VFW 2012 Legislative Priority Goals
- Insist Congress provide sufficient funding to the Department of Veterans Affairs so it continues providing the highest quality care to wounded, ill and injured veterans.
- Ensure Congress provides sufficient funding for VA research into the identification, prevention and treatment of Post-Traumatic Stress, Traumatic Brain Injuries, and other wounds to the mind, as well as to insist VA continue to explore all viable treatment options, to include the use of Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy to treat both mild and acute cases of Traumatic Brain Injuries.
- Urge Congress to keep women’s issues at the forefront of legislation to continually improve availability and access to VA programs, services and specialists, as well as eliminate shortfalls in gender-specific care, such as Post-Traumatic Stress and Military Sexual Trauma.
- Work with Congress to adequately fund VA outreach programs so that all veterans are fully aware of the health services and disability benefits they have earned as a result of their honorable service. Reaching women veterans and veterans in extremely rural areas is especially important, as is reaching homeless veterans and those who lack Internet-access.
- Oppose all efforts to eliminate or reduce presumptive service-connected conditions for wounded, ill and injured veterans, as well as to defeat any proposal that would lock out or increase fees on VA Priority Groups 7 and 8 veterans.
- Provide adequate funding to maintain current building structures and continue to reduce the backlog of critical infrastructure gaps.
Suicides & Homelessness
- Address the national crisis where 18 veterans commit suicide every day by ensuring that Congress properly fund DOD and VA awareness and support programs.
- Ensure effective suicide prevention programs require access to all health providers, to include substance abuse and marriage counselors, and mental health providers
- Push Congress to properly oversee and fund homeless programs by increasing per diem rates, providing education and career training opportunities and making available substance abuse counseling and mental health treatment services.
- Ensure available permanent housing solutions for all homeless veterans—especially female veterans with children.
VA Compensation & Benefits
- Urge Congress to use its funding and oversight authority to require the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) to reduce the claims backlog while improving the overall quality of ratings decisions that, depending on the Regional Office, can range from 60 to 90-percent accuracy rates.
- Work to pass legislation in Congress that offers workable solutions, not quick fixes, to the VBA system. This would include upgrading current training programs and standards to reduce employee turnover and improve quality. Holding employees and their supervisors professionally accountable for failing to improve their individual and/or collectively ratings decisions.
- Call on Congress to require VA to install an IT infrastructure that will help transform VA into a 21st century agency. A timely, accurate claim should be what every veteran, service member and eligible family members receive.
- Demand a clear path from DOD healthcare to the VA. The current system requires new veterans to enroll in the VA after they separate or retiree from the military. The seamless transition the VFW calls for requires the creation of one integrated electronic medical and service record that will follow members from the time they raise their right hands to the time they are buried in a VA cemetery.
- Urge Congress and the Administration to improve Transition Assistance Programs to help new veterans successfully transition into civilian life with a detailed road map. At a minimum, the road map must include Post-9/11 GI Bill and vocational training opportunities, VA compensation and benefits enrollment, and employment and placement assistance. Attendance at the individual service Transition Assistance Programs must also be made mandatory for all active-duty personnel, as well as Guard and Reservists.
Military Quality of Life
- Call on Congress to remain fully committed to improving the quality of life for all active duty and Reserve Component members and their families.
- Support efforts to lower the Reserve Component retirement pay age to 55.
VFW opposes all proposals that will damage morale and decimate the all-volunteer force. We must ensure our service men and women are provided increased pay, affordable health care, and adequate housing and work facilities for themselves and their families.
**Note this will be placed as a standalone in the PG brochure**
Recently, deficit hawks in Washington, D.C., have called on Congress to cut 10 specific military and veterans’ quality of life benefits to pay for the last 10 years of war. The VFW considers this a breach of faith with America’s war-fighters and will continue to fight against these toxic proposals
The 10 for 10 proposals are:
- Increase healthcare premiums for military retirees on TRICARE
- Increase pharmaceutical fees for troops, families and retirees
- Eliminate presumptive service-connected conditions for disabled and ill veterans
- Lock out or increase fees for Department of Veterans Affairs Priority Groups 7 and 8 veterans
- Reduce cost-of-living allowances
- Freeze military pay
- End government subsidies to military commissaries
- Eliminate Department of Defense elementary schools stateside
- Eliminate the 20-year military retirement plan
- Eliminate DOD tuition reimbursement programs for service members
Education & Employment
- Urge Congress to immediately address the highest unemployment rates among veterans in recent history by ensuring Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits are being utilized effectively by clamping down on predatory schools that seek to exploit veterans. Today’s GI Bill offers newest generation of veterans unprecedented access to resources to compete in the job market, which is why the VFW will fight to ensure that these benefits are sustained and that veterans receive the opportunities they have earned.
- Encourage and work with Congress to pass comprehensive veterans’ jobs legislation to offer additional resources to unemployable veterans, implement new metrics to measure employment program efficiency, and mandate transition assistance programs for troops leaving active duty.
- Ask Congress to pass legislation that will strengthen USERRA and reverse legal decisions that tended to favor employers and undermine the employability of our National Guard and Reserve forces. The Department of Labor must also be more thorough and timely in its USERRA investigations.
- Ensure Congress mandates that all federal agencies use whatever means at their disposal to reach the 3-percent government-wide procurement goal for Service Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Businesses, and that agencies be required to report their procurement levels and be held accountable if they fail to meet that benchmark.
- Fully support U.S. troops and their mission to prosecute the war on terrorism, as well as to protect our nation’s citizens and interests around the world.
- Ensure defense funding fully supports personnel Quality of Life initiatives, troop end strength requirements, and needed weapons systems development and replacement programs.
- Halt the development and/or proliferation of weapons of mass destruction or material by rogue nation, while continuing to develop and deploy a ballistic missile defense system to protect the U.S. and our allies.
- Secure U.S. borders, shorelines and all ports of entry against foreign national’s intent on doing us harm who enter the U.S. illegally, as well as those who enter legally but intentionally overstay their work, education or tourist visas. Homeland security protections must also counter potential threats from U.S. citizens who belong to organized extremist groups or who act as lone wolves for religious, ideological and/or personal reasons.
- Achieve the fullest possible accounting of U.S. military personnel missing from all wars.
- Ensure the U.S. Government keeps the POW/MIA issue elevated as a national priority.
- Urge the President and Congress to fully fund the requested amounts for all organizations involved in the Full Accounting Mission, and to protect the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command budget from being redirected by U.S. Pacific Command and reduced by the Defense Department. To also keep the U.S.-Russia Joint Commission on POW/MIAs intact in both mission funding and personnel.