for the upcoming year.

In addition, there will be two outside speakers addressing the commission. One is Ms. Rory Riley, recently promoted to Staff Director of the House Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Disability and Memorial Affairs. She will be speaking on efforts to address the burgeoning disability claims backlog in the VA.

The second speaker will be Mr. Mark Seavey, New Media Manager in The American Legion’s Magazine Administration. He will be speaking on legislation to address the recently-overturned Stolen Valor Act.

Update on Flag Amendment Bills

Sen. Orrin Hatch’s (UT) office continues to solicit additional cosponsors for Senate Joint Resolution (S.J. Res.) 19, a proposed constitutional amendment to protect the American flag from physical desecration. Its text states simply: “The Congress shall have power to prohibit the physical desecration of the flag of the United States.” The cosponsor total for the Senate legislation stands at 36. To date, H.J. Res. 13 – the House companion bill to the Senate measure – has accumulated 89 cosponsors.

Please contact your representatives’ and senators’ offices, and ask them to become cosponsors of the flag amendment in their respective chambers. If they are already cosponsors, be sure to thank them for their support.

The American Legion Legislative Division

(202) 263-5752

For Week Ending 08-17-12