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march/april 2008

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Government Affairs COMMITTEE REPORT
A VVA Dozen

The Government Affairs Committee, as well as the Government Affairs staff, has been working diligently since the 2007 National Convention on the twelve Resolutions assigned to the committee.

G-1-03 VETERANS VOTE! Campaign: In preparation for the fall campaign, Patrick Welch, the vice chair of VVA’s Government Affairs Committee, in concert with the Government Affairs staff, will develop a multifaceted program geared to get veterans out to vote.

G-2-95 Legislative Coordinator Network: State Council Government Affairs Chairs Talklist, Advocates, was introduced in August 2006 to enhance communications and legislative efforts between VVA National and VVA State Council presidents, their Government Affairs chairs, and their State Council counterparts. This is an ongoing process.

G-4-97 VVA urges the President of the U.S. by executive order to extend the eligibility date for an award of the Vietnam Service Medal or an appropriate Expeditionary Medal to May 30, 1975, and urges Congress to amend the Vietnam Disengagement Act of 1973 to extend the ending date for the Vietnam Conflict as well as the Vietnam era to May 30, 1975: Bernie Edelman, VVA’s deputy director for policy and government affairs, reports that the rationale for extending the dates of eligibility for the Vietnam Service Medal has been brought to the attention of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Changing the dates requires legislation, which requires several co-sponsors, none of whom have been identified or stepped forward. The best course of action is grassroots lobbying by VVA members interested in bringing this to their members of Congress.

G-5-03 VVA urges that eligibility under Public Law 104-275 should be extended to permit Vietnam-era veterans to continue to remain eligible for Vet Center services: No bills remotely similar are being considered in Congress. The recommended course is to propose one bill to cover all generations of veterans.

G-7-99 VVA urges Congress to pass legislation to establish hepatitis C as a presumptive disability: Hepatitis C guidelines should be based on existing guidelines as defined by the American Liver Foundation. VVA likely will provide a link on its website.

Connie Christensen, VVA Government Affairs Committee member, submitted a detailed report in January on emergency room conditions in Vietnam that might have caused patients to contract hepatitis C. Unfortunately, there is no obvious culprit here, despite questions about the use of air guns for inoculations and exposure to the blood of combat. It will be challenging to make a solid case on these environmental conditions alone.

G-9-03 VVA supports the efforts of veterans and veterans’ service organizations that seek to change the regulations that have prevented the issuance of the Combat Medevac Badge to those who served as aero-medical crewmembers during and after the Vietnam War: Alaska State Council President Ric Davidge is gathering information on the number of aero-medic crewmembers that would be affected, and he is actively looking for congressional sponsorship.

G-10-07 Endorsement of legislation to create minimum private-sector health-care coverage for uninsured and underinsured veterans and their families: Board member Joe Jenkins is investigating how to move this Resolution forward. As many as 45 million Americans may be uninsured or underinsured, including 1.5 to 1.8 million veterans. Currently, nine legislative proposals are being considered that would have a positive impact on health care for veterans and their families. In the private sector, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, AARP, and many Fortune 500 companies are working to get the more than 45 million Americans who lack insurance covered. VVA is an active participant in the health-care initiative committee of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, is providing input to the insurance efforts of the USCC, and is an active member of the Executive Committee of the Small Business Council of the USCC.

G-11-07 Philippine Veterans: Issue: Individual members of the armed forces of the Commonwealth of the Philippines who served with the active or guerrilla forces in support of U.S. military operations against hostile forces in World War II are not currently considered veterans for purposes of VA disability benefits. VVA supports legislation that would recognize service in the military organizations and forces of the Commonwealth of the Philippines during the liberation of the Philippines in the same manner as if the veterans had served in U.S. forces, thereby making them eligible for benefits administered by the VA.

Jerry Yamamoto (VVA Board of Directors) reports that this issue will not find congressional support because it would validate the benefits claims of South Vietnamese who served in their government’s armed forces during the Vietnam War.

G-12-07 Establishment of a new National Cemetery in Valley Forge National Park: AVVA President Mary Miller reported that on November 9, 2007, the VA and Dolington Land LP, a subsidiary of real estate developer Toll Brothers, Inc., and the owner of a 205-acre site in Bucks County, Pa., signed an offer-to-sell agreement under which the VA will purchase for $10.5 million the site for the construction of a new national cemetery. Once the purchase is finalized and the cemetery design is complete, construction will begin in mid 2008. Burials at the new national cemetery, which will serve more than 580,000 veterans and their families who live in the area, are expected to begin in late 2008. Indiantown Gap National Cemetery, the nearest open national cemetery in Pennsylvania, is 120 miles from the new site.

G-13-07 Cessation and prohibition of the utilization of U.S. Military Personnel as non-consensual participants in the testing by the U.S. Government of vaccines and other medical treatments: Sandie Wilson, Government Affairs Committee member, reports that this issue has gone before Congress in the past. This practice is in violation of U.S. regulations for human research. Following House debate, the proposal lost in favor of the War Powers Act. Congressional supporters and friends of veterans advise that to enact legislation preventing non-consensual participation in government vaccine testing is an untenable objective. The result is that military members will continue to suffer from the residual effects of the vaccines.

The resolution remains an issue for VVA. VVA will monitor scientific reports, meet with congressional leaders, and keep this issue in the forefront with the objective of terminating non-consensual vaccinations and medical treatments for military personnel.

G-14-07 State Veterans Homes: Missouri State Council President George Newell provided a plan of action: work with CSCP to determine the status of veteran homes in each state, work with state legislatures to ensure that veterans homes are properly funded, work with the National Association of State Directors of Veterans Affairs, the National Association of State Veterans Homes, and the National Governors Association, and then determine if legislation should be recommended to increase VA support for state veterans homes.

P-9-05 “In Memory Plaque”: Status report from Mary Miller and Board member John Margowski: Various paints are being tested for durability and longevity. Margowski has corresponded with Sen. Russell D. Feingold (D-Wisc.) describing the poor placement and condition of the Plaque. Feingold has conveyed his support for elevating and encircling the Plaque with a chain to the National Park Service. The NPS replied to Sen. Feingold that they are exploring “other options, including a change in color or finish of the plaque or a raised elevation that complies with accessibility standards and harmonizes with the existing Memorial setting.” Margowski reports that Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) was told that the original group that planned the Memorial has to recommend changes.

In order to move this issue out of a bureaucratic maze, a strong, well-coordinated grass-roots effort is essential. The Government Affairs Committee recommends a letter-writing campaign to Congress by VVA members, and an article in The VVA Veteran.

Committee members: John Miterko, Chair; Tom Insley and Patrick Welch, Vice Chairs; Tom Berger, Pat Bessigano, Connie Christensen, Ric Davidge, Marsha Four, Alan Gibson, Joe Jenkins, Gary Jones, Terry Hubert, Keith King, Jerry Klein, Dennis Koehler, Bob Maras, Darrel Martin, Bill Meeks, Jr., Sandy Miller, Wayne Miller, Marshall Mudge, George Newell, William “Buzz” Sawyer, Dave Simmons, Jerry Yamamoto, Sandie Wilson; Special Advisers: Mary Miller and Nancy Switzer; Staff Liaisons: Bernie Edelman, Sharon Hodge, Rick Weidman.


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