Updates in the news are provided for interested veterans, retirees and active duty service members.
· Pending legislation:
— H.R.303 — Retired Pay Restoration Act – Introduced in the U.S. House on Jan. 5, this bill:
(1) allows the receipt of both military retired pay and veterans’ disability compensation with respect to any service-connected disability (currently, only for a disability rated at 50 percent or more), and,
(2) repeals provisions phasing in the full concurrent receipt of such pay. Individuals who were retired or separated from military service due to a service-connected disability shall be eligible for the full concurrent receipt of both veterans’ disability compensation and either military retired pay or combat-related special pay. The measure was referred to subcommittee on military personnel.
— H.R. 2001 — Veterans 2nd Amendment Protection Act — Introduced April 23, 2015, this bill prohibits, in any case arising out of the administration of laws and benefits by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, any person who is mentally incapacitated, deemed mentally incompetent, or experiencing an extended loss of consciousness from being considered adjudicated as a mental defective for purposes of the right to receive or transport firearms without the order or finding of a judicial authority of competent jurisdiction that such person is a danger to himself or herself or others. The measure was referred to the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.
— H.R. 512 — Wingman Act — The last action was Feb. 14. This bill was received in the U.S. Senate and read twice and referred to the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. This bill directs the Department of Veterans Affairs or VA to provide each veteran who submits a claim for VA benefits with an opportunity to permit a covered congressional employee in the office of the veteran’s member of Congress to have read-only access to all of the veteran’s records in the Veterans Benefits Administration databases. A member may designate up to two such covered congressional employees. A covered congressional employee may not be recognized as an agent or attorney with respect to veterans’ benefit claims. Funds under this bill may not be used to design or administer any training for covered congressional employees. The bill makes funds available for fiscal year 2018 through fiscal year 2021 for such congressional employee access program.
— S. 544 — A bill to amend Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014 to modify the termination date for the Veterans Choice Program, and for other purposes. Latest Action was March 7. The bill was read twice and referred to the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.
— S.422 — Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2017 — The latest action was Feb. 16. The bill was read twice and referred to the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. This bill includes as part of the Republic of Vietnam and its territorial seas for purposes of the presumption of service connection for diseases associated with exposure by veterans to certain herbicide agents while in Vietnam.
— S.283 — Mark Takai Atomic Veterans Healthcare Parity Act — The latest action was Feb. 2. The bill was read twice and referred to the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. This bill includes veterans who participated in the cleanup of Enewetak Atoll in the Marshall Islands between Jan. 1, 1977, and Dec. 31, 1980, as radiation exposed veterans for purposes of the Department of Veterans Affairs presumption of service-connection for specified cancers.
· Suicide risk and risk of death among recent veterans:
Among deployed and non-deployed active duty veterans who served during the Iraq or Afghanistan wars between 2001 and 2007, the rate of suicide was greatest the first three years after leaving service, according to a recent study. Compared to the U.S. population, both deployed and non-deployed veterans had a higher risk of suicide, but a lower risk of death from other causes combined. Deployed veterans also had a lower risk of suicide compared to non-deployed veterans. These findings are from a study that looked at the vital status of 1.3 million veterans from their time of discharge through the end of 2009.
· No veteran should be without a place to call home:
The Department of Veterans Affairs states that it is committed to ending homelessness among veterans. The focus is threefold:
— Conducting coordinated outreach to proactively seek out Veterans in need of assistance,
— Connecting homeless and at-risk Veterans with housing solutions, health care, community employment services and other required supports,
Collaborating with federal, state and local agencies; employers; housing providers, faith-based and community nonprofits; and others to expand employment and affordable housing options for veterans exiting homelessness.
According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, “we need to remember that most homeless veterans do not read the paper or listen to television so let’s do our part as veterans and active military to end the homelessness of veterans. There is a saying among Vietnam veterans that ‘Never again shall one generation of veterans abandon another’ and all veterans and active military need to help all veterans.”
· Volunteers constructed an entire community to house homeless veterans:
Many veterans sacrifice comfortable, lucrative lives to protect the liberties of their home country — only to find nothing left of those former lives when they return. In the face of rising veteran homelessness rates, due in part to inadequate medical and psychological resources, Missouri volunteers pooled their creativity, time and money to create a community of tiny homes that welcomes veterans, completely free of charge. There is an organization in Oklahoma that has started creating homeless villages for homeless veterans and building tiny homes for homeless veterans
· Incarcerated veterans:
I know that you have read me talk about incarcerated veterans but I believe it is important for us to know that the incarcerated veterans in Oklahoma are committed to helping and honoring veterans. Some incarcerated veteran groups repair wheelchairs, crochet lap blankets for veterans in wheelchairs, raise money for veteran homes, crochet flag Afghans for the families of our fallen soldiers in Oklahoma. Yes, they got caught breaking the law but they are trying to help veterans in their own way. Can you honestly say that you helped a veteran or member of our active military today? Think about it.
Reach Ronald Pandos at [email protected]