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Congress Focusing on Veterans Issues

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Both the House and Senate have been working on several pieces of veterans-related legislation, with new “Stolen Valor” Act at the forefront. In addition, the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee has approved fertility treatment for affected veterans and both houses of Congresses seeking a registry to track soldiers who were exposed to burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan. Several others proposals are on the table but one piece of legislation did not make it out of committee: a proposed incentive program to pay veterans to go to their mental health appointments.

Stolen Valor Act
The House of Representatives is expected to pass a new version of the Stolen Valor Act which was initially struck down by the Supreme Court as unconstitutional by infringing upon free speech. The new law is more tightly worded to conform to constitutional standards and make it illegal to falsely claim military awards to obtain money or anything of value. Written by Rep. Joe Heck (R-Nev), this act has bipartisan support and is expected to pass both houses.

Burn Pit Registry
The Senate Veterans Affairs Committee is set to vote on legislation that mandates the VA create a registry of veterans that were exposed to burn pits — open air burning at disposal sites that may cause health issues. This is part of a larger health care bill proposed by Patty Murray (D-Wash) in order to research and treat veterans for illnesses related to exposure to toxic chemicals and raised levels of airborne particulates. The legislation also requires the Department of Defense to develop a plan for tracking and collecting data of environmental exposures as well as sharing the results; it further proposes that the DOD track air quality in areas of deployment.

Fertility Treatment for Wounded Veterans
This legislation is aimed at providing counseling and treatment for reproductive and adoption services. Over 1,800 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have sustained severe spinal and genital injuries and this provides for artificial insemination and even surrogacy. This legislation has passed committee with Senator Patty Murray as the bill’s chief sponsor.

Education and Training
The House proposed bill HR 4057 to improve benefits and services for Post 9/11 GI Bill and employment counseling. The bill requires the VA to provides counseling for college options and financing higher education. The bill will states to factor in military training towards license and credential requirements for certain occupations; it also has a provision limiting performance bonuses to senior VA staff. The House Committee on Veterans Affairs has released its press release regarding the legislation.

The Senate is considering the President’s proposal, Veterans Jobs Corps, to create jobs for veterans in various fields. House Republicans, however, are backing the veteran retraining and credential provisions in HR 4057 instead.

Robert Kane, Communications Associate
Rob Kane, Swords to PlowsharesRob manages the website and functions as an editor with SEO and social media integration and has over 12 years of IT experience. He is an Army veteran and has a BA in Political Economy from UC Berkeley and working on a masters degree in Project and Systems Management.

Source(s): Stars and Stripes, September 11, 2012, by Leo Shane
Military Times, September 12, 2012, by Rick Maze;
Military Times, ” , “
Military Times, ” , by Patricia Kime
House Committee on Veterans Affairs press release, September 11, 2012

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