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2014 Legislative Agenda

Jobs and Job Training

According to the U.S. Labor Department, the unemployment rate for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans is about 2 percent higher than the national average. Approximately 185,000 veterans of those wars are unemployed. Many of these unemployed veterans are National Guard or reserve troops who were called to duty but found that their jobs were no longer there when they returned from duty. In addition, thousands of more senior veterans are unemployed long-term as a result of the economic downturn and the elimination of U.S.manufacturing jobs.

The Union Veterans Council shall strive to:

  • Ensure that all provisions of executive orders and public laws pertaining to the employment and training for all veterans – especially service disabled veterans – be enforced by the appropriate authorities and that any attempts to weaken the provisions or fail to fulfill the spirit and intent of the law should receive appropriate sanctions.
  • Strengthen Veterans’ Preference laws, focusing on better implementation by and accountability of managers. Upon discharge from active duty, veterans need to be better informed of their veterans’ preference rights.
  • Enforce veterans’ preference rules for federal employees. More data is needed to track compliance. Direct hire authority allows federal employers to bypass veterans’ preference and should be curtailed. The list of restricted jobs for preference eligible employees needs to be updated.
  • Stop the contracting out of entry-level work at veterans’ hospitals and cemeteries. Require that Congress investigate illegal outsourcing at the Department of Veterans Affairs and at other federal agencies.
  • Ensure that veterans be hired to convert Department of Veterans Affairs disability records to a paperless operation.
  • Ensure equal collective bargaining rights for Title 38 registered nurses, physicians and other Title 38 clinicians employed by the Department of Veterans Affairs.
  • Ensure that the Post-9/11 GI Bill be upgraded and streamlined in order to provide all veterans a generous and equitable benefit.
  • Fully cover tuition at any public undergraduate school.
  • Authorize Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits for Title 32 Active Guard reserve.
  • Stop the use of contractors to administer Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits.
  • Ensure the Congress does not curtail federal support for Helmets to Hardhats. Helmets to Hardhats and similar programs such as Troops to Teachers, Warriors in Welding and Veterans in Construction Electrical should be expanded.
  • Provide Congressional Oversight and collaborate with the executive branch to successfully implement the new Veterans Employment Initiative for the federal government. Modernize and upgrade the Transitional Assistance Program (TAPS).
  • Guarantee all economic, employment, and environmental legislation that promotes “green” manufacturing and jobs should prioritize veterans.
  • Extend Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) protections to National Guardsmen and Reservist.
  • Hold federal and state governments to the same standards of USERRA compliance as private sector employers.
  • Prevent employers from firing an employee while a URESSA claim is being process, including court imposed injunctions when appropriate.
  • Protect Reservist and Guardsmen from termination, loss of seniority and loss of sick and vacation time from their civilian jobs while they receive medical treatment for injuries sustained by service.

Access to Quality Health Care

The Veterans Health Administration (VHA) runs 153 veterans hospitals nationwide as well as hundreds of community clinics and Vet Centers. The VHA has nearly 8 million veterans enrolled in its health care system and provides much higher quality care than the private sector, but accessing the system can be a big challenge. About 3 million veterans enrolled in the VHA system live in rural areas. While it has made strides in recent years, the VHA is still unprepared to provide adequate care for the sure of female veterans seeking care.

The Union Veterans Council will strive to:

  • Ensure that the Veterans Health Administration healthcare program is fully funded, that Advance Appropriations is properly implemented.
  • Automatically enroll all troops leaving active-duty service, whether from the active or reserve component, in VA health care with an option to opt out.
  • Ensure that the VHA expands care to rural and female veterans, and that the thousands of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans and their caregivers receive critical care and benefits.
  • Prioritize outreach efforts by the VA, to include a strategic plan of advertisement and public service announcements as well as cooperative efforts with veteran service organizations. Outreach to veterans must take place in public places such as shopping malls.
  • Increase funding to hire female practitioners, especially those who specialize in women’s health, mental health providers, and outreach specialists to address widespread shortages of qualified women’s providers.
  • Establish a deadline for the VA to meet its goal of providing comprehensive health care to women veterans, as recommended by the Government Accountability Office.
  • Require the VA to initiate research into the potential intergenerational effects of exposure to Agent Orange/dioxin for the families of veterans whose children and/or grandchildren are afflicted with birth defects and/or learning disabilities.
  • Expand the list of maladies considered presumptive to exposure to Agent Orange/dioxin and other toxins.
  • Enact legislation that would make “Blue Water Veterans,” as well as veterans who served in other locations where herbicides were sprayed or stored, and who were exposed, eligible for benefits should they become afflicted with any of the maladies the VA considers presumptive to exposure to dioxin and other toxins.
  • Endeavor to uncover past incidents of toxic exposure that may have long-term health effects on veterans, and shall urge the declassification of files held by the Department of Defense that will shed light on these exposures.
  • Endeavor to provide for the organizational capacity and funding for the diagnoses and treatment of neuro-psychiatric wounds of war, particularly for Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), substance abuse, and for Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI).
  • Endeavor to extend the authority of the Vet Centers to treat all veterans and their families, and to increase the Vet Centers’ staff to include a family therapist.
  • Protect the 2nd Amendment rights of veterans who choose to seek treatment for combat stress injuries through the VA.
  • Track the frequency of veterans’ suicides.
  • Launch a nationwide campaign to eliminate the stigma associated with combat stress and promote the use of VetCenters and the Suicide Prevention hotline
  • Ensure that adequate resources are provided to guarantee the success of the new Lifetime Verification Electronic Record (LVER), integrating health and service data into a format useable between DOD, the VA and the private sector.

Other Issues Important to Union Veterans

  • Amend title 38, United States Code, to direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to establish the Merchant Mariner Equity Compensation Fund to provide benefits to certain individuals who served in the United States Merchant Marine (including the Army Transport Service and the Naval Transport Service) during World War II.
  • Unlike previous generations of veterans, Iraq and Afghanistan veterans are often appearing in the nation’s homeless shelters within two years of separation from the military, and a significant percentage of the homeless are female veterans and their children. We will fully support the VA’s bold plan to eradicate homelessness among veterans within the next 5 years. We will also support expanding the HUD-VA Supportive Housing voucher program.
  • We will support legislation that would create a check-off box similar to the Presidential Campaign check-off box on your annual 1040 federal tax return. It would allow you to simply check yes or no to direct $3.00 to go toward programs that assist homeless veterans.
  • All service members must be briefed about and offered to participate in the Benefits Delivery at Discharge Program.

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