Thursday, June 25, 2015

Downer

We got our information from the Federal Register.  We checked back a few days ago and found the Senator Daines amendment to roll the BWN Act into the National Defense Appropriation Act had been stripped out of the bill that was sent back to the House.

That leaves us with a scant 5 days for Senator Johnny Isakson to fulfill his promise to get the bill onto the floor this month.  Contact your Senators and urge them to remind Senator Isakson of his promise. 

We are puzzled that the VA is not satisfied with its role of interpreting the laws Congress enacts, and actively attempts to kill legislation Congress is considering.  The VA has no right, and certainly no business meddling in the Congressional business of lawmaking.

We are even more puzzled that a gutless Senate allows such unconstitutional meddling.  Here we have an unfortunately successful attempt to interfere with the Constitutionally defined work of Congress.

We would offer this, however:  the section detailing how to pay for the BWN benefits was the likely dagger in the heart of the amendment:
"Offset.--Increased Government expenditures resulting from enactment of this section shall be paid from savings achieved by section 605 of this Act."
Section 605 reads:
"SEC. 605. Repeal of inapplicability of modification of basic allowance for housing to benefits under the laws administered by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs.

(a) Repeal.—Subsection (b) of section 604 of the Carl Levin and Howard P.BuckMcKeon National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2015 (Public Law 113–291) is repealed.

(b) Effective date.—The amendment made by subsection (a) shall take effect on January 1, 2016.
 Section 604, Subsection (b) reads:
"(b) BAH for other members living together.—Such section is further amended by adding at the end the following new subsection:
“(q) Reduced allowance for members living together.—(1) In the event two or more members of the uniformed services who are entitled to receive a basic allowance for housing under this section live together, basic allowance for housing under this section shall be paid to each such member at the rate as follows:
“(A) In the case of such a member in a pay grade below pay grade E–4, the rate otherwise payable to such member under this section.

“(B) In the case of such a member in a pay grade above pay grade E–3, the rate equal to the greater of—
“(i) 75 percent of the rate otherwise payable to such member under this section; or

“(ii) the rate payable for a member in pay grade E–4 without dependents.

“(2) This subsection does not apply to members covered by subsection (p).”.
Thus, the amendment was to be paid for by reducing funds from the Basic Allowance for Housing [BAH] of certain members of the active Military [Department of Defense appropriations.]

We have no friends in the Senate with any power.  However, we now have 232 friends in the House.  If only the House Veterans committee would mark up the bill and get it to the floor. 

Time to tickle those Representatives. 

[Note:  We would remind readers that we consider the current language of the proposed BWN bill to be an enormous mistake.  We computed the estimates of how many claims may be involved, and since there were only 229,000 Naval personal who served in Vietnam during the war years, and many of them were Brown Water Navy, and others were shore facility Navy, and that perhaps around 15,000 approved claims by BWN sailors exist, and perhaps another 50,000+ are already dead, the estimated number of claims possible ranges from 10,000 to 50,000.  That is far less than the "hundreds of thousand of BWN claims waiting to be filed" that the VA has been lying about for decades.  Mr. Hughes, who was the attorney from the Soliciter General's Office who represented the VA in the Haas case at the Federal Circuit in DC, stood in front of the panel of judges and stated that there were 800,000 claims that would be filed by the blue Water Navy Veterans if the Haas case was not halted.  They've been throwing numbers like that around for decades.  And they know it is not true. 

Further, we posed that it would be cheaper to go back to using the Vietnam Service Medal as automatically qualifying a Veteran for presumptive exposure to herbicides.  That eliminates the need for all the expensive research into ship's logs, plotting the courses to see when and where they navigated inside the terratorial waters of the Republic of Vietnam.  The administrative saving realized by this would easily reduce the cost of the appropriations.

And we found the money to pay for the bill for ten years.  It is in the real estate holdings of the Department of Veterans Affairs.  They own, and are not using millions of square feet of space in building and acres of open land across the country.  They could divest a tenth of what they own and are not using to pay for the bill.

Finally, using the Vietnam Service Medal as a qualifier shortens the claim processing time from months/years, to a few weeks.  This is a humanitarian consideration.  And this is the option Admiral Elmo Zumwalt recommended in his report to Congress that became the impetus for passage of the Agent Orange Act of 1991.  He stated that it was better to include everyone, including some who were not exposed, thereby ensuring that all who were exposed were covered.  To choose the other option, which the VA switched to starting in 1993, eliminates some who were not exposed, and many who were.  --VNVets]

We ask:  Where does the power the VA exerts over a Congress that has excoriated the VA for the past year over their handling of Veterans seeking medical treament?  Where does such power come from that so easily strips a joint amendment by two Senators [Daines and Gillibrand] from a bill that literally MUST be passed by Congress?

Poliical pressure is not strong enough.   Once you throw that reason aside, there can be only one reason, much to the shame of both the VA and Congress.

Give Congress Hell!  A pox on both their houses!

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

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