Congress will be back in session on Monday, and I want to take a moment to tell you about an important piece of legislation co-sponsored by Senators Barack Obama and Olympia Snowe. Once you know about it, I hope you will contact your Senators and express your support for The Lane Evans Veterans Health and Benefits Improvement Act of 2007.
The legislation was introduced on the floor of the Senate by Senator Obama on January 4.
While the Senate fusses and feuds over non-binding resolutions, real concrete legislation that would significantly improve the lives of the returning veterans languishes because nobody wants to look like they don't support the troops in a non-binding way.
The Lane Evans Veterans Health and Benefits Improvement Act of 2007 addresses multiple concerns regarding returning soldiers. Significant among the problems addressed is the requirement that all armed forces personnel returning from operations in
It also requires that separated and discharged service members be issued a transportable read-only electronic file of all records.
Another section mandates the Department of Defense be more forthcoming in their casualty reports. Everyone knows that a soldier stands a greater chance of death or injury in a combat zone for multiple reasons. Currently, injuries sustained that are not directly combat related are not counted, and the Pentagon reports that about 23,000 injuries have been sustained. When all injuries requiring medical attention are counted, the number more than doubles, jumping to 53,000. (It is statistical gymnastics to not count these injuries.)
But Section 104 is the part that gets me really excited. For quite some time, I have been jumping up and down and pounding on the table and shouting at the top of my lungs about the ill-treatment of our National Guard and Reserves personnel that has been the norm for far too long.
It is outrageous that this important legislation just sits there, gathering dust, while the Senate quibbles about a non-binding resolution. It's like that time Nero fiddled while
SEC. 104. ENHANCED OUTREACH TO MEMBERS OF THE NATIONAL GUARD AND RESERVE ON AVAILABLE BENEFITS AND SERVICES.
(a) In General- The Secretary of Defense shall take appropriate actions to ensure that members of the National Guard and Reserve are provided comprehensive outreach on the following:
(1) The benefits and services available from and through the Federal Government to members of the National Guard and Reserve upon their deactivation from active duty service in the Armed Forces, including benefits under the Benefits Delivery at Discharge program and medical and mental health services.
(2) The benefits and services available from and through the Federal Government to members of the National Guard and Reserve upon their discharge or release from the Armed Forces, including benefits under the Benefits Delivery at Discharge program and medical and mental health services.
(b) Nature of Outreach- The outreach provided under subsection (a) shall be of the same nature, duration, and quality as outreach provided to members of the regular components of the Armed Forces at discharge or release from the Armed Forces, except that such outreach shall be tailored to the specific employment and other transition needs of members of the National Guard and Reserve who are being deactivated from active duty or discharged or released from the Armed Forces.
(c) Consultation- The Secretary of Defense shall provide outreach under subsection (a) in consultation with the following:
(1) The Secretary of Veterans Affairs, with respect to benefits and services available under the laws administered by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs.
(2) The Secretary of Labor, with respect to benefits and services available under the laws administered by the Secretary of Labor (including employment and reemployment benefits under chapter 43 of title 38, United States Code (commonly referred to as `USERRA')).
(3) The Administrator of the Small Business Administration, with respect to benefits and services available under the laws administered by the Administrator.
(4) The Director of the Office of Personnel Management, with respect to eligibility for preferences in employment by the Federal Government.
(5) The head of any other department or agency of the Federal Government that provides benefits and services to former members of the Armed Forces, with respect to such benefits and services.
(d) Report- Not later than 90 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Secretary of Defense shall submit to Congress a report on the actions being taken to comply with the requirements of this section.[Full text of the legislation is available here.]
It won't go forward without your help. Take five minutes of your time on Monday and either send an email or place a phone call to both of your Senators and your Representative and let them know you support this legislation. (Links for the House and Senate homepages are on the right, and all contact information is available there). If you aren't comfortable wingin' it, here is a sample contact text, courtesy of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America
Send a message to Congress. Let them know we are watching and the status quo will no longer be tolerated, especially where our troops are concerned."Good Morning/Evening.
My name is (Your Name) and I am calling from (City) .
I encourage (Name of your Senator/Representative) to stand with
and Afghanistan Veterans of America, by passing S. 117 - the Lane Evans Veterans Healthcare & Benefits Improvement Act. Iraq
I believe that every returning soldier needs and deserves access to mandatory mental health counseling.
Thank you and have a good day."
They can show us they are listening by getting of their asses and passing this important legislation for our returning troops.
[crossposted from Watching Those We Chose]