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Legislative Notes
8/27/18 Update
FEDERAL
 

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The Senate continued work on the minibus in August. If they manage to complete work on the Defense spending bill during August, they are set to enter into a conference with the House in September. With a lot of work and compromise, an FY 19 spending bill could potentially be in place before the start of the new fiscal year. Completing work on appropriations this month also opens up September for the nomination hearing and confirmation vote for Supreme Court Justice nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

This is far from a done deal, however. Several Freedom Caucus Republicans are pushing back against combining the UHHS and Defense spending bills into a single package. Doing so puts them in the position of either accepting things they do not like in the UHHS bill (a frequent target of conservative budget cutting), or voting against Defense spending.

In comments on the floor, Sen. Perdue (GA) said that the bicameral, bipartisan special committee to reform federal budgeting is "making progress". That group, created by the same legislation that created a two-year budget deal setting aside sequestration for FY 18 and FY 19, is required to submit a report to the full Congress by the end of November.

FY 19 Defense Appropriations Bill
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (NY) noted that, so far, the Senate has managed to avoid including poison pill provisions in the various spending bills. He praised the UHHS portion of the pending minibus for including "significant new resources" for the National Institutes of Health and to combat the opioid epidemic.

FY 19 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA)
The President signed the FY 19 NOAA into law at Ft. Drum, New York. However, the White House immediately issued a signing statement indicating not only continued disagreement with a number of the bill's provisions, but also an intention to not comply with anything they feel cuts into their jurisdictional authorities. The statement highlights a number of provisions concerning troop levels around the world and sanctions against Russia, among other issues.

Specifically, the statement takes issue with a provision that would increase to six the number of appointed directors to the Henry M. Jackson Foundation for the Advancement of Military Medicine (section 739). The White House statement claims that the Foundation has been founded on "constitutional defects" that should have been remedied shortly after President Reagan signed the law creating it. Apparently, the appointment of directors to the Foundation violates the Appointments Clause, the Incompatibility Clause, and the separation of powers, according to the signing statement. In a statement accompanying the law's enactment in 1983, President Reagan expressed an expectation that these "defects" would be addressed. The current White House says these problems have not been fixed and expects the Secretary of Defense and the Attorney General to figure out a way to "allow this Foundation to continue its important work in compliance with the Constitution."

Overall, the signing statement disagrees with any Congressional direction to produce particular information or that has Congress appointing members to Executive Branch commissions or committees.

So far, most of the spending bills have passed at least one chamber of Congress (with the Senate poised to do two more later this month). The funding logjam on the minibus containing the VA/military construction spending bill (along with Energy & Water and Legislative Branch) has not officially been resolved, despite rumors late last week that new topline totals had been agreed to by conferees that would provide enough room to pay for the VA’s provision of care in the community.

Any federal department which has already had its FY19 spending bill signed into law by October 1 would not require a continuing resolution (CR) to remain open in the new fiscal year. A post-election shutdown assumes that at least part of the government is operating on a CR well into November. Preventing that is sure to spur some lawmakers on Capitol Hill into moving expeditiously on appropriations votes and conferences.

Burn pits legislation
On August 2, over 30 veterans service organizations (VSOs) came together to call on Congress to act on pending legislation concerning burn pits. Bills on these issues have been introduced on both sides of the Hill. In the Senate, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (MN) submitted the Burn Pits Accountability Act (S. 3181). Sens. Richard Blumenthal (CT) and Dan Sullivan (AK) have already signed onto the Senate bill. In the House, 109 Members have joined Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (HI) and Rep. Brian Mast (FL) in cosponsoring H.R. 5671 since its introduction in the beginning of May.

The legislation calls upon DoD to document in servicemembers’ records any potential exposure to open-air burn pits or toxic airborne chemicals. Medical records detailing exposure details would have to be provided by DoD to the VA, which would be required to enter these servicemembers into its Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry. Servicemembers and veterans would have the ability to opt out of being included in the registry. The use of registries has become popular to track health conditions experienced by the target populations. They also make it easy to identify and notify individuals should their benefits change (e.g., burn pit exposure earn service-connected presumption for VA coverage) in the future.

The House Veterans’ Affairs Committee held a hearing on this topic back in June. This exposure is often compared to Vietnam-era veterans’ exposure to Agent Orange, with calls for a faster response and coverage of symptoms than those veterans received. As shown by the experience of veterans from the first Gulf War in the 1990s, toxic exposures should be expected to occur on the modern battlefield, resulting in symptoms and causes that can be hard to pinpoint. At a hearing this week on expanding coverage of veterans exposed to Agent Orange off the coast of Vietnam, the VA argued that they need solid scientific evidence before they can declare any condition to be presumed connected to military service. That position underscores the importance of starting to collect information on burn pit exposure sooner rather than later.

Veterans Health Administration (VHA) Chief Financial Officer retires
Mark Yow, who has served as VHA CFO since October 30, 2015, retired this week. He has been responsible for creating the VHA’s part of the Administration’s annual budget submission to Congress, as well as overseeing the financial management and accounting operations for the VHA. Prior to stepping up to the CFO position, he served as the Associate CFO for Resource Management within the VHA. A retired Army officer, Yow also served as Deputy Director for the TRICARE Management Activity within DoD.

The department has not yet made an official announcement as to who will be taking his place. That responsibility will fall to Secretary Wilkie, who was sworn into office early this week. The VHA CFO slot is just one of many leadership vacancies the new Secretary will have to fill.

Telehealth
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is seeking comments on creating an experimental “Connected Care Pilot Program” to support remote patient monitoring (RPM) in rural areas. The FCC would create a $100 million Universal Service Fund to promote the provision of remote patient monitoring (RPM) services to low-income residents in rural areas as well as veterans.

Sen. Roger Wicker (MS) brought the issue to the FCC’s attention. A pilot project focused on improving health outcomes for people with diabetes in rural Mississippi was his inspiration. That program uses RPM to allow nurse case managers to more closely monitor a patient’s daily situation, and intervene more quickly when warranted.

The Connected Care Pilot Program would work to help build the broadband infrastructure missing in many remote and rural communities.

FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel expressed concerns to reporters that this program could divert resources under the Lifeline program, which aims to make broadband access affordable to rural health care providers, such as hospitals and clinics. She objects to focusing upon providing broadband directly to consumers under this program, which could conceivably harm hospitals in those areas.


2018-2019 Federal Bills

Active Legislation Since Last Report


H.R.2147 Veterans Treatment Court Improvement Act of 2018. Requires the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to hire additional Veterans Justice Outreach Specialists to provide treatment court services to justice-involved veterans, and for other purposes. Latest Action: Passed the Senate - 08/23/2018 Message on Senate action sent to the House.

H.R.2345 National Suicide Hotline Improvement Act of 2018. To require the Federal Communications Commission to study the feasibility of designating a simple, easy-to-remember dialing code to be used for a national suicide prevention and mental health crisis hotline system. Latest Action: 08/14/2018 Became Public Law No: 115-233.

H.R.5515 John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019 Latest Action: 08/13/2018 Became Public Law No: 115-232.

H.R.6661 Charitable Equity for Veterans Act of 2018 Latest Action: House - 08/10/2018 Referred to the House Committee on Ways and Means.

H.R.5418 Veterans Affairs Medical-Surgical Purchasing Stabilization Act Latest Action: Senate - 08/01/2018 Committee on Veterans' Affairs. Hearings held.

H.R.299 Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2017 o amend title 38, United States Code, to clarify presumptions relating to the exposure of certain veterans who served in the vicinity of the Republic of Vietnam, and for other purposes. Latest Action: Senate - 08/01/2018 Committee on Veterans' Affairs. Hearings held.

H.R.5693 Long-Term Care Veterans Choice Act To authorize the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to enter into contracts and agreements for the placement of veterans in non-Department medical foster homes for veterans who are unable to live independently and to amend the interest rate for certain loans guaranteed under the VA home loan program Latest Action: Senate - 07/26/2018 Received in the Senate and Read twice and referred to the Committee on Veterans' Affairs.

H.R.5864 VA Hospitals Establishing Leadership Performance Act Latest Action: Senate - 07/26/2018 Received in the Senate and Read twice and referred to the Committee on Veterans' Affairs.

H.R.5882 Gold Star Spouses Leasing Relief Act Latest Action: Senate - 07/25/2018 Received in the Senate and Read twice and referred to the Committee on Veterans' Affairs.

H.R.5938 Veterans Serving Veterans Act of 2018 Latest Action: Senate - 07/25/2018 Received in the Senate and Read twice and referred to the Committee on Veterans' Affairs.

H.R.5974 VA COST SAVINGS Enhancements Act Latest Action: Senate - 07/25/2018 Received in the Senate and Read twice and referred to the Committee on Veterans' Affairs.

H.R.6539 Veterans Health Care Staffing Improvement Act Latest Action: House - 07/26/2018 Referred to the Committee on Veterans' Affairs, and in addition to the Committee on Armed Services, for a period to be subsequently determined by the Speaker, in each case for consideration of such provisions as fall within the jurisdiction of the committee.

H.R.6581 Increasing Veteran Access to Colorectal Cancer Screening Act of 2018 Latest Action: House - 07/26/2018 Referred to the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs.

H.R.6572 Homeless Veterans Community Care Act of 2018 Latest Action: House - 07/26/2018 Referred to the Committee on Veterans' Affairs, and in addition to the Committee on Financial Services, for a period to be subsequently determined by the Speaker, in each case for consideration of such provisions as fall within the jurisdiction of the committee.

H.R.6637 Vietnam Veterans Liver Fluke Cancer Study Act Latest Action: House - 07/26/2018 Referred to the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs.

S.514 No Hero Left Untreated Act Latest Action: Senate - 08/01/2018 Committee on Veterans' Affairs. Hearings held.:

S.899 Veterans Providing Healthcare Transition Improvement Act Latest Action: Senate - 08/23/2018 Message on Senate action sent to the House.

S.1596 BRAVE Act of 2017 Latest Action: Senate - 08/01/2018 Committee on Veterans' Affairs. Hearings held.

S.1952 Department of Veterans Affairs Financial Accountability Act of 2017 Latest Action: Senate - 08/01/2018 Committee on Veterans' Affairs. Hearings held.

S.2485 Medal of Honor Surviving Spouses Recognition Act of 2018 Latest Action: Senate - 08/01/2018 Committee on Veterans' Affairs. Hearings held.

S.2748 BATTLE for Servicemembers Act Latest Action: Senate - 08/01/2018 Committee on Veterans' Affairs. Hearings held.

S.3184 A bill to amend title 38, United States Code, to modify the requirements for applications for construction of State home facilities to increase the maximum percentage of nonveterans allowed to be treated at such facilities, and for other purposes. Latest Action: Senate - 08/01/2018 Committee on Veterans' Affairs. Hearings held.

S.3298 Vietnam Veterans Memorial Visitor Center Extension Act Latest Action: Senate - 08/15/2018 Committee on Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Parks. Hearings held.

S.3299 IMPROVE Transition for Servicemembers Act Latest Action: Senate - 07/30/2018 Read twice and referred to the Committee on Armed Services.

  1. 3302 VA Hiring Enhancement Act Latest Action: Senate - 07/31/2018 Read twice and referred to the Committee on Veterans' Affairs

S.3310 A bill to require the Secretary of Labor to award grants to organizations for the provision of transition assistance to members of the Armed Forces who are separated, retired, or discharged from the Armed Forces, and spouses of such members, Latest Action: Senate - 07/31/2018 Read twice and referred to the Committee on Veterans' Affairs.

S.3313 Veterans Dental Care Eligibility Expansion and Enhancement Act of 2018 Latest Action: Senate - 07/31/2018 Read twice and referred to the Committee on Veterans' Affairs.

S.3355 Agent Orange Exposure Fairness Act of 2018 Latest Action: Senate - 08/21/2018 Read twice and referred to the Committee on Veterans' Affairs.

S.Res.617 A resolution recognizing The American Legion for 100 years of service to veterans and members of the Armed Forces in the United States and their families. Latest Action: Senate - 08/23/2018 Referred to the Committee on the Judiciary.



For any Federal Bill Details go to:
Library of Congress - https://www.congress.gov/search?q=%7B%22congress%22%3A%22114%22%2C%22source%22%3A%22legislation%22%2C%22search%22%3A%22sjr21%22%7D
 AL Legislative Center: http://capwiz.com/legion/issues/bills/?bill=66103631

NEW JERSEY


2018-2019 Bills

The NJ Veterans Executive Legislative Committee has created a top priority list of legislative Bills they consider absolutely essential for the NJ legislature to pass during this legislative session. The Committee asks that all NJ American Legion Posts and members contact their Assembly persons and Senators to move these bills forward to benefit our veterans.

Veterans Executive Legislative Action Committee (VELAC)
 2018 Top Priority Bills Agenda

A2165/S2143 Grants a credit against business income taxes to developer of rental housing reserved for occupancy by veterans. (Assembly Military and Veterans' Affairs Committee, Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee)


S1908/A2175 Makes persons with New Jersey National Guard service and NGB 22 form eligible for certain veterans’ benefits. (Assembly Military and Veterans' Affairs Committee, Senate Military and Veterans' Affairs Committee

S129/S1025/A2415 Excludes from gross income taxation military compensation for personnel serving outside of State and combat zone compensations. (Passed by the Senate (37-0) 4/12/2018, Assembly Military and Veterans' Affairs Committee)

S2536/A3243 Excludes from gross income under the gross income tax certain United States military compensation paid to members of units of the NJ National Guard and reserve components of the United States Armed Forces. (Senate Military and Veterans' Affairs Committee, Assembly Military and Veterans' Affairs Committee)

S2537/A4107 - Provides spouses of military servicemembers with gross income tax credit, up to $500, for professional relicensing fees incurred upon relocating to State. (Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee, Assembly Military and Veterans' Affairs Committee)

S1513 - Provides for increase and annual adjustment in allowance paid to veterans with certain wartime service-connected disabilities. (Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee)

A2172 Provides for increase and annual adjustment in allowance paid to war veterans with certain service-connected disabilities. (Assembly Military and Veterans' Affairs Committee)

S898/A697 Makes annual compensation paid to surviving spouses of certain blind or disabled veterans payable from date of veteran's death. (Senate Military and Veterans' Affairs Committee, Assembly Military and Veterans' Affairs Committee)

A4018/S1822/A3935/S1907/A1567 Creates civil service preference for peacetime Veterans/Expands eligibility for veterans civil service preference/provides civil service preference to all veterans. (Assembly Military and Veterans' Affairs Committee, Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee)

A2165/S2143 Grants credit against business income taxes to developer of rental housing reserved for occupancy by veterans. (Assembly Military and Veterans' Affairs Committee, Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee)


Active Bills Since Last Report

A837/S2446 Requires public utility to charge veterans' organization residential rate for service delivered to property at which veterans' organization primarily operates. Latest Action: 1/9/2018 Introduced, 6/25/2018 Passed Both Houses, 8/10/2018 Approved P.L.2018, c.77.


A4140/S1305 Permits certain applicants to submit personal statement of veteran status, in lieu of determination of veteran status, prior to issuance of civil service eligible list; requires submission of determination of status prior to employment. Latest Action: 6/11/2018 Introduced, Referred to Assembly Military and Veterans' Affairs Committee; S1305, 7/30/2018 Received in the Assembly, Referred to Assembly Military and Veterans' Affairs Committee.


For Details of NJ Legislative bills go to “NJ Legislature” :http://www.njleg.state.nj.us/Default.asp