Detachment of New Jersey

Legislative

Patrick Gallagher

Updated February 25, 2021

from the v.e.e committee

TOPIC 3a: TRACKING LEGISLATION

GI Bill Repair Act of 2020: To extend to black veterans of World War II, their surviving spouses,

and direct descendants eligibility for specific housing and educational assistance programs

administered by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs

(Tracked by John Kamin)

Resolution No.: None on file

Status: Currently on hold, has not been introduced

Homeless Veteran Coronavirus Response Act: The bill allows V.A. to use existing funds for a

broader range of services; authorizes the Department to collaborate with outside organizations to

facilitate shelters on its properties; loosens restrictions on Grant and Per Diem (GPD) payments,

and requires V.A. to ensure veterans participating in V.A. homeless programs have access to V.A.

telehealth services.

(Tracked by Ariel De Jesus)

Resolution No. 326: Support Funding for Additional Housing for Homeless Veterans with

Families

HR 6800, the Heroes Act: Allows VA to provide transport and purchase food, shelter, phones,

clothing, blankets, and toiletry items for homeless veterans; Authorizes VA to set up temporary

encampments on the grounds of V.A. Medical Centers to allow homeless veterans to shelter on

V.A. parking lots temporarily; Allows VA to provide reimbursements to social service providers

receiving grants for the costs of services for minor children.

(Tracked by Ariel De Jesus)

Resolution No. 324: Support Funding for Homeless Veterans

HR 1615: The American Legion supports legislation that would streamline and improve the

verification process for veteran-owned small businesses and veteran-owned small businesses.

(Tracked by Joe Sharpe)

Resolution No. 155: Support Verification Improvements for Veterans' Business

Status: Passed at the 2016 National Convention.

HR 2224: To direct the Secretary of Labor to prioritize services to homeless veterans with

dependent children in carrying out homeless veterans' reintegration programs and for other

purposes.

(Tracked by John Kamin)

Resolution No. 326: Support Funding for Additional Housing for Homeless Veterans with

Families

HR 1196, Jobs for Veterans Act of 2019: This bill allows an increased work opportunity tax credit

for employers who hire veterans who have been certified as discharged or released from active duty

in the Armed Forces after September 11, 2001, and who begin working for the employer after

December 31, 2019, and before January 1, 2024. This increased credit is in addition to any work

opportunity tax credit allowed to a veteran with a service-connected disability.

(Tracked by John Kamin)


Resolution No. 354: Work Opportunity Tax Credit Program

HR 7010, Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act of 2020: This bill significantly changes

the PPP loans' terms to be more advantageous to small businesses. Including more flexibility in

applying the loan to other expenses besides payroll and benefits and extending the time frame for

expending the loan.

(Tracked by Joe Sharpe)

HR 4625: To require education programs to be approved by the V.A. to abide by the Principles of

Excellence to include a ban on deceptive or misleading recruiting, clear information about total

costs and program requirements, accommodation for deployments, ensuring a point of contact for

veterans, and not being under a punitive action by an accreditor.

(Tracked by John Kamin)

Resolution No. 318: Ensuring the Quality of Servicemember and Veteran Student's Education at

Institutions of Higher Education

HR 6957: To direct the Secretaries of Defense and Veterans Affairs to treat a period of full-time

National Guard duty, performed in response to the national emergency declared on March 13, 2020,

by the President concerning COVID-19, as not shorter than 90 days.

(Tracked by John Kamin)

Resolution No.: Currently studying for appropriate resolution.

HR 4920 Department of Veterans Affairs Contracting Preference Consistency Act of 2020: is

a bill that would allow AbilityOne companies to keep their preferential treatment at the Department

of Veteran Affairs after 2016 with some compromises. The Senate initially sent it back to the House

after it was passed for changes. Those changes have been reconciled, and the bill cleared its last

hurdle before it is sent to the White House.

S. 2594: To amend title 5, United States Code, to modify specific requirements concerning service

and retirement for veterans’ Preference for federal hiring.

(Tracked by Ariel De Jesus)

Resolution No. 317: Enforcing Veterans' Preference Hiring Practices in Federal Civil Service

S. 3745, Coronavirus Emergency Borrower Defense (E-BD) Act: to require the Department of

Education to grant full student loan discharges to three specific emergency categories of defrauded

borrowers—specifically borrowers covered by:

(1) Department of Education findings against Corinthian.

(2) Department of Education findings against ITT Tech; and

(3) State attorneys general group discharge applications made before the date of

enactment.

(Tracked by John Kamin)

Resolution No. 82: Preserve Veteran and Servicemember Rights to Gainful Employment and

Borrower Defense Protections


TOPIC 3b: ACTION TAKEN ON LEGISLATION

Building Credit Access for Veterans Act: A bill to require the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to

carry out a pilot program to establish an automated process for obtaining alternative credit rating

information and other purposes.

(Tracked by Ariel)


Status: Draft Bill / Letter of Support submitted on October 13

HR 8426: Protecting Apprenticeship Training for Veterans Act: Currently, veterans must meet a

minimum number of apprenticeship hours to receive their Housing Allowance. Due to pandemic

work shortages, veterans in those programs now face a reduction or suspension in their stipend.

This would allow veteran apprentices who were laid off to roll over excess hours from a previous

month to meet the hourly requirement.

(Tracked by John Kamin)

Resolution: Resolution No. 25: Support and Expand Apprenticeship Opportunities for

Servicemembers

Status: Letter of Support drafted

HR 4941: Veteran Employment Transition Act” or the “VET Act” was sponsored by

Representative Andy Kim. The bill's last action was in the House on 12/02/2019; it was referred to

the Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity. The bill's goal is to improve the Transition Assistance

Program. The bill would allow certain veterans' service organizations to contact veterans regarding

benefits and better inform veterans of employment opportunities. The Service groups would inform

veterans of the benefits and employment opportunities with the Federal, State, and local

governments. The groups inform veterans of events in the area.

(Tracked by Ariel De Jesus)

Resolution No. 70: Improve Transition Assistance Program

Status: Letter of Support submitted

HR 7003: is a bill sponsored by Rep. Takano, Mark D-CA-41, and was introduced 05/22/2020.

The bill would authorize a pilot program in the Department of Defense to enhance efforts to provide

job placement assistance and related employment services directly to the National Guard, Reserves,

and veterans of the Armed Forces. The last action on the bill was 05/22/2020 and referred to the

Committee on Armed Services.

(Tracked by Ariel De Jesus)

Resolution No. 81: Transition Assistance Program Employment Workshops for National Guard

and Reserve Members

Status: Pending Letter of Support

Draft Bill: Veterans Educational Assistance Transparency and Accountability Improvement Act,

improve the G.I. Bill Comparison Tool ensures veterans, servicemembers, and their families are

better informed when choosing what educational institution is best for them.

Resolution No. 327: Support Further Assessment and Evaluation of Institutions of Higher

Learning to Enable Veterans to Make Informed Education Choices

Status: Letter of Support submitted

Draft Bill: JSF - To amend title 38, United States Code, to clarify the scope of procedural rights

of members of the uniformed services concerning their employment and reemployment rights, and

for other purposes.

(Tracked by Ariel De Jesus)

Status: We submitted written testimony for the July 23, 2020 hearing.

Draft Bill: USERRA Protections for State Active Duty - To amend title 38, United States Code,

extend particular employment and reemployment rights to members of the National Guard who

perform State active duty. Submitted written testimony to the Legislative Division.

(Tracked by Ariel De Jesus)

Resolution No. 315: Support Employment and Reemployment Rights of National Guard and

Reservists Returning from Deployment


Status: We submitted written testimony for the July 23, 2020 hearing.

HR 7111: Veterans Economic Recovery Act of 2020: Require the Secretary of V.A. to carry out

a rapid retraining program that provides eligible veterans up to 12 months of retraining assistance

for in-demand occupations. These 12 months of benefits would be equivalent to students' and

schools' payments through the Post 9/11 GI Bill.

(Tracked by John Kamin)

Resolution No. 316: Support Employment of Veterans in the Public and Private Workforce

Status: This bill was submitted for the July 23, 2020 testimony.

HR 7445: To expand eligibility for home loans from the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to individual

members of the Armed Forces reserve components.

Resolution No. 329: Support Home Loan Guaranty Program

Status: This bill was submitted for the July 23, 2020 testimony.


The American Legion's Washington Conference, held annually in our nation's capital, gives our organization's leadership a chance to meet with elected officials to discuss legislative initiatives and priorities important to Legion members and their families. It also provides a forum that allows Legionnaires to hear from senators, representatives, and officials from the White House and Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) as they address our members at the conference.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2021 Washington Conference will be held virtually, March 1-3.

MONDAY MARCH 1, 2021

Veterans Education & Employment Commission (VE&E) meeting

The Veterans Education and Employment Commission will hold its virtual meeting at Washington Conference starting at 8:30 a.m. Monday, March 1.

To join the VE&E Commission meeting virtually, register at this Zoom link.

Scheduled speakers will include:

8:55 a.m.

Richard Trumka, President, American Federation of Labor and Congress of Educational Organization (AFL-CIO)

9:15 a.m.

Sen. Tammy Duckworth, (D-Ill.)

9:45 a.m.

James Rodriguez, Acting Assistant Secretary of the Department of Labor (VETS)

10:30 a.m.

Boris Kun, Director, Workforce & Credentialing Programs, Department of Defense

1 p.m.

Charmain Bogue, Executive Director, VA Education Service 


National Security Commission meeting

The National Security Commission will hold its virtual meeting at Washington Conference starting at 9 a.m. Monday, March 1.

To join the National Security Commission meeting virtually, register at this Zoom link.

Scheduled speakers will include:

9:15 a.m.

MG William J. Walker, 23rd Commanding General of the District of Columbia National Guard on the posture of the National Guard.

10 a.m.

Brig. Aaron Dean, Adjutant General, Washington, D.C., National Guard on the State Partnership Program. 

10:30 a.m.

Kelly K. McKeague, Director, Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, Washington, D.C., and Fern Sumpter Winbush, Principal Deputy Director on the posture of the DPAA.


Legislative Commission meeting

The Legislative Commission will hold its virtual meeting at Washington Conference starting at noon on Monday, March 1.

To join the Legislative Commission meeting virtually, register at this Zoom link.


Joint National Security-VE&E panel discussion

4 to 5 p.m.

Securing the U.S. Industrial Base: Economic Security is a Matter of 21st Century National Security. John Berry, president of The American & Australia Association and a former U.S. Ambassador to Australia, will be the moderator for the session.

To join the VE&E-National Security panel discussion virtually, register at this Zoom link.

Panelists include:

  • Brad Markell, Executive Director, AFL-CIO Industrial Union Council, AFL-CIO Working for America Institute
  • Thomas Pickering, Vice Chairman, Hills and Co. Former U.S. Ambassador and Representative to the United Nations.
  • Joshua Walker, Ph.D., President and CEO, Japan Society
  • Richard Passarelli, Utility Workers Union of America (UWUA), National Director of Veterans Affairs

 

 

TUESDAY, MARCH 2, 2021

Veterans Affairs & Rehabilitation Commission meeting - Morning Session

The Veterans Affairs & Rehabilitation Commission will hold the morning session of its virtual meeting at Washington Conference starting at 10 a.m. Tuesday, March 2.

To join the morning session of the Veterans & Affairs Commission meeting virtually, register at this Zoom link.

Scheduled speakers include:  

10:00 a.m.

Morning Session Begins, Veterans Affairs & Rehabilitation Chairman Ralph Bozella

10:25 a.m.

Denis McDonough, Secretary, U.S. Department of Veterans Affiars (pre-recorded video presentation).

10:30 a.m.

Dr. Richard Stone, Acting Under Secretary for Health of the Veterans Benefits Administration (pre-recorded video presentation).

10:50 a.m.

Ron Walters, Under Secretary of the National Cemetery Administration.

11:10 a.m.

Thomas Murphy, Director for Northeast District, Veterans Benefits Administration. 

11:30 a.m.

Dr. Kenneth Kizer, Chief Healthcare Transformation Officer and Senior Executive/Vice President at Atlas Research.

  

Veterans Affairs & Rehabilitation Commission meeting - Breakout Sessions 

The Veterans Affairs & Rehabilitation Commission will hold its virtual meeting break-out sessions at Washington Conference starting at 12:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 2.

The Cemetery Committee will meet at 12:30 p.m. on March 2.

Renae Yates, Director, Office of Army Cemeteries, Arlington National Cemetery, is scheduled to speak at 12:45 p.m. 

To join virtually, register at this Zoom link.

The Health Administration Committee will meet at 12:30 p.m., Tuesday, March 2.

Andrea N. Goldstein, MALD, Senior Policy Adviser, Women Veterans Task Force, House Committee on Veterans' Affairs, is scheduled to speak. 

To join virtually, register at this Zoom link.

Veterans Benefits Committee will meet at 12:30 p.m., Tuesday March 2. 

To join virtually, register at this Zoom link.


Veterans Affairs & Rehabilitation Commission meeting - Afternoon Session

The Veterans Affairs & Rehabilitation Commission will hold the afternoon session of its virtual meeting at Washington Conference starting at 1:45 p.m. Tuesday, March 2.

To join the afternoon session of the Veterans & Affairs Commission meeting virtually, register at this Zoom link.

1:45 p.m.

Afternoon Session Begins, Veterans Affairs & Rehabilitation Chairman Ralph Bozella


WEDNESDAY, MARCH 3, 2021

The TBI/PTSD Suicide Prevention Committee meeting

The TBI/PTSD Suicide Prevention Committee will meet at 10 a.m. Wednesday, March 3.

To join virtually, register at this Zoom link.

Scheduled speakers include:  

10:10 a.m.

Matt Wetenkamp, Veteran Suicide Prevention Coordinator, Office of Suicide Prevention, Violence & Injury Prevention-Mental Health Promotion Branch  

10:40 a.m.

Kelley Tubbs, LCSW, Acting Transition and Care Management Program Manager, Washington, D.C., VA Medical Center.  

 

THURSDAY, MARCH 4, 2021

10 a.m.

National Commander’s Testimony

National Commander Oxford and several commission chairmen will be in DC to personally provide this testimony. We will livestream this event and the link will be on our website: www.legion.org.

 

Contacting Senators or Representatives Concerning Legion Issues

"Know Before You Go" will be a video on our website covering the top legislative issues of concern to The American Legion. All members attending virtual meetings will be asked to view the video.

Contact information for members of Congress will be posted on our website. All viewing the video will be asked to contact their congressmen.

In addition, specific Legislative council members will receive an email from the national commander, asking that they watch the Know Before You Go video and then contact their congressman concerning our hot issues.

 

DSO School, Winter 1: March 8-26, 2021

(virtual event -- information will be shared with potential participants)

DSO School, Winter 2: April 5-23, 2021

(virtual event -- information will be shared with potential participants)


Check back to this page for details about virtual meetings, the commander's testimony before Congress and more.



LEGISLATIVE DIVISION UPDATE

Week Ending February 19, 2021


** The 117th Congress, 1 Session Legislative Agenda Trifold is available here **


Congress

Congress was not in session this week. However, several committees took advantage of available

virtual formats to hold hearings on a variety of topics.

The House Budget Committee is scheduled to mark up the $1.9 trillion reconciliation bill containing

President Biden’s COVID relief package next Monday afternoon, with hopes it gets to the floor later

in the week. There are reports that the bill, as it currently stands, will need to be pared back somewhat


in order to fit within the stated topline dollar amount. Staff continues to aim for completion by mid-

March.


The White House will not commit to when the President’s “skinny budget” will be submitted to

Congress, in order to kick off the FY22 budget cycle. According to news reports, the Office of

Management and Budget (OMB) is requiring the Pentagon to submit its budget by April 12. Per this

internal guidance, the President’s budget would be released May 3, which could change as things

progress.

This week, Senate Armed Services Committee chair Sen. Reed (D-RI) told reporters the pandemic

will put pressure on the entire federal budget. This will likely result in efforts to force more efficiency

in Defense spending, including the elimination of legacy programs. House Armed Services

Committee chair Rep. Smith (D-WA) has made similar comments in the past. Neither lawmaker

supports making across-the-board cuts to the military, preferring to be more targeted and purposeful

in looking for spending reductions. Rep. Calvert (R-CA) wants DoD to reduce the number of civilian

employees in order to save money. He has introduced legislation to reduce the civilian workforce by

15% and to cap the number of Senior Executive Service (SES) employees at 1,000 by FY25, and to

maintain that staffing level through FY29. Calvert told reporters he thinks the reductions could be

achieved through attrition, although the Defense Secretary would be authorized to use incentives to

get people to leave or retire early. Many Republicans, however, agree with Rep. Rogers (R-KY),

who continues to push for a three to five percent increase in Defense spending. This is the level

Pentagon leaders say is needed to fulfill the National Defense Strategy (NDS).

Upcoming Hearings

• On Wednesday, February 24, at 1:30 PM, the House Committee on Foreign Affairs will


conduct a hearing titled: America Forward: Restoring Diplomacy and Development in a

Fracturing World. More information is available here.

• On Thursday, March 4, at 10:00 AM, National Commander Oxford will testify before a joint

session of the House and Senate Committees on Veterans Affairs. The testimony will take

place virtually and will be livestreamed via a link available on Legion.org.

Grassroots

The National Legislative Division (NLD) uses VoterVoice as its advocacy platform for connecting

American Legion members with members of Congress. From February 13th to February 19th two

(2) member subscribed to receive action alerts while zero (0) unsubscribed. There are now 24,984

members and supporters signed up to receive action alerts.

Appointments to the National Legislative Council are two-year terms that conclude on December

31st of even years. The National Commander, with recommendations from the Departments, appoints

and reappoints Legionnaires with working relationships with their member of Congress to be the

Legionnaire at the local level to work directly with their member of Congress to relay the national

priorities of The American Legion. Departments were asked to reply with new appointments by

January 15, 2021 to grassroots@legion.org. The following Departments have not submitted

updated rosters: Hawaii, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, and New Mexico.

Legislative AARs

• From Monday, February 15 to Friday February 19, National Legislative Division staff continued

preparations for the upcoming 117th Congress, to include updating the Legislative Agenda,

writing Point Papers, and drafting campaign plans.

• From Monday, February 15 to Friday February 19, NLD Staff continued writing the National

Commander’s Testimony for 2021. This included multiple meetings between staff and respective

divisions to coordinate this document.

• On Monday, February 15, NLD staff participated in a VSO meeting on VBA Claims, Appeals,

and Legislative concerns.

• On Tuesday, February 16, NLD staff participated in a Government Affairs Weekly Leadership

Meeting.

• On Tuesday, February 16, NLD staff participated in the TEAM Coalition monthly meeting to

discuss issues regarding veteran toxic exposures.

• On Tuesday, February 16, NLD staff participated in a book event hosted by the Foreign Policy

Research Institute featuring Margaret MacMillan on her new book, “War: How Conflict Shaped

Us.” She discussed when war first started, if war is human nature, and if war is within our control.

You can watch the recording here.

• On Wednesday, February 17, NLD staff hosted a call with Rep. Luria’s office to discuss the

backlog of C&P Exams.

• On Wednesday, February 17, NLD staff coordinated with the other respective divisions and led

the recording of the “Know Before You Go” which will be available to view during Washington

Conference.


Lawrence Montreuil, Legislative Director

The American Legion

LEGISLATIVE DIVISION UPDATE

Week Ending February 12, 2021


** The 117th Congress, 1 Session Legislative Agenda Trifold is available here **

Congress

Congressional Democrats have turned to budget reconciliation to pass the Biden Administration’s

$1.9 trillion COVID relief package. This is not a new procedure, with Republicans having used it to

pass the previous Administration’s tax cuts.

The federal budget process typically kicks off with submission of the President’s budget. President

Biden has not yet submitted one. However, Congress passed its own budget resolution last week,

and that forms the basis of what is happening now. A budget resolution is a governing blueprint to

guide the federal government and Congress. It typically covers five or ten fiscal years, and sets out

new budget authority and outlays, revenues, surplus or deficit, and public debt levels. Once passed,

committees receive portions on which to work. The President does not have to sign this into law once

both the House and the Senate pass it. In addition, the Senate does not require 60 votes for passage;

it only takes a simple majority to pass.

Reconciliation instructions are an optional component of the budget resolution. It must include which

committees are being instructed, a budget target for each committee, and a deadline for reporting

recommendations. The instructions cannot direct policy outcomes, as it is up to the authorizing

committees to set policy. However, policy assumptions generally inform the budget targets. The

current reconciliation bill is expected to be on the President’s desk by the middle of March.

House committees spent part of this week marking up their sections of the budget resolution as part

of reconciliation. The House is on target for completing its work by the end of this month. Democrats

aim to get the final bill, which includes the Administration’s $1.9 trillion COVID relief package, to

the President’s desk by March 15. House Speaker Pelosi (D-CA) says President Biden will not

address a joint session of Congress until after the COVID bill is completed. Generally, a President

does not make a formal State of the Union address in the first year of a term, since they had just made

an Inaugural Address. Instead, there is a slightly different address to a joint session.

Pelosi extended remote voting for Members until April 4, due to the pandemic. Proxy voting began

in the last session, and was allowed to continue in the 117th Congress as part of the rules package

passed on January 4. That package only extended the practice until February 18, but the House Acting

Sergeant at Arms formally notified Pelosi the public health emergency remains in effect. Thus, proxy

voting can continue.


VA in the Reconciliation Process

The House Veterans Affairs Committee (HVAC) on Thursday marked up their portion of the

reconciliation package. As part of reconciliation, each committee with jurisdiction over some of the

package’s provisions must meet and mark up their section. The HVAC’s portion includes the

following provisions:

o $13.482 billion for the VA’s provision of medical care and veterans’ health needs. The money

would be available until the end of FY23. Up to $4 billion of that may pay for care provided

in the community, rather than directly from a VA provider.

o The VA may waive copayments for treatment provided to eligible veterans. The provision is

retroactive to April 6, 2020, when the Department first paused medical billing, and runs until

September 30, 2021. The VA is authorized to reimburse any veterans who already submitted

payments for their care during this period. The bill provides $2 billion for the VA to carry

out this provision.

The reconciliation package includes a number of non-health care provisions, as well:

o $272 million to mitigate the pandemic’s impacts on the benefits claims and appeals backlog;

o $100 million for information technology investments to accelerate the Department’s supply

chain modernization efforts;

o $500 million for the VA to provide construction funds to states for projects to upgrade and

enhance the safety and operation of state veterans homes, as long as the states match those

funds;

o $250 million for one-time emergency payments to support state veterans homes, which are

to be allocated based on the number of eligible veteran residents in each home;

o $10 million for the VA Office of Inspector General to provide oversight on how the

reconciliation package funding is spent; and

o $400 million of up to 12 months of retraining assistance for veterans unemployed due to the

pandemic, but who do not have other veteran education benefits. This money will cover the

cost of the training program and provide a housing allowance while the veteran is

participating.

Before starting the full markup, the committee held a short organizational meeting to officially

appoint subcommittee chairs, ranking members and members. Notably, Rep. Ruiz (D-CA) is joining

the committee. He has a history of addressing issues of toxic exposures among service members.

The subcommittee chairs and ranking members for the 117th Congress are as follows:

o Health:

oChair: Rep. Brownley (C-CA)

oRanking Member: Rep. Bergman (R-MI)

o Oversight and Investigations:

oChair: Rep. Pappas (D-NH)

oRanking Member: Rep. Mann (R-KS)


o Technology Modernization:

oChair: Rep. Mrvan (D-IN)

oRanking Member: Rep. Rosendale (R-MT)

o Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs:

oChair: Rep. Luria (D-VA)

oRanking Member: Rep. Nehls (R-TX)

o Economic Opportunity:

oChair: Rep. Levin (D-CA)

oRanking Member: Rep. Moore (R-AL)


Committee chair Rep. Takano (D-CA) said, in the coming year, they must work to account for

service members’ toxic exposures during their military service. He also wants to do more to ensure

equality in veterans’ access to benefits. That will mean hearing from organizations that represent

traditionally underserved communities.

Committee ranking member Rep. Bost (R-IL) said he wants to focus on improving health services

for women veterans, and streamlining and easing the transition process out of the military into the

civilian world. He wants to ensure the VA’s implementation of a new electronic health record goes

smoothly. Among other priorities, Bost stressed the importance of continuing to work to prevent

suicide among veterans.

Upcoming Hearings

 On February 17th, the House Armed Services Committee will hold a hearing titled “Update on

the Department of Defense’s Evolving Roles and Mission in Response to the COVID-19

Pandemic.”

Grassroots

The National Legislative Division (NLD) uses VoterVoice as its advocacy platform for connecting

American Legion members with members of Congress. From February 6th to February 12th seven

(7) member subscribed to receive action alerts while zero (0) unsubscribed. There are now 24,982

members and supporters signed up to receive action alerts.

Appointments to the National Legislative Council are two-year terms that conclude on December

31st of even years. The National Commander, with recommendations from the Departments, appoints

and reappoints Legionnaires with working relationships with their member of Congress to be the

Legionnaire at the local level to work directly with their member of Congress to relay the national

priorities of The American Legion. Departments were asked to reply with new appointments by

January 15, 2021 to grassroots@legion.org. The following Departments have not submitted

updated rosters: Hawaii, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, New Mexico, and Washington.

Washington Conference

Due to safety precautions, American Legion National Commander Oxford has determined the 2021

Washington Conference will be conducted virtually.


The National Legislative Commission meeting is scheduled for Monday, March 1, 2021, at 12:00

pm EST via Zoom. A Zoom link will be available for the general public to view the meeting on the

Legion Washington Conference website.

The “Know Before You Go” will be recorded before hand and a link to it will be on the Legion

Washington Conference webpage. You can find the Legislative Agenda we will be discussing at:

https://www.legion.org/legislative/agenda.

Legislative Council members are still expected to meet virtually with members of Congress and their

staff via phone or any other appropriate communication. Legislative Council Vice Chairmen will

receive a list of congressional contacts to distribute to members of the Council. After meeting with

members of Congress and their staff, Legion Council Members will be required to fill out a

Congressional Contact Report Form online at: https://www.legion.org/legislative/aar

Commander Oxford will still deliver testimony to a joint session of the House and Senate

Committees on Veterans Affairs, but a date has not been confirmed yet. The testimony will take

place either virtually or on Capitol Hill – the latter being a closed event with no audience. The

testimony will be livestreamed, and each American Legion department will receive notification of

how to access that when it is finalized.

Legislative AARs

 From Monday, February 8 to Friday, February 12, NLD Staff continues to prepare for The

American Legion’s Washington Conference.

 From Monday, February 8 to Friday, February 12, NLD staff began finalizing the Legislative

Point Papers for the 1st session of the 117th congress. Once approved, the point papers will be

distributed to all members of the Legislative Commission and Council. They will also be as

posted on the TAL website prior to Washington Conference.

 On Monday, February 8, NLD staff sent letters to all members of Congress to welcome them to

the 117th Congress.

 On Monday, February 8, NLD staff participated in a joint VSO conference call to discuss

coordinating efforts on a variety of issues concerning the Veterans Benefits Administration.

 On Monday, February 8, NLD staff hosted a call with the office of Rep. Lee Zeldin (NY-1) to

discuss the reintroduction in the new Congress of the PFC Joseph P. Dwyer Peer Support

Program Act, a bill the Legion supported in the last Congress.

 On Tuesday, February 9, NLD staff met with the Head of Military & Veterans Affairs for Booz

Allen Hamilton to discuss The American Legion’s 2021 Legislative Agenda to explore areas of

synergy and opportunity.

 On Wednesday, February 10, NLD staff hosted a call with several divisions and First Degree to

coordinate and plan the upcoming campaign on Citizenship for Honorable Service.

 On Wednesday, February 10, NLD staff coordinated with the other respective divisions and led

the recording of the “Know Before You Go” which will be available to view during Washington

Conference.

 On Thursday, February 11, NLD staff hosted a call with the VA&R division to facilitate the

development of a more robust women veterans portfolio and to discuss a number of women

veterans issues that will be discussed in the 117th Congress.


 On Thursday, February 11, NLD staff attended a House Veterans’ Affairs Committee meeting to

organize for the 117th Congress and consider legislative proposals to comply with the reconciliation

directive in the Concurrent Resolution on the Budget for FY2021.

 On Friday, February 12, NLD staff participated in a meeting with IT to coordinate arrangements and

logistics for Commander’s Testimony.

 On Friday, February 12, NLD staff briefed The American Legion Personnel Committee.


Lawrence Montreuil, Legislative Director

The American Legion


SAL National Legislative Commission

SAL Legislative Commission Conference Call

Conference Call

Thursday February 4, 2021 7PM EDT

Call In # 712-775-7031 Access 988 284 103#

Agenda

Welcome & Roll Call

Commission Members: Chairman Tom Deal

Vice Chairman Mike Monserud (IA)

Bernie Kessler (OH)

Bill Kelley (FL)

David Lee (NY)

Richard Humphrey (CO)

Asst Adjutant – David Ridenhour

Opening Statement by Chairman

Discussion of Corona Virus and keeping everyone safe.

Old Business

Resolutions: We are refining the two resolutions that were submitted from Legislative

Commission for National Chaplain and Legislative Commission.

The George B. Evans Veterans Advocate of the Year Award needs more visibility.

Powerpoint Slide update.

New Business:

Washington Conference 2021 is virtual this year.

No Wreath Laying Ceremony.

Commission members to speak

NVC Conference Call assignments:

East: David Lee

South: Bill Kelly

Central: Mike Monserud

Midwest: Bernie Kessler

West: Richard Humphrey


Legislative Conference Calls: The Legislative Commission will continue bi-

monthly calls on the first Thursday of the month in then following dates: April,

June and August. Calls will be at 7:00 pm eastern time.

We had Bi-monthly conference calls are now on 1 st Thursday of the month on the

even months.

Question & Answer Session

Next Conference Call - April 1, 2021 at 7 pm eastern time.


LEGISLATIVE DIVISION UPDATE

Week Ending February 5th, 2021


Congress

Senate Majority Leader Schumer (D-NY) and Minority Leader McConnell (R-KY) on Wednesday

reached a power sharing agreement for running the equally divided Senate. Last week, two

Democratic Senators declared they would never vote in favor of eliminating the filibuster, a key

concern for McConnell. The new agreement enables Democrats to take the gavel in all committees,

which should smooth the way for more confirmation hearings on President Biden’s appointees.

While most confirmations had been moving smoothly already, Sen. Graham (R-SC) was refusing to

hold a hearing on Merrick Garland, the nominee for Attorney General.

The Senate is gearing up for the impeachment trial, with both sides filing initial briefs this week.

Both Republican and Democratic leaders expect the trial to be short, lasting only a few days, possibly

without even any witnesses being called. On Thursday, impeachment manager Rep. Raskin (D-MD)

requested that Trump testify under oath, either before or during the trial. Within hours, the former

President issued his refusal. At the moment, the Senate is busily considering and confirming Biden’s

political appointees, and the trial would bring that momentum to a halt. Sen. Kaine (D-VA) is still

working to craft a censure resolution that could possibly be passed instead of going through with a

trial that is likely to result in another acquittal for Trump.

In other legislative news, the House on Wednesday narrowly passed a budget resolution, on a 218 to

212 vote. No Republicans supported the resolution, and two Democrats voted against it. This sets

the stage for the use of reconciliation to take up President Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID supplemental

plan. The President spent a good part of his week speaking with lawmakers from both sides of the

aisle to drum up support for either his plan or to find a bipartisan compromise.

The Senate took up the resolution on Thursday, sparking the DC tradition known as a “vote-a-rama,”

in which Senators introduce a long series of amendments for roll call votes. The capstone of those

amendments was submitted by Sen. Whitehouse (D-RI), calling for the elimination of vote-a-ramas.

During that process, Sen. Murray (D-WA) cast her 9,000th Senate roll call vote.

House Armed Services Committee creates new subcommittee

The HASC on Wednesday announced creation of a new Subcommittee on Cyber, Innovative

Technologies and Information Systems (CITI). Its jurisdiction will include all things concerning

cyber operations and information technology systems and operations, as well as artificial

intelligence, electromagnetic spectrum policy, and electronic warfare policy.


Rep. Langevin (D-RI) will chair the new subcommittee. Rep. Stefanik (R-NY) will join him as

ranking member. The two previously led the Intelligence, Emerging Threats and Capabilities (IETC)


Subcommittee.

The IETC Subcommittee has been replaced by the Intelligence and Special Operations

Subcommittee. Rep. Gallego (D-AZ) is chairing it, with Rep. Kelly (R-MS) as ranking member.

Upcoming Hearings

No available hearings at this time.

Grassroots

The National Legislative Division (NLD) uses VoterVoice as its advocacy platform for connecting

American Legion members with members of Congress. From January 30th to February 5th three (3)

member subscribed to receive action alerts while zero (0) unsubscribed. There are now 24,975

members and supporters signed up to receive action alerts.

Legislative AARs

 National Legislative Division staff continues preparations for the upcoming 117th Congress, to

include updating the Legislative Agenda, writing Point Papers, and drafting campaign plans.

 On Monday, February 1, NLD staff participated in a joint VSO conference call to discuss

coordinating efforts on a variety of issues concerning the Veterans Benefits Administration.

 On Tuesday, February 2, NLD staff attended The House Committee on Veterans Affairs

Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity’s monthly Student Veterans conference call discussing

current legislative efforts that effect student veterans and their families. The subcommittee is

currently focused on emergency legislation to get veterans back to work through reeducation and

training programs.

 On Wednesday, February 3, NLD staff attended the VA’s monthly Center for Women Veterans

call to discuss new projects, initiatives, and goals under the new administration. This was also an

introductory meeting of possible new leadership, roles, and responsibilities to come.

 On Wednesday, February 3, NLD staff attended an internal meeting with VA&R to discuss the

way forward for System Worth Saving, telehealth, and peer support programs. This call was

extremely beneficial because VA&R Chairman Bozella was able to voice concerns that he has

personally received from veterans regarding the effectiveness of telehealth and other virtual VA

services to staff directly.

 On Wednesday, February 3, NLD staff participated in a joint VSO conference call with VA staff

to discuss ongoing issues and concerns with the Board of Veterans' Appeals.

 On Thursday, February 4, NLD staff participated in the Women Veterans Task Force VSO

Huddle that discussed outstanding legislation that still needs to be introduced and passed

regarding women veterans.

 On Thursday, February 4, NLD staff and the rest of the DC office had a meeting to finalize

preparations for the Washington Conference.

Lawrence Montreuil, Legislative Director

The American Legion


LEGISLATIVE DIVISION UPDATE

Week Ending January 29, 2021


Congress

After five days of stalled negotiations, Senate Majority Leader Schumer (D-NY) and Minority

Leader McConnell (R-KY) moved ahead on Tuesday on setting the rules for how to operate in an

evenly divided Chamber. For the most part, they will be following the rules in place for the 2001

session. McConnell had been pushing for a promise that Schumer will not eliminate the filibuster,

which requires that 60 Senators agree for most votes. While he did not get a guarantee, both Sen.

Manchin (D-WV) and Sen. Sinema (D-AZ) say they will not vote to eliminate the filibuster. This

does not mean that Schumer could not attempt to move in that direction at a later date, if he got the

votes for it. As of Thursday afternoon, however, the Senate has not yet passed a formal organizing

resolution.

On Tuesday, Sen. Paul (R-KY) forced a vote on the constitutionality of putting the former

President on trial for his actions related to the January 6 riot. All but five GOP Senators voted in

favor of the measure. This would seem to indicate that the former President would be acquitted in

his second impeachment trial in the Senate. Some Republican Senators have indicated they might

be willing to vote for censure instead. There are indications that a few Democrats might be willing

to pursue that avenue, but the majority are still pushing for the impeachment trial.

Congress also appears headed toward using the reconciliation process to pass another COVID

relief bill. The $1.9 trillion package proposed by President Biden is far too large for Republican

lawmakers, who have once again realized the dangers of increasing the federal deficit. Democrats

are unwilling to go as low as the $500 billion floated by the minority party. Thus, Congress could

be taking up a budget resolution as soon as next week, which sets the body up to use reconciliation.

When they were in the majority, Republicans tried to use reconciliation to overturn the Affordable

Care Act. They were more successful in using the technique to pass the previous Administration’s

tax cut package. (That package, incidentally, increases taxes on lower earners each year for the

next two years, and is sure to be a target of the Biden Administration in the coming months.)

Biden Administration Shaping Up

The Senate has been moving ahead with nomination hearings and confirmation votes. As a result,

President Biden’s Cabinet is filling out.

The Senate Veterans Affairs Committee met with Denis McDonough on Wednesday afternoon to

discuss his nomination as Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). There is concern

among some inside the Department that so few political appointees named so far are veterans. One

senior staffer noted this week he expects to spend a lot of time teaching new leadership about


veterans’ issues before much can be accomplished.

President Biden is naming RADM Susan Orsega, MSN, FNP-BC, FAANP, FAAN, as Acting

Surgeon General of the United States, until Vivek Murthy is confirmed by the Senate. She has been

serving as Director of Commissioned Corps Headquarters for the US Public Health Service

(USPHS), and was Chief Nurse Officer of the USPHS from May 2016 to March 2019. An

Advanced Practice Nurse, Orsega is a subject matter expert in the realms of HIV/AIDS global

research, advanced nursing practice, health diplomacy, and disaster response.

Next Tuesday, the Senate Armed Services Committee will meet to consider the nomination of

Kathleen Hicks to be Deputy Secretary of Defense.

Upcoming Hearings

 On Tuesday, February 2, the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee will conduct a business

meeting to consider committee rules and an original resolution authorizing expenditures by

the committee for the 117th Congress; immediately followed by a hearing on the

nomination of Denis McDonough to be Veterans Affairs secretary.

 On Tuesday, February 2, the Senate Armed Services Committee will have a meeting on

“Nomination—Hicks”

 On Wednesday, February 3, the House Armed Services Committee will discuss the

“Organizational Meeting for the 117th Congress”


Grassroots

The National Legislative Division (NLD) uses VoterVoice as its advocacy platform for connecting

American Legion members with members of Congress. From January 22nd to January 29th four

(4) member subscribed to receive action alerts while zero (0) unsubscribed. There are now 24,975

members and supporters signed up to receive action alerts.

Legislative AARs

 National Legislative Division staff continues preparations for the upcoming 117 th Congress, to

include updating the Legislative Agenda, writing Point Papers, and drafting campaign plans.

 From Monday, January 25 to Friday January 29, NLD Staff continued writing the National

Commander’s Testimony for 2021. This included multiple meetings between staff and

respective divisions to coordinate this document.

 On Monday, January 25, NLD staff participated in a joint VSO conference call to discuss

coordinating efforts on a variety of issues concerning the Veterans Benefits Administration.

 On Monday, January 25, NLD staff hosted a call with Sen. Duckworth’s office to discuss our

Citizenship for Honorable Service Campaign.

 On Tuesday, January 25, NLD staff met with the staff of Rep. Andy Kim (D-NJ) to discuss

potential legislation pertaining to servicemember transition, and how to best coordinate the

multiple programs from VA, DoD, and DOL to best serve our servicemembers as they make

the transition out of the military.


 On Tuesday, January 26, NLD staff hosted a call with Rep. Andy Kim’s office to discuss

priorities for the 117th Congress, particularly transitioning servicemembers.

 On Tuesday, January 26, NLD staff participated in a report launch hosted by New America on

the topic: Defining Endless Wars: The First Step Towards Ending Them. More information and

event recording is here.

 On Tuesday, January 26, NLD staff participated in a virtual event hosted by the Heritage

Foundation titled: Another Civil War? The Struggle Over the Meaning of America. More

information and event recording is here.

 On Wednesday, January 27, NLD staff hosted a call the National Security Division to discuss

our Citizenship for Honorable Service Campaign.

 On Wednesday, January 26, NLD staff participated in a webinar entitled “Challenges facing

government relations in 2021 – and how to solve them” presented by our government affairs

software provider FiscalNote.

 On Wednesday, January 27, NLD staff participated in a virtual conference entitled “Leadership

for a More Perfect Union” presented by the Brookings Institution and Mount Vernon. The

conference had some of our nation's top government, business, and civic leaders explore how

we can overcome today's great challenges.

 On Wednesday, January 27, 2021, NLD continued collaborating with various offices on the

Hill to prepare the next round of bills to be introduced in the veterans' health space. Currently,

we are expecting several bills that involve expanding VA care to be introduced by both sides of

the aisle.

 On Wednesday, January 27, NLD staff participated in a webinar hosted by the Center for

Security Policy looking at where President Biden’s national security policies appear to be

heading after Week One.

 On Thursday, January 28, 2021, NLD began looking forward to the upcoming research and

policy meetings that are to take place in February and March. This series of meetings typically

yield the legislative needs and focuses of VA with statistical support. The NLD is prepared to

lead some of these conversations; voicing what we have been hearing from our members and

other VSO partners.

 On Thursday, January 28, NLD staff met with the staffs of Sen. Mike Rounds (R-SD) and Rep.

Darrell Issa (R-CA) to discuss a potential Medal of Honor award upgrade for Capt. Royce

Willians, USN for his act of valor in service to our country on Nov. 18, 1952. Read more about

Capt. Williams actions in American Legion Res. No. 70: Medal of Honor for E. Royce

Williams.

 On Thursday, January 28, NLD staff participated in a book launch hosted by the Kissinger

Institute on China and the United States. In his latest book, Clyde Prestowitz, President of the

Economic Strategy Institute, asks and answers: Has the United States enabled the rise of a

power that might supplant it as the world’s preeminent nation and, if so, what can be done

about it at this late date? More information and an event recording is here.

 On Friday, January 22, NLD staff participated in a call with the VA&R Division to discuss

their portion of the Commander’s Testimony.

 On Friday, January 29, NLD staff participated in a webinar hosted by The Atlantic Council.

Titled: Future foreign policy series featuring Rep. Ro Khanna. The discussion focused on US

military involvement in the Middle East and the country’s role in conflicts around the world.

More information and an event recording is here.

 On Friday, January 29, NLD staff participated in a webinar hosted by Foreign Policy Research


Institute featuring Taiwan Ambassador to the US Bi-khim Hsiao. Ambassador Hsiao assumed

her position as Taiwan’s Representative to the United States in July 2020, after serving as a

Senior Adviser to the President at the National Security Council of Taiwan. Representative

Hsiao previously served four terms in the Taiwan Legislature. More information is here.


Lawrence Montreuil, Legislative Director

The American Legion


Next S.A.L National Legislative Commission call will be 02/03/2021 at 7pm. the number is 712-775-7031 code 988284103


2021 Washington Conference

12/23/220

To:       All Legion Leadership 

From:   National Adjutant Dan Wheeler

The National Commander has decided that a virtual 2021 Washington Conference will be held.


  • The Finance, Legislative, National Security, VA&R, and VE&E Commissions will conduct business via Zoom on either February 28, March 1 or March 2, depending on each chairman’s availability. These virtual meetings are now being planned, and additional information will be shared with commission members as it becomes available.
  • In the first week of March, a virtual “Know Before You Go” session will be conducted. We will request proposed invitee data from department adjutants, the American Legion Auxiliary, and the SAL.
  • Each department will let us know who they have designated to virtually “Storm the Hill.” This will be conducted by email, phone and any other appropriate communication.
  • We have requested March 4 as the date of the National Commander’s testimony, but that has not been confirmed. Most likely, the National Commander and chairmen of the “Washington DC” commissions will be assembled in DC, either on The Hill or virtually in our DC office. The Auxiliary National President and the Sons National Commander will be invited to attend in person.  This will be a closed event; no audience members will be allowed.  However, the testimony will be livestreamed, and each department will receive notification of how to access that when it is finalized.

 


LEGISLATIVE DIVISION UPDATE

Week Ending December 18, 2020


Congress

Lawmakers are reportedly exceedingly close to reaching an agreement on both an omnibus FY21

spending bill and another coronavirus supplemental package. However, despite reports that language

would be released every day this week, yet another continuing resolution will likely be needed by

Friday at midnight to keep the government open for another week. Friday morning, Senate Majority

Leader McConnell (R-KY) said it is “likely” Congress will have to stay in town and work through

the weekend, but he hopes the next CR will be for a very short period of time (the current one, which

expires Friday night, was only one week long). Other lawmakers are resistant to another CR of any

length, leading to the prospect of a weekend government shutdown.

In the meantime, the President tweeted out yet another veto threat for the FY21 National Defense

Authorization Act (NDAA), which is currently awaiting his action. His main complaint continues to

be the lack of a repeal of section 230, which addresses social media legal protections and not national

security. His ally, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), has introduced stand-alone legislation to repeal

section 230, but it is unlikely to see action before this session of Congress ends. The President has

until December 23 to veto the bill, and Senate Armed Services Committee chair Sen. Inhofe (R-OK)

expects he will wait until the very last minute. On December 9, The American Legion issued a

statement urging the President not to veto the measure.

Congress intends to formally remain in session throughout the holiday season to prevent a pocket

veto. Both the House and the Senate passed the bill with more than two-thirds of lawmakers voting

in favor. However, bringing everyone back to override the veto could be difficult. At least half of

each Chamber must be present to create a quorum, and most, if not all, lawmakers will have returned

home already.

Wednesday afternoon, the Senate passed the Johnny Isakson and David P. Roe Veterans Health Care

and Benefits Improvement Act of 2020, which is now headed to the President’s desk for signature.

The package is the last part of a bicameral, bipartisan agreement that allowed for a slew of bills

related to veterans’ issues to get through Congress this year. There is no reason to expect the

President not to sign the legislation, which includes key provisions from the Deborah Sampson Act

addressing women veterans’ needs and dealing with sexual assault and harassment at VA facilities.

Veterans Affairs Secretary Wilkie

Last week, the VA Inspector General (IG) released a report stating that VA Secretary Wilkie had

chosen to impugn Congressional aide Andrea Goldstein rather than investigate and take action

against the contractor she accused of assaulting her in the DC VA medical center. According to the


IG report, Wilkie did not believe Goldstein’s allegations. Instead, he believed she was acting at the

behest of her boss, House VA Committee chair Rep. Takano (D-CA), for political reasons. In truth,

the contractor who physically and vocally attacked her while standing in line for coffee had

previously been accused of similar actions by another VA employee, and he was not supposed to be

in the building at all.

Over the weekend, veterans service organizations (VSOs) started calling for Wilkie’s dismissal. That

turned into a formal request on Wednesday when several submitted a joint letter to the President

stating that Wilkie “no longer has the trust or confidence of America’s veterans.” The letter was

signed by The American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Disabled American Veterans, Paralyzed

Veterans of America, AMVETS, and Vietnam Veterans of America. Several other VSOs had made

similar calls through other channels.

The IG report came just days after the Army released its report on sexual assault and harassment at

Fort Hood. The two reports combined to paint a picture of both the VA and the Department of

Defense (DoD) failing to protect women service members and veterans. In fact, all too often, their

harassers and abusers are protected by oblivious leaders who do not take these problems seriously

enough. It sufficed to build public outcry that these women (and men who also suffer from abuse

and harassment) deserve better from their leaders. The highly unusual call for the removal of a

Cabinet Secretary just weeks before the end of the Administration in which he serves reflects the

outrage and demand for change many are expressing. The VSOs are joined by at least 23 Democratic

lawmakers also calling for Wilkie to be fired.

COVID-19 vaccines

American health care workers started receiving the Pfizer vaccination this week. Two people

experienced severe anaphylactic reactions to the shot, and received immediate appropriate treatment.

CBER’s Dr. Doran Fink told the Vaccines and Related Biological Products Committee (VRBPAC)

Thursday morning that surveillance systems are working as expected, and the incidents are not

changing anything in the vaccine process.

There has been what some are calling a modern Hanukkah miracle: each vial of vaccine is supposed

to hold five doses of vaccine. As pharmacists have been reconstituting the vaccine and preparing

syringes, they have discovered that most vials are actually six or even seven doses. Apparently,

overfilling vials is a common practice, in order to account for spillage. The Food and Drug

Administration on Wednesday ruled that the extra doses can, indeed, be used. Pharmacists may not,

however, mix vaccine from different vials to make up a full dose. The additional vaccine doses

greatly expands the country’s supply, although no one is certain by how much.

Despite the FDA ruling, the VA will apparently not be using those extra doses. According to an

internal memo obtained by Connecting Vets, VA pharmacists are being instructed to only use five

doses per vial, and to toss the additional product despite the FDA’s ruling it can be used. The VA

memo, from Jennifer Martin, Deputy Chief Consultant of Formulary Management for the VA

Pharmacy Benefits Management Services, expresses concern that using the additional doses will

throw into question data under the CDC’s “strict inventory monitoring” of the vaccine. The memo

also brings up the risk that some VA sites may try to combine product from multiple vials to

constitute more doses. The memo also brings up concerns that the VA will be unable to get enough


vaccine for second doses if they vaccinate more than five people for every vial in the first allocation.

On Thursday, the VRBPAC met to consider the Moderna vaccine. Upon reviewing the company’s

clinical trial data, FDA on Monday affirmed the vaccine has a 95% efficacy rate and excellent safety

profile.

The distribution system designed by Operation Warp Speed (OWS) worked just as planned this

week, despite coinciding with a heavy holiday shipping season and a winter storm sweeping the

country from the Midwest to the Northeast. OWS chief Operating Officer General Gus Perna said

the temperature tracking technology worked especially well. Two trays of the Pfizer vaccine were

detected as being too cold in transit, and were quickly sidelined and replaced with reserve supplies.

Another two trays were also too cold upon delivery in Alabama. They, too, were replaced. Perna said

Pfizer is conducting stability studies on the four trays to determine if the vaccine can still be used.

However, on Thursday, state officials started reporting that their allocations for next week have been

reduced. In a briefing with reporters on Tuesday, HHS Secretary Azar took a swipe at Pfizer, saying

they are having production problems and OWS was “finally” getting a full view into their

manufacturing process. Thursday, Pfizer released a statement that they have plenty of doses in their

warehouse just waiting for OWS orders.

HHS is frustrated that uptake has been low for monoclonal antibody treatments for COVID-19, two

of which have been given EUAs. The treatments have to be administered within days of a person

testing positive, before they go to a hospital. However, they are administered intravenously, requiring

the patient to go to a health care facility.

The FDA this week issued an EUA for the first at-home, non-prescription COVID-19 testing kit. The

test costs about $30, and can be self-administered in a person’s home. The results are then read

through a smartphone app. While this could greatly increase ongoing surveillance testing to catch

asymptomatic individuals who are responsible for much of the disease’s spread, it is priced a little

high for repeated use by most people.

Upcoming Hearings

• No relevant hearings at this time

Grassroots

The National Legislative Division (NLD) uses VoterVoice as its advocacy platform for connecting

American Legion members with members of Congress. From December 12th to December 18th one

(1) member subscribed to receive action alerts while zero (0) unsubscribed. There are now 24,952

members and supporters signed up to receive action alerts.

Appointments to the National Legislative Council are two-year terms that conclude on December

31st of even years. The National Commander, with recommendations from the Departments,

appoints and reappoints Legionnaires with working relationships with their member of Congress to

be the Legionnaire at the local level to work directly with their member of Congress to relay the


national priorities of The American Legion. On December 2nd, the NLD Grassroots team sent out

spreadsheets to all Departments with previous vacancies and vacancies created by the election of

new members of Congress. Departments were asked to reply with new appointments by December

22nd, 2020 to grassroots@legion.org. As of today, 12 of 50 Departments have responded. Please

respond by the new deadline of January 15, 2021 with an updated council roster or an ETA of

when it will be completed.

Legislative AARs

• National Legislative Division staff continues preparations for the upcoming 117th Congress,

to include updating the Legislative Agenda, writing Point Papers, and drafting campaign

plans.

• On Monday, December 14, NLD staff participated in a VSO Meeting on VBA Claims,

Appeals, and Legislative Concerns.

• On Tuesday, December 15, NLD staff participated in a Government Affairs Leadership

Weekly Meeting.

• On Tuesday, December 15, NLD staff conducted an Internal Legislative Division

Roundtable to review a draft white paper on Citizenship for Service. The American Legion,

through Resolution No. 15: Expedited Citizenship Through Military Service and Resolution

No. 10: Expedited Citizenship Applications For Deported Veterans, urges Congress to

‘ensure the process of naturalization through honorable military service is completed prior

to discharge” and “to permit the granting of citizenship to deported veterans if their

discharge is honorable and they do not have a felony conviction.”

• On Wednesday, December 15, NLD staff participated in a webinar presented by The

Brookings Institute entitled “School Choice in a time of transition.” The webinar discussed

the impacts of school choice policies and how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected

schooling choices, including for military families.

• On Wednesday, December 15, NLD staff applauded House passage of H.R 7105, the Johnny

Isakson and David P. Roe, M.D. Veterans Healthy Care and Benefits Improvement Act of

2020. The legislation includes a number of provisions supported by Legion advocacy during

the 116th Congress from expanding access to education and training for transitioning

servicemembers to improving care and benefits for women veterans to modernizing the

Service-Disabled Veterans Insurance Program to supporting veterans who are homeless.

Following the Senate’s approval last week, it now heads to President Donald Trump’s desk

for his signature. For a section-by-section summary of H.R. 7105, the Johnny Isakson and

David P. Roe, M.D. Veterans Health Care and Benefits Improvement Act of 2020, click

here.

• On Wednesday, December 15, NLD staff participated in an American Legion Podcast.

• On Wednesday, December 16, NLD staff was finalizing our 2021 Legislative Chairman

Call. During this call, we are planning to wrap up the 116th Congressional Wins across

various legislative topics. 117th Congressional plans and goals will also be presented and

discussed during this January call.

• On Thursday, December 17, NLD staff participated in a HVAC majority/VSO/MSO

Discussion.

• On Thursday, December 17, NLD staff attended the last monthly HVAC/VSO/MSO call for

2020. The call was comprised of HVAC communicating their plans for the incoming


Congress and administration. While plans for the 117th Congress from the HVAC Majority

are still being created, it was communicated that part of their focus would be directed

towards long-term care facilities, minority health, and expanding telehealth.

• On Friday, December 18, NLD staff participated in a Commander's Advisory Council

Meeting regarding Washington Conference.

• On Friday, December 18, NLD staff participated in a conference with Congressman and

Senator-Elect Roger Marshall of Kansas talking to veterans in Kansas about the COVID-19

vaccine and veterans issues facing Kansans. Sen. Elect Marshall is U.S. Army Reserve

veteran and retired physician.


The Legislative Division staff wishes a belated Happy Hanukkah to all who

celebrated, and an early Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all who will be

celebrating!


Lawrence Montreuil, Legislative Director

The American Legion


This is all we know for now -- we will send more information as it becomes available. Thank you.

On Nov, 5, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California ruled in favor of thousands of so-called Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans and their survivors in response to the motion filed by attorneys for the National Veterans Legal Services Program (NVLSP) to enforce the 29-Year Old Class Action Consent Decree in Nehmer v. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Administration (VA). The Court ordered the VA to automatically re-adjudicate thousands of benefits claims that the Court found had been wrongly denied under the Consent Decree. The Court also ordered the VA to pay retroactive compensation if it finds the veteran served inthe territorial seas of Vietnam. The motion filed with the pro bono assistance of Paul Hastings, LLP.
"We applaud the Court's recognition that Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans and their survivors have been wrongly denied retroactive disability and death benefits ever since 2002, when VA reversed its prior position and denied the presumption of Agent Orange exposure to veterans who served in the territorial seas of Vietnam," said National L:egal Services Program Executive Director Bar Stichman. "These Veterans and their surviving family members have already been waiting years for benefits to which they are entitled under the Court Consent Decree simply because they did not set foot in the land mass of Vietnam."
The 1991 Consent Decree applies to a class consisting of thousands of Vietnam Veterans and their survivors who applied to the VA for service-connected disability and death benefits due to exposure to Agent Orange, the toxic herbicide used by the U.S. government during the Vietnam War. That Decree required the VA, whenever it recognized an additional disease is associated with exposure to Agent Orange, to identify and re-adjudicate all prior VA denials of benefit claims filed for that disease and pay benefits retroactive to the date of the claim that led to the prior denial.
Based on the Court's decision, the VA must:
   (1) Identify within 120 days of the date of this order, all of the Nehmer re-adjudication decisions made base on the 1991 Consent Decree in which the VA denied compensation on the grounds that the Veteran was not entitled to the presumption of herbicide exposure because the Veteran did not set foot on the landmass of Vietnam or serve in the inland waterways of Vietnam.
  (2) Within 240 days of the date of this order, issue a replacement decision that determines:
     (a) whether the Veteran served in the territorial waters of the Republic of Vietnam during the war , if so,
     (b) the amount of retroactive compensation, if any, the Veteran or Veterans' survivor (or, if the Veteran or survivor u=is deceased, the estate of the deceased Veteran or survivor) is entitled under the terms of the Consent Decree; and
  (3) Provide class counsel, pursuant to the Privacy Protection Order, with a copy of (a) all of the Nehmer re-adjudication decisions identified, (b) all of the replacement decisions issued, and (c) each notice letter sent to the class members and coding sheet associated with such replacement decisions. 
According to estimates, this ruling could impact 2,000 to 15,000 Veterans and their survivors and potentially result in each receiving an average of $28,000 tax-free in benefits. Ultimately, this decision could result in hundreds or more dollars in relief to Blue Water Navy Veterans and their survivors. The VA has no plans to challenge this court ruling. 
This is a synopsis of the full report, for more complete information, contact Department Service Office in Newark,.
at 973-297-3377.
Joseph M Gugliuzza (Gull-you-za)
Dept. Legislative Chairman



LEGISLATIVE DIVISION UPDATE

Week Ending November 20th, 2020


Congress

The Senate left Wednesday night for the Thanksgiving break. They will not return until the week

of November 30. Appropriations staff say they will work through the break on FY21 spending

bills, with the goal of crafting an omnibus spending bill that could be passed before the December

11 continuing resolution deadline. Reportedly, the chairs and ranking members of the House and

Senate Appropriations Committees intend to agree upon topline spending amounts for each

spending bill by the end of this week. White House chief of staff Meadows told reporters on

Wednesday that keeping the government open is a “high priority,” but did not rule out the

possibility of a shutdown. Everyone seems to agree the wild card is whether the President will be

willing to sign whatever Congress manages to pass.

At this point, it seems unlikely that any form of significant pandemic relief will be included in an

appropriations package. Democrats and Republicans remain far apart, and the lame duck White

House does not seem particularly invested in working hard on the issue.

Conferees on the FY21 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) were named this week, and

work officially started on reaching agreement between the House and Senate versions. House


Armed Services Committee chair Rep. Smith (D-WA) and ranking member Rep. Thornberry (R-

TX) have been very optimistic all summer that a final NDAA will pass Congress. However, in


naming conferees, House Speaker Pelosi (D-CA) said renaming military bases honoring

Confederate leaders should remain in the final version. The White House has already issued a veto

threat on that provision. This time, the President may make good on his veto threat (one has been

issued every year of his term) since he will not have to deal with the fallout of not having a Defense

authorization bill in place. Of course, then-President Biden would likely sign such an agreement

in January 2021 were it put in front of him.

Many GOP lawmakers in Congress are walking a tightrope between not publicly acknowledging

Joe Biden won the Presidential election and staying in touch with reality. Several Senators who


are on the record as casting doubt on the election’s results were seen congratulating Vice President-

elect Kamala Harris on the floor during Tuesday’s votes. Slowly, more Republicans are starting to


call upon the White House to concede.

House Democrats and Republicans each met this week to select leaders for the next Congress. As

expected, top leadership positions remain unchanged. Rep. Pelosi (D-CA) will remain Speaker of

the House, and Rep. McCarthy (R-CA) retained his position as Minority Leader.


Upcoming Hearings

• On Wednesday, December 2, 2020, House Veterans Affairs Committee Hearing: “A

Time for Change: Assessing the Need to Modernize Veteran Eligibility for Care."

• On Tuesday, December 8, 2020, House Veterans Affairs Committee Economic

Opportunity Subcommittee Hearing: “Setting Congressional And Administration

Priorities for the Next Congress”.

• On Wednesday, December 9, 2020, House Veterans Affairs Committee Disability

Assistance & Memorial Affairs Subcommittee Hearing: “Oversight On Presumptions

for Service Connection Related to Toxic Exposure”

Grassroots

The National Legislative Division (NLD) uses VoterVoice as its advocacy platform for connecting

American Legion members with members of Congress. From November 14th to November 20th

thirteen (13) members subscribed to receive action alerts while zero (0) unsubscribed. There are

now 24,887 members and supporters signed up to receive action alerts.

Legislative AARs

• On Monday, November 16, NLD staff participated in a webinar titled “Charting a

Transatlantic Course to Address China”.

• On Monday, November 16, NLD staff participated in a conference call VSO Meeting on

VBA Claims, Appeals, and Legislative Concerns.

• On Monday, November 16, NLD staff participated in a joint VSO conference call to

discuss coordinating efforts on a variety of issues concerning the Veterans Benefits

Administration.

• On Monday, November 16, NLD staff hosted a call with the National Security Division

to discuss legislative campaigns for the 117th Congress.

• On Tuesday, November 17, NLD staff participated in a Government Affairs Leadership

Weekly Meeting.

• On Tuesday, November 17, NLD staff participated in a conference call with the Senate

Majority Steering Committee regarding a discussion of what Congress will be looking

to accomplish in the coming week.

• On Tuesday, November 17, NLD staff participated in a conference call with the TEAM

Coalition to discuss efforts on a variety of issues concerning Toxic Exposure.

• On Tuesday, November 17, NLD staff participated in a webinar titled “Launch of the

2021 Index of U.S. Military Strength” hosted by the Heritage Foundation.

• On Tuesday, November 17, NLD staff hosted a call with Rep. Vincente Gonzalez’ office

to discuss H.R.1078 – the Repatriate Our Patriots Act.

• On Tuesday, November 17, NLD staff participated in a webinar titled “The Biden

Pentagon and the Future of U.S. Defense” hosted by the Center for a New American

Security.

• On Wednesday, November 18, NLD attended the White House PREVENTS virtual

roundtable with VSOs and MSOs to discuss the current status of the PREVENTS

programs and the expectations moving forward into the new administration.


• On Wednesday, November 18, NLD attended The American Legion Auxiliary’s

National Legislative Committee Meeting. This meeting provided the NLD team to brief

the Auxiliary on the desired legislative direction for the 117th Congress. The meeting

also allowed the Auxiliary to communicate topics and legislation that was most relevant

to their members for the NLD team to track.

• On Thursday, November 19, NLD staff participated in a HVAC majority/VSO/MSO

Discussion.

• On Thursday, November 19, NLD attended the House of Veterans Affairs Committee’s

Monthly VSO and MSO call that was hosted by the Majority. The main focus of the call

was on the upcoming Lame Duck session. VSOs and MSOs were able to communicate

what legislation they were most interested in pushing in the last few weeks of this current

administration.

• On Friday, November 20, NLD staff attended virtually a House Armed Services

Committee hearing on “The US military mission in Afghanistan and implications of the

peace process on US involvement.” Hearing video is available here.

• On Friday, November 20, NLD staff participated in a meeting with Biden-Harris

transition team.

Lawrence Montreuil, Legislative Director

The American Legion


LEGISLATIVE DIVISION

UPDATE

Week ending November 7th

,


2020


Congress

The “blue wave” failed to occur during Tuesday’s election, leaving Congress largely unchanged.

As of Thursday morning, Democrats had 204 confirmed wins and were expected to retain the

majority. The Senate may be headed for an equal split, with 50 seats for each Party. That would

leave ultimate control of the chamber to whoever ends up in the White House, with the Vice

President having the ability to break ties.

There are rumors spreading that the Senate could release all of the FY21 appropriations bills next

week. However, the White House seems to be assuming another continuing resolution (CR) will be

needed to keep the government open past December 11, when the current CR expires. The House

has passed 10 appropriations bills, and the other two (Homeland Security and Legislative Branch)

have been reported out of committee.

The House Appropriations Committee is headed to a major shakeup next year, with the retirement

of chair Rep. Lowey (D-NY). Rep. McCollum (D-MN) is expected to chair the Defense

Subcommittee. Rep. DeLauro (D-CT) is rumored to have the inside track on chairing the full

committee.

Senate Majority Leader McConnell (R-KY) told reporters after election night that he wants to get

started on the next coronavirus stimulus bill, and hopes to pass it before the end of the year.

Should Joe Biden win the presidency, the lack of clear Democratic control over the Senate will

prevent him from pushing the highly progressive agenda some in his Party favor. This is probably

just fine with Biden, as he has a reputation for being a moderate politician who supports working

across the aisle whenever possible.

Secretary of Defense Esper

News broke Thursday afternoon that Secretary of Defense Esper, as expected, is intending to resign

in the coming days, and has already drafted his letter of resignation. However, former DoD

officials and military experts quickly urged him to stay in office as the Presidential election is

finalized and, if necessary, through the transition to a Biden Administration, citing the importance

of keeping a “steady hand” at the top of the military.


Active duty women’s (ADW) health care

A Defense Health Board (DHB) work group presented its work on ADW health care during

Thursday’s meeting. Among their recommendations, the group focused on the importance of

providing more information and access to family planning, including long-acting reversible

contraceptive care. They pointed to the success of the Navy’s walk-in contraceptive care clinics in

reducing the rate of unintended pregnancies.

House Armed Services Committee member Rep. Speier led a group of lawmakers seeking to add

language to the FY21 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to have the Services provide

comprehensive family planning information and education to all service members. GOP lawmakers

vehemently opposed those efforts out of concern that “inappropriate” contraceptive tools would be

provided.

The DHB report also calls for the creation of an office at the top levels of DoD with the specific

responsibility to identify, standardize, and disseminate best practices for promoting and ensuring

ADW health.

COVID

While work continues on vaccines to combat the novel coronavirus, none of the candidates in

phase 3 trials have yet submitted applications for even emergency use to the Food and Drug

Administration. In the meantime, despite assurances from the President that we have “turned the

corner,” new cases, hospitalizations, and deaths are reaching new highs both in the United States

and Europe.

An article expected to appear in Friday’s USA Today reveals that the Department of Veterans

Affairs (VA) is recruiting 8,000 veterans to participate in phase 3 COVID-19 vaccine clinical trials.

Health care reporter Patricia Kime has been digging into both the VA’s and DoD’s participation in

the medical development of these vaccines.

News broke on Monday that White House COVID-19 Task Force member Dr. Deborah Birx had

written an internal report urging the Administration to take more aggressive action to stop the

spread, although she did not suggest a national lockdown. Birx joined NIAID Director Dr. Anthony

Fauci in warning of even worse spread as the country enters winter, as people move indoors for

more social activities.

Walmart reopens VA telehealth sites

Five Accessing Telehealth through Local Area Stations (ATLAS) sites have reopened in rural areas

of the country. The sites closed last April due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The reopened sites are

in Keokuk, Iowa; Howell, Michigan; Asheboro and Boone, North Carolina; and Fond du Lac,

Wisconsin. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) intends to have ATLAS sites nationwide by

2023.

ATLAS sites, manufactured by Phillips North America, allow veterans to receive VA health care in

their own communities. The self-contained structures have secure Internet as well as various pieces


of medical equipment that allow VA providers to receive real-time vitals information while

engaging with the veteran patient. ATLAS sites are also located in American Legion and Veterans

of Foreign Wars buildings in rural communities.

Upcoming Hearings

 No upcoming hearing at this time.

Grassroots

The National Legislative Division (NLD) uses VoterVoice as its advocacy platform for connecting

American Legion members with members of Congress. From October 31st to November 6th

twenty-two (22) members subscribed to receive action alerts while one (1) unsubscribed. There

are now 25,002 members and supporters signed up to receive action alerts.

On Thursday, October 8, the NLD launched a new VoterVoice Campaign to get our members to

email their representatives and senators in support of a bill that would require VA to designate one

week a year as Buddy Check Week, modeled directly after TAL Buddy Check Program. The

campaign was first placed in this article highlighting the bills and was again sent out to all

members Tuesday, October 13th through the National Commander. It was also shared with

Department Commanders and Adjutants and the Legislative Commission and Council. Feel free to

share it with your networks sooner so we can reach the largest amount of people! Below is the link

and if you have any question feel free to email grassroots@legion.org. As of November 6th, 868

members have taken action and sent 2,617 messages to congress.

https://votervoice.net/AmericanLegion/Campaigns/77447/Respond

Legislative AARs

 On Monday, November 2, 2020, NLD attended a VA webinar regarding all VA Research

Data that has been completed in the past 5 years. The primary focus of the webinar was

how to access VA Data following their regulations and procedures and how to make the

best use of the data for your organizations.

 On Tuesday, Nov 3, NLD staff had a call with VA&R staff to discuss and plan remarks

for an upcoming press event on toxic exposures. The event will be held on Veterans Day

outside the Capitol.

 On Wednesday, November 4, 2020, NLD participated in the Center for Women Veterans’

Monthly VSO call. This call was attended by various VSOs, MSOs, and VA leadership.

The call consisted of a quick brief from Center for Women Veteran staff followed by a

questions and answer session for participants. Plans for VA in the upcoming calendar year

were discussed in detail.

 On Wednesday, November 4, 2020, NLD attended a VA webinar that discussed the

current and future health related needs of marginalized communities within the veteran

population. The impact of COVID was discussed at length, but accessibility limitations

and other relater barriers were also mentioned.

 On Wednesday, Nov 4, NLD staff had a meeting to plan The American Legions 117th

Congress Strategy.


 On Thursday, November 5, NLD staff participated in a webinar entitled “Post Election:

Communication Strategies for 2021 & Beyond” presented by FiscalNote, our government

affairs software provider. The webinar discusses communications strategies for advocacy

networks post-election and how they intend to provide resources and information on the

new members of Congress.

 Throughout the week of November 2-6


th, The NLD continuously contacted Congressional

offices regarding the Buddy Check Campaign to close out the 116th Congress.


Lawrence Montreuil,

Legislative Director

The American Legion