As you are aware, spring is in full effect and June is quickly approaching. That means United Spinal’s Roll on Capitol Hill will be here shortly. While The Roll may be the first evidence that you see of VetsFirst’s advocacy on Capitol Hill, we are engaged with the Executive and Legislative branches of the government throughout the year.
One of the functions of VetsFirst is to attend hearings and influence veterans and disability related legislation. Last week, of course, was no exception.
On Thursday, April 14th, Ross Meglathery, director of VetsFirst was back out on Capitol Hill to attend the House Veterans Affairs Committee (HVAC) Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity legislative hearings. While VetsFirst’s primary constituency is composed of veterans with spinal cord injury and other disabilities due to the high volume and varied topics solicited on our Ask VetsFirst online helpdesk, VetsFirst makes it its business to review all veterans’-related legislation.
The hearings ran the gamut of topics that affect all categories of veterans. Education, job training, childcare, recouping of relocation pay to a Veterans Affair (VA) employee and more were all brought forth for the subcommittee to discuss.
Critical Legislation We’re Fighting For
HR 748 would authorize up to 9 months of additional Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits to an individual who has used up all prior GI Bill benefits. The purpose of this legislation is to provide additional benefits that go toward the completion of a degree that generally exceeds a standard 4-year degree such as those in the science, technology, engineering, mathematics (STEM) disciplines. VetsFirst supports this legislation as it is in line with the spirit of the GI Bill to ensure veterans can receive both the education and the degree that they have earned through their service.
HR 2551 requires the Department of Veterans Affairs to treat a pre-apprenticeship program as a program of apprenticeship, for purposes of providing educational assistance if such a pre-apprenticeship program is recognized with relevant state standards for a postsecondary pre-apprenticeship program, or if the curriculum of the pre-apprenticeship program is approved by a sponsor who certifies that the program will prepare an individual with skills and competencies needed to enroll in a registered apprenticeship program and the pre-apprenticeship program maintains conduct and attendance policies in accordance with such sponsor. Under such a pre-apprenticeship, a person would receive the same educational assistance they would under an apprenticeship with the exception of the housing allowance that is authorized in an apprenticeship.
HR 3419 authorizes the Department of Veterans Affairs to make up to 50 grants in Fiscal Year (FY; October 1-Sep 30) 2017 to eligible educational institutions to provide child care services on campus for student veterans. VetsFirst appreciates the concept of support for veterans who want to attend school but are otherwise not able due to child care concerns. But, it is important to acknowledge that GI Bill eligibility spans in excess of a decade. Additionally, as the bill is loosely defined, it is difficult to gauge the cost of the program. As such, if the costs are too high, it might take money away from programs that are more urgently needed for veterans, their families and their caretakers.
HR 4138 would authorize the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to recoup relocation expenses paid to or on behalf of employees of VA. Under this bill, the Secretary may require an employee to repay relocation expenses deemed appropriate and prescribed by the Secretary after an employee has been provided notice and a hearing. VetsFirst has been very concerned about the accountability of VA staff in light of VA scandals directly related to the abuse of relocation funds by certain employees.