Veterans Beat: Progress for vets on the legislative front

by Ron Seman Published:

We're at those traditionally known times of the year that are often referred to as "slow news days." On the national scene, public officials usually engaged in proposing legislation helpful to veterans are looking forward to the Christmas holidays much as we are. However, there are other unusual matters that are commanding their attention.

Hopefully, the differences that exist among members of the Washington folks will be resolved and we can all look forward to a New Year full of much needed promise and success.

Last week, according to the VFW Washington Weekly newsletter, the House VA Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs held an oversight hearing entitled, "Wading through Warehouses of Paper: The Challenges of Transitioning Veterans Records to Paperless Technology." The Subcommittee has had many hearings on the subject of joint claims and has asked witnesses to discuss innovative ways to move the Veterans Benefits Administration into the 21st Century. During the hearing, Subcommittee Chairman Jon Runyan (R-NJ) expressed the need for better collaboration between the VA and DoD to aid veterans who are transitioning out of the service. The VFW will continue monitoring the process as we move into the 113th Congress.

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Bipartisan Pair of Lawmakers Work to Help Vets: The 112th Congress has been labeled "do nothing" with good reason: it's passed fewer bills than almost any Congress since World War II.

This is according to Ledyard King of the Gannett Washington Bureau.

But amid the partisan gridlock, lawmakers have quietly approved a number of important bills designed to improve life for veterans. And they've come at a time of tight spending when almost nothing passes that isn't fully paid for.

Those legislative victories for veterans have been made possible largely because of the friendly relationship between one of the most conservative Republicans in the House and a liberal Democrat in the Senate.

Republican Rep. Jeff Miller of Florida and Democratic Sen. Patty Murray of Washington barely knew each other when they took over their respective chambers' Veterans Affairs committees in January 2011. But over the next 22 moths, they worked together and with other lawmakers to help veterans get training for new jobs, better mental health care and faster action on disability claims.

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PSA Targets Women Vets: The Department of Veterans Affairs has developed a new public service announcement to let women veterans know they've come to "The Right Place" when seeking VA health care.

"We want to send a very clear message to women veterans that VA is here to meet your health care needs," said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. "It is important that women veterans receive the high-quality health care and benefits they have earned through their service."

The number of women using VA health care has doubled in the pat decade and that number is expected to double again soon. The 30-second video PSA, produced by VA's Women's Health Services office, addresses key themes defined by the VA secretary.

Key messages in the PSA include: assuring women veterans that VA is ready to serve them; encouraging viewers to rethink assumptions that all veterans are male; and reminding Americans that women veterans are coming home, separating from service, or returning to Guard of Reserve status.

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Aside to our Pearl Harbor Veterans: I was busily fighting the flu last week and as a result totally missed the Pearl Harbor Day observance. Veterans of that terrible tragedy were duly recognized by the national and local media, deservedly so. To which I add a firm right hand salute! God Bless!

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Final thoughts: Time is quickly running out for mail and packages to our troops overseas. Please remember the sacrifices they are enduring on our behalf. I'm often reminded of the lyrics to a World War II song that included: "Say a Prayer for the Boys Over There When They Play the Star Spangled Banner." It's a beautiful sentiment that doesn't require too much effort.

Items for this column can be mailed to Ron Seman, 5811 Renwood Drive, Parma, 44129, or email: SemanRJ@aol.com Thanks.

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