Vol. 1, No. 7
Greetings from the Co-Editor
Although we Democrats have big challenges ahead, most notably the evacuation in Afghanistan, the Covid-19 spikes hitting mainly the unvaccinated, the GOP’s coordinated efforts to suppress voting, and the global environmental crises, there are plenty of very real and tangible reasons for optimism. The 7-month-old Biden-Harris administration has executed a robust agenda, and significant accomplishments have been made. Here are the more salient reasons for optimism.
To start, in March Congress and Biden passed the very popular $1.9 trillion Covid Relief Bill, clearing the way for stimulus checks and vaccine aid. Then the Senate passed a massive bipartisan infrastructure bill. Fifty Democrats and 19 Republicans voted for this bill, which will be devoted to rebuilding the nation’s roads, transit networks, water-supply pipes, and sewer systems. Then comes the budget resolution, which Senate Democrats hope to pass by this fall. It would allow social policy legislation, paid for by raising taxes on the wealthy, large inheritances, and corporations. Should all 50 Democratic Senators close ranks, the measure could pass the Senate without any Republican votes, thereby avoiding a filibuster threat.
Together, these 2 bills could secure all of President Biden’s $3.5 trillion economic agenda: to rebuild the nation’s roads, bridges, rail lines, water systems and electricity grid, while upgrading public education, social welfare, health care, addressing climate change, and revamping the federal tax code. This is further explained in WHAT’S CONGRESS UP TO? Go to page 11 and check it out, or click here.
The Biden administration already participated in an important victory when 130 countries signed on to a plan for a global minimum corporate tax, supporting Biden’s belief that countries need to prevent corporations from taking advantage of weak tax rules.
Let’s not forget the August job report released by the Department of Labor showing better results than economists had predicted, and the administration had hoped for. The report also validates the Democrats’ approach to growing the economy. Since Reagan in 1981, Republican lawmakers have opposed government intervention to stimulate the economy, insisting that low taxes and private investment will drive the economy more efficiently. This recent job report confirms the exact opposite approach works more efficiently.
In another vein we heard the shocking revelations from former acting attorney general Jeffrey Rosen about former president Trump’s direct efforts to use the Department of Justice to overturn the 2020 election. With Trump loyalist Jeffrey Clark from the DoJ and Mark Meadows, Trump’s chief of staff, soon testifying to Congress about their messaging that “the election had been stolen”, we can expect more damning revelations.
Sadly 25% of Republicans say they support the January 6 Insurrection as repackaged by allies of former president Trump to sway the public’s understanding of what happened that day. However, 535 insurrectionists have been arrested and await their sentences, some with jail time. There are reports that the Insurrection has convinced some moderate Republicans to shift their party identity to Independent, and to be noted, some even joined us, the Democrats.
Let’s also remember that in July, New York prosecutors charged the Trump Organization with a 15-year “scheme to defraud” the government and charged its Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg with grand larceny and tax fraud. Since Weisselberg, who has pandered to Trump for decades wants to avoid spending the rest of his life in prison, many suspect he will flip and cooperate with authorities despite the hold Trump has over so many facets of his life.
There is good and bad news coming from a report by James Hohmann in the Washington Post related to voter protection efforts. "Twenty-eight states have passed 71 laws since last November’s election to make voting easier, which will benefit 63 million eligible voters, while 18 states have passed 31 laws during that same time to erect barriers, affecting only 36 million eligible voters.” Speaking on the anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, Merrick Garland endorsed moral courage when he said, “We must say again that it is not right to erect barriers that make it harder for millions of eligible Americans to vote. And it is time for Congress to act again to protect that fundamental right.”
Further, Jennifer Rubin made an encouraging analysis at the Washington Post by pointing to the Republican assumption that restrictions on early or mail-in voting would hurt Democrats, but since many Republican voters are older or live in rural areas and cannot get to the voting stations easily, the Republicans may be shooting themselves in the foot, and their efforts to undermine democracy may boomerang and reduce their chances for 2022 victories. Here
Although the road is bumpy, there are reasons to be optimistic about our country’s and our party’s future. The Biden-Harris administration is moving forward and I hope you will join me in admiring all the accomplishments described above.
Democratically yours, Bob Gould
HEAR YE, HEAR YE!
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Sept. 2 V-J Day (Victory over Japan) Celebrated in many countries on this day when the formal surrender documents were signed on board the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay in 1945. Click here for more
Sept. 3 In June 1777 the Continental Congress established that the flag would have 13 red and white stripes and a blue square with the 13 stars in a circle. Such a flag was first flown at the battle in Cooch's Bridge, Delaware where the Continental army fought against the British and Hessian military. More here
Sept. 4 Labor Day Was first celebrated on September 5th,1882 in New York City when 10,000 workers marched from City Hall to 42nd street under the banners of the Knights of Labor organization and the fledgling Central Labor Union. In 1887 Oregon was the first state to declare that the first Monday of September would be a statewide holiday. Thirty other states had done so by 1894, when Congress passed an act making it a national holiday. More here and here, and for an essay with a broader view, click here
Sept. 11 Patriot Day First established by President G. W. Bush in 2002 it honors the memories of those killed on September 11, 2001. Many places observe a moment of silence at 8:54am, the moment the first plane struck the Twin Towers in New York City. Government flags are flown at half mast. Click here for more
Sept. 12-17 A Rehabilitative Golf Program for Veterans with Varying Disabilities Established in 1994 by two disabled veterans in Iowa City, and run by that Veterans Administration and the DAV (Disabled American Veterans Organization), this clinic offers veterans of different disabilities a rehabilitative experience and camaraderie in a golf setting. For more information, click here
Sept. 12-22 DoD Warrior Games Hosted by the US Army, nearly 300 wounded, ill, and injured military members and veterans will compete at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Disney World in a dozen sport categories. To learn more, click here.
Sept. 17-23 Constitution Week The Constitutional Convention took place in Philadelphia in 1787 and the document that was drafted -- our constitution -- was signed by all members on Sept 17th. It became the governing law of the land in 1788 when it was ratified by 9 of the 13 states. In 1955 the Daughters of the American Revolution petitioned congress to declare “Constitution Week” to draw attention to this most important document. President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the bill into law in 1956. For more, go here and here, and for fun facts, go here.
Sept. 17 Citizenship Day/Constitution Day On this day in 1952 President Truman signed a law declaring “Citizenship Day” which replaced “I Am An American Day”. Senator Byrd (D-WV) pressed for Constitution Day to be observed, declaring "Our ideals of freedom, set forth and realized in our Constitution, are our greatest export to the world." It was nationally recognized in 2004. For educational materials, click here.
Sept. 17 National POW/MIA Recognition Day In 1979 President Jimmy Carter signed the first proclamation declaring the third Friday in September POW/MIA day. All presidents since have followed suit. A national observance usually takes place at the Pentagon. As of August 2021 there are over 81,600 missing soldiers, most in the South Pacific region. Click here for a good resource
Sept. 17 Secretary of Defense Birthday First Secretary of Defense, James Forrestal is sworn in -- early -- by orders of President Truman on this day in 1947. Secretary Lloyd Austin is the 28th Secretary of Defense. More here
Sept. 18 Air Force (USAF) Birthday The Air Force turns 74! Formerly part of the Army, the Air Force was designated a separate branch of the military on this day in 1947 when the Chief Justice Fred Vinson swore in Stuart Symington as the first Secretary of the Air Force, officially founding a new branch of the U.S. military.
Sept. 18 Air National Guard Birthday This is the official birth date of the Air National Guard as a reserve component of the Air Force. There are over 107,000 Air National Guard members and 140 units in the US and its territories. (The National Guard is observed in Dec.) Click here for more.
Sept. 26 Gold Star Mother’s Day Observed on the last Sunday in September since a joint congressional resolution in 1936 this day pays respect to the mothers of men and women killed during military active duty. The organization American Gold Star Mothers started in 1928 and continues with activities supporting Gold Star Mothers and veterans. Click here for more
Sept. 28 National Voter Registration Day Established in 2014 by the National Association of Secretaries of State, it is designated as the 4th Tuesday of September. Remember when you didn’t know there were Secretaries of State! Defend our voting rights: Get involved here
Sept. 29 National Veterans of Foreign Wars Day This day honors this vast organization (VFW) that was begun in 1899, simultaneously in Columbus, OH and in Denver, CO. The headquarters are now in Kansas City, MO, and currently there are more than 1.5 million members and 6000 posts, both in the United States and abroad. They offer vast opportunities to veterans. Their website can be accessed here.
UPCOMING GLOBAL VMF CAUCUS MEETINGS
The Global VMF Caucus Steering Committee meets every second week. All Democrats Abroad members are welcome to attend. The next two VMF meetings will be Sunday, September 12 as per Rotation B and Sunday, September 26 as per Rotation A.
Here is the login info for the Zoom Meetings:
NEWS AND ANNOUNCEMENTS
The John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act (H.R. 4) has now been (FINALLY) introduced in the House. The House will likely vote on this within the next two weeks. Here
VMF Legislation Tracking Website: We are happy to announce that we have started a tab on our website for tracking legislation that is important to our community. We will have longer descriptions of the bills than currently in the newsletter, including updates on where those bills are in the legislative process. To check it out, click here!
Afghanistan and Special Immigrant Visas (SIVs): On August 15th, after 20 years of bitter warfare in Afghanistan, the Taliban retook the country’s capital city. With Kabul now in its hands and Afghanistan’s elected leader out of the country, the Taliban effectively controls the country again. The plight of Afghan SIV applicants is now more pressing than ever before as 20,000 applicants remain in the pipeline and up to 70,000 more are eligible to apply. The House of Representatives has made efforts to expedite the application process (H.R. 3385 and H.R. 3985), but the Senate has yet to take up either bill. The evacuation of foreigners, U.S. allies, and others from Kabul is underway, but there are a myriad of challenges and threats facing evacuation personnel. For more information, click here, here, and here.
January 6 Select Committee: Despite the House sending the Senate the exact bill the Republicans wanted, the Senate blocked the establishment of a bipartisan January 6th Commission in May. Following more shenanigans, the House established the January 6th Select Committee on July 1st, 2021. It is currently made up of 9 members appointed by Speaker Nancy Pelosi: 7 Democrats and 2 Republicans, including Representatives Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger. Representative Bennie Thompson of Mississippi is the chairman. He is also Chairman of the Homeland Security Committee. So far 10 staff members have come on board. On July 27th, the committee held their first hearing testimony from 4 police officers who worked that tragic day. Click here for their testimony, here for 3 hours of testimony, and here for all 6 hours. Congress adjourned for August recess on July 30th, but Congressman Thompson continues to work on the committee membership and agenda. Also, Speaker Pelosi has directed this committee to take over all issues related to the insurrection. The Oversight Committee canceled some interviews with Trump’s DOJ officials that will now be scheduled with this committee. More on that here. There is a dedicated website to keep up with this committee’s activities which includes a tip-line link: january6.house.gov.
Senate Confirms new Secretary of the Navy: On August 8, the Senate confirmed retired Navy officer Carlos del Toro as the 78th Secretary of the Navy. He is the first Navy Secretary who was born in Cuba and only the second Hispanic American to serve in the position. He spoke on important issues like the climate crisis and how rising sea levels are a serious threat to the Navy’s facilities. For more, click here.
New Eviction Moratorium?? Freshman Congresswoman Cori Bush (D-MO-1) spent 5 nights sleeping on the steps of the U.S. Capitol unable to accept that her peers had gone on vacation without extending the nationwide moratorium on evictions. Congresswoman Bush has been evicted in her life and knows that there are 8,700 cases on the eviction docket in her district. In December 2020, former President Trump signed a Coronavirus Relief & Spending Bill that granted $25 billion in relief aid for tenants and landlords. ALL of that money has been dispersed by the US Treasury. President Biden on March 11th signed the Cares Act, adding $21 billion more. Surprise, surprise! Only $3 billion of that money has been distributed by state, county, or municipality (The least any state got ie: RI or WY, was $200 million.) The money is available, yet people, both landlords and tenants, are not receiving any. How can it be right for evictions to take place? After the 5th night of this small but news-catching protest, the CDC declared on August 3rd a two month extension of the eviction moratorium for areas with high levels of danger to COVID-19 exposure, 80% of U.S. counties and 90% of the U.S. population. An estimated 6.9 million rental units, over 15 million individuals, are at risk of eviction. This moratorium could be challenged and overturned in the courts. Feel free to tell your Congressperson to do something HERE.
ADVOCACY FOR VETERANS AND MILITARY FAMILIES
Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry: The Dept. of Veterans Affairs (VA) created the Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry to assist veterans in documenting potential exposure and resultant health complications. Service members and veterans who were deployed in the Southwest Asia theater of operations on or after August 2, 1990, or who were stationed in Afghanistan or Djibouti on or after September 11, 2001, are eligible to sign up for the registry. This includes Afghanistan, Bahrain, Djibouti, Gulf of Aden, Gulf of Oman, Iraq, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Waters of the Arabian Sea, Persian Gulf, and the Red Sea. For more information and to participate, click here and here.
Were You Denied Veterans’ Benefits Related to a Same-Sex Marriage?
- Prior to Obergefell vs. Hodges in June 2015, the VA was required to follow state laws on recognition of same-sex marriages. The Supreme Court’s ruling in that case means that the VA now recognizes all same-sex marriages. For more information, click here.
- But what does that mean? Veterans all over the world are now able to designate beneficiaries, regardless of sexual orientation, for the following benefits: Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (SGLI), Veterans’ Group Life Insurance (VGLI), Post Vietnam-Era Veterans Education Assistance Program (VEAP), Montgomery and/or Post-9/11 GI Bill, and burial benefits. Veterans may also claim their spouse as a dependent for VA disability payments.
- For more information about VA benefits following the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” click here.
Many Veterans can Apply for a Discharge Upgrade for Improved Benefits:
- All branches of the military consider you to have a strong case for a discharge upgrade if your discharge was connected to these categories:
- Mental health conditions such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)
- Sexual assault or harassment during military service (otherwise known as military sexual trauma or MST)
- Sexual orientation (including under Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell)
- Why is this important? A discharge upgrade could affect what veterans benefits you qualify for, if any at all. For instance, an upgrade from an Other Than Honorable (OTH) Discharge to a General Discharge Under Honorable Conditions would give a veteran eligibility for all veterans benefits except the Post-9/11 GI Bill. For more information on discharge types and how they affect your benefits, click here.
- How do I upgrade my discharge? For more information on how to upgrade your discharge, click here.
We Help Veterans and Military Families Transition to Civilian Life:
- VA Welcome Kit—updated June 8, 2021 Click here
- Need a whole year off, a gap year, between the military and civilian life? Click here
- Veterans Transition Survival Guide: To get your free copy, click here.
We Support the Hiring of Veterans:
- S. Rep. Andy Kim (D, NJ-3) is hiring a New Jersey-based Wounded Warrior fellow, a two-year paid fellowship that is open to honorably discharged veterans released from active duty within the past 5 years who have a 20% or more service-connected disability. Do you know a veteran who would be a good fit? Click here to apply.
- Job boards and resources for vets:
- If you know of any veteran employment opportunities or resources, let us know.
We Want To Ensure All Overseas Veterans Have Access To The COVID-19 Vaccine:
- The Dept. of Defense (DoD) is delivering vaccines to more than 340 sites around the globe in an effort to vaccinate all eligible DoD beneficiaries. To find out when you can get the vaccine, contact your local U.S. military hospital or clinic here. If your local U.S. military hospital or clinic can’t schedule an appointment for you now, leave your name and contact information and request to be contacted when a vaccine is available for you. Continue to follow your military hospital or clinic's website, news media, or social media to stay informed about vaccine availability and updates.
- Walk-in Appointments at the VA: Veterans and spouses can now get walk-in appointments for coronavirus vaccines at VA medical centers. Nearly 3 million veterans and federal workers have received vaccines via the VA in the last five months. For more, click here.
- Reimbursement through the Foreign Medical Program: Veterans who are living or traveling outside of the United States can receive reimbursement from the VA for their COVID-19 vaccine through the Foreign Medical Program. For more information, click here.
- Scheduling through the Defense Health Agency Appointing Portal: You can schedule an appointment for a COVID-19 vaccination at your local military treatment facility through the Defense Health Agency’s specialized appointing portal here. Note that you will need a DOD-issued ID card to access military treatment facilities.
We Specialize In Helping Veterans and Military Families Vote:
- Americans living overseas need to request their ballot every year by sending in a Federal Post Card Application (FPCA). We recommend that you send in your FPCA as early as possible each year. You will automatically be registered to receive absentee ballots for federal elections in that calendar year as mandated by federal law, and ballots must be sent to you at least 45 days in advance of the election when you register with the FPCA.
- You can fill out a physical FPCA and mail it, or we recommend you use Vote From Abroad because you can fill out and send your ballot request online and the website comes equipped with many useful resources for voters like information on when elections are taking place, what positions are up for election, and the rules for voting absentee in your state. It’s quick, reliable, and eco-friendly!
- Deadlines: All states have different deadlines for registration, and ballot return methods can vary from state to state. Make sure to check our State Voting Guide to get all those details correct!
We Assist Veterans and Military Family Members With Voter Registration and GOTV:
- We welcome volunteers of all stripes--- Get Out The Vote (GOTV)! You can help right away by joining our Phone Banking Team. Our Phone Bankers have been crucial to getting out the vote during the COVID Era and continue to be important as we continue our voter protection advocacy.
- Democrats Abroad will also be continuing its Global Voting Assistance Program, with certification trainings happening in the fall as well.
- If you want to help with voter registration on military bases, we are working on a global military GOTV plan. We will have trainings, resources, kits, and recommendations; keep an eye out for them in the fall!
- Remember, we want YOU to help others get out the vote!
Excellent Resources for Election Dates and Information, Here
California Gubernatorial Recall Election
Important Details: On September 14, 2021, all California registered voters, including military and overseas voters, are eligible to vote in the election to recall Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom. There will be two questions on the ballot:
1) Should Governor Newsom be recalled? Yes or No
2) If Gov. Newsom is recalled, who do you choose to succeed him as governor?
You must choose from the long list of candidates on the ballot.
Governor Newsom is not an option, and you cannot write in his name.
Note: The Democratic Party of California is recommending “vote no and go”, meaning vote no for question #1 and leave the second question blank. This is a difficult, confusing situation. Some Democrats for the second question are choosing who they'd want in the event the recall is successful.
Same-Day Registration is only available if you vote in person in California.
Military & Overseas Ballots: These had to be mailed or emailed by July 31 to all registered military and overseas voters. If you register to vote after July 31, you should receive your ballot within a few days after your registration form is received. Be sure to check your spam and secondary inboxes.
The Registration Deadline was August 30. You may only conditionally register after August 30 and, if you do, you must vote in person.
If you don't receive your ballot, contact your Local Election Official (you can find the contact information at www.votefromabroad.org/states/ca) or the Voter Helpdesk at VotefromAbroad.org at [email protected].
Ballot Return Deadline: You may return your ballot by fax before 8PM Sept. 14 California time or by mail if postmarked by Sept. 14 and received by Sept. 21.
Florida’s 20th Congressional District Special Election
Primary Election is November 2, 2021, and the general election is January 11, 2022
Registration Deadline for Primary is Oct. 4
Online Registration: Yes Same-day Registration: No
Early Voting Period: Oct. 23 - 30
Absentee Ballot Request for the Primary: Must be received by Oct. 23 @ 5 PM EST
Ballot Return Deadline: Nov. 2 @ 7 PM (received if voting from within the U.S., postmarked if voting from outside the U.S., received if voting by fax from outside the U.S.), Nov. 12 (received if voting from outside the U.S.)
New Jersey General Election for Governor, General Assembly, and State Senate
Important Details: General Election is Nov. 2
Registration deadline: Oct. 3 (ballot sent by mail) or Oct. 12 (ballot sent by email/fax).
Ballot request deadline is Oct. 3 for ballots to be sent by mail or Oct. 29 if ballots are sent by email/fax.
Online registration: Yes Same-day registration: No
Absentee voting deadline: Nov. 2 by 8:00 pm
Ohio’s 11th Congressional District Special Election was August 3 and Democrat Shontel Brown won the primary and will run against Republican Laverne Gore Nov. 2.
Important Details: General Election is Nov. 2
Early voting starts: Oct. 5
Mailed absentee ballots must be postmarked by Nov. 1 and received by Nov. 12
Ballots delivered by courier must be received by Nov 2, 2021, 7:30 PM
Voter ID: Non-photo ID Polling place hours: 6:30 am to 7:30 pm
Voters are encouraged to go to https://www.votefromabroad.org/states/OH to find contact info for their LEO.
Ohio’s 15th Congressional District Special Election was August 3 and Democrat Allison Russo won the primary and will run against a President Trump devotee, Mike Carey.
Important Details: General Election is Nov. 2
Early voting starts: Oct. 5
Mailed absentee ballots must be postmarked by Nov. 1 and received by Nov. 12
Ballots delivered by courier must be received by Nov 2, 2021, 7:30 PM
Voter ID: Non-photo ID Polling place hours: 6:30 am to 7:30 pm
Voters are encouraged to go to https://www.votefromabroad.org/states/OH to find contact info for their LEO.
Virginia General Election for Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, and its General Assembly
Important Details: General Election is Nov. 2
Registration deadline: Oct. 12 for overseas citizens or Nov. 2 for uniformed services and eligible family members.
Ballot request deadline: Oct. 22 Online registration: Yes Same-day registration: No
Ballot return deadline: Absentee ballots must be postmarked by Nov. 2 and received by Nov. 5.
WHAT’S CONGRESS UP TO?
VMF Bill Tracking Page: The Global VMF Caucus has a new bill tracking page. There will be more detailed descriptions of the legislation we are following with status updates on each bill. Click here to check it out!
Major Legislation Updates (as of August 19)
H.R. 1448, the “Puppies Assisting Wounded Servicemembers (PAWS) for Veterans Therapy Act”, passed in the Senate without objection on August 9. It returned to the House to consider amendments from the Senate.
The Infrastructure Bill
- On August 16, the Senate passed H.R. 3684, the “Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act” (known as the bipartisan infrastructure bill) 69-30. It returned to the House to consider amendments from the Senate.
- Earlier this summer, Democrats announced that they’d be taking a circuitous route in their efforts to pass major new funding for infrastructure, something they’ve dubbed the “two-track” plan. Effectively, the plan is to do two things in parallel: work to advance a bipartisan infrastructure bill containing provisions Republicans and Democrats agreed on, like money for roads and bridges, and use a special budget reconciliation process to pass another bill with only Democratic support that would address Democratic policy priorities such as the extension of the child tax credit and a payment program intended to incentivize the use of clean energy. In the Senate, reconciliation bills aren’t subject to filibuster. It was a pretty risky approach given how many things could have gone wrong, from Democrats in the House and Senate derailing the process over concerns about spending too much or too little to Republicans refusing to vote for a bipartisan precursor to a partisan measure. So far, however, the Senate has managed to keep things moving on both tracks, a sign that this approach could wind up working after all. Budget Reconciliation Bills use a special legislative process called “reconciliation” to quickly advance high-priority fiscal Created in 1974 (Nixon created it as he was in the process of resigning!), reconciliation allows for expedited consideration of certain tax, spending, and debt limit legislation. In the Senate, reconciliation bills aren’t subject to filibuster and the scope of amendments is limited, giving this process real advantages for enacting controversial budget and tax measures.
- Reconciliation has been used 21 times since 1980 when it began.
- This bill permits changes to spending, revenues, and the federal debt limit. It can be used to address Medicare, Medicaid, federal civilian and military retirement, SNAP (food stamps), and farm programs — but not Social Security.
Voting and Statehood Legislation
The following bills deal with the admission of Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico into the Union as the 51st and 52nd States and comprehensive voting issues.
- H.R. 51: The “Washington, D.C. Admission Act” would admit Washington, D.C. into the Union as a State.
- H.R. 1522: The “Puerto Rico Statehood Admission Act” would admit Puerto Rico into the Union as a State.
- H.R. 2070: The “Puerto Rico Self-Determination Act” would direct Puerto Rico to hold another Statehood referendum with more options.
- H.R. 2358: The “Voter Empowerment Act” would take a comprehensive approach to closing gaps in voting access.
- H.R. 3646: The “Reducing Barriers for Military Voters Act” would provide end-to-end electronic voting for service members who are deployed to locations with limited postal services.
Veteran Deportation and Military Family Naturalization Legislation
The following bills would streamline access to naturalization for veterans and military families, repatriate eligible deported veterans, and prevent most deportations of veterans.
- H.R.163: The “Protect Patriot Spouses Act” would establish permanent residency status for eligible non-citizen military spouses and provide the opportunity for non-citizen military spouses to apply for a visa to return to the United States.
- H.R. 1182: The “Veteran Deportation Prevention and Reform Act” would streamline the naturalization process for military families, establish permanent residency status for eligible non-citizen veterans and their families, and repatriate eligible non-citizen veterans who have been deported.
- S. 2261: The “Healthcare Opportunities for Patriots in Exile (HOPE) Act” would allow non-citizen veterans to temporarily return to the United States to receive VA health care services.
- S. 2265: The “Veterans Visa and Protection Act” would create a program to repatriate eligible non-citizen veterans who have been deported.
- S. 2268: The “Immigrant Veterans Eligibility Tracking System (I-VETS) Act” would require ICE to identify non-citizen service members and veterans who apply for immigration benefits and who are targeted for deportation.
Criminal Justice Reform
The following bills would create new legal protections for veterans and service members.
- H.R. 983: The “Preventing Crimes Against Veterans Act” would establish a new criminal offense for knowingly scheming to defraud an individual of veterans’ benefits.
- H.R. 1491: The “Fair Debt Collection for Servicemembers Act” would prohibit debt collectors from telling service members that failure to cooperate with them will result in a reduction of rank, a revocation of security clearance, or military prosecution.
- S. 1520: The “Military Justice Improvement and Increasing Prevention Act” would reform the disposition of charges and convening of courts-martial for certain offenses under the Uniform Code of Military Justice and increase the prevention of sexual assaults and other crimes in the military.
Special Immigrant Visa Legislation
The following bills deal with the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program that was originally created to allow Iraqi and Afghan allies of the U.S. to apply for visas to the United States.
- H.R. 2838: The “Syrian Partner Protection Act” would provide special immigrant status for Syrian Kurds and other Syrians who partnered with the United States Government in Syria.
- H.R. 3385: The “HOPE for Afghan SIVs Act” would waive the requirement for Afghan SIV applicants to complete a medical examination for eligibility.
- H.R. 3985: The “Averting Loss of Life and Injury by Expediting SIVs (ALLIES) Act” would expedite the SIV process for certain applicants from Afghanistan.
VA and Veterans Health Care Legislation
The following bills seek to improve the VA and veterans health care access and quality.
- H.R. 234: The “Korean American VALOR Act” would grant former members of the Republic of Korea Armed Forces who served as allies to the U.S. in the Vietnam War access to VA healthcare.
- H.R. 239: The “Equal Access to Contraception for Veterans Act” would prohibit the VA from requiring veterans to pay for contraceptives that are required to be covered by health insurance plans without a cost-sharing requirement.
- H.R. 475: The “Health Care Fairness for Military Families Act” is legislation that would allow young adults to stay on their parents’ TRICARE until they are 26, mirroring the current provision in private civilian healthcare policies.
- H.R. 958: The “Protecting Moms Who Served Act” would improve maternal health care for veterans and aims to eliminate maternal mortality, morbidity, and disparities among veterans.
- H.R. 1123: The “Veteran Suicide Prevention Act” would require the VA to complete a review of veteran suicides during the 5 year period prior to the enactment of the bill. The report will be made publicly available.
- H.R. 1448: The “Puppies Assisting Wounded Servicemembers (PAWS) for Veterans Therapy Act” would create a pilot program to provide service dogs to veterans diagnosed with PTSD and other mental illnesses.
- S. 771/ H.R. 1948: The “VA Employee Fairness Act” would ensure that the VA’s healthcare professionals have the same workplace rights currently granted to other VA clinicians and federal employees.
- H.R. 2192: The “Camp Lejeune Justice Act” would allow eligible individuals to sue for damages and harm from exposure to contaminated water at Camp Lejeune, NC from August 1953 through the end of 1987.
- H.R. 2775: The “VA Quality Health Care Accountability and Transparency Act” would require the VA to make data on patient wait times, effectiveness of care, staffing and vacancy information, and other elements publicly available on a VA website.
- H.R. 3452: The “Veterans Preventive Health Coverage Fairness Act” would expand the definition of preventive health services and eliminate veterans’ copayments for medication, hospital care, and medical services provided related to preventive care.
VA Benefits for Burn Pit and Other Toxic Exposures
The following 4 bills would streamline the process for obtaining VA benefits for burn pit and other toxic exposures. Under current law, a veteran who has an illness or disability must establish a direct service connection in order to be eligible for VA benefits. Veterans exposed to burn pits face a cumbersome “burden of proof” to provide enough evidence to establish a direct service connection between their health and burn pit exposure. These bills would remove this burden of proof.
- H.R. 2372, the “Presumptive Benefits for War Fighters Exposed to Burn Pits and Other Toxins Act”
- S. 437, the “Veterans Burn Pits Exposure Recognition Act”
- S. 1188, the “SFC Heath Robinson Burn Pit Transparency Act”
- S. 927, the “Toxic Exposure in the American Military (TEAM) Act”
Other Important Legislation
- H.R. 2093: The “Veterans and Family Information Act” would require the VA to make versions of all of its fact sheets available in the ten most commonly spoken languages in the U.S. and establish a website that provides links to all fact sheets of the Veterans Benefits Administration, Veterans Health Administration, and National Cemetery Administration.
- S. 1095: The “Colonel John M. McHugh Tuition Fairness for Survivors Act” would allow the VA to disapprove courses of education offered by colleges and universities that do not charge veterans the in-State tuition rate for purposes of the Survivors’ and Dependents’ Educational Assistance Program.
- S. J. Res. 10: Senate Joint Resolution 10 would repeal the authorizations for use of military force against Iraq.
31st Anniversary of the Americans With Disabilities Act
by Denise Roig, DA Canada
July 26th marked two important occasions: the 31st anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act – the foundational legislation recognizing the rights and needs of those with disabilities – and the first official meeting of the Democrats Abroad Global Disabilities Caucus (in formation). The five speakers on the Zoom panel represented not just a geographic mix, with members from all three DA regions, but diverse experiences of disability. Introduced by the caucus’s acting chair, Marnie Delaney of DA France, panelists included Mike Nitz, a Navy vet and vice chair of DA Vietnam; Heather Stone, an attorney and member of DA Israel; Max McLeod and Denise Roig, members of DA Canada; and Somer Matthews, a doctoral student in special education.
The stories shared were compelling, moving and deeply personal, from struggles with mental health to physical accessibility to discrimination in the work force. Some are members of a community that now numbers one billion worldwide; others are allies and advocates. We all share one goal, one hope: that our voices will continue to be heard. And that as members of DA’s newest caucus, we can be a source of information and support, a conduit for action. As Mike said, “Being open about my disability is not hurtful or shameful. It’s authentic and it’s empowering. Not just for me, but for the disability community as a whole.” To view the July 26th event if you missed it, go to: Americans with Disabilities Act 31st Anniversary
While the event celebrated 31 years of the ADA’s passing, the rights of those with disabilities are hardly guaranteed. There is nothing “done” about the gains forged in that early legislation. Almost from the moment the ADA was passed, other bills – mostly written by Republicans – have been put forth to diminish these gains. In fact, two bills are currently under discussion that will undercut parts of the ADA.
What can you do? Join us. We are committed to forming the most diverse caucus possible, with many interests, skills and concerns represented. To learn more, please click here. Second, watch the powerful documentary Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution, the first project from Higher Ground, the production company of former President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama. It’s available on Netflix or here. The film tells the story of the young activists who were the heart and engine of the disabilities movement in the 70s and 80s. Marching (or rolling – many were in wheelchairs), staging sit-ins, demonstrating, refusing to go away, they left us a legacy of making good trouble, as the late John Lewis called it. We have to be those activists now.
Walking on Six
By Heather Stone, DA Israel
In late January 2017, I woke up from brain surgery to remove a benign meningioma on the right side of my brain and discovered that my left eye was blind and my right eye was going dark. It took a few months for the swelling in my right eye to subside. I now have less than 10% vision in my right eye. This was not the result I was expecting from the surgery. I was in shock. I was upset and depressed. I had to learn everything all over again, and I had to do it fast as I am a divorced mom of two teenagers.
At first, I learned to use a white cane for the visually impaired. That further depressed me. I had to move slowly, looking for obstacles and navigating around them. A good friend kept after me that I should contact the Israel Guide Dog Center and explore getting a guide dog. Finally, in 2019, I submitted an application for a guide dog. I was evaluated and found to be suitable. I was placed on a waiting list, and a year later I was contacted by a trainer to meet a guide dog. I was very excited. As it turned out, the first dog was not a good match for me. He walked too slowly for my pace. When the center initially evaluated me, they saw me walking with the cane and saw how slowly I walked and thought I was a ‘slow walker’, so they matched me with a slow walking dog. In fact, I’m a fast walker, when I am able to walk confidently.
I waited a little while longer until Schuyler came into my life. She was raised at the center with the name Tinka, but my kids changed her name to Schuyler after the Schulyer sisters in the play Hamilton. She is a yellow Labrador and will be three years old in September. She arrived at my home in October 2020 during the pandemic, and because of the lockdown, I had to receive in-home training from trainers rather than training at the center. It took about a month for Schuyler and me to become a ‘team’. We walk together like we belong together. She is my eyes, and she reliably leads me away from obstacles on the street. I don’t even know they are there – I simply go past them. It is such a pleasure to be able to walk at my usual pace.
It would take me 35-40 minutes to walk from my home to the stadium with the white cane. With Schuyler by my side, I can walk to the stadium in 15-20 minutes. Schuyler has built up my confidence so I can go anywhere – busses, trains, and just recently on planes to and from the U.S. to visit my family.
Only 50% of the puppies raised by the Guide Dog Center become Guide Dogs for the Blind. The rest become breeders, or supportive companions to children and adults with special needs. These include children with autism, children who are blind, soldiers with PTSD and other adults with special needs. These special dogs tremendously impact the lives of the people with whom they pair. They are carefully selected for their characteristics and qualities. I highly recommend considering getting a service dog – they can change your life.
The Greatest Beer Run Ever Peter Farrelly, whose last feature Green Book earned multiple Oscars including best picture, is directing a Vietnam War-set dramedy. Starring Zac Efron, Russell Crowe and Bill Murray, it is based on the same titled book that tells the true story about a guy in New York in 1967 who traveled to Vietnam and tracked down and shared a few beers with his childhood friends, who were serving in the Army. Here
Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution Please watch the powerful documentary that was the first project from Higher Ground, the production company of former President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama. The film tells the story of the young activists who were the heart and engine of the disabilities movement in the 70s and 80s. It’s available on Netflix or here.
Top 10 Military Films of 2020 Here
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Email us at: [email protected]
In Memoriam 2021
by Robin H Rafaelidys, DA Greece
My depression in the 1990's was deep.
I thought of it perhaps one hundred times;
I didn't have the guts.
And perhaps I didn't have the despair.
I had two children who gave me joy.
I had a job I loved
Also, my grandfather had committed suicide.
He was never ever talked about.
I was five when it happened and
I only learned about it when I was thirty.
Would my parents treat my children
like I had never existed?
In August the nation learned that four officers
who defended the capitol on January 6th
have now died by suicide.
Unimaginable before that day
American citizens stormed the seat of government
seeking to hang the Vice President
and to stop the vital, peaceful transfer of power.
They came armed and they fought
the Capitol and Metropolitan Police like they were enemies.
Following this violent, hostile attack
men and women protected by these police began gas-lighting
spouting lies and denying the reality of that day.
Trauma followed by betrayal.
I was raised Catholic but I disagree
that it is a sin to kill yourself.
It is a tragedy.
*** I was lucky. I found that St. John's Wort worked to dispel the darkness and negative self-talk. And my life circumstances were mostly favorable.
For a comprehensive list of mental health organizations and programs:
adaa.org and for a 24 hour hotline: +1-800-273-8255
Please send poetry submissions to: [email protected]
VMF COUNTRY CAUCUSES
Country VMF Caucuses are around the world! To start a VMF Caucus in your country, send us an email here and we will help you navigate the process.
To read up on news and events from the DA France VMF Caucus, click here.
To read up on news and events from the DA Germany VMF Caucus, click here.
STAR LIGHT, STAR BRIGHT, FIRST STAR I SEE TONIGHT
Why do the stars change in the Sky? If you think about it, the stars do not move. It is the earth rotating on its axis that causes the march of stars (and planets) across our night sky. And for reasons a bit complicated, the 'star day’ (sidereal day) is 4 minutes shorter than the Earth day. Therefore the stars you saw at dusk last night are 4 minutes higher in the sky tonight. I can't think about it too much, it hurts my head, but I love the wonderful variety of our night skies!
Here is a list of the 10 brightest stars, in order!
Can you match the star with the correct scientific fact?
A) Called the Red Giant Star; the Ancient Romans used it to foretell the weather.
B) A blue Supergiant, it is 79 times as large as our sun.
3. Alpha Centauri
C) This star in the Charioteer constellation appears to have red and green flashes when rising in the autumn.
D) This star, known as “at the end of the river,” spins so rapidly – rotating in just 2 earth days--- that it appears oblate or egg shaped.
E) The second brightest star in Orion; its name means “giant's shoulder."
F) The Dog Star is visible in both hemispheres with a magnitude of -1.46. Called “Sothis” by the Ancient Egyptians, they thought it caused the Nile floods.
G) Astronomers have discovered an asteroid belt around this, the brightest star in the constellation Lyre.
H) The brightest star in the Southern Hemisphere, it is on the Brazilian flag representing the area of Goias.
I) This is really a cluster of stars and exo-planets the closest of any to Earth at a mere 4.37 light years away.
J) The brightest star in Canis Minor (Lesser Dog), its name in Ancient Greek meant “before dog” indicating the coming of Canis Major with the brightest star in the sky.
Answers: 10) E - 9) D - 8) J - 7) B - 6) C - 5) G - 4) A - 3) I - 2) H - 1) F
Bob Gould (United Kingdom, VMF Global Co-chair, Military Family)
Anthony “Mike” Nitz (Vietnam, VMF Global Secretary, Veteran)
Robin Rafaelidys (Greece, Military Family)
Kathy Davidson (France, Military Family)
Kee Evans (Guatemala, Military Family)
Tilly Gaillard (France)
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