Legislative Dispatch: NDAA Day 6
Posted by Ramsey Sulayman on December 5
With the passage of the NDAA yesterday by a vote of 98-0, many amendments that are important to veterans and service members have been left on the table. Many amendments were adopted but important advances for the education, employment, USERRA, SCRA and reducing the stigma surrounding seeking out mental health treatment were not.
Sadly, many of these amendments were held hostage because of partisan political bickering, not because of a lack of support from the veteran and military communities. Even sadder is that some of these measures have counterparts that have passed in the House where they have languished for months because of the Senate’s inaction. Veterans and service members deserve better than being pushed to the end of the line. Having a three day process to consider such a far-reaching bill is a shame, especially when the House passed their version of the bill on May 18.
Still, the Senate isn’t out of session yet. While talk of the “fiscal cliff” and sequestration may be taking center stage, there is still other work to be done and time to do it. The Senate Veteran Affairs Committee (SVAC) has yet to report out some significant legislation that the committee considered in a markup hearing two and a half months ago. (Reporting out legislation means that after the committee approves a bill, it summarizes and explains it and sends it to the full Senate for debate and a vote).
IAVA urges SVAC to report out remaining legislation and take action to help pass:
S. 1707 - The Veterans Second Amendment Protection Act
This bill removes a barrier to seeking mental health treatment: the fear that a constitutional right can be stripped from a veteran or service member who seeks mental health treatment without a judicial process.
S. 2246 - TAP Modernization Act
Knowing what benefits and programs are available is an important part of making a successful transition from military to civilian life. IAVA believes that extending the option to retake the Transition Assistance Program, either as a refresher or because a veteran or spouse has entered a new phase of life, is a simple step that will yield big dividends.
S. 3322 - Servicemembers’ Protection Act of 2012
This helps restore the balance of power between individual service members and employers or businesses without placing any undue burdens or hardships on either by strengthening portions of the Uniformed Services employment and Re-employment Rights Act (USERRA) and Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA).
H.R. 4057 - Improving Transparency of Education Opportunities for Veterans Act of 2012
This bill helps deliver relevant consumer information about schools to potential student-veterans and will help curb fraud, waste, and abuse in veteran education programs like the Post-9/11 GI Bill.
There’s time to act but it’s running short. IAVA urges the SVAC and the Senate to keep their eye on the ball and reinforce the gains that they have helped achieve for veterans in a bipartisan manner over the last few years.
Ramsey Sulayman is IAVA's Legislative Associate, a USMC veteran and works out of our Washington, DC office.
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