Senator Shaheen Introduce Bills To Create Jobs And Economic Opportunities For Veterans

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 (Washington, DC)- U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) introduced two pieces of legislation today to  bolster economic opportunities for our nation’s veterans and small businesses. The Veterans Hiring Act and the Veterans Entrepreneurship Act, will create simple, immediate tax incentives for businesses that hire veterans and lower costs for veterans looking to start or grow small businesses.

“Our men and women in uniform have sacrificed in the defense of the United States,” Shaheen said. “One of the best things we can do to honor that service is make sure they have good-paying, quality jobs when they come home. The skills developed through military training and service are the same qualities that make great employees and entrepreneurs. We can do more to help during the transition process, and these two pieces of legislation will go a long way toward helping veterans, small businesses, and our economy.”

“We also need to make it easier to access the programs we already have,” Shaheen added. “Despite making up fourteen percent of our military and owning thirty percent of our small businesses, only four percent of veteran-owned small business are run by women. We need to do better. This bill will make important progress in filling in some of the gaps in our current programs.”

The Veterans Hiring Act would cut payroll taxes for businesses that hire veterans, which would create immediate hiring incentives for employers. By lowering the cost of adding new employees, the bill will make it easier for small businesses to take advantage of veterans hiring incentives, expand their operations and help grow the economy.

The Veterans Entrepreneurship Act would lower the cost of Small Business Administration (SBA) loan programs designed to assist veterans start their own small businesses. The bill would permanently eliminate fee waivers  for veterans applying for SBA Express loans and also improve current SBA programs designed to assist veterans by focusing on pre-deployment financial counseling and emergency assistance. The legislation also includes a provision requiring the Small Business Administration to identify ways to improve its outreach and services for female veterans, particularly through the SBA’s Women Business Centers and Veteran Business Outreach Centers.

The unemployment rate for U.S. Iraq and Afghanistan veterans stands at 9 percent, 2.3 percent higher than the national average. As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and Senate Appropriations Committee, Shaheen has made promoting veteran employment a top priority. Shaheen has also worked to promote veterans employment by visiting veteran-owned businesses and businesses that hire veterans throughout New Hampshire.

Senate Republicans Including Senator Ayotte Are Pitting Immigrants Against Veterans

Frag Out!

Frag Out!Veterans have always been political bread and butter.  It has become a game: who supports Veterans more?  This debate has ratcheted up a couple of notches after the budget negotiation reduced the Cost of Living increases for working age retired Veterans (under 62 years of age).

The adjustment in the COLA for working age retired Veterans would save the government about $7 Billion dollars.  Of course the Veterans organizations were outraged over these cuts, and so was Senator Kelly Ayotte.

Here is a little background on Senator Ayotte.  She currently sits on the Veteran Affairs Committee in the Senate, and is married to Joe Daley who is a retired Air National Guard Lieutenant Colonel. This fight over retired Veterans COLAs is personal for Senator Ayotte because it directly affects her and her family. This cut will directly affect Joe and his retirement benefits.

I agree that we should not be making these COLA cuts to our brave men and women who retired from the military at a young age.  There are many possible solutions to restoring these cuts and the proposal that seems to be getting the most traction is the one to change the ‘Additional Child Tax Credit’ (ACTC).  It would require the person claiming the ACTC to file their taxes with the IRS under their Social Security Number.

Currently working immigrants file their federal taxes using a Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) because they cannot get a Social Security number until they are US Citizens.

This change is a direct assault on the millions of hard working immigrants who are paying their federal taxes and legally claiming their dependents under the ACTC program.  Once again, the only way to get a Social Security number is to be a US resident.  This means that if you are not a US Citizen (even if your children are), you still have to pay taxes, but you cannot claim the ACTC.

The Bipartisan Policy Center stated, “Effectively, this would allow the IRS to deny ACTC benefits to households headed by unauthorized immigrant parents, regardless of the child’s citizenship status.”

This is where the whole plan gets very complex.  For example, there are many households in the US right now headed by parents of a US citizen – but due to the immigration process, the parents are not US citizens themselves.  Even if the child is a natural born American citizen, their parents could not claim them under the proposed ACTC changes.

(Note: Senator Ayotte later amended her proposal to provide an exception for parents of US citizens.)

We are not talking about a few hundred people filing for these credits. According to the Treasury Department’s Inspector General, in 2010, ITIN filers reported $60 billion dollars in wages. The Bipartisan Policy Center reported that, “a large majority of unauthorized immigrants’ children are U.S. citizens.”

To me the issue could easily be resolved by passing a comprehensive immigration bill, like the one that has already passed in the US Senate.  We can clear up the tax questions quickly by allowing these parents of US citizens to become citizens themselves.  Making a roadmap to citizenship allows those people who are already living and working – and paying taxes – here in the United States a way to become citizens themselves.

We should stop trying to find ways to punish them for being undocumented, and find ways to help streamline the citizenship process. Some of them have been working on getting legal citizenship for years now, all the while living, working, and paying taxes like every other American.

Now our Congressional Representatives are waging war between Veterans and immigrants to find a way to restore the cuts to Veterans’ retirements.

Here is an idea to solve both problems: let’s stop building war machines that we do not need and put that money back into the budget where it can do some real good.  Like the F-35 fighter jet, which is billions over budget and still cannot fly at night.  Or the hundreds of tanks that the Army and Marine Corps do not want, which are being built just to stored in the desert boneyards, with no intent to actually use them.

By trimming the fat off the DOD budget, we can open our doors to all immigrants, feed our nation’s poor, and create a better education system through proper funding.

Or we can continue to build weapons of war that we do not want or need.

We Owe Our Veterans Economic Opportunity, And Good Paying Jobs

Via Twitter

At Granite State Manufacturing in Manchester Shaheen highlights efforts to promote veteran employment

(Manchester, NH) – Calling attention to the need to further promote economic opportunity for our veterans, U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) toured Granite State Manufacturing (GSM) this morning to discuss her legislative efforts that will help create good paying jobs for those who have served our country. Shaheen also highlighted GSM’s leadership when it comes to hiring New Hampshire veterans; almost sixteen percent of Granite State Manufacturing’s employees are veterans which is double the seven percent –required by the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs – for companies that receive federal contracts.

“The best thing we can do for the men and women who have served our country is make sure they have a good paying job when they come home,” Shaheen said. “The work Granite State Manufacturing has done to promote the hiring of local veterans is a great example for the rest of the country. As they know, veterans have the training, skills and work ethic that help them excel in the workplace. Together we must expand opportunities for all our veterans.”

“I was disappointed the Senate failed to advance the comprehensive veterans bill this week but that doesn’t change a thing. I’m going to keep fighting on behalf of our veterans,” Shaheen added.

“Granite State Manufacturing (GSM) has a decades-long commitment to hiring those who have served our country,” said John Allard, Chairman and CEO of GSM, an Allard/Nazarian Group Company.  “We have taken many steps to reach out to returning veterans and have a great working relationship with the New Hampshire Employer Support of Guard and Reserve program.  GSM is proud to be considered a Vet Friendly Employer and we are actively looking to hire more Veterans as our business continues to grow”

Unemployment for veterans between 18-24 years old stands at nearly eighteen percent – more than double the general population. As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Shaheen has made creating opportunity for America’s veterans a top priority. This week, Shaheen introduced an amendment to the Senate comprehensive veterans bill that would have promoted veterans employment. Shaheen’s amendment would have reduced the employer payroll tax contribution for newly hired veterans and waived fees for veterans applying for Small Business Administration Express loans. That plan will soon be introduced as standalone legislation in the Senate. Shaheen is also a cosponsor of the VOW to Hire Heroes Extension Act.

Bipartisan Spending Bill Will Promote Economic Growth, Includes Key NH Measures

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Bill to fund government restores COLA funding for disabled veterans, includes $75 million for fishery disaster relief, investments in Shipyard

(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) announced today that the bipartisan appropriations bill unveiled last night will both promote economic growth and include many key measures she has championed in recent months. The legislation will specifically keep the government funded through Fiscal Year 2014, repeal many of the reckless sequester budget cuts, and promote job creation and economic growth.

The bill builds on the bipartisan budget agreement passed in December and makes investments in many New Hampshire priorities, including:

  • Disaster relief funding for New England fisherman
  • A fix to a Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) for disabled veterans
  • Military construction resources for the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard
  • Resources to complete the activation of the Federal Corrections Institution (FCI) in Berlin
  • Funding for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)

The legislation also rolls back wasteful spending including taxpayer funded expenditures on oil paintings of public officials. Senators Shaheen and Tom Coburn (R-OK) drew attention to this waste of taxpayer dollars by introducing bipartisan legislation last year designed to cut these expenditures. The legislation also requires all federal agencies to become better stewards of taxpayer dollars by implementing mandatory 10 percent cuts to overhead costs and by investing in Inspectors General offices as Shaheen has fought for. This effort will help agencies better identify waste and cut spending through audits and oversight.

“This bipartisan appropriations bill makes strategic investments in our economy that will help create jobs while also preventing another government shutdown and repealing some of the sequester cuts that hurt economic growth,” Shaheen said. “Now we have to keep up the bipartisan momentum to pass this bill and additional job-creating measures.”

The appropriations bill, negotiated by the House and Senate, includes a partial fix to COLA adjustments in order to protect disabled veterans. Last month Shaheen introduced the Military Retirement Restoration Act to protect all future military retirees from the COLA cuts passed in a bipartisan budget agreement in December. Shaheen’s legislation would restore the cuts and replace the savings by eliminating a tax loophole for American corporations that use offshore tax havens, a move that would generate an estimated $6.6 billion in savings.

“This bill also takes a good step toward correcting the cuts to military retiree benefits,” Shaheen said. “I hope we can continue in this direction and vote on my plan to restore all of the adjustments as soon as possible on behalf of the people who have served our country.”

The funding package also invests in New Hampshire defense priorities, authorizing $1.6 billion toward the continued development of the new KC-46A aerial refueling tanker to be based at Pease Air National Guard Base in New Hampshire as well as $11.5 million for new military construction at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard. In addition, the bill funds the Beyond Yellow Ribbon Program, which connects servicemen and women and their families with community support, training, and other services, at $13 million. Also included in the package is funding for the Cooperative Threat Reduction Program, which will help modernize the way the U.S. meets challenges posed by the spread of weapons of mass destruction, at $500 million.

“New Hampshire plays an important role in our national defense and this bill rightfully makes strategic investments to support our shipyard, our economy, and our men and women in uniform,” said Shaheen, who chairs the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Readiness and Management Support.

Additional measures included in the funding bill are $75 million toward fishery disaster relief, $3.425 billion for LIHEAP, and $6.9 billion to the Bureau of Prisons, which is sufficient to complete the activation of the Berlin Prison that is expected to create 340 local jobs and provide a $40 million economic boost to Northern New Hampshire.

Shaheen has repeatedly advocated for Congress to support New Hampshire fishermen and other states affected by declining fish populations and consequent economic losses by authorizing disaster relief.

“Fishing is one of our state’s oldest industries and remains a critical engine of our economy,” said Shaheen. “The resources in this bill will provide necessary support for fishermen and coastal communities who are struggling during difficult times.”

Funding for LIHEAP in this bill is a $169 million increase from FY 2013 levels, for a total of $3.425 billion. The program helps seniors and low income households in New Hampshire with home heating costs and has become particularly critical in recent years as the struggling U.S. economy and high energy prices and reduced LIHEAP funding have forced more Americans to go without this critical assistance. Shaheen has been a strong supporter of LIHEAP throughout her time in the Senate and was recently part of a successful bipartisan effort to encourage Health and Human Service Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to expedite the release of LIHEAP funds, allowing those in need to receive assistance as soon as possible.

Senator Ayotte says (unofficially): Balance the budget on the backs of Federal Workers, not Military Veterans

New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte (AP Photo/Cheryl Senter)

Balance the budget on the backs of…..

New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte (AP Photo/Cheryl Senter)

New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte (AP Photo/Cheryl Senter)

This week the Senate will vote on the bi-partisan budget deal that was crafted by Rep Paul Ryan and Senator Patty Murray.   Everyone has a bone to pick with this budget, but that will not going to keep it from passing.

The budget bill has already passed the House and there was opposition from both sides of the aisle.  The bill is now moving to the Senate where New Hampshire’s own, Senator Kelly Ayotte, joined a few of her fellow Republicans to oppose the budget bill.

From the Washington Post:

“In a joint statement last week, Sens. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) said they cannot support the legislation because it “disproportionately and unfairly targets those who have put their lives on the line to defend our country.”

“The budget agreement, crafted by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), would reduce cost-of-living adjustments for working-age military retirees by 1 percent starting in December 2015, although the existing rate would apply again once former service members reach age 62.”

The proposed change is projected to save the government $6 billion, but Ayotte said it “pays for more federal spending on the backs of our active duty and military retirees.”

Wait a minute; Senator Ayotte is opposing the budget because it takes 1% or $6 billion dollars away from the Veterans retirement program that only affects Veterans who retire prior to age 62.  That is right, that is what she is opposing.

My question is why is she not opposing the budget over the $6 billion dollars that federal workers are going to have to make up with higher retirement contributions?  The Association of Federal Government Employees (AFGE) released a statement opposing the bill for just that reason.

“AFGE rejects the notion that there should be a trade-off between funding the programs to which federal employees have devoted their lives, and their own livelihoods.”

Where was Senator Ayotte’s opposition when the non-military federal employees were getting beat down by Congress?

“Unions and employee groups have been fighting the pension change. They say federal workers have already “sacrificed over $113 billion for deficit reduction since 2011″ — the figure being based on 3 years without a pay hike and the bigger contribution new hires must put toward pensions.” (Money.CNN)

She was right there voting with the Party to continue to balance the budget on the backs of federal workers, just not the military veterans.

The truth is that this ‘strong opposition’ is nothing more than grandstanding by a Senator who has become the darling of the Republican Party.  Her opposition engages the hard right Republicans who already oppose the budget because it increases spending.  She can use her opposition to fundraise from those same far right Republicans.

The truth is this budget bill will pass, even with Senator Ayotte’s opposition.  She will not be alone in her ‘Nay’ vote for this budget but with the Democratic majority in the Senate, the bill will pass.  Basically it is a free vote for her, to FAKE – I mean – MAKE a stand against the overspending Democrats who are out to harm the beloved military veterans.

With such strong opposition to proposed cuts to our veterans, you would expect Senator Ayotte to be demanding for restoration of all the cuts made to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

Accordingly to a report out this week from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, approximately 900,000 veterans are currently dependent, in whole or part, on food stamp benefits to care for their themselves and their families.” (Forbes 10/30/13)

Not one state in the entire union has less than 2,200 veterans who are collecting food stamps under the SNAP program this month. (Read the full story about Veterans and SNAP benefits here) 

Senator, don’t tell us your outraged at these cuts to the veterans pensions, while you do nothing for the nearly 1 million veterans who are living off food stamps.  I respect and honor the service these men and women have done for out country, but you need to be consistent in your outrage.

Are they heroes who cannot afford cuts to their retirement, or are they ‘one of those people’ who are living off food stamps?

The truth is, they are both and Senator Ayotte, you should remember that the next time they want to make budget cuts to all of theses social programs.

Homeless VeteransUPDATED: 12-17-13

After I published this story, Senator Ayotte was interviewed for a story in the Union Leader where she stated:
the $6.3 billion could be found elsewhere in the budget, possibly by changing eligibility requirements for food stamps.
So it seems I was right, she does not seem to care about the people who are living in poverty or working for the government, only the working age retired Veterans who make great photo opportunities.

Politicians Thank Veterans For Their Service, Then Cut Programs To Feed Them

Hometown heroes volunteered and served lunch at the New England Center for Homeless Veterans May 5, 2010.  Photo Credit Cpl. Priscilla Sneden (USMC)
Hometown heroes volunteered and served lunch at the New England Center for Homeless Veterans May 5, 2010.  Photo Credit Cpl. Priscilla Sneden (USMC)

Hometown heroes volunteered and served lunch at the New England Center for Homeless Veterans May 5, 2010. Photo Credit Cpl. Priscilla Sneden (USMC)

This weekend we celebrate Veterans Day.  Veterans Day is the day when we all stop and thank the brave men and women, who stepped up to serve our country.  These men and women risked their lives to protect our freedom, and our way of life.  I would personally like to thank every veteran who chose to serve our country.

I am not the only one who is thanking veterans this weekend.  “Our veterans represent the very best of America,” said Congresswoman Annie Kuster.  “Today, and every day, we express our gratitude for the sacrifices they’ve made, for the extraordinary example they’ve set, and for everything they’ve done to keep our country safe, prosperous, and free.

Last year Speaker John Boehner released a video message that said:

Saying ‘thank you’ is important, but there’s always more that we the people can do for those whose sacrifices preserved the heritage of freedom.

While he is saying ‘thank you’ to veterans, he is slapping them across the face at the same time. Speaker Boehner is leading the House of Representatives to starve nearly a million veterans.  The Republicans in the House pushed for billions of dollars in cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) more commonly known as food stamps.

There is a well-known myth that people on food stamps are gaming the system.  Congressman Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.) believes that the entire food stamp program is overrun with “fraud,”. “Absolute 100 percent, all of it is fraud. There’s fraud all through that,” Mullin said.

I wonder if Congressman Mullin’s opinion would change when he finds out that over 2,000 veterans in his state alone rely on food stamps to feed their families?

Accordingly to a report out this week from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, approximately 900,000 veterans are currently dependent, in whole or part, on food stamp benefits to care for their themselves and their families.” (Forbes 10/30/13)

The Huffington post also compiled the number of veterans who rely on food stamps and they came up with a different number.

According to data compiled by the Huffington Post, 1.5 million veteran households are using SNAP. The sharp increase of veterans or other military families relying on food stamps is right in line with what is happening across the board: more families are struggling to make ends meet because of the recovering economy and families who may have never needed assistance before are looking for help.” (Veterans Today)

I do not know which is worse; the fact that Congressional Republicans made cuts to a program that helps feed low-income families or the fact that over 900,000 veterans are dependent on food stamps?

It is disgusting and appalling that our veterans are paid such poverty wages that they cannot afford to live.  Our veterans are also coming back from their time in the service to find high unemployment.  Currently there is a 9% unemployment rate for Veterans, and higher for those Veterans who returned with disabilities.

Bryce Covert wrote on Think Progress:

Nearly one in 10 veterans with disabilities were without employment in 2010. They are also disproportionately likely to live in poverty and to be homeless. In 2010, nearly a million veterans ages 18 to 64 had experienced poverty over the past year. As of 2011, nearly one in seven homeless adults was a veteran and more than four in ten homeless veterans were without shelter. They are therefore heavily impacted by cuts to the social safety net.”

This Veterans Day we need our politicians to stop talking how much they support veterans and actually do something to help our struggling vets.  We need to start by restoring the cuts made to the SNAP program. Then we need to work on lowering the unemployment rate for returning soldiers.

The government should be doing more to help transition these veterans into careers.  They could move right into a civilian government job like the Postal Service or Department of Transportation. The government could also mandate a percentage of veteran employees in private companies with defense contracts.

We as a nation should not sit idly by while our veterans are starving and living on the streets.  This Veterans Day take a moment to help a vet by calling your Congressman and telling them to restore the cuts to the SNAP programs and stop starving our veterans.

Homeless Veterans

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LTE: Cuts To Social Security Hurt Veterans

Soldiers Building Bridge

 Editor’s Note: Below is a letter to the editor from a concerned senior and US Military Veteran. 

Soldiers Building BridgeAs both a senior citizen retiree on Social Security and Veteran with a small service connected disability pension I would like to take the opportunity of Veterans Day to make a point on cuts to SS and veterans pensions. If we look around at the roads we drive on, the bridges we use, the buildings we work and live in, most of the cars we drive and a multitude of other things that enhance our daily existence we must realize where these came from.  They came from the labor and sweat of the American worker who spent their whole life putting into the social security system so they could have a little stability in their golden years. The freedoms to do this were paid for by the blood and dedication of the soldiers, sailors and airmen of the country.

It disturbs me greatly that a grand bargain is now being pushed that will cut these benefits to seniors and disable veterans. This bargain is being pushed by wealthy individuals and corporate CEO’s as a way to corral the debt. I find it abhorrent that billionaires and multimillionaire CEO’s are flying around the country on their private jets pushing a bargain that will cut the benefits of us who are at the lowest end of the wealth scale. These are the people who have benefited the most from our system and have used their money to tilt the tax policies towards them. They want us to invest in IRA’s run by Wall Street when the data shows Wall Street now rakes in management fees that eat up about 70% of the profits in these funds. It is sad to go to the supermarket, big box stores and be greeted by a 70 or 80 year old who lost everything in the last stock market crash and now has to work until their death.

Do not look to cut the budget on the backs of the people who fought for and built this country through their blood and sweat when there are more lucrative vistas. Maybe they could start by removing the wealthy and corporate tax loopholes. The 2.7 trillion dollar SS fund is not a cookie jar to be raided by the wealthy, it is our fire wall against an impoverished life.

Steven Kloppenburg
Milton, NH

New Transportation Manufacturing Coalition Targets Job Creation for Veterans

Marine Veteran Saluting Flag

Transportation Trade Department LogoMarine Veteran Saluting FlagOn this Veterans Day, the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD) unites with its 32 member unions to honor those Americans who make sacrifices every day in service to the nation—the active duty military and veterans. Upon coming home or ending their service, these men and women face the challenge of finding good-paying jobs in uncertain economic times. TTD supports job-creating initiatives that seek to train and employ veterans.

As part of this effort, TTD has joined the Jobs to Move America Coalition to maximize U.S. manufacturing job creation as transportation agencies spend billions of dollars in the next few years replacing aging bus and rail car fleets. Led by Los Angeles-based LAANE, this ground-breaking initiative–designed to put transportation manufacturing dollars to work in our own economy–is being implemented around the country.

“One of the greatest ways we can thank our veterans, the men and women who put their lives on the line for us every day, is to make sure they have jobs when they come home and have the training they need to compete for those jobs,” said TTD President Edward Wytkind. “This historic coalition brings together the labor movement and allied advocacy groups to connect veterans and other workers, such as those living in disadvantaged communities, with middle-class jobs.”

Under LAANE’s U.S. employment plan, created with input from leading economists, veterans groups, transit agencies, labor and community groups, U.S. companies bidding on major transit agency procurement projects are incentivized to focus their bids on U.S. job creation and expand opportunities for veterans and other workers suffering in an anemic job market.

“Let’s honor service to our country by creating good-paying, skilled manufacturing jobs for America’s veterans,” said Madeline Janis, the coalition’s campaign director. “The Jobs to Move America plan will maximize the value of taxpayer dollars spent today on buses and trains, to create good jobs and opportunities for veterans and other unemployed Americans, tomorrow.”

NH Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter Continues Work to Address Current Military Challenges

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Shea-Porter Continues Work to Address Current Military Challenges

Legislation focuses on VA backlog, military sexual assault, and veterans jobs

MANCHESTER, NH – Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter continued her commitment to addressing the current challenges facing veterans and military families. She is announcing her support for: a package of bills to address the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) backlog of claims for disability compensation; legislation to help returning veterans get a job; and a House Resolution to reduce sexual assault in the military.

“Soldiers pledge never to leave one of their own behind on the battlefield, and we should honor that pledge by refusing to leave soldiers, veterans, or their families behind,” Shea-Porter said. “This common sense legislation will help veterans access the health benefits they’ve earned, find a job they’re qualified for, and help eliminate the scourge of sexual assault in the military.”

The package of bills to address the VA claims backlog would help settle veterans’ claims and compensation faster by:

  • Extending the VA’s authority to have contractors provide medical exams, giving the VA much needed support in processing claims.
  • Ensuring the Department of Defense provides certified, complete, and electronic records to the VA within 21 days.
  • Expediting claims processing by educating veterans on the quickest route to receive their decision.
  • Bringing greater transparency to the backlog by requiring the VA to track information in an online setting.
  • Strengthening accountability by requesting the VA provide quarterly updates to Congress on the timeliness of other agencies in fulfilling their information requests.
  • Requesting the Veterans Benefits Administration establish a pilot that would utilize the highest performing offices to adjudicate the most difficult and time consuming claims, such as PTSD.
  • Encouraging the VA to look at better ways to process claims in an electronic system.

In addition to helping returning troops access the health care they deserve, Shea-Porter is committed to helping them find a job. That’s why she recently cosponsored the Veteran Employment Transition Act, which would allow employers to claim a new, streamlined $2,400 credit when they hire a recently discharged veteran.

To help reduce sexual assault in the military, Shea-Porter signed onto H.Res. 213, which would establish the Special Committee on Sexual Assault and Abuse in the Armed Forces to conduct oversight, ensure accountability, and report on the activities of the Department of Defense to prevent, reduce, prosecute, and provide victims’ services for cases of sexual assault and abuse in the Armed Forces.

Remember Those We Have Lost, Honor Those Who Return

Statistics on the VA backlog (IRAQ & Afghanistan Veterans of America)

Memorial Day has never been a big holiday in my family.  What I mean by that is that, my family was blessed with soldiers who all came home from war.  My grandfather who was in France during WWII never actually talked about his experiences during the war.

He did tell me one story.  My grandfather was an officer in the Army.  One of his duties as an officer was to ride on the mail truck and deliver letters from home.  When he stopped at one base, he introduced himself to the other officer.  While they were unloading the truck, the other officer asked if my grandfather had any relation to a Jack Murray.  My grandfather responded yes, he is my brother.  This may seem very strange that a person would randomly ask about another man named Murray in the middle of WWII.  However if you ever saw a picture of these two brothers (and I wish I had one) as young men you would think they were twins.  Add that with their thick south Boston accent it was not hard to connect the dots.

Of all the things that happened during WWII the only story my grandfather ever told me was how he randomly ran into his brother in the middle of France durning WWII.

My grandfather did receive a certificate of appreciation from the French government.  50 years after WWII, the French government sent these certificates to all of the US servicemen for all they did for France. I did see the certificate, but could not understand it because it was written in french.

I just recently became aware that my father was also in the military.  My father passed away only a few years after I was born so I have no stories from him.  He was in the US Army and served twice.  He was discharged in 1968 as an E-2.

Both my father and my grandfather are gone now.  They served their country and came home to live out their lives.  Today we remember those who served their country and did not come home.  The act of war is sometimes necessary and always has huge consequences.  Every man and women who served deserves our utmost respect.

That is why we celebrate Memorial Day.  A day to reflect on those who we lost protecting our freedoms.  I also want to make today about the hundreds of thousands of Veterans who are coming home from war and not getting the help they need.

Statistics on the VA backlog (IRAQ & Afghanistan Veterans of America)

Statistics on the VA backlog (IRAQ & Afghanistan Veterans of America)

The Veterans Administration (VA) has some serious problems right now.  The VA and the Department of Defense (DOD) seem to be unable to connect.  This disconnect has created a backlog of over 800,000 veterans who are waiting for disability payments.  Many of them waiting over six months for their initial approval.

The disconnect come from the fact that the DOD uses one computer system to handle medical records of active duty servicemen.  The VA uses a completely different system, and the two cannot talk to each other.

“This isn’t just about the VA,” said Tom Tarantino chief policy advisor for IRAQ and Afghanistan Veterans of America. “It’s about making sure that the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs have the same medical records. People who make the veterans and people who care for the veterans should be looking at the exact same file.”

I applaud Congressional Reps like Annie Kuster who are standing up for these Veterans.  She is pushing legislation to end the backlog.  We need more of this.  We need the American people to stand up and demand that we treat our Veterans like the heroes they are.  They should get the same level of respect and honor that we give to those who died serving our country.

So today remember those we have lost and honor those who have returned.