Legislative Priorities

We recently received an email from National and Department Legislative Director Doug Brown concerning the current Legislative Priorities being focused on  by the AMVETS Family when approaching lawmakers. These are critical to anyone who wishes to help during the March on the Hill, or anyone who wants to be up to date on the efforts of the Sons of AMVETS to help our Veterans. 


2016 AMVETS Legislative Priorities

Federal Government Reform

• Extend Advanced Appropriations to all Remaining Discretionary & Mandatory Programs

• Strengthen Accountability & Ease VA Hiring Protocols
VA acknowledges that six months to a year are required to fill vacant positions—assuming a viable pool of candidates is interested and available.

• Implement Whistleblower Protections

Several VA whistleblowers have stated that transparency was stymied within VA, meaning proper protocols could never be implemented to deal with the real challenges the agency faced in delivering timely care to veterans..

• Ensure Adequate Investment in VA Capital Infrastructure

Decades of underfunding have left VA medical facilities ill-equipped to provide timely and accessible care for veterans, and in many locations safety is the chief concern. Four years ago, VA began analyzing current and future gaps in veterans’ access, usage, and safety. VA found that nearly $60 billion is needed to close all these gaps over a 10-year period. The IBVSOs understand that this level of funding is unachievable, but VA and Congress must look at the most compelling gaps and formulate a plan to quickly close those gaps to ensure existing facilities last as long as they should in areas where no other options exist. VA has the capability to build and maintain adequate infrastructure to provide safe and effective care to our nation’s veterans.  To maintain existing infrastructure, annual investments in nonrecurring maintenance must occur to ensure the buildings will last for their projected life-cycles. VA is a world leader in research, but many of its facilities and labs are outdated and insufficient to conduct the research that is required for VA to remain a leader
• Improve & Modernize VA/DoD Information Technology Systems - this is still an antiquated system


Toxic Wounds-Recognition & Treatment
      Toxic Wounds Defined:  any adverse health conditions, chronic or terminal, suffered by military personnel resulting from, or associated with, exposure to toxic substances or environmental hazards during their military service, the effects of which may not emerge until months or years after initial exposure.
• Toxic Exposure of Fort McClellan Veterans
• Recognition of Gulf War Illnesses and the Need for Continued Research
• Compensation for Gulf War Veterans

Since early in WWII, the US Air Force and other Military bases used and disposed of chemical degreasers and other toxic substances that were later determined to contaminate drinking water and pose multiple health risks including: Cancers; Reproductive disorders; Birth defects; and Multiple other serious difficulties, and countless military personnel and their families living and working on or near one or more of these bases may have been exposed to these contaminates, through drinking water, general water usage, exposure through vapor seepage, soil contact, etc. or exposure to toxic smoke from oil field fires or burn pits, and there are currently approximately 140 American military facilities listed on the Environmental Protection Agency’s Superfund list which is the federal government's program to clean up the nation's uncontrolled hazardous waste sites.
AMVETS seeks system-wide changes related to military environmental hazards and toxic wounds, including:

  1. Seek improvements to the pre- and post-deployment health monitoring and assessment program to address all recognized and emergent environmental hazard and toxic wound health issues such as burn pits and other airborne hazards, heavy metal and chemical exposures and military base drinking water contamination.
  2. Seek improvements to the DoD-VA health research systems to aggressively focus on treatments, diagnostic biomarkers, and mapping out biopathology and symptoms for the range of environmental hazard and toxic wound health issues.
  3. Seek the implementation of a seamless DoD-VA health evaluation and treatment system to ensure medical evaluation, evidence-based treatment, and ongoing medical surveillance for current and former service-members suffering from toxic wounds.

Seek legislation to provide a clear, readily viable, and seamless pathway for service-connection and disability compensation for: Chronic Multi-symptom Illness (CMI) incurred in or related to military service, independent of deployment status, and not dependent on definitive evidence of a specific source of causation; Toxic Wounds shown to be associated with specific agents


Veteran Unemployment

• Veteran Anti-Discrimination

• Civilian Credentials for Military Training & Experience

• Veterans Priority of Service in Employment & Training Program

AMVETS is seeking protected status for all American veterans to give them every advantage in finding gainful employment.  This nearly cost-neutral initiative would enhance veteran access and equity in employment opportunities by making employers more aware of the value of actively hiring veterans and providing legal recourse to veterans experiencing employment discrimination. Employment discrimination is the most important area in which veterans are at a disadvantage when compared to non-veterans.

Some of the prejudicial situations being experienced by veterans seeking employment include:

  • Gaps in employment or evidence of numerous moves on a resume, which is not uncommon for military members/veterans, draws negative attention to an applicant and raises a red flag with employers;
  • Concern of perspective employers, that their employees may be called up for lengthy, possibly repeated, deployments; 
  • Many qualified veterans, active Reservists and National Guardsmen are being turned away for positions because there is a disconnect between their military training/experience and the education/credentials/licensing requirements for particular occupations as determined by mainstream America; 
  • There is a growing disconnect between the less than 7 percent of our nation’s veteran/actively serving population and the rest of America. The majority of civilian employers do not have a clear understanding of what the military does or the scope of the pertinent experience and responsibility veteran/military employees bring;
  • Thanks to the extensive publicity generated during the last 10 years of war regarding the wounds of war, both physical and mental, employers are irrationally fearful of hiring someone who may be emotionally/mentally unstable, who may struggle to assimilate with non-veteran coworkers, who may be disabled and require accommodations including excused absences for on-going medical appointments, and who may be prone to possible violent outbursts in the workplace.

Veteran Anti-Discrimination (HR 2654/S 1281) ???


VAV/DoD Health Care & Mental Health

•Eliminate Over-medication & Improve Access to Alternative Treatments

•Combine and Leverage Purchased Care Programs - VA must remain the guarantor of care, wherever that care is provided. VA facilities, therefore, must refer veterans to community providers using a system that requires full coordination and guarantees access and quality. Under the traditional fee-basis system, VA would issue veterans in need of non-VA care authorization letters or cards. This system allowed the veteran to “shop” for a provider who accepted authorization for VA payment and who could schedule an appointment in a timely manner. Following the appointment, the veteran would be responsible for returning to VA records of the care received, in order to have them included in the veteran’s VA medical record. This traditional system was entirely uncoordinated, failed to guarantee access or quality, and was highly susceptible to improper billing of the veteran and improper payments by VA. At times this system even exposed veterans to unnecessary financial hardship as a result of VA unwillingness to pay for services erroneously billed to the veteran that should have been fee-based, or because of unreasonable delays in VA payment to private providers

•Traumatic Brain Injury & Post Traumatic Stress Research and Treatments
More than 2 million U.S. service members have deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001, with many individuals having served several tours of duty. Numerous gaps remain in recognizing, diagnosing, treating, and rehabilitating some less-visible injuries, such as mild-to-moderate TBI, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and other post-deployment health and mental health issues.  The DOD and VA need to continue cooperating to improve their responses to at-risk combat veterans, including improvements in basic primary medical care that can readily identify active duty personnel and veterans who are struggling and at risk, and develop early interventions for observed potential mental or emotional problems, including prevention of suicide in this population.

•Continue Cutting Edge Sensory Aids/ Prosthetics Research and Development


Veterans/Family Benefits

• Tinnitus & Hearing Loss Presumptive Service Connection

Congress should enact a presumption of service-connected disability for combat veterans and veterans whose military duties exposed them to high levels of noise and who subsequently suffer from tinnitus or hearing loss.  Many veterans exposed to acoustic trauma and increased noise exposure during service are now suffering from hearing loss or tinnitus and are unable to prove service-connection because of inadequate in-service testing procedures, lax examination practices, or poor record-keeping. The presumption requested herein would resolve this long-standing injustice.  These veterans are typically exposed to prolonged, frequent, and exceptionally loud noises from such sources as gunfire, tanks, artillery, explosive devices, aircraft, and other equipment used in the performance of their military occupations. Exposure to acoustic trauma is a well-known cause of hearing loss and tinnitus. Yet many combat veterans are not able to document their in-service acoustic trauma nor can they prove their hearing loss or tinnitus is because of military service.

• Expand VA Caregiver Benefits Program

Family caregivers supporting severely wounded, injured, and ill veterans require considerable strength to tend to the needs of family and home, assist their veterans with everyday activities, take their veterans to appointments, or just be there in their veterans’ times of need. Caregiving takes endurance, commitment, love, and patience. With proper support, many severely injured or ill veterans can benefit from residing at home instead of being institutionalized. Support from family caregivers plays a crucial role helping to reduce health care utilization and health care costs and in improving veterans’ psychosocial well-being. Being a caregiver, however, carries a significant cost.

• Repeal Survivor Benefits Plan/Dependency & Indemnity Offset

The current requirement that amounts of an annuity under the DOD SBP be reduced on account of and by an amount equal to DIC is inequitable. This offset is inequitable because no duplication of benefits is involved. A veteran disabled in military service is compensated for the effects of service-connected disability. When a veteran dies of service-connected causes or following a substantial period of total disability from service-connected causes, eligible survivors or dependents receive DIC from the Department of Veterans Affairs.

     Career members of the armed forces earn entitlement to retired pay after 20 or more years of service. Survivors of military retirees have no entitlement to any portion of the veteran’s military retirement pay after his or her death, unlike many retirement plans in the private sector. Under the SBP, deductions are made from military pay to purchase a survivor’s annuity. This benefit is not gratuitous but is purchased by a retiree.




Women Veterans & Service Members

• Eliminate Military Sexual Trauma (MST) & Sexual Harassment

One in five female veterans and one in 100 male veterans have reported to VA they experienced military sexual trauma (MST) while on active duty. A recent study examined MST in men and women deployed in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Twelve and a half (12.5) percent of men and 42 percent of women reported experiencing MST.

• Ensure Availability of Safe Housing for Homeless Veterans with Dependent Children

• Improve Access to Gender Specific Health Services and Prosthetics

Over the past 15 years, women have joined the military in record numbers to contribute to the increasing role of America’s military presence in the world. While women have always been a part of the military, the number of women serving and their roles were largely limited. Because more women have joined the military and serve in expanded roles, including inherently dangerous occupational specialties, more women veterans have been killed or wounded than in times past. According to the Defense Casualty Analysis System, 375 female service members were wounded in action in Afghanistan, and 51 were killed. In Iraq, 639 were wounded in action, and 110 were killed.  This new reality requires a focus on meeting the unique needs of an increasing number of women veterans in a health care system historically devoted to the treatment of males. Learning how to care for wounded women veterans, half of whom are of childbearing age, and their particular health issues and needs includes learning how to best meet their needs for prosthetics and assisted devices.


POW/MIA Recovery/ Identification & Cemetery Affairs

• Continuing Over Site of DPAA (Recovery/Identification) & National Cemetery Operations

• Increase Veteran Burial Benefits

The current payment is $2,000 for burial expenses for service-connected deaths and $300 for nonservice-connected, along with a $700 plot allowance.  In order to bring the benefit back up to its original intended value, the payment for service-connected burial allowance would need to be increased to a minimum of $6,160; the nonservice-connected burial allowance would need to be increased to at least $1,918, and the plot allowance would need to be increased to a minimum of $1,150.

• Creation of POW/MIA Forever Stamp


Honor/ Support/ Recognition

• Support of the States of Israel & Taiwan

• Recognize contribution of LAO/Hmong Special Forces

• Support Federal Court Ruling for the National Old Soldiers Home at WLA

• Support for a Congressional Gold Medal for the "Dust Off" Crews  (Medivac Crews)

• Creation of an AMVETS 75th Anniversay Stamp



                                      Sons of AMVETS Dept. of Ohio, Inc. 

960 Checkrein Avenue Columbus OH 43229 Phone: 614.985.3380 Fax: 614.985.3381

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