e-News 11/9/17

e-News 11/9/17

  • Pause to Remember our Veterans
  • “A Veteran’s View of Vietnam”
  • House Advances Veterans Legislation
  • Adding My Support with Key Co-Sponsorships
  • ICYMI: Iran’s Growing Influence in the Middle East
  • Salute: Pequannock Township High School Marching Band are Champions!


Pause to Remember our Veterans

This weekend, the nation pauses to mark Veterans Day 2017 and acknowledge the contributions of those who served in our Armed Forces in war and peacetime.

Our veterans represent the very best of America.  They have selflessly answered the call to serve in the finest military in the world, and they have earned the dignity that comes with wearing the uniform and defending our great country. 

Of course, part of paying our respect to these men and women means recommitting to our nation's sacred obligation to care for those who have protected the freedoms we often take for granted.

For active duty, National Guard and Reserve servicemembers, my House Appropriations Committee has pledged to provide the best equipment, resources, and support - that must continue after they return to civilian life as veterans.

For those who have retired, veterans' healthcare must remain a top priority and Congress has passed legislation that improves accountability at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and provides additional funding for the Veterans Choice Program, which ensures veterans continue to receive care in their communities from providers they trust.  We are also making progress on modernizing the electronic medical records for the VA and Defense Department. 

We have also approved legislation to give veterans GI Bill education benefits for their lifetime, and a measure to fix the broken VA appeals process, to ensure those who have served can access the resources they are due without waiting for years for a VA decision.

But there is more to be done and the House worked this week to improve benefits for deserving veterans and their families.

House Advances Veterans Legislation

This week, the House passed numerous bills which address a range of veterans’ needs, from mental health to consumer protection to VA management:

HR 4173 - Veterans Crisis Line Study Act directs the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to conduct a study on operation and effectiveness of the the Veterans Crisis Line. Read the bill here

HR 3634 - Securing Electronic Records for Veterans' Ease (SERVE) Act which seeks to ensure that individuals may access documentation verifying the monthly housing stipend paid to the individual under the Post-9/11 Educational Assistance Program of the Department of Veterans Affairs. Read the bill here

H.R. 1066 - The VA Management Alignment Act of 2017 would require VA to clarify the roles, responsibility, and accountability of organizations and individuals of VA.  Read the bill here

H.R. 3122 - Veterans Care Financial Protection Act of 2017 directs the VA to work with federal agencies and states to develop and implement standards that protect veterans and family members collecting a supplemental VA benefit from dishonest, predatory or otherwise unlawful practices. Read the bill here.

HR 3705 - Veterans Fair Debt Notice Act directs the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to require the use of certified mail and plain language in certain debt collection activities. Read the bill here

H.R. 918 - Veteran Urgent Access to Mental Healthcare Actrequires the VA to conduct an initial mental health assessment, and provide any subsequent needed mental health services, to former servicemembers who would otherwise be ineligible for such help because they were discharged from service under other-than-honorable conditions.  Read the bill here

HR 2601 - Veterans Increased Choice for Transplanted Organs and Recovery (VICTOR) Act amends the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014 to improve the access of veterans to organ transplants, and for other purposes. Read the bill here

HR 1133 - Veterans Transplant Coverage Act authorizes the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to provide for an operation on a live donor for purposes of conducting a transplant procedure for a veteran. Read the bill here

H.R. 3562 - authorizes the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to furnish assistance for adaptations of residences of veterans in rehabilitation programs.  Read the bill here

H.R. 3561 - would give VA-designated appraisers the ability to rely solely on information from approved third parties, such as a desktop appraisal, when determining a home’s value for a VA home loan. Read the bill here

H.R. 3656 - would provide a headstone or marker for all eligible non-veterans who die on or after November 11, 1998. Read the bill here.

We took the opportunity during this week leading up to Veterans Day to advocate for our nation’s veterans through our work in the House.  It was refreshing to see my colleagues on both sides of the aisle come together to pass legislation that will assist men and women who have served our country honorably.

I hope you will find some personal time this weekend to pause and remember the contributions, service and sacrifice of those who have worn the nation’s uniform.

“A Veteran’s View of Vietnam”

The Washington Post’s Michael Ruane wrote a fascinating article yesterday about a new National Archives exhibit on the Vietnam conflict. Read the article here.

Of course, this article brought to my mind the “The Veterans History Project” of the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress.  The VHP collects, preserves, and makes accessible the personal accounts of American war veterans so that future generations may hear directly from veterans and better understand the realities of war.

Visit the Veterans History Project website here.

Adding My Support with Key Co-Sponsorships

I often announce my support for legislation by “co-sponsoring” bills introduced by my colleagues in the House.  Recently, I co-sponsored several additional pieces of legislation, including:

  • H.R.3679 National Disaster Tax Relief seeks to provide tax relief to victims of all federally-declared disasters that occurred from 2012 through 2015.  Of course, this would include all eligible victims of Superstorm Sandy in New Jersey! The bill allows tax deductions for disaster cleanup expenses, waives the 10% penalty tax that would otherwise apply on an early withdrawal from a retirement plan for disaster victims and permits disaster victims to use prior year's income for purposes of calculating the earned income and child tax credits.
  • H.R. 3488, the Reducing the Demand for Human Trafficking Act would require the Attorney General, in awarding human trafficking grants to law enforcement agencies, to give preference to applications that include efforts to reduce demand for human trafficking through the investigation and prosecution of persons who solicit or purchase commercial sex.
  • H.R. 3759, the Recognize, Assist, Include, Support, and Engage (RAISE) Family Caregivers Act would direct the Department of Health and Human Services to develop a National Family Caregiving Strategy and create a Family Caregiving Advisory Council to provide advice on recognizing and supporting family caregivers. The bill defines family a caregiver as an adult family member or other individual who has a significant relationship with, and who provides a broad range of assistance to, an individual with a chronic or other health condition, disability, or functional limitation.
  • H.R  299, the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act aims to assist certain Navy veterans who served in Vietnam.  Under current law, Blue Water Navy Veterans who did not set foot in Vietnam or serve aboard ships that operated on the inland waterways of Vietnam between January 9, 1962 and May 7, 1975 have the burden of proof to demonstrate exposure to Agent Orange and the connection to their illnesses. H.R 299 would grant “presumptive” Agent Orange exposure status to sailors who served in the territorial seas of Vietnam during the Vietnam War.  Presumptive coverage would enable eligible veterans to receive Veterans Affairs benefits if they suffer from any of the diseases the U.S. government has linked to Agent Orange.

For a complete list of bills I have introduced and co-sponsored, please click here

ICYMI: Iran’s Growing Reach in the Middle East

At least three developments in the Middle East this week emphasize the current and growing danger Iran poses to the region.

On November 4, Lebanon’s Prime Minister Saad Hariri abruptly resigned his post, condemning Iran and its proxy Hezbollah’s growing regional dominance. “Iran controls the region and the decision-making in both Syria and Iraq,” Hariri said in a televised address. (I have visited Lebanon recently and met with the P.M.)

Read the New York Times article here.

Elsewhere, Saudi Arabia condemned a missile launch toward Riyadh’s airport by Houthi rebels in Yemen, calling it a blatant act of military aggression by Iran.

Read the AP story here.

And in Iran itself, thousands gathered to chant “Death to America” on the anniversary of the 1979 Iranian takeover of the U.S. embassy in Teheran.

Read the Los Angeles Times story here.

These articles underscore that Iran’s aggression continues to expand, posing a threat to the U.S. our allies and interests.

Salute: To the Pequannock Township High School Marching Band which captured the State Championships on Saturday in Middleton, New Jersey. Then, on Sunday, the Marching Band won National Championships in Allentown, Pennsylvania! Congratulations to members of the Marching Band and Color Guard and the staff that supports them!

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