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From time to time, significant legislative updates concerning Veterans will be posted here. Members are encouraged to do their own research and to keep abreast of Veteran related legislation.


20190730: President Trump signed the Legion Act (Let Everyone Get Involved in Opportunities for National Service Act) into law.

OurCharter has been ammended. Anyone honorably discharged and who served at least one day of active duty since December 7, 1941 is now eligible for membership in The American Legion.

Current application forms can be used until exhausted.

Read National Judge Advocate's July 31st Memo here.  

Read the 11 Things you need to know about the Legion Act here.

 

20190604: A Message from VA Secretary Wilkie on MISSION Act  https://content.govdelivery.com/accounts/USVA/bulletins/246dc0a

 

20190528: Legion Act To amend title 36, United States Code, to authorize The American Legion to determine the requirements for membership in The American Legion, and for other purposes.   Click on the link to read the full text of the bill co-signed by our AZ Senators.

 

20190329: VA recommends dropping legal challenge over 'blue water' Navy veterans benefits

Military Times
March 26, 2019
By: Leo Shane III


Veterans Affairs leaders will not recommend appealing a federal court ruling to award disability benefits to thousands of Vietnam veterans who claim exposure to cancer-causing chemical defoliants during ship deployments off that country's coastline, officials confirmed Tuesday.


During an appearance before the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, VA Secretary Robert Wilkie said he will not ask the Department of Justice to continue to fight the legal issue. Federal officials have until late April to appeal the decision, issued by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in January.

Wilkie emphasized that other federal officials could still offer arguments in favor of filing an appeal. But his recommendation is likely to be an oversized factor in any decision, given the potential impact on his department.


Letting the decision stand would give advocates for so-called "blue water" Navy veterans the victory they have been pursuing for more than a decade, arguing that thousands of ailing and aging Vietnam veterans have been unfairly blocked from collecting disability benefits for their on-duty injuries.


Under current department rules, the blue water veterans --- an estimated 90,000 individuals --- can receive medical care for their illnesses through VA. But to receive disability benefits worth up to several thousand dollars a month, they must prove that their ailments are directly connected to toxic exposure while on duty.
That's not the case for other Vietnam veterans, who are presumed to have been exposed to Agent Orange and other defoliants known to cause serious and rare cancers.


So while a veteran who served on the shoreline can receive disability payouts after contracting Parkinson's disease or prostate cancer, a veteran who served on a ship a few miles away would have to provide evidence of direct contact with hazardous chemicals.


The federal court ruling sided with advocates who said that proof is nearly impossible to obtain now, decades after the toxic exposures occurred.


VA officials had said that adopting new "non-scientific" standards for disability benefits could open a floodgate of new claims. But lawmakers for the past two years have worked on legislation narrowly tailored to the "blue water" Navy veterans issue, and are urging VA to drop it's opposition.


Wilkie's announcement received immediate praise from several members of the committee. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., called the recommendation not to appeal "a chance to bring fairness and justice to our veterans."


If the court decision stands, VA will be faced with a sizable bill in coming years to cover the new disability benefits claims. Congressional Budget Office officials had estimated the new awards could total about $1.1 billion over 10 years, but VA officials said the figure could rise to more than $5 billion.


Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee Chairman Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., said lawmakers will have to work closely with VA officials in coming months to address those costs. John Wells, retired Navy commander and the executive director of Military-Veterans Advocacy --- which helped file the lawsuit prompting the January court ruling --- echoed that plan.


"(Wilkie's) decision is consistent with what he has told (our group) privately," he said. "We thank him for bringing this tragic episode to a close, and look forward to working with him on issues dealing with implementation."

Mike Little, executive director for the Sea Service Family Foundation and a longtime advocate on the issue, called the announcement a "great day" for Vietnam veterans.


"VA owes all these vets and apology for the years they spent denying them benefits," he said. "Not appealing this court decision is the first step. I hope this decision brings peace of mind to those widows left behind."

The full decision --- Procopio vs. Wilkie --- is available at the appeals court's website.

Source:


https://www.militarytimes.com/news/pentagon-congress/2019/03/26/va-recommends-dropping-legal-challenge-over-blue-water-navy-veterans-benefits/


March 26, 2019 hearing - https://www.veterans.senate.gov/hearings/fiscal-year-2020-budget-for-veterans-programs-and-fiscal-year-2021-advance-appropriations-request


Secretary Wilkie March 26 testimony - https://www.veterans.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/VA-%20SECVA-%20FY%202020%20Budget-%20SVAC-%202019.03.26-%20Final.pdf

Procopio vs. Wilkie - http://www.cafc.uscourts.gov/sites/default/files/opinions-orders/17-1821.Opinion.1-29-2019.pdf

 

 

20190325: From Boulder Crest (non-profit):

Over the last two years, we have been working very closely with legislators to enact some congressional language that supports the science of posttraumatic growth in veterans care at the VA. 

Last week, Senator John Tester (D-Montana) presented the Commander John Scott Hannon VA Mental Health Improvement Act. Commander Hannon was a US Navy SEAL that took his own life last year. You can see a press release here

Also, On the Congress side, Congressman Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) and Congressman Steve Watkins (R-Kansas) are presenting legislation titled The Posttraumatic Growth Act at 9:30am next Thursday, March 28th on the front steps of the US Capital. We would love to have a big crowd at the event and hope that you can find the time to come over and witness this very special day.

Finally, please remember that both of these bills still have to be voted on, so any support you can provide to your legislators would be very welcomed. 

20190219: From Department Adjutant

Attached are our Legislative Priorities along with copies of the NEC Resolutions and historical information regarding our eligibility requirements; and if you check with www.Congress.gov you can find what early new information is available in the 116th Congress regarding; S.504 - A bill to amend title 36, United States Code, to authorize The American Legion to determine the requirements for membership in The American Legion, and for other purposes.

State Cdr Steve’s Op-ed, also attached, was sent to media but we haven’t seen it published yet.  He did send his AZ Legislative Council to meet with Senator Sinema the other night because she said she wanted more information and announced directly that she is sponsoring the non-partisan bill along with Senator Thom Tillis (R), NC. It has already been read twice and referred to the Committee on the Judiciary by the Senate.  Please ask your representative to co-sponsor this bill.

Please lend your prayers to this ongoing effort to recognize all Veterans who served Honorably in actions around the world, that were in response as warriors for our great nation.

Veterans who have not yet joined because of eligibility; please lend your prayers as well.  Please have your discharge verifiable documents ready, in the event that Congress agrees with us and adjusts our Congressional charter as honorable war-time veterans and recognizes everyone’s fight since December 7, 1941 until the cessation of hostilities.  We look forward to your being allowed to enroll in our great American Legion work.

Thanks,

Angel Juarez
State Adjutant
Arizona American Legion
(602) 264-7706  Fax (602) 264-0029
Twitter @ArizonaAdjutant
Facebook https://www.facebook.com/ArizonaLegion

20190214:  From VVA 1034: Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act (AMA)

The Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act (AMA) becomes effective Feb. 19. The law is one of the most significant changes made to VA and transforms how VA reviews disputes with VA claims decisions.

“VA has been preparing for full implementation of the Appeals Modernization Act (AMA) over the past 18 months,” VA Secretary Robert Wilkie said. “Our staff has worked diligently, particularly in the last few weeks, to ensure the new, streamlined process is available to Veterans in February.

Here are some facts you need to know about AMA:

1.      The AMA was signed into law by the president on stage at The American Legion’s 2017 national convention.

2.      Appeals modernization will transform the claims appeals process into a simple and timely process.

3.      The AMA gives veterans who disagree with a VA decision more options when it comes to appealing that decision.

4.      Under the new law, veterans will have three options for claims and appeals — supplemental claim, higher-level review or direct appeals to the Board of Veterans Appeals (BVA).

5.      VA aims to complete supplemental claims and higher-level reviews in an average of 125 days.

6.      Decisions appealed to BVA will average 365 days.

7.      Claims average three to seven years under the current process.

“VA remains deeply committed to helping veterans receive the benefits they have earned in a timely manner. The new appeals process honors this commitment by providing veterans more choice and control over how their claims and appeals are handled,” said Cheryl Mason, chairman of BVA.

Additional information about VA appeals modernization is available here.

20190207: Blue Water Navy Veterans - Act NOW

Alfred Procopio, Jr., v. Robert Wilkie: What Does This Mean for You?

(Washington, D.C.)--On January 29, in a 9-2 decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit ruled in favor of the veteran in Alfred Procopio, Jr., v. Robert Wilkie, finding the intent of Congress in the Agent Orange Act of 1991 was to extend benefits to all veterans who served within the territorial waters of Vietnam, 12 nautical miles from shore. 

The VA has 90 days from the Court's ruling to appeal this decision to the Supreme Court; and VA Secretary Wilkie has yet to announce how it plans to respond. 

In the meantime, VVA recommends those veterans who think they may have served on a vessel in Vietnam's territorial waters reach out to their local Veterans Service Officer to file VA Form 21-0966, Intent to File a Claim. If VVA is your representative, please go to Service Officer Locator on www.vva.org to find your local representative. If you do not wish to work with a service officer, you may fill out the VA Form 21-0966 form and submit it to the VA.

We recommend Blue Water Navy veterans submit the VA Form 21-0966 if they have never filed an Agent Orange claim or if they have been denied an Agent Orange claim. If you are a spouse of a Blue Water Navy veteran who died from an Agent Orange-related illness, we recommend you also file a VA Form 21-0966.

By submitting VA Form 21-0966, you preserve your effective date. You have one year from the day you submitted your VA Form 21-0966 to submit your claim for benefits. By submitting this form, you will be putting yourself in the best possible position while waiting to see how the VA responds to the Court's decision. 

To help your claim's success, we recommend you start gathering evidence such as deck logs, service records, or anything else that could help prove the location of your vessel. We will keep you updated on suggested next steps as we continue to learn more information.

20190130: Vietnam Era Blue Water Navy Good News  

https://www.militarytimes.com/news/pentagon-congress/2019/01/29/court-rules-va-must-pay-disability-benefits-to-blue-water-vietnam-veterans/?fbclid=IwAR3PiRTWBnslWqv7Mi6VoWvxeBVVknr6WE_CCJZebfh0ZQ0pj1wbpFSKYew

20190103: Ranking Member Roe Introduces the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019

https://republicans-veterans.house.gov/news/email/show.aspx?ID=47R27EIW2KLDT6ZSZLWFN2SN3Q

20181211: For Immediate Release: VVA Condems Obstruction of "Blue Water Navy" Bill by Sen. Enzi  /files/20181211_VVA_Press_Release_18-25_Blue_Water_Navy.docx

20180604:  From Unified Arizona Veterans: Summary of VA Mission Act provided by Chief of Staff McCarthy, VA Medical Center Phoenix.

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