Detachment of New Jersey

Legislative

Patrick Gallagher

Updated December 20, 2021


National Legislative Division Weekly


December 17, 2021


CONGRESSIONAL UPDATE


Once again, this week Congress proved it can move quickly when it truly wants to. On Tuesday, the Senate

voted 50-49 to raise the federal debt ceiling until after the mid-term elections. Just after midnight, in the

wee hours of Wednesday morning, the House followed suit with a 221 to 209 vote. The resolution raises

the debt ceiling by $2.5 trillion. President Biden signed it into law on Thursday.

The FY22 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) passed the Senate on Wednesday with bipartisan

support, meaning Congress has now passed an NDAA for 61 consecutive years. President Biden is expected

to sign it soon.

The House is now out of session until next year. The Senate may stick around for another week, mainly to

confirm judges and other political appointees. Thursday morning, Senate Majority Leader Schumer (D-NY)

took to the floor to chastise his Republican colleagues for holding up so many of the Administration’s

nominees, and vowed to see the process through.

On Tuesday, the Senate Armed Services Committee formally sent the nomination of Admiral Christopher

Grady to become the next Vice Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to the full Chamber. If the Senate is in

session next week, this could be on the agenda.

The Build Back Better Bill and election reform will be the first legislative priorities in the new year. Most

pundits expect that nothing else major will be addressed in the Senate until this is concluded.

AMERICAN LEGION SEES SIGNIFICANT WINS IN


2022 NDAA


The Senate passed a vital defense spending bill on Dec. 15, advancing the $768 billion Fiscal Year 2022

National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to the president’s desk for final approval. The sweeping

defense budget includes significant wins for The American Legion’s legislative agenda and the nation’s

veterans.

“There are a number of important initiatives in the NDAA that The American Legion supports,” American

Legion National Commander Paul E. Dillard said. “First, no military servicemember will receive a

dishonorable discharge solely on the basis of COVID-19 vaccine refusal. While we are supportive of the

vaccines, we do not believe a veteran’s military service should be characterized as ‘dishonorable’ simply

because he or she disagrees.

“The NDAA will also provide for a robust national defense and establish the long overdue Global War on

Terrorism Memorial. There is renewed funding for the Troops for Teachers program, which is not only a

win for our transitioning veterans but for students in classrooms across the country. The legislation also

makes strides in fighting military sexual assault and establish a commission that will examine every aspect


National Legislative Division Weekly


December 17, 2021


of the Afghanistan war. We are also pleased that this law makes it easier to preserve and update Arlington

National Cemetery memorials to military chaplains. The NDAA is a bipartisan example of lawmakers

coming together and putting our country first. The American Legion is looking forward to the president

signing it into law.”

Here are some highlights of critical importance to our nation’s veterans and military.

Troops to Teachers

The Troops to Teachers program was revived in the compromise version of the NDAA legislation approved

by the Senate. The American Legion lobbied lawmakers to include the program in the defense spending bill

after it was abruptly defunded as part of the Defense-Wide Review when the Department of Defense (DoD)

opted to realign program resources to higher priority programs more closely aligned to the National Defense

Strategy. The program was allowed to sunset on Sept. 30, 2021.

In a joint letter addressed to the House and Senates Armed Services Committee, The American Legion

joined a coalition of veterans service organizations (VSOs) urging lawmakers to include the program in the

NDAA.

“Allowing the Troops for Teachers program to sunset would go against America’s critical need to support

our children’s education,” they wrote.

The program was designed to assist transitioning servicemembers and veterans to begin careers as educators

in K-12 public, charter and Bureau of Indian Affairs schools. DoD reported the program placed over 21,000

veteran teachers in classrooms over the course of 27 years. The American Legion passed Resolution No.

21: Support State and National Funding for Troops to Teachers Program in support of renewing funding

for the Troops to Teachers program at both state and national levels.

GWOT Memorial

Another one of The American Legion’s top legislative priorities included in the defense spending bill is the

establishment of a Global War on Terrorism Memorial on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. In early

November, The American Legion joined veterans’ advocates, lawmakers, wounded warriors and Gold Star

families in front of the U.S. Capitol to call on Congress to pass legislation authorizing the memorial to be

built on the National Mall.

A national memorial for Global War on Terrorism veterans will become a place to gather, remember and

reflect. Veterans of past wars often did not live to see the completion of the memorials designed to honor

their service and sacrifice.

Marine Corps veteran Chanin Nuntavong, executive director of Government Affairs for The American

Legion, highlighted the sacrifices of the nearly 3 million veterans who have served in the Global War on


National Legislative Division Weekly


December 17, 2021


Terrorism. The gift of freedom, he said, is preserved by the men and women who fought for something

much greater than themselves.

“The warriors, whose sacrifice we admire every day, either laid down their lives or faced overwhelming

dangers – not to uphold one moment, but one nation,” he said. “The motivation that binds us – those of us

who have worn the cloth of this nation – is our respect for, and commitment to, those who have chosen to

put their lives before others.”

Sexual assault reform

The NDAA included changes to protect servicemembers from sexual assault. While The American Legion

supports the approved changes, it believes more work is needed to overhaul the military justice system amid

the epidemic of sexual assault and harassment in the armed forces.

The American Legion became the first major VSO to support the Military Justice Improvement &

Increasing Prevention Act. Supported by Resolution No. 67: Military Sexual Trauma, The American Legion

is an advocate of improving the system by which the DoD investigates and prosecutes reported cases of

military sexual trauma so that it is on par with the civilian system.

While the Military Justice Improvement Act did not pass in its original form, the legislation drafted by the

House and Senate Armed Services Committee makes strides in the right direction. The American Legion

supports the approved legislation, but asserts there is much work still to be done when it comes to reforming

the military justice system.

Afghanistan War Commission Act of 2021

The Afghanistan War Commission Act of 2021 creates a nonpartisan, independent commission that would

conduct a comprehensive examination of the war in Afghanistan.

“Congress owes the thousands of American servicemembers who sacrificed in Afghanistan a serious, honest

and long-term effort devoted to bringing accountability and transparency, which is why I’m introducing

legislation to create an independent, nonpartisan commission aimed at ensuring we learn from mistakes


made and implement reforms to ensure those mistakes are not repeated,” said Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-

Ill. The commission will examine every aspect of the war, according to the bill’s text, including the political


and strategic decisions that transformed a military mission into a nation-building campaign resulting in 20

years of involvement in Afghanistan.

Chaplain memorials

An American Legion-backed effort to preserve memorials dedicated to chaplains at Arlington National

Cemetery was also included in the NDAA. The Chaplains Memorial Preservation Act will enable the

National Conference on Ministry to the Armed Forces to update the chaplains memorials.


National Legislative Division Weekly


December 17, 2021


The memorials that rest atop a hill in Section 2 of Arlington National Cemetery honor chaplains killed in

World War I; Protestant chaplains killed in World Wars I and II; Catholic chaplains killed in World War

II, Korea and Vietnam; and Jewish chaplains killed while on active duty. The most recent addition to

Chaplain’s Hill honors 14 Jewish chaplains. Dedicated in 2011, its inscription reads, "They were swifter

than eagles, they were stronger than lions.”

American Legion Past National Commander Brett Reistad initiated the resolution by which The American

Legion supports these efforts in his home post located in McLean, Va. Resolution No. 17: Updates to

Chaplains Hill Monuments at Arlington National Cemetery was unanimously approved during the National

Executive Committee’s spring meeting.

Vaccines and discharges

Additional legislation in the NDAA supported by The American Legion includes a provision that will

prevent DoD from dishonorably discharging members of the armed forces based solely on their refusal to

be vaccinated against COVID-19.

Other matters impacting veterans in the NDAA include the observance of National Atomic Veterans Day,

a study on incidence of breast cancer among members of the armed forces serving on active duty, and

expanding the scope of Department of Veterans Affairs open burn pit registry to include burn pits in Egypt

and Syria.

STUDENT VETS TAKING REMOTE CLASSES NEXT

SEMESTER WILL STILL GET FULL GI BILL BENEFITS

Congress on Wednesday passed Legion-supported legislation to extend GI Bill protections for student

veterans still forced into remote classes by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, ensuring they’ll receive full

benefits until next summer. The move is expected to affect about 57,000 students currently enrolled in

degree programs, according to Veterans Affairs data.

At issue is how post-9/11 GI Bill benefits are paid out to students who attend college classes remotely,

rather than in-person. Students using the veterans education benefit receive money for tuition plus a monthly

housing stipend. Individuals enrolled in traditional in-person classes receive the full financial benefit, while

students in online-only classes get half of that housing stipend. But when the coronavirus pandemic

shuttered college campuses across America in spring 2020, that left tens of thousands of students worried

they may not have their rent payments covered because their classes were forced online.

The difference between half of a housing stipend and the full payout can range from a few hundred dollars

to nearly $2,000, since the payouts depend on the location of the student and school. Making up that

difference could force some individuals move out mid-semester or drop course entirely.


National Legislative Division Weekly


December 17, 2021


To avoid those types of financial problems, Congress granted VA leaders broad authority to continue paying

out the full housing stipends even if students had been forced out of the classroom. That authority was set

to expire on Dec. 21.

But the Senate on Wednesday passed legislation to push that date back to summer 2022, in recognition of


the ongoing transition from online to in-person classes. The measure, sponsored by Rep. David Trone, D-

Md., passed the House without objection on Dec. 8. President Joe Biden is expected to sign the measure


into law in coming days.


SENATE VETERANS' AFFAIRS ADVANCES


NOMINATION, HEALTH BILLS


The Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee sent 25 bills to the floor Wednesday by voice vote and advanced

the nomination of Kurt DelBene to be assistant secretary for information and technology. Up for debate

were bills related to improving veterans' experience and access to health services through the Department

of Veterans Affairs, including legislation to improve access to care for rural veterans, process claims for

veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder and improve veterans health facilities, among other things.

All the bills had bipartisan support, and there was little discussion during the swift markup. The bills

approved by voice vote included:

• Legislation (S 2533) by Committee Chair Jon Tester, D-Mont., to expand mammography services

furnished at the VA.


• A bill (S 2852) from Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., to authorize the VA to pay for care in non-

Veterans' Affairs medical foster homes for certain veterans who cannot live independently.


• A measure (S 3163) from Tester and committee ranking member Jerry Moran, R-Kan., that would

increase transparency of the medical disability examination program and authorize the VA to offer

contract examiners incentives to provide better services to rural and housebound veterans.

Nomination

DelBene, who recently retired from Microsoft, worked in the Department of Health and Human Services

during the Obama administration as a senior adviser to the secretary. While there, he led improvement

efforts on HeallthCare.gov and helped fix issues with the site's rollout.

Tester offered strong support for DelBene's nomination.

"I think this guy is top flight, and if we get him into VA, good things are going to happen," Tester said.

DelBene's ties to Congress are personal. He is married to Rep. Suzan DelBene, D-Wash.


National Legislative Division Weekly


December 17, 2021


NDAA VICTORY ASIDE, THE REAL PENTAGON MONEY


FIGHT AWAITS


Clearing the annual defense authorization bill Wednesday for President Joe Biden's signature came with a

reality check from the Senate’s top appropriator: The bill doesn’t actually include “one penny” for the

Pentagon. Senate Appropriations Chairman Patrick J. Leahy’s comments might have been news to some

more junior lawmakers on Capitol Hill, or possibly some senior ones as well, given the number of press

releases, floor speeches and tweets that hailed the authorization bill (S 1605) as a “spending” or “budget”

measure.

“The NDAA is a promissory note. The appropriations bill is the cash,” Leahy sought to remind anyone

listening. The Vermont Democrat’s comments briefly sum up one of the more convoluted aspects of the

annual budget and appropriations process — it's a multistep endeavor that Congress rarely undertakes in

order, or on time. And not all members always understand what’s happening.

The actual process of providing money to the Defense Department, and every other federal agency, is far

from over, Leahy cautioned. None of the dozen fiscal 2022 appropriations bills have become law due to

disputes over the split between defense and nondefense programs, as well as what policy riders ultimately

get attached to the bills.

Agencies are operating under a temporary stopgap funding law (PL 117-70) that runs out on Feb. 18, giving

lawmakers and the White House about two more months to figure out a plan, write the bills and push them

through both chambers.

The partisan differences were on display Wednesday when Senate Appropriations ranking member Richard

C. Shelby said the bipartisan authorized funding level in the defense bill — nearly $778 billion, a 5 percent

increase over last year — wasn’t enough. Democrats are unlikely to be on board with increasing the 5

percent boost for defense and national security programs, especially after Republicans in both chambers

endorsed the NDAA topline in large numbers. In the House, 194 out of 213 Republicans voted for the

defense authorization bill; in the Senate, only three out of 50 Republicans voted against it.

On Wednesday, Senate GOP Whip John Thune, R-S.D., said he was “very pleased” that “thanks in large

part to Republican efforts, Democrats and Republicans have agreed on a final number that will continue

our reinvestment in our military.”

Senate Armed Services ranking member James M. Inhofe said he wasn’t entirely sure what appropriators

would do, but said it was his “educated guess” they would go with the authorizing level.


UPCOMING HEARINGS

• There are no upcoming hearings for the remainder of the year.


National Legislative Division Weekly


December 17, 2021

MEETINGS


• On Monday, December 13, NLD Staff attended a VSO meeting discussing predatory claims

assistance and potential legislative solutions.

• On Tuesday, December 14, NLD Staff met with Veterans Education Success (VES) to discuss

legislative priorities.

• On Tuesday, December 14, NLD Staff attended a Costs of War Roundtable on the Geographic Scope

of the 2001 AUMF. More information is here.

• On Wednesday, December 15, NLD Staff met with the Reserve Officers Association (ROA) to

discuss legislative priorities.

• On Wednesday, December 15, NLD Staff attended a Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee markup

hearing.

• On Wednesday, December 15, NLD Staff attended an event hosted by the Quincy Institute for

Responsible Statecraft titled, “The Future of Counterterrorism: Start By Defining the Threat.” More

information and video is here.

• On Thursday, December 16, NLD Staff attended a VSO meeting to discuss MST claims issues and

the Servicemembers and Veterans Empowerment and Support Act.

• On Thursday, December 16, NLD Staff participated in a monthly House Veterans Affairs

Committee Mental Health Legislation Update call.

• On Thursday, December 16, NLD Staff participated in a working group Strategy session on 2002

AUMF repeal.

• On Thursday, December 16, NLD Staff attended an event hosted by the Quincy Institute for

Responsible Statecraft titled, “Debate: Should the U.S. Seek to Contain China?” More information

and video is here.

• On Thursday, December 16, NLD Staff met with TAL’s National Security Director to discuss a bill

regarding PTSD research with Israel.

Lawrence Montreuil, Legislative Director

The American Legion


I am Congressman Chris Smith’s Legislative Director and am writing to obtain your feedback on the military COVID vaccine mandate. Has your organization or membership formed views on it? Are you concerned about armed forces personnel being discharged or dismissed and losing access to their benefits? As you know, a general discharge even under honorable conditions renders service men and women ineligible for educational assistance, such as the G.I. bills.

We would appreciate hearing your thoughts and whether the American Legion would endorse the bill, attached. It has the following items:

  • Sense of Congress that the COVID vaccine should be voluntary
  • Requires no less than an honorable discharge or dismissal to retain their otherwise eligible pensions and benefits, including educational assistance such as G.I. bills.
  • Requires upgrading previously discharged or dismissed service men and women to an honorable discharge or dismissal

Also, Mr Smith wanted me share with you a few other items on the Afghanistan withdrawal, which includes a video hearing, resolutions and bills:





We are also planning on introducing our new Military Legislative Assistant in January. Stay tuned and hope you enjoy the holidays!

Please remember to let us know thoughts or opinions about the above and whether your organization would like to endorse the bill (HR 6288).

Thank you!

Best regards,

Mary

Mary Vigil

Legislative Director/Senior Policy Advisor

Representative Christopher H. Smith (NJ-04)


National Legislative Division Weekly


December 10, 2021


GRASSROOTS ALERT: OPEN THE VA TO ALL WII


VETERANS!


This Thursday, The American Legion Legion National Headquarters sent out a grassroots alert to NLC

members and Legislative Action Center subscribers encouraging members to call on their legislators to pass

the WWII Veterans Hospital and Medical Eligibility Act. The bill was introduced in both chambers, and it

is important that it passes before the end of the year. All Legionnaires are encouraged to contact their

legislators and share any testimonials with Legion staff for further highlighting.

TAKE ACTION NOW


THE AMERICAN LEGION TESTIFIES AT HOUSE

HEARING “REMOVING BARRIERS TO VETERAN HOME


OWNERSHIP”


American Legion Director of

Veterans Employment and

Education, Joseph Sharpe,

testified on Dec. 8 before the

House Committee on

Veterans’ Affairs

Subcommittee on Economic

Opportunity on the barriers

veterans face on the path to

homeownership.

Specifically, Mr. Sharpe

testified that the bias against

homebuyer using a VA home

loan is seen in current market

data and realtor surveys."


If you would like to read more about Mr. Sharpe’s testimony, click here.

Director of Veterans Employment and Education, Joseph Sharpe,

testifies at HVAC hearing regarding veteran home ownership.


National Legislative Division Weekly


December 10, 2021


ANNUAL HOLIDAY RECEPTION


The American Legion hosted its annual holiday reception


on Dec. 8. The event was supported by With Honor, a cross-

partisan organization that is dedicated to promoting and


advancing principled veteran leadership in order to recude

polarization.

SVAC Chairman Tester (D-MT) made an appearance and

gave a brief speech to celebrate this year’s legislative

accomplishments and reiterate his support for The

American Legion.

He specifically applauded The American Legion’s efforts

expand access to VA healthcare benefits for veterans who

have been exposed to toxic hazards while on active duty.

Chairman Tester concluded by saying that his door is

“always open” for help to push veteran affairs legislation.

Other attendees included fellow VSO members, HVAC and

SVAC professional staff, and many other members of the

veteran community. Guests enjoyed veteran-owned

brewery tasting, political themed cocktails, and food.


CONGRESSIONAL UPDATE


Facing a December 15 deadline to raise the national debt ceiling, Senate Minority Leader McConnell (R-

KY) agreed to allow a process that enables the Senate to act with a simple majority of votes this one time.


He had previously insisted that Democrats add the debt ceiling to their reconciliation package, which

remains mired in gridlock.

Thus, Tuesday night, the House passed a measure to change the Senate rules for raising the debt ceiling,

and to delay cuts to Medicare provider payments due to go into effect in the coming weeks. On Thursday,

McConnell marshalled sufficient GOP support to invoke cloture on the motion, with a 64 to 36 vote. Proving

that they can move quickly when they desire, by the evening, the Senate voted 59 to 34 to actually allow

the simplified measure (yes, the Senate has a lot of procedural votes).

The final vote to pass the measure, however, will not take place until next week in both the House and the

Senate.


Chairman Tester (D-MT) spoke at the event

and expressed his support for The American

Legion and veteran community.


National Legislative Division Weekly


December 10, 2021


Also on Tuesday, the House passed the negotiated version of the FY22 National Defense Authorization Act

(NDAA). Many provisions in the original versions of the bill were dropped to gain Republican support.

These include no requirement for women to register with the Selective Service (even though it was in both

the House and the Senate version); assurances of honorable discharges for COVID vaccine refusers; and

fewer changes to the military justice system surrounding sexual assault and equity, among many other

provisions. As a result, while the bill passed the House on a 363-70 vote, more Republicans voted for it

than Democrats.

The Senate is expected to vote on the negotiated version of the bill next week, with cloture invoked on

Thursday of this week. While Senators are technically allowed to offer amendments, everyone is fervently

hoping they refrain.

The FY22 NDAA would authorize $768.1 billion in defense spending, $25 billion more than requested by

President Joe Biden. The compromise bill (S 1605), worked out by leaders of the House and Senate Armed

Services committees, incorporates elements of the version (HR 4350) that passed the House in September

and the legislation (S 2792) approved by the Senate Armed Services Committee in July. The bill would

authorize a $740 billion base budget for the Defense Department, $27.8 billion for nuclear weapons

programs under the Department of Energy and $368 million for defense-related activities in other

departments.

Provisions in the bill for which The American Legion advocated and supports include:

• Saving the Troops to Teachers program. TAL story here.

• Afghanistan commission: The bill also includes a proposal to create an independent Afghanistan

War Commission to look at the complete history of U.S. government failures over two decades of

conflict. Anyone who was in a decision-making or policymaking role related to Afghanistan would

be ineligible to serve on the 16-member panel, so it would not include any former generals, anyone

who served in Congress at any time during the war or any former senior administration officials

whose portfolios included Afghanistan.

• Military justice revised: The NDAA that the House passed in September would have empowered

special prosecutors in the services to make decisions now reserved for military commanders on

whether to prosecute sexual and related offenses. The final measure does that while covering more

crimes, such as murder and kidnapping, in addition to sexual crimes, and it would make sexual

harassment a crime in the military. Moreover, the special prosecutors would be more independent

of the chain of command than in the original House bill. Under the final measure, commanders

would have the power to convene courts-martial, but the new prosecutors’ offices would be the ones

to decide whether or not to bring charges and whether to actually go to trial.

• GWOT Memorial is now authorized to be located on the National Mall. Previously, it was only

auithorized somewhere in the DC area outside of the Mall.

• Prohibits the DoD from dishonorably discharging servicemembers that aren’t vaccinated against

COVID-19.

• Chaplains Memorial Preservation Act to update the Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish chaplain

memorials at Arlington National Cemetery.


National Legislative Division Weekly


December 10, 2021


APPROPRIATIONS PRESSURE


House Appropriations Committee chair Rep. DeLauro (D-CT) has been quite vocal in her frustration that

Republican appropriators are not coming to the negotiating table to craft FY22 spending bills. The current

continuing resolution (CR) expires in February, but she does not want to wait until the last minute (again)

to take action.

Democrats overwhelmingly favor passing an omnibus to fund the entire fiscal year. However, some

Republican lawmakers have floated the idea of keeping the federal government on a full-year CR, under

the argument that this saves money. That action would prevent President Biden’s efforts to increase

spending on domestic programs. However, it would result in a reduction in the military’s spending power,

and would prevent the Pentagon from starting many of its modernization efforts. A full-year CR would

hamper government operations across the board, of course. For the Department of Veterans Affairs, it would

pose difficulties in expanding claims processing operations and create the risk of community care programs

running out of money.

The House Appropriations Committee is trying to put more public pressure upon Republicans to act. The

committee has created a public-facing clock counting the number of days without a Republican offer (as of

Thursday, the clock indicated 38 days).

This week, the committee also started distributing to the press letters written by various special interest

groups emphasizing the need for spending bills rather than a full-year CR.

UPCOMING HEARINGS

• There are no upcoming hearings for the remainder of the year.

MEETINGS


• On Monday, December 6, NLD Staff visited the Reserve Officers Association along with First

Degree to do a walk-through of the reception venue for TAL’s Holiday Reception.

• On Monday, December 6, NLD Staff attended a VSO meeting with HVAC staff and SVAC staff

discussing VA's caregiver program.

• On Monday, December 6, NLD Staff participated in a round table discussion with representatives

from the Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs on the implementation of the presumptive

process and toxic exposure.

• On Monday, December 6, NLD Staff met with Rep. Kilmer’s (D-WA) office to discuss a bill that

would build tiny homes for veterans.


National Legislative Division Weekly


December 10, 2021


• On Monday, December 6, NLD Staff attended an event hosted by the CATO Institute titled,

“Congress and War: Reclaiming Article I Powers” featuring U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D‐CT).

More information and video is here.

• On Tuesday, December 7, NLD Staff attended a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing titled,

“U.S.-Russia Policy.” Written testimony and video is available here.

• On Tuesday, December 7, NLD Staff conducted a virtual orientation for the new Legislative

Chairman on the staff’s ongoing legislative work.

• On Tuesday, December 7, NLD Staff met with VA and other VSOs to discuss the new toxic

exposure presumptive process.

• On Tuesday, December 7, NLD Staff attended a four corners Veterans Committee call on veterans

education. The call focused on the bipartisan agreement to pass the REMOTE Act, which would

extend COVID emergency protections to GI Bill students.

• On Wednesday, December 8, NLD Staff attended a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing

titled, “Future of U.S. Policy on Taiwan.” Written testimony and video is available here.

• On Wednesday, December 8, NLD Staff met with Higher Learning Advocates (HLA) to discuss

S. 864, the Jumpstart Our Businesses by Supporting Students Act of 2021.

• On Wednesday, December 8, NLD Staff hosted TAL’s Annual Holiday Reception.

• On Wednesday, December 8, NLD Staff attended Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee hearing on

the nomination of Mr. Kurt DelBene to be an assistant VA Secretary for information and technology.

• On Wednesday, December 8, NLD Staff attended the Annual Meeting of the Board of Directors of

The Citizens Flag Alliance.

• On Thursday, December 9, NLD Staff were honored to attend the viewing of Sen. Bob Dole lying

in state in the Capitol Rotunda on behalf The American Legion. Great appreciation to the Speaker

for including us. Really beautiful tribute.

• On Thursday, December 9, NLD Staff conducted it’s “Legislative Chairman’s Quarterly Call” with

all members of the Legislative Commission and National Legislative Council Vice Chairmen.

• On Thursday, December 9, NLD Staff hosted a meeting with Sen. Ernst’s (R-IA) office and a

Professional Staff Member on the House Veterans Affairs Committee, Subcommittee on Health to

discuss S.544, the Buddy Check bill.

• On Thursday, December 9, NLD Staff met with Sen. Booker’s (D-NJ) office to discuss his

sponsorship of the Vet Centers for Mental Health Act.

• On Thursday, December 9, NLD Staff attended a four corners Veterans Committee call on veterans

homelessness. Staff shared recent updates with the homeless population encamped at the West LA

VA campus.

• On Friday, December 10, NLD Staff met with Senate Veterans Affairs Committee professional staff

to discuss pending legislation affecting burial benefits for Guard and Reservists. .

• On Friday, December 10, NLD Staff attended an event hosted by Defense Priorities titled, “Refusing

to choose: Did the Global Posture Review fail?” More information about the 2021 Global PostureLegislative Conference Calls are bi-monthly, first Thursday of December. February, April, June, August at 7:00 pm Eastern time

There is a new call-in number listed below!

Call in Number 267-807-9601

Access 988 284 103#

“LEADERSHIP THROUGH ACTION…NOT POSITION”

Tom Deal

SAL National Legislative Chairman

Sons of The American Legion



National Legislative Division Weekly


November 12, 2021


GRASSROOTS ALERT: TELL YOUR REPRESENTATIVES


TO SUPPORT BUDDY CHECK WEEK


Last week, The American Legion National Headquarters sent out an alert to NLC members and Legislative

Action Center subscribers to call on their Representatives to introduce and pass the Legion’s Buddy Check

legislation, S. 544, in the House of Representatives. After one week of advocacy, the following numbers

were achieved:

Email Alerts Sent to Legionnaires: 23,487

Emails Opened: 6,313 (28%)

Messages Sent to Congress: 2,611

New Senders: 1,417

Congressmembers Engaged: 479

Highlight: Bravo Zulu to the Department of Kentucky for most increased campaign messaging. For the

Troops to Teachers campaign, Kentucky Legionnaires sent 46 messages to Congress. For the Buddy Check

Campaign, Kentucky Legionnaires sent 138 messages to their members of Congress, a 200% increase. Well

done!

Department grassroots engagements reports will be sent to Adjutants and Vice-Chairman beginning next

week. The campaign will remain open until passage of the legislation, and additional messages can be sent

on our votervoice page.


CONGRESSIONAL UPDATE


Rumors are swirling that the Senate will take up the FY21 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA)

early next week. The Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) marked up their version of the NDAA

last July, but did not officially release it until September, after the House Armed Services Committee

(HASC) finished work on its bill. The full House passed the NDAA in late September. Reportedly,

committee staff has already begun behind-the-scenes discussions to prepare the bills for conferencing.

However, many members of the SASC really want to see their bill on the Senate floor, in order to give

their colleagues a chance to weigh in on it and work to add their own priorities. In both 2013 and 2014,

the Senate went straight from committee to voting on a version negotiated with the House. Congress has

passed an NDAA for 60 years, and lawmakers are very focused on not breaking that streak.

In the meantime, HASC chair Rep. Smith (D-WA) tells reporters he cannot even get Senate Majority

Leader Schumer (D-NY) on the phone to talk about scheduling. “I called and asked. They told me to piss

off,” Smith told Politico reporter Connor O’Brien. Smith finds himself in the curious position of agreeing

with Senate Minority Leader McConnell (R-KY), who has been quite vocal in criticizing the delay in

bringing the NDAA to the floor.


National Legislative Division Weekly


November 12, 2021


Life will be tough for folks on Capitol Hill (again) this holiday season. As the year comes to a close, they

still have a number of big pieces of legislation to finish, not the least of which is the FY22 budget. Do not

forget: the continuing resolution (CR) expires on December 3, and the Senate has yet to even agree upon

topline funding amounts for each appropriations bill much less pass anything to send to conference with

the House.


DRUG PRICING DEAL


Congressional leaders have come up with a drug pricing deal for inclusion in the $1.75 trillion reconciliation

legislation. Under the compromise, the government could negotiate the price of up to 20 drugs per year by

2028. Only drugs that are no longer in their initial exclusivity periods would be included. Small biotech

companies could be excluded.

For all drugs, annual price hikes would be tied to the 2021 inflation rate. Companies would be fined for

raising prices higher than that not only in Medicare but also in private plans.

UPCOMING HEARINGS


• On Wednesday, November 17, at 10:00AM, the House Veterans’ Affairs Joint Subcommittee on

Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs and Subcommittee on Health and Oversight will hold

a hearing entitled, “Supporting Survivors: Assessing VA’s Military Sexual Trauma Programs.”

TAL will testify.

• On Wednesday, November 17, at 3:00 PM. The Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee will hold a

hearing to examine pending legislation.

• On Thursday, November 18, at 10:00 AM, the House Veterans’ Affairs Joint Subcommittee on

Oversight and and Investigations and Subcommittee on Technology Modernization hearing

entitled, “Modernizing VA’s Medical Supply Chain: Progress Mode?”

• On Tuesday, November 16, at 10:00AM, the House Foreign Affairs Committee will hold a

hearing entitled, “National Security Implications of Climate Change in the Arctic.”

• On Tuesday, November 16, at 2:00PM, the House Foreign Affairs Committee will hold a hearing

entitled, “The Biden Administration’s Policy Priorities for Latin America and the Caribbean.”

• On Wednesday, November 17, at 10:00AM, the House Foreign Affairs Committee will hold a

hearing entitled, “The FY22 Budget: State Department Counterterrorism Bureau.”

KEY LEGISLATION UPDATES


H.R. 1836: GI Bill and Reserve Parity Act

Bill Status: 11/4/2021 Reported (Amended) by the Committee on Veterans' Affairs

Co-Sponsors: 9


National Legislative Division Weekly


November 12, 2021


Staff Notes: H.R. 1836 was brought to the House Veterans Affairs Committee for markup, where it

underwent an amendment in nature of a substitute (ANS), which codified specific statutes of the bill.

Specifically, the ANS moved the implementation date from 2022 to 2026 and codified all federal duty

statuses except IDT (drill weekends) as eligible for GI Bill. The next step is a House floor vote, expected

before the end of the year.

H.R. 5562: A bill to amend title 38, United States Code, to expand eligibility for hospital care, medical

services, and nursing home care from the Department of Veterans Affairs to include veterans of

World War II.

Bill Status: 11/4/2021 Reported (Amended) by the Committee on Veterans' Affairs

Co-Sponsors: 1

Staff Notes: Now that the bill has been reported favorably out of Committee, the next step is a House floor

vote, expected before the end of the year.

S. 544: Buddy Check Week Act of 2021

Bill Status: 10/07/2021 Passed Senate without amendment by Unanimous Consent

Co-Sponsors: 21

Staff Notes: Now that S.544 has passed the Senate, it is awaiting action in the House Veterans Affairs

Committee. NLD staff is communicating with House side committee staff to have S.544 swiftly moved

through markup and/or an omnibus end of year bill. American Legion Media Relations will do media

outreach on this bill.

S.796: Protecting Moms Who Served Act of 2021

Bill Status: 10/07/2021 Passed Senate without amendment by Unanimous Consent

Cosponsors: 7

Staff Notes: Alongside S.544, this bill was passed via unanimous consent. American Legion Media

Relations will do media outreach on this bill.

H.R. 3967: Honoring our PACT Act of 2021

Bill Status: Reported out 14-11 of House Veterans Affairs Committee 6/24/21

Co-Sponsors: 49

Staff Notes: The House Veterans Affairs Committee marked up the Honoring Our Promise to Address

Comprehensive Toxics Act of 2021 and the bill was reported out to the full House.

S.J.Res.10 - A joint resolution to repeal the authorizations for use of military force against Iraq

Bill Status: Reported out of Senate Committee on Foreign Relations 08/04/2021

Co-Sponsors: 40

Staff Notes: Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has expressed support for repealing the Iraq

AUMFs and has promised to bring this bill to the floor for a vote before the end of the year.


National Legislative Division Weekly


November 12, 2021

MEETINGS


• On Monday, November 8, NLD Staff met with House Veterans’ Affairs Committee minority staff

on the DAMA and Health Subcommittees to discuss to upcoming House Veterans’ Affairs

Committee DAMA/Health Subcommittee joint hearing on veteran MST issues.

• On Monday, November 8, NLD Staff met with National Security Division Staff to discuss

legislative priorities of the second session of the 117th Congress.

• On Monday, November 8, NLD Staff attended a VSO meeting to discuss VBA claims, appeals, and

the Congressional Budget Office’s score of S.3003 the True COST of War Act.

• On Monday, November 8, NLD Staff met with Sen. Manchin’s (D-WV) veterans policy advisor to

discuss toxic exposure legislation and the Buddy Check Week Act.

• On Monday, November 8, NLD Staff attended a meeting with Senate Veterans Affairs Committee

professional staff members to discuss costs associated with the toxic exposure legislation

specifically the provisions of the COST of War Act that provide guidance on the presumptive

process.

• On Monday, November 8, NLD Staff was briefed by More in Common to discuss their findings

from their new Veterans and Citizens Initiative (VCI) study. The survey included a sample of 2,000

Americans and a sample of 537 veterans about how they are processing the end of the war.

• On Tuesday, November 9, NLD Staff participated in a National Security Powers Act Advocacy

Working Group to discuss legislative strategy for S.2391 - National Security Powers Act of 2021.

This Legion-endorsed bill is bipartisan legislation to reclaim Congress’s critical role in national

security matters.

• On Tuesday, November 9, NLD Staff attended a meeting with staff from the For Country Caucus

to discuss how veterans can access services from their elected officials when trying to solve

problems with VA benefits.

• On Wednesday, November 10, NLD Staff met with staff from the office of Sen. Tammy

Duckworth (D-IL) to discuss legislation the senator will re-introduce next week. The office is

seeking Legion endorsement for the Strengthening Citizenship Services for Veterans Act, a bill to

ensure that deported veterans who have successfully completed the preliminary naturalization

process can attend their citizenship interview at a port of entry, embassy or consulate without

navigating the complex process of advance parole.

• On Wednesday, November 10, NLD Staff met with First Degree and With Honor to discuss ongoing

plans for the holiday reception.

• On Wednesday, November 10, NLD Staff joined other TAL Staff to attend a cake-cutting ceremony

celebrating the Marine Corps’ 246th Birthday.

• On Wednesday, November 10 NLD Staff attended a House Agriculture Committee, Subcommittee

on Nutrition, Oversight, and Department Operations hearing on "Hunger Among Veterans and

Servicemembers: Understanding the Problem and Evaluating Solutions.”

• On Wednesday, November 10, NLD Staff met with Sen. Daines’ (R-MT) Veterans Policy Advisor

to discuss the Global War on Terrorism Memorial.

• On Thursday, November 11, the DC office was closed in observance of Veterans Day.


National Legislative Division Weekly


November 12, 2021


Lawrence Montreuil, Legislative Director

The American Legion

National Commander Fox, National Vice Commanders, National Executive Committeemen, Commission Chairman,

Legislative Update November 2021

The goals for Legislative Commission are as follows and status of those goals are below.

Legislative Goals for 2021-2022

  1. Increase Detachment Legislative Commissions

We are asking all Detachments to send us your Detachment Legislative Chairman now.

 

  1. Increase submissions to 20 for the George B. Evans Veterans Advocate of the Year Award

We are asking all Detachments to look for someone deserving of this award and submit their name to Legislative Commission by July 26, 2022

  1. Increase SAL participation in the Washington Conference and plan another event

The wreath laying is still being planned at this time.

 

The Legislative Commission is on track with our goals, but we need everyone’s help to achieve them. We need your Detachment Commission Chairmen’s name and e-meil address, we need GBE Award nominees in July and we need more participation in Wreath Laying Ceremony.

 

We get weekly Legislative updates from The American Legion Legislative Division and they are passed on each week. Please get these updates to all your members.

 

Legislative Conference Calls are bi-monthly, first Thursday of December. February, April, June, August at 7:00 pm Eastern time

There is a new call-in number listed below!

Call in Number 267-807-9601

Access 988 284 103#

“LEADERSHIP THROUGH ACTION…NOT POSITION”

Tom Deal

SAL National Legislative Chairman

Sons of The American Legion



The American Legion's "Buddy Check" program has been a great tool for our membership, and we were proud to draft legislation that expands this program to VA. The Senate has approved legislation that would make this a national program. Now, let’s make sure the House follows suit. If our Representatives don’t act before Congress recesses next month, it could be at least three months before they consider this legislation again. Or it could be dropped altogether. 

Join Our Action Campaign: Write Your Representative Now.

S. 544 would direct VA to establish a "Buddy Check Week," provide educational opportunities, materials, and references for veterans to learn how to conduct personal wellness checks, as well as require increased resources for the Veterans Crisis Line to handle any potential increased usage during the designated week. The bill is modeled after the American Legion’s “Buddy Check National Week of Calling” to connect veterans to better ensure that they receive the care they need.

The American Legion launched "Buddy Check Week" in 2019. It has since been expanded and encourages Legionnaires to conduct veteran outreach as part of their daily routine. The idea is to reconnect with veterans who may need assistance but don't know where to go or who to ask.

We’ve seen successful stories arise out of buddy checks, before and during the pandemic. Thanks to these efforts, older veterans have received assistance in getting food and medicine, as well as having a comforting voice to talk with even for a few minutes

Just think if that goodwill could receive the support of Congress and VA. The help veterans receive from buddy checks would skyrocket. You can help make this a reality by contacting your House representative to tell them to pass S. 544 today. It takes just a few moments by visiting this link.

The American Legion proudly supports this legislation, and asks that you call on your Representative to pass S.544 today!


National Legislative Division Weekly


October 29, 2021


CONGRESSIONAL UPDATE


Thursday morning, President Biden said a deal on the Build Back Better (BBB) legislation has been

negotiated. He urged all lawmakers to vote for the $1 trillion infrastructure bill on a bipartisan basis. Work

continues on the social programs spending bill, which is unlikely to gain any Republican support even as

Progressive Democrats push for more than what some of their colleagues are willing to fight to get passed.

Right now, the focus is on crafting a social program package that can pass the House. However, on

Wednesday, Senate Finance Committee chair Sen. Wyden (D-OR) issued a warning: “The deal is not done

until the Senate acts.” With so much riding on health care provisions, Wyden is an important figure here.

The topline for the social programs bill has dropped drastically during the negotiation process. One way to

do that without giving up a program is to put it in place for only a year or two, rather than the planned five

or ten. This puts Democrats at risk of convincing Republicans, who may be in the majority at that point, to

reauthorize programs that are not yet fully implemented or widespread enough to garner public support.

The $1.75 trillion social services BBB expands Medicare to cover hearing (Progressive Democrats had been

pushing for dental care as well). It also reduces premiums in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) marketplace,

and provides premium assistance to millions more people.

In the meantime, appropriators are looking to move ahead with an FY22 budget before the December 3

expiration of the continuing resolution (CR). House Appropriations Committee chair Rep. DeLauro (D-CT)

is reportedly convening a meeting next week with her ranking member, Rep. Granger (R-TX), and their

Senate counterparts, Sen. Leahy (D-VT) and Sen. Shelby (R-AL). CQ reports that the Senators hope the

meeting will help them finally agree on topline funding amounts between defense and domestic spending

bills. Shelby’s spokesman issued a statement this week that the meeting will only be productive if

Democrats walk away from poison pill provisions and reinstate legacy policy riders that were dropped from

the appropriations bills in this cycle. “Everything else is ancillary at this point in the conversation,” the

statement noted.


ACCOUNTABILITY FOR VA FUNDING


Thursday evening, the Senate passed, by unanimous consent, legislation calling upon the Department of

Veterans Affairs (VA) to submit a plan for obligating and spending money provided as part of the national

COVID-19 response. The VA Transparency & Trust Act of 2021 (HR 2911) passed the House on May 17,

and now heads to the President for enactment. Lawmakers have been vocal in questioning where and how

the Department will spend the large amounts of funds provided under the various pandemic-related

emergency bills passed by Congress over the past 18 months. This legislation requires that the VA submit

biweekly reports on obligations, expenditures, and planned uses until a week after all the money has been

spent. The VA Inspector General must also submit reports on the Department’s obligations and

expenditures. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) must submit interim and final reports on these

issues as well.


National Legislative Division Weekly


October 29, 2021


ISLAMIC STATE IN AFGHANISTAN COULD BE ABLE TO


ATTACK U.S. IN 6 MONTHS


(Courtesy of Reuters) - The U.S. intelligence community has assessed that Islamic State in Afghanistan

could have the capability to attack the United States in as little as six months, and has the intention to do

so, a senior Pentagon official told Congress on Tuesday. The remarks by Colin Kahl, under secretary of

defense for policy, are the latest reminder that Afghanistan could still pose serious national security

concerns for the United States even after it ended its two-decade-old war in defeat in August.

The Taliban, which won the war, are enemies of Islamic State and have seen its attempts to impose law and

order after the U.S. pullout thwarted by suicide bombings and other attacks claimed by Islamic State. They

include bombings targeting the minority Shi'ite sect and even an Islamic State beheading of a member of a

Taliban militia force in the eastern city of Jalalabad.

In testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Kahl said it was still unclear whether the

Taliban has the ability to fight Islamic State effectively following the U.S. withdrawal in August. The

United States fought the Taliban as well as striking groups like Islamic State and al Qaeda.

"It is our assessment that the Taliban and ISIS-K are mortal enemies. So the Taliban is highly motivated to

go after ISIS-K. Their ability to do so, I think, is to be determined," Kahl said, using an acronym for Islamic

State in Afghanistan. Kahl estimated Islamic State had a "cadre of a few thousand" fighters.

Acting Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi of the new Taliban government has said the threat from Islamic

State militants will be addressed. He also said Afghanistan would not become a base for attacks on other

countries. Kahl suggested al Qaeda in Afghanistan posed a more complex problem, given its ties to the

Taliban. It was those ties that triggered the U.S. military intervention in Afghanistan in 2001 following al

Qaeda's Sept. 11 attacks on New York and Washington. The Taliban had harbored al Qaeda leaders.

Kahl said it could take al Qaeda "a year or two" to regenerate the capability to carry out attacks outside of

Afghanistan against the United States. Democratic President Joe Biden, whose supervision of the chaotic

end to the war last summer has damaged his approval ratings, has said the United States will continue to be

vigilant against threats emanating from Afghanistan by carrying out intelligence-gathering operations in the

country that would identify threats from groups like al Qaeda and Islamic State.

Kahl said the goal was to disrupt those groups so that Islamic State and al Qaeda don't become capable of

striking the United States. "We need to be vigilant in disrupting that," he said.

Still, U.S. officials privately warn that identifying and disrupting groups like al Qaeda and Islamic State is

extremely difficult without any troops in the country. Drones capable of striking Islamic State and al Qaeda

targets are being flown in from the Gulf. Kahl said the United States did not yet have any agreement with

countries neighboring Afghanistan to host troops for counterterrorism efforts.


National Legislative Division Weekly


October 29, 2021


UPCOMING HEARINGS


• On Tuesday, November 2, at 10:00AM, the House Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Technology

Modernization will hold a hearing entitled, "Next Steps: Examining Plans for the Continuation of

the Department of Veterans Affairs Electronic Health Record Modernization Program."

• On Wednesday, November 3, at 10:00AM, the House Foreign Affairs Committee will hold a hearing

entitled, “Assessing Progress and Challenges in State Department Management, Operations, and

Reforms.”

• On Wednesday, November 3, at 3:00PM, the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee will hold a hearing

entitled, “VA and DoD Collaboration: Improving Outcomes for Servicemembers and Veterans.”


KEY LEGISLATION UPDATES


S. 544: Buddy Check Week Act of 2021

Bill Status: 10/07/2021 Passed Senate without amendment by Unanimous Consent

Co-Sponsors: 21

Staff Notes: Now that S.544 has passed the Senate, it is awaiting action in the House Veterans Affairs

Committee. NLD staff is communicating with House side committee staff to have S.544 swiftly moved

through markup and/or an omnibus end of year bill. American Legion Media Relations will do media

outreach on this bill.

S.796: Protecting Moms Who Served Act of 2021

Bill Status: 10/07/2021 Passed Senate without amendment by Unanimous Consent

Cosponsors: 7

Staff Notes: Alongside S.544, this bill was passed via unanimous consent. American Legion Media

Relations will do media outreach on this bill.

S. 1040: VA Access for WWII Veterans

Bill Status: Committee on Veterans' Affairs ordered to be reported without amendment favorably 7/28/2021

Co-Sponsors: 10

Staff Notes: On June 23 it was the subject of a SVAC Full Committee Hearing where it received VA

support. On July 28 it was ordered to be reported favorably without amendment during an SVAC Full

Committee Markup. It is now awaiting scheduling for a vote on the Senate Floor. This month, NLD staff

sent a letter to Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell requesting S.1040

be expeditiously scheduled on the Senate Floor for a vote.

H.R. 3967: Honoring our PACT Act of 2021

Bill Status: Reported out 14-11 of House Veterans Affairs Committee 6/24/21

Co-Sponsors: 49

Staff Notes: The House Veterans Affairs Committee marked up the Honoring Our Promise to Address

Comprehensive Toxics Act of 2021 and the bill was reported out to the full House.


National Legislative Division Weekly