Monday, September 24, 2012

Movement in the Senate


Senate Bill 3457, the Veterans Job Corps Act of 2007 is a bill that proposes almost a billion dollars to be spent hiring and training returning Veterans for positions as police, firemen, first responders, and so on.  We support this bill as a good thing, and sensible, too. 

A short while ago Senator Kirsten Gillibrand’s Agent Orange Equity Act of 2011 was rolled into S.3457 as an amendment.  Since the bill did not appear to be going anywhere it was likely a good idea for the Senator from New York to offer the language of S.1629 as an amendment to the Veterans Job Corps Act. 

To the best of our understanding, the Senate Democrats tried to get S.3457 through early last week by moving for cloture, which ends debate and sets the bill for a vote. Because of the overall cost of this bill being well over a billion dollars, many Senators argued against cloture.  They wanted the option to debate the amendments and perhaps add to them, change them or remove them.  Eventually, the cloture motion was withdrawn by Senator Reid, and the bill was returned to the calendar [a good thing, meaning it will be considered again].  While there was some partisanship involved in the cloture debate, many Republicans crossed the aisle to support the cloture motion.

That said, the Senate and the House will go into recess next week to go home for the election.

Things are up in the air after that.

We expect that if the amendment survives further debate on the bill, and the bill is enacted, then it will likely go to the house for debate and reconciliation [making the language the same in both houses by a joint conference committee], and passage sometime after the election.

While there is no targeted Senate adjournment date for this session of Congress, the House lists December 14th as their date for adjournment.  Figure on that date, or something near that date, being our deadline.

After that, if not enacted, we are back to ground zero.

The alternate bill, Bob Filner's HR 812, which is the third incarnation in five years of the same bill, does not appear to do anything for the Blue Water Navy, since it does not have anything in its language that indicates a change in the definition of service in Vietnam, but DOES add language to make those who served on Guam and Okinawa, and Johnston Island, to be eligible for benefits. We have refused to support this bill since it does not move our specific cause forward.

What can you do?  You can go see your Senators and Representative at their local offices in your state starting October 8 and grab them by the lapels and give them a lesson in history and medicine, and tell them they need to stop leaving us behind.  Tell them to drop the Territorial Waters part and go to the Vietnam Service Medal as the qualifier for presumptive exposure eligibility.  This gets Blue Water Navy and Thailand, Laos and Cambodia Veterans finally eligible.  Make it clear to them this will not make any difference in cost because of administrative savings in the VA's claims process.  Territorial Waters will require long claims processes, while using the VSM will be a short process, easily handled by the claims people.  It will actually reduce the long term backlog in the VA’s claims processing system!

That is what you can do.  This is the last gasp.  Whatever you have left, put it into an effort to do the above.

Good luck and good hunting.  Turn to!

VNVets

”It is a stain on this nation's honor that the Department of Veterans Affairs has become a deadlier and more difficult adversary to the American veteran than any they have ever faced on a battlefield."-- VNVets

"The concept that Agent Orange, and its effects, stopped dead in its tracks at the shoreline is simply too illogical, and too ludicrous to accept. What does that say about the Obama Administration and his Department of Veterans Affairs?"--VNVets

"With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan--to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations." --President Abraham Lincoln

"It follows then as certain as that night succeeds the day, that without a decisive naval force we can do nothing definitive, and with it, everything honorable and glorious."--President George Washington

Copyright © 2005-2012: VNVets Blog -- Now in our Eighth Year of Service to Veterans; All Rights Reserved. Reprinting or copying of the contents of this blog without the express permission of the author is unlawful.

2 comments:

  1. Anonymous03:12

    Whatever comes to pass on this bill, I think Senator Gillibrand should go on our short list of hero's. She is not just paying lip service to the blue water Navy vets here...I have seen her on TV talking about us, Agent Orange, and how she thinks we have been wronged. I was amazed that the Republicans let this bill go unpassed this close to election; it is a very good bill even without the AO amendment and it will cost them next month.

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  2. I concur, she did a great job, although the bill's wording is too restrictive.

    However, from all the news accounts of the floor action, it was a bipartisan stoppage of the cloture motion. So don't make it a partisan thing quite yet. The divide between the Dems and the Reps in the Senate is only 53-47, far too close, yet too wide to make it strictly partisan.

    Trying to ram a bill through without debate and without giving the membership a chance to review it, especially when Gillibrand's bill will likely double or triple the cost of the bill it was rolled into, makes the defeat of cloture completely understandable, especially during national election season.

    What we need is for Veterans and Veterans Advocates to go to bat with their own Reps and Senators, on a one on one basis while Congress is on break and at home to campaign.

    The old adage, "throw enough spaghetti against the wall and some of it is bound to stick," is at play here. IF we hit the Congress folks hard while they are on recess it will be fresh when they go back after the election. If every BWN Vet does this it will be successful.

    VNVets

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