News from DC - May 31, 2020

CONGRESS

Sen. Duckworth (D-IL) introduced S. 3791, the National Guard COVID-19 Response Stability Act. The bill is currently pending in the Senate Armed Services Committee. The bill would empower governors to extend federal deployments of their Guard units through the duration of the COVID-19 public health emergency. [Bill text not yet publicly available.]

  • The House version of this bill is H.R. 6980, introduced by Rep. Kuster (D-NH-2), and is currently pending in the House Armed Services Committee. [Bill text not yet publicly available.]

On June 3rd, the following hearings will take place:

  • Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee will hold a hearing on: “Fiscal Year 2021 Budget and 2022 Advance Appropriations Requests, and Fiscal Year 2020 Enacted CARES Act Supplemental Appropriations for the Department of Veterans Affairs”
  • House Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Health will hold a virtual hearing: “Mission Readiness: VA’s Preparedness for Natural Disasters During a Pandemic”

Video: Last week, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction & Veterans’ Affairs held a hearing on: “Department of Veterans Affairs - Response to COVID-19” (video begins at 3 minutes, 54 seconds)

Earlier this week, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the following three bills by simple voice vote:

  1. H.R. 6168 – the Veterans’ Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment Act, introduced by Rep. Luria (D-VA-2). This bill would direct the Department of Veterans’ Affairs to increase, as of December 1, 2020, the rates of veterans’ disability compensation, additional compensation for dependents, the clothing allowance for certain disabled veterans, and dependency and indemnity compensation for surviving spouses and children. The percentage increase in benefits would be the same as the cost-of-living increase for Social Security recipients. The bill now heads to the Senate for consideration.
  2. S. 3414 – the Major Medical Facility Authorization Act, introduced by Sen. Moran (R-KS). This bill would authorize the Department of Veterans Affairs’ to carry out specified major medical facility projects during FY2020. There are seven projects: West LA, CA; San Diego, CA; Livermore, CA; San Juan, Puerto Rico; Manhattan, NY; Alameda, CA; Louisville, KY. The bill now moves to the White House for Trump’s signature into law.
  3. S. 3084 – A bill to modify the limitation on pay for certain high-level employees and officers of the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, introduced by Sen. Moran (R-KS). This bill amends title 38 of the U.S. Code to modify the limitation on pay for certain employees and officers of the Department of Veterans’ Affairs. The bill now moves to the White House for Trump’s signature into law.

Details: Upcoming webinar with IAVA’s Jeremy Butler and U.S. Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) to discuss veterans’ access to health care and programs to assist veterans in need

RECENT ISSUE:

  • Video: Trump administration cuts National Guard deployment a day short of benefits accrual
  • House Letter Calling on Trump to Extend National Guard Activation to Combat COVID-19

RESPONSE:

  • Bipartisan, bicameral letter from members of Congress to Trump regarding National Guard benefits for COVID-19 response
  • American Legion press release
  • Letter to DoD regarding states and the National Guard

House Armed Services Committee press release: Statement in response to the Navy granting its first waiver to allow a transgender service member to remain in uniform

Article: Sam Johnson, Vietnam POW who became a Texas congressman, dies at 89

Article: New Mexico senator presents veterans' histories to Library of Congress

Article: Sen. Booker renews effort to get 74 sailors' names added to Vietnam Veterans Memorial

Article: Veterans Affairs budget hearing represents first steps toward normal operations for Congress

Video: Congressman Lieu (D-CA-33) speaks to Democrats Abroad

Article: Lawmakers call on VA to provide more data on minority veterans affected by COVID-19

Video: Last week, the House Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs held a virtual forum on: “Virtual Forum: Veterans' Disability Examinations in the Time of COVID-19: A Way Forward” (video begins at 8 minutes, 16 seconds)

Video: the Women Veterans Task Force held a virtual roundtable on: “Resilience and Coping: Mental Health of Women Veterans” (video begins at 3 minutes, 47 seconds)

Video: Two weeks ago, the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Chairman spoke with Jose Ramos, Wounded Warrior Project’s (WWP) Vice President of Government and Community Relations, to discuss the unique challenges faced by women veterans during the pandemic and veterans’ ability to access healthcare while unemployed

Tweet: For Memorial Day, Rep. Lamb (D-PA-17) paid respect at a memorial service

Tweet: For Memorial Day, Rep. Pappas (D-NH-1) attended local observances

Tweet: For Memorial Day, Rep. Levin (D-CA-49) attended a local event

Instagram: For Memorial Day, Rep. Underwood (D-IL-14) paid respect at a military cemetery

Letter from the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Chairman to the Department of Veterans’ Affairs Secretary urging VA to fully and fairly implement paid sick leave and telework policies and procedures after hearing that some VA employees had been unfairly denied these key benefits that keep them safe and healthy during the COVID-19 pandemic

Two weeks ago, the leaders of the House and Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committees sent a joint letter to the Government Accountability Office (GAO) on the use and management of the emergency relief funds that were appropriated to the Department of Veterans’ Affairs following passage of the CARES Act.

Statement from Sen. Tester (D-MT) on Memorial Day

Statement from the Speaker on Memorial Day

Sens. Tester (D-MT), Rounds (R-SD), Reed (D-RI), and Hoeven (R-ND) introduced S. 3788, the Veterans Cemetery Grants Improvement Act.  This bill would double the current $5 million limit on vet cemetery grants. The bills is currently pending in the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee. The House version of this bill is H.R. 5487, introduced by Del. Sablan (D-NMI).

House floor speech by Rep. Wilson (R-SC-2) on the National Guard

ELSEWHERE IN GOVERNMENT

Article: Latinos are fastest growing population in US military, but higher ranks remain out of reach

  • Artículo: Los militares de EEUU son más diversos que nunca pero los latinos no están siendo ascendidos a oficiales

Article: VA says employees have masks and coronavirus tests, but Congress sees inconsistencies

Article: Live nuclear testing could resume in ‘months’ if needed, official says

DoD Article: Military Medical Experts Explore Psychological Impacts of COVID-19

Article: Coronavirus delays new child care priority system, but good news for Coast Guard military families

Article: VA-led research effort shows how medical devices can have well-known seal of approval

Article: Amid criticism, Secretary Wilkie won’t commit to removing Nazi headstones from VA cemeteries

Trump remarks: Rolling to Remember Ceremony: Honoring our Nation’s Veterans and POW/MIA

Trump remarks: Memorial Day Ceremony in Baltimore

Article: DoD launches financial site for Military spouses

Article: Air Force fails to deal with racial disparities in military justice, report says

Article: Telework capacity quadruples during pandemic, VA says

Article: VA says onboarding changes made during the pandemic will ‘change the way we hire forever’

Article: New changes to the VA Home Loan

Article: How the Pandemic Is Helping The Military Prep For World War III

VA press release: VA conducts deep-dive study into effects of COVID-19 on Veterans

Article: VA Union Seeks Injunction Against Impasses Panel

Article: Senate Confirms Braithwaite as Next SECNAV

New CRS report: Full Practice Authority for VA Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNAs) During the COVID-19 Pandemic

New CRS report: Delivery of VA Telehealth Services During COVID-19

New GAO report: Defense Health Care: Additional Information and Monitoring Needed to Better Position DOD for Restructuring Medical Treatment Facilities

Article: Social Security Honors Our Military Heroes

Article: Trump’s Decision to Freeze WHO Funding Worries the US Military

OTHER

Op-ed: James Mattis: Let’s honor the fallen by protecting our fragile experiment in democracy

Editorial: Why Does the U.S. Military Celebrate White Supremacy?

Article: Military families need—and can’t get—mental health care

Opinion piece: Supporting the mental health of military families

Article: German auction house sells historic Medal of Honor despite US opposition

Editorial: Never forget

Editorial: Memorial Day is every day right now

Editorial: Our national shame: COVID-19 in nursing homes

Editorial: Returning favor for veterans

Editorial: Remember the sacrifice of our fallen

Editorial: Military base becomes a COVID-19 black hole

American Legion press release: Illinois post makes smooth transition to virtual world

Opinion piece: Advocate for military families' right to vote this Memorial Day

Article: Military Families Have Been Pushed To The Brink By COVID-19

Photos: Veterans who died of coronavirus honored in powerful photographs

Article: COVID-19 delays Congressional Gold Medal for many Chinese-American WWII vets

Article: Suicide risk for veterans could grow as coronavirus crisis winds down

Op-edHonor those who serve our country at home and abroad

Op-Ed: We’ve learned to thank those who serve, whether it’s in war or during a pandemic

Op-ed: What happens to veterans’ healthcare post-COVID-19?

Article: Tax incentives and reliefs for US military and veterans

Article: For some vets who have died during pandemic, military honors must wait

Article: Veterans disability exams to resume at some sites as backlog hits 114,000, nearly doubling in six months

Opinion piece: Why War Powers Matter to Military Families | Opinion

DA-V&MFC web site post: Remembering the Fallen on Memorial Day

DA Global Chair web site post: Statement on Memorial Day

DNC Chair web site post: Statement on Memorial Day

Article: Military families share Memorial Day with nation mourning coronavirus losses

Video: Recognizing the service of Native American veterans

Article: This unique community is a haven for military families

Article: The forgotten history of Memorial Day