e-News 8/25/17

e-News 8/25/17

  • Real Action to Help Our Veterans
  • A stable Afghanistan will mean a safer America
  • Federal Funding for New Jersey’s Highlands
  • ICYMI – Last week’s remarks on Charlottesville
  • Salute: Morris Minute Men member is EMT of the Year


Real Action to Help Our Veterans

In its ongoing efforts to reform the way the Veterans Administration (VA) does business, Congress is making good on its promise to ensure that our nation’s veterans have ready access to the benefits they earned and so richly deserve.  This week, the President signed two more pieces of bipartisan legislation designed to provide tangible assistance to the men and women who have served in uniform:

  • The Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act is legislation that will streamline the lengthy process that veterans undergo when appealing their claims for disability benefits with the VA. More than 470,000 veterans are still waiting for decisions regarding their appeals.
  • Also signed into law this week, the Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act which allows veterans to use their education benefits whenever they choose, rather than during the current 5-year time limit on the use of GI bill benefits. That’s why this is often called the ‘Forever’ GI Bill. This bipartisan expansion of the GI bill — which passed in the House and Senate with unanimous support — also makes it easier for post-9/11 Purple Heart recipients to get GI bill benefits, and gives veterans a better shot at in-demand science and technology jobs. This is a landmark effort in helping our veterans make a good transition and pursue their passion. It is the biggest expansion of the GI bill in a decade.

Once again, I commend the Republicans and Democrats who came together in bipartisan fashion to get these bills done. We will keep working to see that our veterans get the world-class care and treatment that they and their families have earned. 

In June, Congress passed—and President Trump signed— the Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act, a direct response to the national scandals of the last three years. Recently, the House approved the FY ’18 Military Construction-VA Appropriations bill, drafted by my Committee, which included the highest level of funding ever for the Department of Veterans Affairs.

For more information on the MilCon-VA Appropriations bill, please click here.

For more information on the Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act, please click here.

A stable Afghanistan will mean a safer America.

This week, the President unveiled an expansive new strategy for South Asia aimed at bolstering American security here at home.  The new strategy encompasses Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, and the Central Asian nations.

As you are aware, I have visited our troops and military leaders in Afghanistan several times in recent years to gauge our progress against the Taliban, al Qaeda, ISIS and other jihadist terrorist groups that call Afghanistan home and to determine what resources our deployed warfighters need to succeed.  My conclusion: the Taliban is resurgent and now controls large swaths of the Afghan countryside.  We need to regain the initiative.

Why is this important to us, here at home in New Jersey?  We must prevent terrorists from regaining a foothold in Afghanistan — the country from where al-Qaeda, aided by the Taliban, planned and directed the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

Yet the previous administration publicly placed an arbitrary end date on military operations in Afghanistan, enabling the Taliban to bide its time and begin a renewed campaign to reconquer its lost territory. We need only look toward Iraq, and the rise of ISIS following the last administration’s withdrawal of U.S. forces, to see where this strategy leads.

At first blush, the new approach appears to be a reasonable plan that begins with being honest about the challenges in the region. The mission is very complex and the President is giving our Commanders the latitude and the resources they need to be successful.  

As Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, I recognize Congress’ responsibility.  Exercising rigorous oversight, Congress must step up and provide timely and adequate funding for this vital mission.

It’s all about our homeland: a stable Afghanistan will mean a safer America.

To learn more about the new strategy for Southwest Asia, please click here.

By the way, Jessica Donati’s opinion piece“A Reporter’s Anguished Farewell to Afghanistan,” in the Wall Street Journal last weekend is worth a read.

Federal Funding for New Jersey’s Highlands

This week the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced that New Jersey’s Highlands Water Protection and Planning Council will receive $2.4 million to protect 586 acres in the critical Highlands Region.  These funds are a part of the $10 million I secured for the Highlands Conservation Act funding in the Fiscal Year 2017 appropriations package, which cleared Congress and was signed into law by the President in May.

This grant will preserve 10 properties in the Upper Delaware and North and South Branch Raritan Watershed Management Areas. Lands within the project area have been identified as “resources at risk” and provide important ground water recharge, critical wildlife habitat, and outdoor recreation.

A major source of drinking water and in the most densely populated metropolitan area in the country, the Highlands is a critical area in need of protection. Since 2004, the Highlands Conservation Act, legislation I sponsored, has directed funding to preserve open space from willing sellers in the Highlands region of New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Connecticut.

Looking forward, the FY 2018 Interior Appropriations bill, which cleared my Committee in July, includes another $10 million in funding for Highlands conservation projects. To learn more about this legislation please click here.  

ICYMI – End the Hatred with Words that Unite, Not Divide

In case you missed it, please see my remarks in last week’s e-News regarding the events in Charlottesville. 

Salute: Congratulations to Ryan Houser of Morristown, a member of the Morris Minute Men First Aid Squad, on his recent selection as EMT of the Year.  A fulltime student at Rutgers University, Ryan will be honored during a ceremony in Las Vegas in October for the National Association of Emergency Medical Technician's 2017 National EMS Awards of Excellence. Thanks for your service and your dedication, Ryan!

Twitter Facebook