During his second inaugural address, President Lincoln instructed the country “to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow, and his orphan.” I agree with President Lincoln and believe we must fulfill the promises made to those who volunteered to go to war for our country.
During these financially challenging times, the challenges facing our veterans are only increasing. Veterans are encountering obstacles including increasing unemployment, homelessness, physical and mental challenges of Traumatic Brain Damage and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The number of veterans seeking benefits will only increase as we draw down our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan place demands on an already strained system. In my role as the Chairman of the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations subcommittee, I am working to ensure that our veterans receive the resources necessary to combat these challenges.
I have introduced the following bills:
HR 2720: The Veterans Freedom of Conscience Act
This bill prohibits the federal government from interfering with the content of funeral services. It will require that any new VA Cemetery Director is a veteran and can relate to the circumstances of those interred there. It will limit the role of the VA to provide only services that are supportive of veteran burials and removes the risk of religious censorship. It will also require the VA to ensure that a chapel is provided at the cemetery and is accessible to the deceased family, honor guard or other nongovernmental group.
HR 2848: Veterans’ Religious Freedom Act
This bill directs the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to ensure that the family members of each veteran who is buried in a national cemetery or is eligible for certain veterans’ burial benefits are informed of all options available for the funeral or memorial service and that the director of each national cemetery is a qualified veteran. This bill also prohibits the VA from censoring the type of religious speech at the funeral or memorial service of a veteran.
I have also signed on as a co-sponsor to the following bills:
HR 420: Veterans’ Heritage Firearms Act of 2011
During WWII and the Korean War, many veterans acquired war relic firearms, which was a lawful practice at the time. These guns exist as trophies of service in the homes of many veterans, but under current law, if these firearms are not registered with the National Firearms Registration and Transfer Record, the veteran (or their heir) may be convicted of illegally possessing the firearm and the firearm may be seized and destroyed.
In 1968, following the passage of the Gun Control Act, veterans were given just 30 days to register any relic firearms regulated by the National Firearms Act. But many eligible veterans were unaware of this amnesty or unsure whether their war relics needed to be registered; as a result many of these war relics remain unregistered.
This bill provides limited amnesty for veterans who served overseas between June 26, 1934, and Oct. 31, 1968, to register their firearms in the National Firearms Registration and Transfer Record without fear of prosecution. This amnesty also extends to the veteran’s lawful heirs who inherited these weapons. The bill also allows for these weapons to be transferred to museums and other collections in order to preserve America’s military history.
HR 1154: Veterans Equal Treatment for Service Dogs Act
This bill prevents the Veterans Administration (VA) from prohibiting medical service dogs in any of their facilities as well as facilities that receive funding from the VA. HR 1154 was signed into law as part of HR 1627, the Honoring America’s Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act, in August of 2012.
HR 1591: Sanctity of Eternal Rest for Veterans Act of 2011
This bill preserves the dignity of veteran’s funerals while still protecting the First Amendment rights that our nation’s heroes have fought and died for. Specifically this bill increases the quiet time before and after military funeral services during which disruptive protests are prohibited , increases the buffer around a military funeral service, increases the buffer around access routes to a funeral service area and by increasing civil penalties on violators. HR 1591 was signed into law as part of HR 1627, the Honoring America’s Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act, in August of 2012.
HR 2369: To amend title 36, United States Code, to provide for an additional power for the American Legion under its Federal charter
This bill amends The American Legion’s federal charter to clarify that local posts can operate independently and allow their members to pay their dues by credit card over the Internet. This action is necessary in order to update the Legion’s charter to account for more modern methods of payment that were not available under the Legion’s original congressionally-initiated charter. S. 1639, the Senate’s companion bill to HR 2369 was signed into law in December of 2011.
HR 4057: Improving Transparency of Education Opportunities for Veterans Act of 2012
This bill directs the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to implement a policy to improve outreach and transparency to veterans and members of the Armed so that they can make informed choices in their professional lives. The bill aims to let veterans know which institutions are best for veterans based on student and state agencies feedback, post-employment rates, the veterans goals etc. It also asks the VA to help veterans determine if they are ready for post secondary education / training opportunities and a list of those opportunities based on selected criteria.
HR 4052: Recognizing Excellence in Veterans Education Act of 2012
Currently, several magazines and news publications annually designate schools as “military/veteran friendly.” This designation may be based on unknown criteria and could possibly be influenced by advertising revenue taken in from these schools by the publications. H.R. 4052 authorizes the Department of Veterans Affairs to present the Excellence in Veterans Education Award to institutes of higher learning who meet a specific list of criteria. Unlike the ranking system done by other independent groups, this award does not make a distinction on which of the recipients are better than others, but would give the award to all schools that meet the criteria.
HR 5914: National Desert Storm and Desert Shield War Memorial Act
The United States currently lacks a national memorial dedicated to the valor and sacrifices made by those members of our Armed Forces who honorably fought in Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm. This bill authorizes the National Desert Storm Memorial Board of Directors to establish a National Desert Storm and Desert Shield War Memorial on federal lands within the District of Columbia. No federal funds will be spent to build this memorial; all funds will be raised privately by the National Desert Storm Memorial Association.
H Res 111: Establishing a Select Committee on POW and MIA Affairs
This select committee would conduct a full investigation of all unresolved matters relating to any United States personnel unaccounted for from the Vietnam era, the Korean conflict, World War II, Cold War Missions, Persian Gulf War, Operation Iraqi Freedom, or Operation Enduring Freedom, including MIAs and POWs missing and captured.
HR 1775: The Stolen Valor Act of 2011
Recently, the Supreme Court of the United States issued its ruling on the Stolen Valor Act of 2005. This ruling struck down the 2005 act, declaring that the law was in violation of the First Amendment. The Stolen Valor Act of 2011 punishes those who misrepresent their military service with the intention of personal financial gain or obtaining anything of value.
HR 5948: The Veterans Fiduciary Reform Act
This bill includes many provisions including:
- Establishes a Place of Remembrance at Arlington National Cemetery for the interment of cremated fragments of the remains of members of the Armed Forces killed in any war or contingency operation; or in the line of duty
- Ensures that the express wishes of the veteran’s family in regard to religious expressions during interment or inurnment ceremonies at veterans’ cemeteries are respected to the greatest extent practicable
- Authorizes the performance of medical disability examinations by contract physicians
- Requires the Secretary, in the event of a data breach involving personally identifiable information, to notify Congress and all individuals whose information is compromised within ten days of the Secretary’s notification, or 15 days if additional time is needed
- Commends the Patriot Guard Riders and all of the other volunteers involved in shielding the mourning family and friends of a fallen member of the Armed Forces from interruptions created by any protestor or group of protestors; and recognizes the sacrifices that veterans, members of the Armed Forces, and their families have made, and continue to make, on behalf of the United States
- In honor of the 60th anniversary of the Korean cease-fire agreement, recognizes the importance of the contributions and sacrifices made by Korean War veterans
- Furnishes caskets and urns for deceased veterans with no known next of kin