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System Worth Saving Discussions with Congressional Staff

Staff from The American Legion’s Legislative and VA&R divisions met with staff from the House Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Health on Wednesday, April 3 to discuss the upcoming System Worth Saving visits for 2013-2014. The meeting was aimed at garnering input from the congressional staff on particular sites and issues they felt might be useful or important to explore during the visits. The focus of the System Worth Saving visits in 2013-2014 will be Veteran Mental Health.

Legislative Division Agenda for Upcoming Weeks

The House and Senate were out of session the last two weeks, so the Legislative Division can focus on catching up on administrative duties and preparing for the Spring NEC meetings, National Convention, and Commander’s testimony on September 10th.

This week we will be working on Rule 3 of the Rules of the National Executive Committee – specifically, the "advance reports." Additionally, the staff will be going over NEC proceedings and procedures, and working with Chairman Governor. Focus will be on Resolution handling and processing, and the Chairman’s report/script will dominate this abbreviated week. Also, we are developing a joint session with the Economics Division during National Convention to host a Congressional Town Hall whereby we invite congressional representatives from the Houston and greater Texas area to participate in a Veterans Town Hall Discussion.

Invitations will be prepared and sent out for Convention speakers, and we will continue to work with Hill staff as the congressional offices remain open even though Congress is not in session.

Lastly, we are developing 4 projects;

1. Legislative e-update, which should launch next Friday;

2. Revise the Our Pillars, Your Platform publication to include the Commander’s Testimony and an Annual update/forecast of TAL Legislative activity;

3. Develop an interface and online database to manage the Legislative Council; and,

4. Develop an overlay that shows where each post is in relation to congressional districts.

Letters of Support

The American Legion on April 1 sent a letter of support to Sens. Dean Heller (NV) and Jon Tester (MT), giving our organization’s support for S. 210, the Stolen Valor Act of 2013. Our organization believes, in the aftermath of last year’s Supreme Court decision United States v. Alvarez overturning the Stolen Valor Act of 2005 (Public Law 109-437), this new legislation will rightfully target those who seek to gain tangible benefits and, with the addition of the definition of "combat badge" should be sufficient to pass court review.[Resolution 283-2012]

Also on April 1, The American Legion sent a letter of support to Richard Blumenthal (CT), giving our organization’s support for draft legislation to repeal time limitation on the eligibility for use of educational assistance under the Montgomery GI Bill Program, to improve veterans’ education outreach, and other purposes. This legislation would change the expiration from 10 years after the veteran leaves active duty to 10 years after the veteran begins using the benefit. [Resolution 301-2012]

American Legion Legislative Council

The Legislative Division continues the task of re-building the membership of the National Legislative Council for the 113th Congress. Council recommendation forms were emailed to Department leadership in December, asking for nominations for new congressional members. Completed forms were due in the Legislative Division offices in Washington, DC by January 18. To date, 46 Departments have returned their Council nomination forms. The Departments with the greatest congressional redistricting and turn over are still completing their assignments. The only Departments still working on their committee assignments are California, Connecticut, New York, and Ohio

The importance of the Legislative Council cannot be overstated. It is an especially important voice for The American Legion family, and the way in which members of Congress can be quickly contacted when legislative action is needed. Departments are urged to complete their nomination forms and return them to the Legislative Division offices as soon as possible.

Update on Flag Amendment Bill

On January 18, House Joint Resolution (H.J. Res.) 19 was introduced by Representative Jo Ann Emerson (MO). This legislation is 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 next task is finding cosponsors for this legislation. Please contact the offices of your representative and senators, and ask them to become cosponsors of the flag amendment in their respective chambers. [Res. 272-2012]