Joint Hearing of the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs of the U.S. Senate and the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs of the U.S. House of Representatives at 1:00 p.m. CDT.
Witness Testimony of Christina M Roof, American Veterans (AMVETS), National Acting Legislative Director
Chairman Stutzman, Ranking Member Braley and distinguished members of the subcommittee, on behalf of AMVETS, I would like to extend our gratitude for being given the opportunity to share with you our views and recommendations regarding H.R. 1383, H.R. 802, H.R. 1657 and Ranking Member Braley’s piece of legislation regarding Specialty Adaptive Housing.
AMVETS feels privileged in having been a leader, since 1944, in helping to preserve the freedoms secured by America’s Armed Forces. Today our organization prides itself on the continuation of this tradition, as well as our undaunted dedication to ensuring that every past and present member of the Armed Forces receives all of their due entitlements. These individuals, who have devoted their entire lives to upholding our values and freedoms, deserve nothing less.
Given the fact this testimony will be addressing several pieces of legislation, I shall be addressing each piece of legislation separately, as to make AMVETS testimony clear and concise on the individual subject matters of the bills.
AMVETS supports H.R. 802, to direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to establish a “VetStar Award Program.” AMVETS believes with the disproportionately high unemployment of our veteran community compared to that of their civilian counterparts, employers who actively seek out and employ veterans deserve to be recognized for their contributions to our veterans community. Furthermore, the VetStar Award Program stands to serve as a motivator for other companies to actively seek out and employee veterans. We must take all necessary actions to address and immediately rectify the problem of unemployment that is plaguing today’s veterans. AMVETS believes H.R. 802 is another step in the right direction at doing just that. AMVETS again lends our support to H.R. 802.
AMVETS supports H.R. 1383, to temporarily preserve higher rates for tuition and fees for programs of education at non-public institutions of higher learning pursued by individuals enrolled in the Post-9/11 Educational Assistance Program of the Department of Veterans Affairs before the enactment of the Post-9/ 11 Veterans Educational Assistance Improvements Act of 2010, and for other purposes. AMVETS believes this will allow for students currently enrolled in non-public institutions of higher learning the opportunity to finish their degree without any undue financial burden or stress. While we applaud Chairman Miller for introducing this piece of legislation, we feel we would be doing a disservice to our membership if we did not bring up our concerns on the new system of which veterans will receive their monthly living stipends under the new Post-9/11 Educational Assistance Program of the Department of Veterans Affairs enacted in late 2010. AMVETS believes many veterans utilizing their educational entitlements under the Post 9/11 GI Bill will be caught off guard and experience undue financial hardships during the periods of time between college semesters. While AMVETS strongly supports H.R. 1383, we urge the Chairman and this subcommittee to address, what AMVETS believes will be a large problem, the living stipend distribution for the Post-9/11 Educational Assistance Program of the Department of Veterans Affairs, as amended in late 2010.
AMVETS supports H.R. 1657, to amend title 38, United States Code, to revise the enforcement penalties for misrepresentation of a business concern as a small business concern owned and controlled by veterans or as a small business concern owned and controlled by service-disabled veterans. AMVETS applauds Congressman Stutzman for writing a bill that is long overdue and very much needed, in order to protect Veteran Owned Small businesses (VOSB) and Service Disabled Veteran Owned Small Businesses (SDVOSB). AMVETS has long called upon congress to revise and enforce penalties for misrepresentation by a business concern as being a VOSB or SDVOSB. AMVETS finds it irreprehensible that any individual or business entity would knowingly and purposefully take contracts and jobs away from veterans, as well as blatantly defraud the federal government. AMVETS believes H.R. 1657 will not only strengthen, but help enforce penalties that have been long in place, yet severely underutilized by numerous federal agencies. If VA and the federal government are truly dedicated to protecting the integrity of the federal procurement system, as well as the veteran entrepreneurial community, AMVETS urges the swift passage of H.R. 1657. Furthermore, AMVETS calls upon this subcommittee to focus a substantial amount of their time during the 112th congress to finally closing all of the loop holes within the VA procurement system and to pass laws that will once and for all rid the federal procurement system of fraudulent businesses unlawfully taking contracts and jobs from veterans. It is important to remember that due to the high unemployment rates, veterans are turning to entrepreneurship at rates this country has not seen since WWII. Given this fact, now more than ever, VOSBs and SDVOSBs must have a fair chance in a successful federal procurement and acquisitions system. AMVETS again lends our strong support to H.R. 1657.
AMVETS supports H.R. TBD, the ‘‘Andrew Connolly Veterans’ Housing Act’’. This piece of legislation will amend title 38, United States Code, to extend the authority of the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to provide specially adapted housing assistance to individuals residing temporarily in housing owned by a family member. Thousands of disabled veterans and their families depend on these funds to sustain their quality of life and independence. Given the rate at which our nation’s war fighters are returning from our current conflicts, with debilitating and life changing injuries, AMVETS would like to see the committee go a step further and look into extending this program past 2016, as outlined in Section 2102(A) of title 38, United States Code. We have an obligation to care for those who return from war in a state different from that of which they left for war in. Furthermore, given the current state of our nation’s economy many disabled veterans and their families are having to turn to the support of family members for temporary housing. Again, AMVETS lends our support to Congressman Braley’s bill, the ‘‘Andrew Connolly Veterans’ Housing Act’’.
Chairman Stutzman and distinguished members of the subcommittee, AMVETS would again like to thank you for inviting us to share with you our opinions and recommendations on these very important pieces of legislation. This concludes my testimony and I stand ready to answer any questions you may have for me.