Upcoming Congressional Hearings:
House Armed Services Committee – none scheduled.
Senate Armed Services Committee – none scheduled.
House Veterans’ Affairs Committee – “Resilience and Coping: Mental Health of Women Veterans” – POSTPONED until further notice. Otherwise, none scheduled.
Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee – “Final Recommendations and Report of the National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service” – POSTPONED until further notice. Otherwise, none scheduled.
Last week, the U.S. Senate passed by voice vote H.R. 4771, the VA Tele-Hearing Modernization Act, first introduced by Rep. Cunningham (D-SC-1). The bill would require the Board of Veterans’ Appeals to allow veterans with pending appeals to appear before the Board remotely from their personal computers. The bills is now pending on the president’s desk for signature into law.
Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 6322, the Student Veteran Coronavirus Response Act. The bill addresses issues like canceled classes, veterans who don’t have broadband Internet to attend online classes, and aims to bridge the gap to ensure those veterans also keep their full benefits through the current public health emergency - including work-study income for veterans who’ve lost their work-study jobs. This bill is now pending in the U.S. Senate. Chairman and Ranking Member’s joint press release here.
Last week, the U.S. Senate passed S. 3587, the Department of Veterans Affairs Website Accessibility Act, first introduced by Sen. Casey (D-PA). The bill would ensure that individuals with disabilities, including blindness, can access VA web pages in accordance with existing federal law. Background: Under current law, the Rehabilitation Act requires federal agencies to make their electronic and information technology accessible to individuals with disabilities. Unfortunately, the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA) has not made all of their websites accessible for individuals who are blind or have vision impairments. This creates an extra burden for blind veterans, as well as blind family members of veterans, who may wish to use online or electronic resources through the VA. This bill would address this issue by requiring the VA to examine all of their websites to determine if they are accessible to people with disabilities. It will also require the VA to submit a report Congress detailing which web sites are not accessible to people with disabilities, along with a plan to make them accessible and a description of existing barriers to doing so. The VA would also be required to review the accessibility of kiosks at VA medical facilities. Kiosk accessibility is critical, as many VA medical centers use them for patient check in and management. Unfortunately, many of these kiosks do not currently use technology that would make them accessible for blind veterans. The bill is now pending consideration in the House of Representatives.
Last week, Representatives Thornberry (R-TX-13) and Kelly (R-MS-1) released their proposal on the topic “of military families’ readiness” that they intend to call for a vote on in inclusion of the upcoming FY21 National Defense Authorization Act.
Joint letter from Democratic committee chairs: “Neal, Takano, Davis Urge Treasury and IRS to Automatically Issue Economic Impact Payments to Supplemental Security income and Veterans Affairs Recipients”
Joint letter from U.S. representatives to Navy officials to express concern for the health and safety of American sailors and Marines embarked on Navy vessels and facing the spread of COVID-19
Rep. Dean (D-PA-4) introduced H.Res. 912, a resolution expressing support for the designation of March 29, 2020, as “Vietnam Veterans Day.”
Rep. Panetta (D-CA-20) introduced H.R. 6280, the Reservist Pay Equity Act, to encourage more employers to pay the salary of employees that are members of the National Guard and Reserves when activated. Background: Employers who hire military reservists and National Guard members are not required to pay those service-members when they are deployed. However, employers may receive a tax credit for paying their employed military reservists and National Guard members differential wages, which directly help these service-members offset financial challenges while they are activated. This bill increases the tax credit employers receive from 20% to 50%.
Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA-17) introduced H.R. 6353, the Increasing Access for Veterans and Their Survivors Act. This bill directs the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to provide for the availability of prompts and services of certain Department of Veterans Affairs toll-free telephone numbers and business lines in Spanish. The bill would ensure that transitioning service-members, veterans, and their survivors have prompts and options in Spanish when calling the VA’s toll-free benefits number.
Op-ed: “Katherine Clark wants recreational pot shops open to serve veterans amid coronavirus outbreak”
Article: “Rose to VA: Open hospitals to civilian patients”
Elsewhere in Gov’t
Dept. of Veterans’ Affairs press release: “VA Extends Financial, Benefits and Claims Relief to Veterans”
Dept. of Veterans’ Affairs press release: “VA expands virtual services to support Veterans amid regional office closures due to COVID-19 pandemic”
Article: “At the Supreme Court, the Justice Dept. Fights a Navy Vet's $35K Fee Request”
Article: “Court Deals Major Blow to Trump's Signature Civil Service Reform Law”
Article: “VA projects high levels of employee absenteeism as coronavirus response ramps up”
CRS report: “The National Cemetery Administration and Department of Defense Response to COVID19 Regarding Funerals and Military Honors”
Relevant section (p. 27): “Does the VA Pay for Health Care for Veterans Abroad?” located within the CRS report: “Health Care for Veterans: Answers to Frequently Asked Questions”
Article: “Some US military personnel can still come to Japan despite nation’s new travel ban”
Statement from the Acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas B. Modly, regarding the relief of the Commanding Officer of USS Theodore Roosevelt
Article: “Nearly 900 US troops now have coronavirus”
Article: “Marine rotation to Australia delayed over COVID-19 concerns”
Article: “Early Space Force missions will be less exotic than you’re imagining”
Article: “Family separations, training “for nothing” and rock-bottom morale. How the travel ban is affecting troops.”
DA V&MFC web site posting: “High-Need items during the Coronavirus for the Landstuhl US Regional Medical Center”
News: American Legion launches podcast
News: COVID-19 stimulus bill provides nearly $20B to VA
IAVA poll results on the VA Department’s Coronavirus response
VFW press release: open call for veterans’ stories during COVID-19
News: ThanksUSA launches Higher Education Resources for Military Families
Op-ed: “If trend continues, is draft inevitable?”
News from Penn State Univ.: “Helping families as service members transition from military to civilian life”
Article: “104-year-old WWII veteran recovers from COVID-19, celebrates birthday”
Article: “US warns time running out for virus evacuations”
Article: “Student veterans worry coronavirus outbreak will hurt graduation goals”
Reminder: VA regional offices are now closed to the public, including:
Letter to the Editor: Military families, vets need our support more than ever