The Association of the United States Navy takes a number of legislative and policy actions each month, and we’d like our membership to be kept up to date on our activities. This monthly update summarizes some of the actions we have taken on your behalf as an organization in July.
In addition to attending numerous calls and meetings with other Military/Veteran Service Organizations, VA Secretary Robert Wilkie, and other key officials, here are some of the highlights in terms of actions by AUSN this past month:
July 1: Military Spouse Career Education Act
The AUSN signed onto a letter led by The Military Coalition that supports the Military Spouse Career Education Act (HR 7112), which expands relicensure pilot program reimbursements and expands MyCAA to include continuing education credits. “While current spouse employment programs offer some financial assistance, they do not cover national testing or continuing education units essential to getting and keeping military spouses in the workforce,” the letter states. “This legislation includes this important expansion.”
July 2: PANORAMA Act
AUSN signed onto another TMC letter, this one supporting the PANORAMA Act (HR 6574), which is currently under consideration by the House Armed Services Committee. The bill would standardize collection, transparency, and reporting of demographic data in the military service academy congressional nominations process. We believe this bill will improve academy admissions and congressional nominations processes to promote the readiness, robustness, and diversity of the United States Armed Forces.
July 7: Toxic exposure
Toxic exposure is a chief concern to AUSN, which is why we signed onto a letter led by the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA) supporting the inclusion of four additional diseases to the Agent Orange presumptives list, helping our Veterans get the care they need. We are pleased to report that the Senate passed the bill as an amendment to the NDAA later in the month. The bill included three of the four diseases we requested.
July 8: Economic relief for non-profit organizations
Nonprofit organizations around the country are struggling as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, which is why we joined our fellow nonprofits in supporting a letter led by the National Council of Nonprofits urging the House and Senate to include nonprofit policy solutions in any COVID-19 relief legislation they pass.
July 13: Medical billets
Recently, the Navy and the other services announced a decision to cut military medical billets, which we — and many other MSOs/VSOs — found to be a concerning decision that should be reversed. We decided to sign on to a TMC letter to slow the military treatment facilities (MTF) restructuring and military medical billet cuts, and ensure more rigorous reporting requirements and Congressional oversight during the Military Health System (MHS) reform process. HR 6395 includes two provisions addressing these goals.
July 15: Homeless Veterans Assistance Fund Act
We are supporting a bill from Rep. Brad Schneider (IL), the Homeless Veterans Assistance Fund Act, that would assist homeless veterans through the creation of a Homeless Veterans Assistance Fund and the creation of a “check-off box” on the annual federal tax return form that would allow taxpayers to make a voluntary contribution in the amount of their choice to this fund. We endorsed this bill the last time it was introduced and are proud to do so again.
July 15: COVID-19 response
AUSN signed onto a TMC letter to Defense Secretary Mark Esper thanking him for his support of exchanges and Morale, Welfare, and Recreation (MWR) programs during the COVID-19 crisis. The letter urges him to further support the DOD policy issued on May 19 to use appropriated funds to reimburse some COVID-19 related expenses (with critical funding for these programs).
July 17: Arlington National Cemetery
Arlington National Cemetery has adjusted eligibility requirements due running out of space, which has raised some concerns for VSOs like us. AUSN supported a TMC letter that recommends grandfathering Arlington National Cemetery eligibility to account for those who have already intended ANC to be their final resting place. As ANC reaches capacity, we recommend non-contiguous expansion to facilitate burials and inurnments complete with military honors replicated from ANC where such individuals had been eligible.
July 30: AUSN LETTER: Disability benefits
AUSN submitted a letter to the House Veterans Affairs Committee supporting the Veterans Benefits Fairness and Transparency Act (HR 6493). This bipartisan bill would fix a significant problem created when the Veterans Benefits Administration removed disability benefits questionnaires (DBQs) from their website and closed offices, which made it difficult for Veterans to submit evidence that supports their disability claims. The bill addresses this issue by requiring the VA to maintain availability of DBQs on the VA website.
July 30: AUSN LETTER: Veteran PII shared online
AUSN sent a letter to the Navy privacy office after it was brought to our attention that the personally identifiable information (PII) of many Veterans is available online via the Internet Archives’ Wayback Machine and Google Books. We are concerned that this exposes Veterans to identity theft. The letter thanks the Navy for their efforts to scrub this information and urges continued efforts to do so.