VFW Washington Weekly, June 29, 2012

In This Issue:
1. National Healthcare Upheld
2. Stolen Valor Act Overturned; What do you think?
3. VFW Supported Bills Clear Subcommittees
4. Senate Reviews Health and Benefits Bills for Vets
5. VFW Applauds State AGs for Protecting Student-Vets

1. National Healthcare Upheld: The Supreme Court upheld the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act challenge on Thursday, even though a reversal would have had little to no impact on service-connected veterans served by the Department of Veterans Affairs or on military members and retirees served by military medicine or enrolled in TRICARE. This is because your VFW led the fight back in March 2010 to get Congress to recognize all VA and Defense Department health programs as meeting minimal acceptable coverage standards as required by a proposed national healthcare bill that had failed to include VA health programs for widows and disabled children, and almost 90 percent of military TRICARE programs. With the strong support of then-House Armed Service Committee Chairman Ike Skelton (D-Mo.) and Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.), and the grassroots advocacy of thousands of VFW members and supporters, the new, more encompassing legislation quickly passed Congress and was signed into law by the president on May 27, 2010. Read the high court’s ruling at http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/11pdf/11-393c3a2.pdf.

2. Stolen Valor Act Overturned: The VFW was very disappointed to also learn Thursday that the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the Stolen Valor Act of 2005 in a 6-3 decision. Still, the high court did mention in their decision that a more narrowly defined law in the future might perhaps survive a First Amendment free speech trial. Despite the ruling, VFW National Commander Richard DeNoyer said the “VFW will continue to challenge far-fetched stories, and to publicize these false heroes to the broadest extent possible as a deterrent to others.” Read the justices’ opinions at http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/11pdf/11-210d4e9.pdf.
What do you think? Let us know what you think of the Supreme Court’s decision on Stolen Valor by taking our poll and leaving comments on the blog: http://www.vfwonthehill.org/2012/06/what-do-you-think-supreme-court.html

3. VFW Supported Bills Clear Subcommittees: This House VA Committee had a busy week of mark-ups. A list of some of the bills cleared by subcommittees is below. All of the legislation now moves to the full committee for a vote. To read about the VFW-supported legislation and to read our complete testimony on several of the measures passed, click here: http://www.vfwonthehill.org/2012/06/house-moves-series-of-vfw-supported.html

The Subcommittee on Oversight & Investigation cleared -
* H.R. 3730, Veterans Data Breach Timely Notification Act would require VA, within ten days of a data breach to notify Congress and each individual whose sensitive personal information is involved in the breach
* H.R. 5948, Veterans Fiduciary Reform Act of 2012 would provide further protections and more oversight over veteran fiduciaries to ensure the veterans’ needs are being handled properly.

The Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs cleared -
* H.R. 5735 establishes a Tomb of Remembrance at Arlington National Cemetery
* H.R. 5880 authorizes VA to contract with private companies for examinations to help in the processing of disability claims.
The Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity cleared –
* H.R. 4115, HIRE at HOME Act which requires states to consider some military training received by a veteran as valid for certification — to include a commercial driver’s license or a certification to be a nursing assistant or certified nursing assistant, a registered nurse, or an emergency medical technician.
* H.R. 4057 would direct VA to develop a comprehensive outreach and transparency policy for veterans regarding information received about higher education institutions.
* H.R. 5747 would prohibit the sale, foreclosure or seizure of property for a year after a service member is discharged or deployed by the military. It also provides credit protections and asks large mortgage companies to maintain a toll-free number for answering any financial concerns.

The Subcommittee on Health cleared -
* H.R. 3337 the Open Burn Pit Registry Act, would direct VA to create a registry of all service members who have been exposed to open air burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan. As further research opens doors to new and improved treatments for health issues related to toxic inhalations, this registry will help VA target those resources to those who most need them.
* H.R. 4079, the Safe Housing for Homeless Veterans Act, will ensure housing for homeless veterans meets safe living standards.
For more information on all the bills that were cleared, visit the House VA Committee at: http://veterans.house.gov/

4. Senate Reviews Health and Benefit Bills for Vets: This week, The Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee held a hearing to discuss over 25 health and benefit-related bills still pending. Among the legislation discussed was several VFW-supported provisions that would enhance services for homeless veterans, improve access to VA mental health care, provide reproductive services for catastrophically disabled veterans and authorize VA to include immunizations as a part of preventive medicine within VHA. Other bills included:
* S. 2259, Veterans Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment Act which increases the rates of disability compensation for service-disabled veterans and the rates of DIC for survivors (effective Dec 2012).
* S.1849, Rural Health Care Improvement Act legislation that requires VA to develop a 5-year plan for improving access to and quality of health care services for veterans in rural areas.
* S. 1391, legislation that would improve VA’s disability compensation evaluation procedure for veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder or mental health conditions related to military sexual trauma
* S. 2320, Remembering America’s Forgotten Veterans Cemetery Act of 2012, would give the American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) authority to care for Clark Cemetery.
For a complete list of all the bills considered or to view the recorded webcast, click here: http://veterans.senate.gov/

5. VFW Applauds State AGs for Protecting Student-Vets: The VFW applauded the work of 20 state attorneys general, who announced this week that the Web site GIBill.com had officially been turned over to the Department of Veterans Affairs, and that the Web site’s owner, QuinStreet, would pay $2.5 million to states as part of a settlement for fraudulent recruiting practices. To see highlights from this week’s press conference, announcing the settlement, and to learn about the VFW’s ongoing efforts to protect student-veterans, click here: http://www.vfwonthehill.org/2012/06/vfw-applauds-state-attorneys-general.html

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