WHAT’S CONGRESS UP TO?

Major Legislation Updates (as of July 22):

  • The House Committee on Natural Resources held a second hearing on June 16 on the dueling House bills for Puerto Rico statehood, H.R. 1522 and H.R. 2070.
  • H.R. 983, the “Preventing Crimes Against Veterans Act”, passed in the House on June 22.
  • S. 1095, the “Colonel John M. McHugh Tuition Fairness for Survivors Act”, passed in the Senate on June 24.
  • H.R. 239, the “Equal Access to Contraception for Veterans Act”, passed in the House on June 24.
  • H.R. 3385, the “HOPE for Afghan SIVs Act”, passed in the House on June 29.
  • H.R. 2441, the “Sgt. Ketchum Rural Veterans Mental Health Act”, passed in the Senate on June 24 and was signed into law by President Biden on June 30.
  • H.R. 3985, the “Averting Loss of Life and Injury by Expediting SIVs (ALLIES) Act”, passed in the House (407 - 16) on July 22.

Voting and Statehood Legislation

H.R. 51: The “Washington, D.C. Admission Act” would admit the city of Washington, D.C. into the union as the 51st state and redefine the “Capitol” to a selection of streets and federal buildings where Government business is conducted. Status: Passed in the House on April 22 and received by the Senate.

H.R. 1522 / S. 780: The “Puerto Rico Statehood Admission Act” would provide for the admission of Puerto Rico as a state following the 2020 statehood referendum where 52.5% of Puerto Rican voters voted for statehood. Status: The House Natural Resources Committee held a hearing on H.R. 1522 on June 16. S. 780 was referred to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on March 16.

H.R. 2070: The “Puerto Rico Self-Determination Act” would direct the Puerto Rican legislature to hold a status convention that would determine a selection of choices for Puerto Rico’s political status (statehood, continue to be a territory, independence, etc) and hold another referendum with the full slate of choices. Ranked choice voting would be authorized for this referendum. Status: Referred to the House Rules Committee on March 18. The House Natural Resources Committee held a hearing on June 16.

H.R. 2358: The “Voter Empowerment Act” takes a comprehensive approach to closing the gaps in voting access and ensuring that every American can participate in the electoral process. Specifically, it would ensure ballots are counted from Americans serving in the military or overseas. Status: Referred to six House Committees on April 5.

H.R. 3646: The “Reducing Barriers for Military Voters Act” would direct the President’s team to develop and implement a plan to provide end-to-end electronic voting services for absent uniformed services voters who are deployed or mobilized to locations with limited postal services. Status: Referred to the House Committee on House Administration on May 28.

Veteran Deportation and Military Family Naturalization Legislation

H.R.163: The “Protect Patriot Spouses Act” includes new language to allow eligible veteran spouses who have been removed from or have left the United States to apply for an immigrant visa and return home. Status: Referred to the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration and Citizenship on March 4.

H.R. 1182: The “Veteran Deportation Prevention and Reform Act” would:  

1) require the Dept. of Homeland Security (DHS) to maintain data on potentially removable noncitizen veterans. The Dept. of Homeland Security Secretary would be directed to establish an annual training program for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) personnel on handling noncitizen veterans;

2) direct DHS to establish a Military Family Immigration Advisory Committee that would make recommendations on whether an individual should be granted a stay of removal, deferred action, or parole, or should be removed from the country;

3) provide a streamlined pathway to citizenship for spouses and children of members of the Armed Services through a joint DoD/DHS program; and

4) require DHS to establish a program and application procedure that allows eligible veterans to be admitted as noncitizens lawfully admitted for permanent residence. It also directs the Attorney General to reopen removal proceedings concerning any non-citizen veterans and, where appropriate, rescind any orders of removal already issued. 

Status: Referred to the House Committee on Armed Services (February 18) and the House Subcommittees on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs (March 22) and on Immigration and Citizenship (April 28).

S. 2261: The “Healthcare Opportunities for Patriots in Exile (HOPE) Act” would amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to allow certain non-citizen veterans to be paroled into the United States to receive health care furnished by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs. Status: Referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary on 24 June.

S. 2265: The “Veterans Visa and Protection Act” would require the Secretary of Homeland Security to establish a veterans visa program to permit veterans who have been removed from the United States to return as immigrants. Status: Referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary on 24 June.

S. 2268: The “Immigrant Veterans Eligibility Tracking System (I-VETS) Act” would require the Secretary of Homeland Security to identify each non-citizen service member or veteran when they apply for an immigration benefit or are placed in an immigration enforcement proceeding. Status: Referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary on 24 June.

 

Criminal Justice Reform

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. Status: Passed in the House (416 - 5) on June 22. Referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary on June 23.

H.R. 1491: The “Fair Debt Collection for Servicemembers Act” would prohibit debt collectors (credit card companies, payday lenders, etc.) 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. Status: Passed in the House on April 20. Referred to the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs on April 22.

​​S.1520​​​: The “Military Justice Improvement and Increasing Prevention Act”​ is a bill to 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. Status: Referred to the Senate Armed Services Committee on April 29.

Special Immigrant Visa Legislation

​​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. These individuals include interpreters and others. This program would be similar to the Special Immigrant Visa program that was created for conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.​ Status: Referred to House Committees on the Judiciary and on Foreign Affairs on April 26.

H.R. 3385: The “HOPE for Afghan SIVs Act” would waive the requirement for Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) applicants to complete a medical examination for eligibility in an effort to streamline the process ahead of the planned exit from Afghanistan by September 11th. Status: Passed in the House on June 29. Referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary on July 12.

H.R. 3985: The “Averting Loss of Life and Injury by Expediting SIVs (ALLIES) Act” would amend the Afghan Allies Protection Act of 2009 to expedite the special immigrant visa process for certain applicants from Afghanistan. Status: Passed in the House (407 - 16) on July 22. Received in the Senate.

VA and Veterans Health Care Legislation

H.R. 234: The “Korean American VALOR Act” amends existing laws to treat those members of the Republic of Korea Armed Forces who served as allies to the U.S. in the Vietnam War as veterans of the United States Armed Forces for the purpose of granting them access to healthcare provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs. Status: Pending a vote by the House of Representatives since May 4.

H.R. 239: The “Equal Access to Contraception for Veterans Act” would prohibit the Dept. of Veterans Affairs from requiring veterans to pay for contraceptives that are required to be covered by health insurance plans without a cost-sharing requirement. Status: Passed in the House (245 - 181) on June 24. Referred to the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs on July 12.

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. By extending the policy for young adults in military families, we can relieve the financial burdens brought on by healthcare and ensure they receive quality insurance while they transition into adult life. Status: Referred to the House Armed Services Committee on January 25.

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. Status: Passed in the House on May 12. Referred to the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs on May 13.

H.R. 1123: The “Veteran Suicide Prevention Act” would require the Dept. of Veterans Affairs 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. Status: Referred to the House Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Health on March 22.

S. 771/H.R. 1948: The “VA Employee Fairness Act” would ensure that the VA’s Title 38 healthcare professionals—including nurses, physicians, dentists, and physician assistants who serve our veterans— have the same workplace rights currently granted to other VA clinicians and federal employees. Status: H.R. 1948 is pending a vote by the House of Representatives since May 4. S. 771 was referred to the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs on March 16.

H.R. 2441: The “Sgt. Ketchum Rural Veterans Mental Health Act” would direct the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to conduct a study to assess mental health resources available to veterans who live in rural areas and would expand a program designed to serve them. Status: Passed in the House on May 18. Passed in the Senate on June 24. Signed into law by President Biden on June 30.

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 specified VA website. The VA will be responsible for self-auditing the accuracy and completeness of the data presented. Status: Referred to the House Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Health on 14 July. A hearing on this bill was held on July 14.

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. Status: Referred to the House Committee on Veterans Affairs on May 20. A hearing on this bill was held on July 14.

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” is a bipartisan bill that would direct the Department of Veterans' Affairs to make versions of all of its fact sheets available in the ten most commonly spoken languages in our nation, including Tagalog and Spanish, and also require the Department of Veterans' Affairs to establish a website that provides links to all fact sheets of the Veterans Benefits Administration, Veterans Health Administration, and National Cemetery Administration. Status: Passed in the House on June 15. Referred to the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs on June 16.

S. 1095: The “Colonel John M. McHugh Tuition Fairness for Survivors Act” would amend Title 38 to allow the Secretary of Veterans Affairs 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. Status: Passed unanimously in the Senate on June 24. Referred to the House on June 28.

S. J. Res. 10: Senate Joint Resolution 10 would repeal the authorizations for use of military force against Iraq. Status: Referred to the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations on March 3. A committee hearing was held on July 12.