VFW Washington Weekly, June 1, 2012

In This Issue:
1. House Passes VA Funding
2. VFW Supports “We Can’t Wait” Initiative:
3. VOW to Hire Heroes Update
4. Servicemember Protection Bills Pass House
5. North Dakota Reports From the Field
6. IFA Introduces Veterans’ Toolkit
7. Veteran Small Business Owner Resources
8. Vietnam MIA Identified

1. House Passes VA Funding: By a vote of 407-12, the House Thursday night overwhelming passed the Military Construction/VA funding bill despite threats of a veto by the Administration. To see how your representative voted, click on http://clerk.house.gov/evs/2012/roll305.xml. The bill, H.R. 5854, provides $146.4 billion dollars for FY 2013, which is a 10-percent increase above last year’s levels. VA funding includes $54.5 in Advanced Appropriations for medical care, a boost for medical services and increases for jobs and disability programs for veterans. House members voted to withhold funding on the DOD-VA integrated medical record project until both departments implement recommendations made by GAO earlier this year. It also provides:
* $6.2 billion for mental health services
* $5.8 billion for homeless veterans programs
* $35 million for continued research on the effects of PTSD and TBI
* $174 million for expansion of Arlington National Cemetery
* $1.1 billion for major and minor construction projects
* $1.7 billion for family and military personnel housing
For the committee press release and a list of amendments, go to http://appropriations.house.gov/News/DocumentSingle.aspx?DocumentID=297903.

2. VFW Supports “We Can’t Wait” Initiative: The VFW is calling President Obama’s new “We Can’t Wait” initiative an extremely positive step that will help thousands of service members with manufacturing and other high-demand skills receive civilian credentials and licenses. National Commander Richard DeNoyer said it just makes sense that specialized military training should also meet private-sector standards, such as in the career fields of machinists, welders, plumbers, engineers and logistics specialists, as well as commercial vehicle drivers, paramedics, and airframe and powerplant technicians. With industry now involved in military training standards, the VFW hopes all the states will soon ease their restrictions regarding the portability of licensing and certifications and academic credit. Read more at http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/docs/veterans_report_5-31-2012.pdf

3. VOW to Hire Heroes Update: The House VA Committee this week discussed progress being made by VA and Department of Labor’s Veterans Employment and Training in meeting the goals of the VOW to Hire Heroes Act. A critical provision of the law, the Veterans Retraining Assistance Program, or VRAP, is set to launch on July 1. VRAP allows qualifying veterans to receive up to 12 months of assistance equal to the full-time Montgomery GI Bill active duty rate. Committee Chairman Jeff Miller (R-FL) asked senior officials from VA and DOL/VETS to testify on VRAP and how they intend to reach eligible veterans and promote the program for maximum enrollment. The VOW Act authorized 99,000 training positions for veterans under the program. VFW played a critical role in getting this employment legislation passed into law and will continue monitoring its progress. To learn more about the hearing and to learn more about VRAP, click here: http://www.vfwonthehill.org/2012/06/va-and-labor-officials-update-congress.html

4. Servicemember Protection Bills Pass House: VFW-supported legislation designed to protect service members cleared the House on Wednesday. VFW led the way in advocating for H.R. 3670, which was introduced by Rep. Tim Walz (D-MN) to close a long overdue loophole in rehiring compliance by the Transportation Security Administration, and H.R. 4201, which helps protect deployed service members in child custody suits. The bills now move to the Senate for action. To learn more about H.R. 3670 and to view Walz’s floor speech on the bill, go to http://www.vfwonthehill.org/2012/06/house-passes-vfw-supported-bill-to.html. Other transition-related bills awaiting Senate action include:
* H.R. 4051, legislation that directs DOL to provide Transition Assistance Program (TAP) benefits to veterans and their spouses outside military installations. The program will be made available in several states selected by DOL based on high rates of veteran unemployment.
* H.R. 1263 will provide surviving spouses with mortgage foreclosure protections.

5. North Dakota Reports From the Field: During the Easter congressional recess, leaders from the VFW Department of North Dakota participated in a roundtable discussion on veterans’ issues with Rep. Rick Berg (R-N.D.) and staff members from both North Dakota U.S. Senate offices. To learn more about the roundtable, click here: http://www.vfwonthehill.org/2012/05/field-report-north-dakota-vfw-calls-on.html. To submit your Field Reports for consideration on the VFW Capitol Hill blog, simply fill out our form here: http://www.vfw.org/Forms/Capitol-Hill-Blog-Submissions/, or send photos and stories directly to vfwac@vfw.org.

6. IFA Introduces Veterans’ Toolkit: VFW is looking to work with the International Franchise Association (IFA) in the coming months in hopes of matching veterans up with small business franchising opportunities. The 2012 Military Friendly Franchise list shows that veteran-owned franchise businesses jumped 35 percent to a record 11,469 last year. IFA has launched their Operation Enduring Opportunity campaign as part of their VetFran program to hire and recruit 75,000 veterans and their spouses by 2014. All of the information on their veterans’ programs can be found on their website at http://www.vetfran.com/.

7. Veteran Small Business Owner Resources: With extensive discussion this week on veterans’ employment and continuing work with IFA to help veterans become franchisees, VFW also wanted to highlight several other resources that can help veteran entrepreneurs start their own small businesses and possibly secure federal contracts:
* Small Business Administration: SBA offers a variety of tools and resources to veteran entrepreneurs to help get a veteran-owned small business off the ground. These resources are provided regionally through Veterans Business Outreach Centers, or VBOCs. To learn about the services available through VBOCs and to find the center closest to you, visit the SBA’s website at http://www.sba.gov/content/veterans-business-outreach-centers.
* Patriot Loans: SBA also offers financing assistance options for veterans who want to start a small business. Patriot Express Loans are available to anyone who has served honorably to help with expenses ranging from start-up costs to major equipment purchases. Learn more at http://www.sba.gov/content/express-pilot-programs.
* Central Contractor Registration: Businesses that seek to secure federal contracts, including set-aside contracts for veteran-owned and service disabled veteran-owned small businesses, must register with the federal government’s Central Contract Registration. Start the process at https://www.bpn.gov/ccr/default.aspx.
* FedBid is an online marketplace that allows government agencies to identify contractors that can meet their needs. Veteran-owned and service disabled veteran-owned small businesses can register with FedBid for set-aside, competitive or sole-source contracts. The business model is reverse auction, meaning sellers can select to bid on contracts. The government agency, or “buyer,” can select the contractor that meets their need. The cost of utilizing FedBid is factored into the bid. Sellers bidding on federal contracts must be registered with Central Contracting Registration. FedBid is just one of several online marketplaces that help businesses secure government contracts. Learn more at http://www.fedbid.com/.

8. Vietnam MIA Identified: The Defense POW/MIA Office announced the identification of remains belonging to Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Arden K. Hassenger, 32, of Lebanon, Ore. On Dec. 24, 1965, Hassenger, and the crew of the AC-47D aircraft, nicknamed “Spooky,” failed to return from a combat strike mission in southern Laos. After a “mayday” signal was sent, all contact was lost with the crew, and a two-day search for the aircraft and crew was unsuccessful. Read more at http://www.dtic.mil/dpmo/news/news_releases/

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