One of the
criticisms of the conduct of the current war in Iraq is the
restriction of access and the lack of public recognition of
America's KIAs. A Concurrent Resolution sponsored by Rep.
Charles B. Rangel (D-N.Y.) would change this short-sighted
HRC 384 calls for the removal of all restrictions from
the public, the press, and military families in mourning that
would prohibit their presence at the arrival at military
installations in the United States or overseas of the remains of
those members of the armed forces who have died in Iraq and
Afghanistan, with the assurance that family requests for privacy
will be respected. VVA strongly favors this resolution.
H.R. 3947, introduced by Rep. Joe Crowley (D-N.Y.), would
provide that monetary benefits paid to veterans by states and
municipalities be excluded from consideration as income for
purposes of pension benefits paid by the VA. VVA strongly
favors this measure.
H.R. 3849 would provide permanent authority for the
Secretary of Veterans Affairs to continue to operate a program
to provide counseling and treatment for veterans who, while in
military service, experienced sexual trauma or sexual
harassment. It was introduced by Rep. Ciro Rodriguez (D-Tex.).
VVA strongly favors this bill.
Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) introduced legislation that would
increase services and benefits to members of the National Guard
and Reserves when they are called to service. Murray's bill,
S. 2068, dubbed the Guard and Reserve Enhanced Benefits Act
of 2004, would provide expanded health care, family assistance,
education, and financial benefits to help ease the burden on
these soldiers and their families.
According to the Pentagon, more than 194,000 Guard and
Reservists currently serve on active duty. Guard and Reservists
make up almost 40 percent of the total American force in Iraq.
Provisions of Sen. Murray's legislation, S. 2068, would
extend the current Family and Medical Leave Act protections to
the spouses of Guard and Reservists called to extended active
duty and provide child-care assistance grants to parents
or guardians of dependents of Guard and Reservists called to
active duty. The bill would expand the GI bill for Guard and
Reservists who are called to active duty for 12 consecutive
months or 24 months out of a 60-month period.
Other provisions would allow employers to claim up to $12,000 in
tax credits for the pay differential of Guard and Reserve
employees and would also require the federal
government to cover the pay differential for federal employees
called to active duty. VVA favors this bill.
Another bill that would benefit Reservists called to active duty
is S. 2099, which would provide entitlement to
educational assistance under the Montgomery GI Bill for members
of the Selected Reserve who serve more than two years of active
duty in any five-year period. The bill was introduced by Sen.
Zell Miller (D-Ga.) and is co-sponsored by Sen. Mike DeWine
H.R. 3898, introduced by Rep. Anibal Acevedo-Vila (D-P.R.),
would authorize the construction of a replacement VA medical
center in Puerto Rico at a site that would best serve the
needs of both veterans and Department of Defense medical
beneficiaries in Puerto Rico. VVA strongly favors this
S. 2133, introduced by Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.),
would name the VA Medical Center in the Bronx, New York, the
James J. Peters Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center.
Jim Peters, executive director of the Eastern Paralyzed Veterans
Association for 31 years, died on September 6, 2002. Thirty-two
years earlier, he worked with Life magazine on an article
about the deplorable conditions facing paralyzed Vietnam
veterans at the old Bronx VA Hospital. The article forced the VA
to build the new Bronx VAMC and to establish a stand-alone
national Spinal Cord Injury Service. VVA strongly endorses
H.R. 3777, introduced by Rep. Scott McInnis (R-Colo.),
would require the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to enter into
contracts with community health care providers to improve access
to health care for veterans in highly rural areas. This bill was
introduced to alleviate situations in which the VA facilities
are geographically inaccessible to veterans in rural areas.
VA facilities are deemed geographically inaccessible in the case
of a veteran whose residence is in a county with a population
density of less than 7 people per square mile and is more than
75 miles from the nearest VA health care facility; is in a
county with a population density of more than 7 and less than 8
people per square mile and is more than 100 miles from the
nearest VA health care facility; is in a county with a
population density of more than 8 and less than 9 people per
square mile and is more than 125 miles from the nearest VA
health care facility; or is more than 150 miles from the nearest
VA health care facility.
S. 2063/H.R. 3812 would require the Secretary of Veterans
Affairs to carry out a demonstration project to assess the
feasibility and advisability of providing for priorities in the
scheduling of appointments of veterans for health care through
the VA. Although the VA already has a priorities system in
place, this proposed legislation, introduced by Sen. Kent Conrad
(D-N.D.) and Rep. Earl Pomeroy (D-N.D.), would evaluate the
system by choosing three VISNs and monitoring their progress
over a two-year period.
H.R. 485, a resolution introduced by Rep. Linda Sanchez
(D-Calif.), would establish March 30 as Welcome Home Vietnam
Veterans Day. Why March 30? Because March 30, 1973, is thought
to be the date the last Vietnam War combatant returned to
American soil. There is, however, a moratorium imposed on
authorizing additional commemorative days. If this resolution is
successfulat present only 17 members have signed onit would
fall to the President to lift the moratorium and officially
recognize March 30 as Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day.