About IAVA

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Methodology

U.S. House of Representatives
(out of a possible 18 points)
18 PointsA+
16-17 PointsA
14-15 PointsB
12-13 PointsC
10-11 PointsD
9 Points & BelowF

The IAVA Action Fund Report Card is the result of a two year process. Beginning with an annual survey of our members every December, the legislative agenda is formulated directly from those issues they deem is a priority. IAVA then delivers these priorities during the annual Storm the Hill event in February when IAVA member vets meet face-to-face with lawmakers. IAVA and IAVA Action continue to advocate for key legislation, which address our legislative priorities, throughout the year through direct outreach to members of Congress, Congressional testimony, and media appearances. Finally, when a Congressional session concludes, we produce the Report Card based on key veterans' legislation that came to a vote during that session, grading every Senator and Representative on their level of support for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans.

IAVA Action has a straightforward approach to scoring lawmakers’ support for veterans. The grade is not a comment on a legislator’s party, platform, history or character. Nor is it and endorsement or rejection of that particular lawmaker. It is based solely on their action or inaction in voting or sponsoring IAVA Action’s legislative priorities outlined in IAVA Action’s 2009 and 2010 Legislative Agendas. IAVA Action has identified the 23 key votes on veterans’ issues in the 111th Congress, which best address these priorities (See table on P.5). Each of these votes was an opportunity for Senators and Representatives to take a stand on behalf of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. IAVA has been vocal on these issues through Congressional testimony, direct lobbying, and advocacy in national and local media. The significance of each vote is described in the “Vote Description” section of the report card.

Scores are based on how often legislators voted with IAVA Action on these critical issues. For every vote in line with IAVA Action in support of veterans, the lawmaker receives one point. Those who voted against the position of IAVA Action, or who failed to vote, do not receive a point.

U.S. Senate
(out of a possible 12 points)
12 PointsA+
11 PointsA
9-10 PointsB
7-8 PointsC
5-6 PointsD
4 Points & BelowF

In addition, IAVA Action recognizes members of Congress who took a leadership role in the legislative process. We acknowledge those who have stood with IAVA Action from the start by cosponsoring our number one legislative priority in 2009, Advanced Appropriations, and our top three legislative priorities in 2010: Disability Reform, Upgrades to the Post 9/11 GI Bill, and Veterans Employment. Legislators, who are leaders on these priorities, play a critical role in elevating these issues into the national debate, making it possible to hold a vote. They earned one point for each of the priorities they support.

Note, whether a lawmaker is a veteran does not factor into our scoring. However, IAVA Action believes that having served in the military offers valuable insight and experience for legislators, particularly regarding military and veterans’ issues. Senators and Representatives who are military veterans are marked with a star in the index.

Finally, 16 Senators and Representatives did not serve a complete term in the 111th Congress. These Senators and Representatives receive an “incomplete” grade, marked “INC.” In addition, the House Speaker, who customarily does not vote, is simply marked “S.”

IAVA ACTION LEGISLATIVE PRIORITIES
(IN ALPHABETICAL ORDER)
LEGISLATION IN THE 111TH CONGRESS, INCLUDED IN THE REPORT CARD GRADES
Combat Veterans’ UnemploymentH.R. 1879 (PASSED)
Cut the Claims Backlog in HalfH.R. 3082 (PASSED), H.R. 4121 (Stuck in committee)
Eliminate Combat Stress StigmaAmend to H.R. 4872 (FAILED)
End the Passive VA SystemNo significant legislation
Ensure Thorough, Professional, and Confidential Screening for Invisible InjuriesH.R. 2647 (PASSED)
Eradicate Homelessness Among VeteransH.R. 403 (PASSED), Amend to H.R. 3082 (PASSED) H.R. 4810 (PASSED)
Full and Advance-Funding for VA Health CareH.R. 1016 (PASSED), H.R. 3288 (PASSED), S. 423 (PASSED), Amend to H Con Res 85 (FAILED), Amend to S Con Res 13 (FAILED), S Con Res 13 (PASSED), H.R. 5822 (PASSED)
Improve Health Care for Female VeteransS.1963 (PASSED), H.R. 1211(PASSED)
Major priorities held over from 110th Congress finished in the 111th.H.R. 2346 (PASSED), H.R. 1293 (PASSED), H.R. 3949 (PASSED), H.R. 5136 (PASSED)
Modernize the VA Claims Processing SystemHR. 5549 (PASSED)
HR. 5928 (Stuck in committee)
Secure Jobs for Our Nation’s HeroesH.R. 5120, H.R. 5400, S. 2334, S. 3398 (Stuck in committee)
Streamline and Simplify the Post-9/11 GI BillH.R.5933, S. 3447 (Stuck in committee)
Support Better Health Care for Female VeteransS.1963 (PASSED)

Representatives receive one point for voting with IAVA Action on each bill. Votes are ordered chronologically by when the vote was held.

TOP ISSUES FACING VETERANS

House Vote #188, 2009,
Amend to H Con Res 85
IAVA Action Position: Oppose
(2009 Legislative Agenda §3.1)
Members receive 1 point for voting NO
Final Vote 84-348-5

SUMMARY: Over the past three years Congress has fully funded the Department of Veterans Affairs. This guarantees that returning veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan have access to benefits and care they have earned through their service. This amendment to the 2010 budget resolution would have sliced $300 million from the VA’s budget in 2010, setting a dangerous precedent for years to come. With the surge of veterans returning home from Iraq and the growing number of boots on the ground in Afghanistan, IAVA Action adamantly opposed this amendment. The amendment failed in a vote of 84-348.

NOTE: This amendment was a complete alternative to the Congressional budget and contained many other non-veteran related provisions. This vote was selected because it was one of the few budget amendments that concretely and explicitly cut the VA budget in order to pay for other domestic priorities.


HouseVote #344,2009,H.R.403
IAVA Action Position: Support
(2009 Legislative Agenda §2.4)
Members receive 1 point for voting YES
Final Vote 417-2-14

SUMMARY: The VA estimates that on any given night 107,000 veterans are homeless and an additional 1.5 million veterans are at risk of becoming homeless. This is a result of poverty, lack of support networks, and dismal living conditions in overcrowded or substandard public housing. The Homes for Heroes Act is a critical prevention initiative which established supportive housing and services for low-income veterans and their families, extended rental assistance programs to an additional 20,000 veterans, provided technical help to community based non-profits and ended the practice of denying veterans access to homeless programs if they also qualified for VA disability benefits. This legislation passed 417-2.


HouseVote #348,2009,H.R.2346
IAVA Action Position: Support
(Continued from our 2008 Legislative Agenda §4.3)
Final Vote 226-202-6

As a result of stop loss orders since September 11, 2010, more than 170,000 troops have been forced to postpone their retirements, education plans, job opportunities or family plans. The military used its stop loss authority to hold these servicemembers beyond their enlistment contracts to help fill the ranks in Iraq and Afghanistan. In 2008 Congress passed legislation that offered stop-lossed servicemembers an additional $500/month to repay this additional service. However, that only paid servicemembers stop-lossed after the bill became law. In 2009, as part of the Supplemental Appropriations bill, Congress extended those payments retroactively to any servicemember who had been stop-lossed since 9/11. IAVA Action strongly opposed the Department of Defense’s over reliance on stop loss authority and we worked hard to secure these additional payments. The supplemental also expanded the new Post-9/11 GI Bill to include the children of fallen servicemembers, creating the Marine Gunnery Sergeant Fry Scholarship. The supplemental passed on a vote of 226-202.

NOTE: IAVA Action has been fighting the over use of stop loss authority since its founding as an organization. In March of 2009 the DOD announced that it would severely limit the use of stop loss. The supplemental contained controversial provisions, including war funding, expansion of cash for clunkers and limitations on the transfer of Guantanamo detainees, but as a veterans organization we expect full congressional support on a provision which was so critical to the military and veterans community.


HouseVote #420,2009,H.R.1016
IAVA Action Position: Support
(2009 Legislative Agenda §3.1)
Members receive 1 point for voting YES
Final Vote 409-1-23

SUMMARY: Congress has been late passing the Department of Veterans Affairs budget 20 times in the last 23 years. Late budgets lead to inadequate planning and rationed health care for veterans. The Veterans Health Care Budget Reform and Transparency Act, otherwise known as Advance Appropriations, required Congress to budget the VA two years in advance. This legislation would remove partisanship and politics from the veterans funding process and was a top priority for IAVA Action in 2009. With a vote of 409-1, Congress put an end to the rationing of care for our nation’s veterans.


House Vote #421, 2009, H.R. 1211
IAVA Action Position: Support
(2009-10 Legislative Agenda §3.3)
Members receive 1 point for voting YES
Final Vote 408-0-25

SUMMARY: The VA isn’t fully prepared to provide adequate care to the surge of women veterans returning home from war. Women veterans are the fastest growing segment of the veteran population, and their enrollment in the VA is expected to more than double in the next 15 years. Women veterans face several barriers when seeking care at the VA, including: fragmentation of services, healthcare and service providers with poor understanding of women’s health issues, lack of knowledge regarding eligibility for benefits, an unwelcoming VA culture, inadequate privacy and safety practices at facilities, and no access to childcare. The Women Veterans Health Care Improvement Act requires the VA to complete a comprehensive assessment of women’s health care programs at the VA, provide care for newborn children of women receiving care at the VA, train VA mental health counselors on military sexual trauma and study barriers that prevent women from seeking care from the VA. This bill passed 408-0.


HouseVote #529,2009,H.R.3082
IAVA Action Position: Support
(2009 Legislative Agenda §3.1)
Members receive 1 point for voting YES
Final Vote 415-3-14

SUMMARY: The VA and Military Construction Appropriations for Fiscal Year 2010 provided $108 billion for the Department of Veterans Affairs, an increase of over 15 percent from the previous year. The bill included funding for mental health services ($4.6 billion), homeless veterans ($3.2 billion) and rural veterans ($440 million). The allowed the VA to hire 1,200 additional claims processors to help reduce the burgeoning backlog of disability claims. This appropriations bill passed 415-3.


HouseVote #650,2009,H.R.1293
IAVA Action Position: Support
(Continued from our 2008 Legislative Agenda §3.6)
Members receive 1 point for voting YES
Final Vote 426-0-7

SUMMARY: The Disabled Vets Home Improvement and Structural Alteration Grant Act provides an increase in the amount available to disabled veterans to improve and structurally alter their homes to accommodate their needs. Disabled veterans are a population most in need of this type of assistance. Structural alterations to homes enable the chronically sick and disabled to remain in their homes instead of being institutionalized. The allowance was increased from $4,100 to $6,800 for veterans with a service-connected disability, and increased from $1,200 to $2,000 for veterans with a non-service connected disability. This bill passed 426-0.


HouseVote #770,2009,H.R.2647
IAVA Action Position: Support
(2009 Legislative Agenda §1.1)
Members receive 1 point for voting YES
Final Vote 281-146-6

SUMMARY: A recent DOD report on suicide found that between 2005 and 2009, more than 1,100 servicemembers committed suicide—an average of 1 suicide every 36 hours. During that time suicide rates in the Marine Corps and Army have severely increased and the Army rate has more than doubled. Since 2001, 260 servicemembers have killed themselves while in Iraq and Afghanistan. Unfortunately, in the effort to stem the rising tide of suicides the Department of Defense (DOD) was relying on an ineffective, antiquated system of paperwork to conduct mental health evaluations. As a result, thousands of suffering servicemembers fell through the cracks. The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) of 2010 contained a provision that would require every returning servicemember to be confidentially screened in person by a trained mental health professional. IAVA had been advocating for this provision for over three years. The NDAA also contained many of IAVA Action’s other legislative recommendations including: increasing the number of mental health providers in the military, minimizing servicemembers’ exposure to hazardous waste by severely limiting the use of open air burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan and granting meaningful voting protections for overseas servicemembers (§ 575-589). The NDAA passed on a vote of 281-146.

NOTE: The NDAA also contained the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which increased the penalties and sentencing requirements for hate crimes against a victim based on race, color, religion, national origin, ethnicity, gender, disability, or sexual orientation.Although IAVA Action takes no position on this issue, the NDAA contained a significant number of our priorities to warrant its inclusion in the report card.


HouseVote #835,2009,H.R.3949
IAVA Action Position: Support
(2009 Legislative Agenda §2.5)
Members receive 1 point for voting YES
Final Vote 382-2-48

SUMMARY: The Servicemember Civil Relief Act (SCRA), originally drafted right before World War II, provides critical protections for deploying servicemembers and their families. Despite numerous revisions, these protections have failed to keep up with the steady march of technology. For example, deploying servicemembers were authorized to terminate cell phone contracts, but if they wanted to keep their phone number they were at the mercy of their cell phone provider. Many servicemembers had to continue to pay their full monthly bills in order to keep their phone numbers while unable to use their phones in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Veterans Small Business Assistance and Servicemembers Protection Act modernized the SCRA to allow servicemembers to keep their personal phone numbers and prohibited companies from charging penalties for breaking a rental or auto lease. The bill also required the VA to improve the coordination of its outreach efforts and ensure small businesses requesting a veteran’s preference are actually owned by veterans. This bill passed 382-2.


HouseVote #170,2010,H.R.4810
IAVA Action Position: Support
(2009 Legislative Agenda §2.4, 2010 Legislative Agenda §5.1)
Members receive 1 point for voting YES
Final Vote 413-0-16

SUMMARY: The VA estimates that on any given night 107,000 veterans are homeless and an additional 1.5 million veterans are at risk of becoming homeless due to poverty, lack of support networks, and dismal living conditions in overcrowded or substandard housing. The End Veteran Homelessness Act supports the Department of Veterans Affairs bold five year plan to end veterans’ homelessness and will dramatically increase funding to expand much-utilized VA programs. This legislation would increase the VA’s annual spending on homeless service programs from $150 million to $200 million, simplify the VA’s payment process for service providers who furnish services to homeless veterans and direct the VA to reach out to homeless female veterans and homeless veterans with children to inform them of available housing programs. This bill passed 413-0.


HouseVote #184,2010,H.R.1879
IAVA Action Position: Support
(2009 Legislative Agenda §2.2)
Members receive 1 point for voting YES
Final Vote 416-1-12

SUMMARY: National Guard members ordered to active duty to respond to a national disaster or protect our nation’s borders are not granted the same employment protections as active duty servicemembers. The National Guard Employment Protection Act extends Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) protections to these National Guard servicemembers. IAVA has regularly advocated for modernizing USERRA laws to meet the needs of current servicemembers. This legislation passed 416-1.


HouseVote #214,2010,S.1963
IAVA Action Position: Support
(2009 Legislative Agenda §2.4 §3.3, §3.7, 2010 Legislative Agenda §3.3, §3.4, §5.1)
Members receive 1 point for voting YES
Final Vote 419-0-11

SUMMARY: Family members of severely wounded veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan must make great personal sacrifices to provide daily care to their loved ones. Many give up careers and puttheirownlivesonholdtobelong-term,full-timecaregivers. According to the Wounded Warrior Project, approximately 2,000 of these wounded veterans have injuries so severe that they require help with everyday needs such as bathing,toileting, and eating. Many require constant watchful protection. The Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act provides caregivers a living stipend, health care coverage, respite care, lodging when the veteran must travel for treatment and continued training. This legislation also contained a number of other key IAVA Action priorities, including the expansion and improvement of VA health care for female veterans and support for homeless veterans. This legislation passed 419-0.


HouseVote #336,2010,H.R.5136
IAVA Action Position: Support
(2009 Legislative Agenda §3.5, 2010 Legislative Agenda §4.4)
Members receive 1 point for voting YES
Final Vote 229-186-17

SUMMARY: In 2009, there were more than 3,200 reports of sexual assault involving servicemembers. Last year there were 279 reported sexual assaults in combat zones. While these numbers are alarming, they grossly underestimate the severity of the issue. According to the Defense Department (DOD), only 20 percent of all unwanted sexual contact is reported to a military authority. Sexual assault is a violation of military values and professionalism and it undermines unit cohesion, morale and effectiveness. The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) of 2011 significantly strengthens the DOD’s military sexual trauma (MST) prevention programs. The NDAA contains 29 specific improvements to DOD’s MST programs, many of which were outlined in IAVA’s Legislative Agenda, including requiring the creation of a sexual assault hotline and authorizing access to legal counsel for sexual assault victims. The NDAA would also increase the number of mental health providers, improve DOD/VA record sharing, require a comprehensive screening policy for Traumatic Brain Injury and grant additional protection to the child custody agreements of deploying parents. The NDAA passed 229-186.

NOTE: “NDAA included a provision to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”. Although IAVA Action takes no position on this issue, the NDAA contained a significant number of our priorities to warrant its inclusion in the report card.


HouseVote #482,2010,H.R.5822
IAVA Action Position: Support
(2010 Legislative Agenda §3.1)
Members receive 1 point for voting YES
Final Vote 411-6-15

SUMMARY: Every year veteran service organizations release the annual Independent Budget (IB) which details the budgetary needs of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) for the upcoming year. The IB is designed to help Congress have a clear picture of the needs of our nation’s veterans and ensure that every veteran has access to high quality medical care and is not forced to wait for the benefits they have earned. Since January 2007, Congress has met or exceeded the recommendations of the Independent Budget and increased VA funding by $27 billion (70%). This year the House voted to fully fund the VA for Fiscal Year 2011 and provided an advanced appropriation for 2012, by passing the MiliCon-VA appropriations bill. The VA budget will allow the VA to hire 4,000 additional claims processors (an increase of almost 25%) and continue to provide substantial funding for mental health and homeless veterans programs. The VA appropriations passed 411-6.

IAVA Action recognizes members of Congress who take a leadership roll by cosponsoring bills tied to our top legislative priorities. Cosponsorship plays a critical role in elevating these issues into the national debate, making it possible to secure a vote. They receive one point for each of the priorities they support.

Advance Appropriations was a top priority for IAVA Action in 2009. It was signed into law in October of that year.


H.R. 1016, 2009 Legislative Agenda §3.1
Members received 1 point for cosponsoring this bill

SUMMARY: Congress has been late passing the Department of Veterans Affairs budget 20 years out of the past 23 years. Late budgets lead to inadequate planning and rationed health care for veterans. The Veterans Health Care Budget Reform and Transparency Act, also known as Advance Appropriations, authorized the approval of the VA budget two years in advance. This legislation removed partisanship and politics from the veterans funding process and was the top priority for IAVA Action in 2009.


H.R. 4121, H.R. 5549 or H.R. 5928, 2010
Legislative Agenda §1.2, in 2009 §2.1 and §3.2
Members received 1 point for cosponsoring any of these bills

SUMMARY: Disability Reform was one of IAVA Action’s top legislative priorities in 2010. Nine years into the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, veterans still have a disability claims process which was outdated years before most OIF and OEF veterans were born. Reforming the disability claims process was a top priority of over 30 veterans’ organizations in 2010. Despite strong support in the veterans’ community and from key members in Congress, the House Veterans Affairs Committee chose to ignore this issue in 2010. IAVA Action supported three bills that were introduced in the House that would make significant and meaningful reforms to the VA disability claims process. H.R. 4121 would have reformed the appeals process by making it easier to submit new evidence to the Board of Veterans Appeals. Additionally, it would allow the Board to rate individual injuries instead of sending the whole claim back for one error. H.R. 5549, made changes to the VA’s Fully Developed claims program by protecting the veterans effective date and ensuring that the VA fully notifies a veteran if their claim is found to be incomplete. H.R. 5928 would authorize the VA to conduct a Fast Track Claims program where the VA could assign interim ratings at the beginning of the review process for obvious injuries. This process would allow veterans to gain access to their care and benefits while the VA develops the rest of their claim.


H.R. 5933, 2010 Legislative Agenda §2.1, in 2009, §2.1
Members received 1 point for cosponsoring this bill

SUMMARY: Our work on the new GI Bill is not done. In 2008 Congress made a historic investment in our nations newest veterans. However thousands of veterans were left out of the Post 9/11 GI Bill. IAVA was a leader in developing an upgrade package to the New GI Bill, called New GI Bill 2.0. This legislation was one of IAVA Action’s top legislative priorities in 2010. Although over 300,000 students have already taken advantage of this historic new benefit, tens of thousands of veterans are still being left behind. Too many young veterans find themselves unable to take advantage of these GI Bill benefits because they are attending the wrong school and many others, already using the new GI Bill, have had their benefits cut by needlessly complicated regulations. New GI Bill 2.0 offers a comprehensive approach to upgrading the Post-9/11 GI Bill by expanding the benefit to include: 1) Vocational Training: Invaluable job training for students studying at vocational schools; 2) Title 32 AGR: Grant National Guard servicemembers responding to national disasters full GI Bill credit; 3) Distance Learners: Provide living allowances for veterans in distance learning programs. The New GI Bill 2.0 will also streamline and clarify the Post 9/11 GI Bill by removing tuition and fee caps and expand the Yellow Ribbon Program.


H.R. 5120 or H.R. 5400, 2010 Legislative Agenda §2.2, in 2009 §2.3
Members received 1 point for cosponsoring any of these bills

Summary: Fighting veteran unemployment was one of IAVA Action’s top legislative priorities in 2010. Unemployment rates among new veterans have risen significantly in the last two years. In 2009, the average unemployment rate for Iraq and Afghanistan-era veterans was 10.2%, up from 6.1% in 2007. The unemployment rate of Reserve and National Guardsmen, who often leave behind civilian jobs or their own business when they deploy, have more than quadrupled since 2007. In response IAVA Action supported two bills that offered unemployed veterans a meaningful chance at finding quality employment. The “Veteran Employment Assistance Act” (H.R.5120/S.3234) provides direct assistance to veteran owned small businesses, improves DOD’s Transition Assistance Program (TAP) and reauthorizes a program that helps veterans secure vocational certificates based on their military service. The “Veteran Employment Transition Act” (H.R.5400/S.3398) would extend a $2,400 tax credit to employers who hire unemployed veterans and simplify the process for employers to apply for that credit.


Senators receive one point for voting with IAVA Action on each bill.

TOP ISSUES FACING VETERANS

Senate Vote #129, 2009, Amend #882 S Con Res 13
IAVA Action Position: Oppose
(2009 Legislative Agenda §3.1)
Members receive 1 point for voting NO
Final Vote 38 – 60 - 1

SUMMARY: Over the past three years Congress has fully funded the Department of Veterans Affairs to ensure that returning veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan have access to benefits and care they so desperately need. This amendment to the 2010 budget resolution would have slashed over $50 billion from the VA’s budget and forced veterans to compete for funds to pay for basic benefits like disability and education. With the surge of veterans returning home from Iraq and the expanding number of boots on the ground in Afghanistan, IAVA Action adamantly opposed this amendment. The amendment failed in a vote of 38-60.

NOTE: This amendment was a complete alternative to the Congressional budget and contained many other non-veteran related provisions. This vote was selected because it was one of the few budget amendments that specifically cut the VA budget in order to pay for other domestic priorities.


SenateVote #173,2009,S.Con.Res.13
IAVA Action Position: Support
(2009 Legislative Agenda §3.1)
Members received 1 point for voting YES
Final Vote 53-43-3

for the upcoming year. The IB is designed to help Congress have a clear picture of the needs of our nation’s veterans and ensure that every veteran has access to high-quality medical care and are not forced to wait for the benefits they have earned.The IB is released in February so as to correlate with the Congressional Budget Resolution for the upcoming year. The Budget Resolution essentially sets the bottom line allocation that the VA/MilCon Appropriations committee must work within. Those committees can decide where within the VA the money is spent, but once the Budget Resolution is passed the decision to fully fund the VA is already made. The Budget Resolution for fiscal year 2010 fully funded the Department of Veterans of Affairs budget, allocating over $97 billion for the VA. IAVA Action is proud supporter of the IB and believes that choosing to fully fund the VA is a critical vote for our nation’s veterans. The budget passed on a vote of 53-43.

NOTE: The Congressional Budget Resolution sets a fiscal blueprint for the entire federal government and covers issues unrelated the Department of Veterans Affairs. However, considering the importance of fully funding the VA and the number of amendments that sought to slash VA funding we included this vote.


SenateVote #210,2009,H.R.2346
IAVA Action Position: Support
(Continued from our 2008 Legislative Agenda §4.3)
Members receive 1 point for voting YES
Final Vote 91-5-3

SUMMARY: As a result of stop loss orders since September 11, 2001 more than 170,000 troops have been forced to postpone their retirements, education plans, job opportunities or family plans.The military used its stop loss authority to hold these servicemembers beyond their enlistment contracts to help fill the ranks in Iraq and Afghanistan. In 2008 Congress passed legislation that offered stop-lossed servicemembers an additional $500/month to repay this additional service. However, that only paid servicemembers stop-lossed after the bill became law. In 2009, as part of the Supplemental Appropriations bill, Congress extended those payments retroactively to any servicemember who had been stoplossed since 9/11. IAVA strongly opposed the Department of Defense’s over reliance on stop loss authority and we worked hard to secure these additional payments.The supplemental also expanded the new Post-9/11 GI Bill to include the children of fallen servicemembers, creating the Marine Gunnery Sergeant Fry Scholarship. The supplemental passed on a vote of 91-5.

NOTE: IAVA Action has been fighting the use of stop loss authority since it began as an organization. In March of 2009 the DOD announced that it would severely limit the use of stop loss. The supplemental contained controversial provisions, including war funding, expansion of cash for clunkers and limitations on the transfer of Guantanamo detainees, but as a veterans organization we expect full congressional support on a provision which was so critical to the military and veterans community.


Senate Vote #327, 2009, H.R. 2647
IAVA Action Position: Support
(2009 Legislative Agenda §1.1)
Members receive 1 point for voting YES
Final Vote 68-29-3

SUMMARY: A recent DOD report on Suicide found that between 2005 and 2009, more than 1,100 servicemembers committed suicide—an average of 1 suicide every 36 hours. During that time suicide rates in the Marine Corps and Army have severely increased and the Army rate has more than doubled. Since 2001, 260 servicemembers have killed themselves while in Iraq and Afghanistan. Unfortunately, in the effort to stem the rising tide of suicides the Department of Defense (DOD) was relying on an ineffective, antiquated system of paperwork to conduct mental health evaluations. As a result, thousands of suffering servicemembers fell through the cracks.The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) of 2010 contained a provision that would require every returning servicemember to be confidentially screened in person by a trained mental health professional. IAVA Action had been advocating for this provision for over three years.The NDAA also contained many of IAVA Action’s other legislative recommendations including: increasing the number of mental health providers in the military, minimizing servicemembers’ exposure to hazardous waste by severely limiting the use of open air burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan and granting meaningful voting protections for overseas servicemembers (§ 575-589). (§ 575-589). The NDAA passed on a vote of 68-29.

NOTE: The NDAA also contained the Mathew Shepard Hate Crimes Act, which increased the penalties and sentencing requirements for hate crimes directed towards race, color, religion, national origin, ethnicity, gender, disability, or sexual orientation. Although IAVA Action takes no position on this issue, the NDAA contained a significant number of our priorities to warrant its inclusion in the report card.


Senate Vote #346, 2009, Amendment #2733 to H.R. 3082
IAVA Action Position: Support
(2009 Legislative Agenda §2.4)
Members received 1 point for voting YES
Final Vote 98-1-1

SUMMARY: The VA estimates that on any given night 107,000 veterans are homeless and an additional 1.5 million veterans are at risk of becoming homeless. This is a result of poverty, lack of support networks, and dismal living conditions in overcrowded or substandard public housing. The Homes for Heroes Act is a critical prevention initiative which established supportive housing and services for low-income veterans and their families, extended rental assistance programs to an additional 20,000 veterans, provided technical help to community based non-profits and ended the practice of denying veterans access to homeless programs if they also qualified for VA disability benefits. This legislation passed 98-1-1.


SenateVote #348,2009,H.R.3082
IAVA Action Position: Support
(2009 Legislative Agenda §3.1)
Members receive 1 point for voting YES
Final Vote 100-0-0

SUMMARY: The VA and Military Construction Appropriations for Fiscal Year 2010 provided $108 billion for the Department of Veterans Affairs, an increase of over 15% from the previous year. The bill included funding for mental health services ($4.6 billion), homeless veterans ($3.2 billion) and rural veterans ($440 million). The bill would also allow the VA to hire 1,200 additional claims processors to help reduce the burgeoning backlog of disability claims. This appropriations bill passed 100-0.

NOTE: This appropriations bill also contained the advance appropriation for FY 2011, acting on IAVA Action’s top legislative priority from 2009.


Senate Vote #352, 2009, S.1963
IAVA Action Position: Support
(2009 Legislative Agenda §2.4 §3.3, §3.7, 2010 Legislative Agenda §3.3, §3.4, §5.1)
Members receive 1 point for voting YES
Final Vote 98-0-2

SUMMARY: Family members of severely wounded veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan must make great personal sacrifices to provide daily care to their loved ones. Many give up careers and put their own lives on hold to be long-term, full-time caregivers. According to the Wounded Warrior Project, approximately 2,000 of these wounded veterans have injuries so severe that they require help with everyday needs such as bathing, toileting, and eating. Many require constant watchful protection. The Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act provides caregivers a living stipend, health care coverage, respite care, lodging when the veteran must travel for treatment and continued training. This legislation also contained a number of other key IAVA Action priorities, including the expansion and improvement of VA health care for female veterans and support for homeless veterans. This legislation passed 98-0.


SenateVote #374,2009,H.R.3288
IAVA Action Position: Support
(2009 Legislative Agenda §3.1)
Members receive 1 point for voting YES
Final Vote 57-35-8

SUMMARY: Congress has been late passing the Department of Veterans Affairs budget twenty times out of the past 23 years and 2009 was no exception. Late budgets lead to inadequate planning and rationed health care for veterans. In response to these late budgets, all of the leading veterans groups including IAVA, requested that Congress approve the VA budget two years in advance, otherwise known as advance appropriations. The Consolidated Appropriations Act for fiscal year 2010 included just such an advance appropriation for 2012, finally putting an end to the rationing of veterans health care. This appropriations bill passed 57-35.

NOTE: This bill also contained funding for DOT, HUD, Commerce, Justice, Treasury, Labor, HHS, Education and State departments. The vote for Advanced Appropriations is counted twice by IAVA Action because this is the vote that actually ended the rationing of VA health care. Previous version of Advanced Appropriations did not make it in to law. We also included this vote despite all the other agencies involved because several members were blocking any movement on any bills forcing the VA budget to be late by months.


SenateVote #94,2010,H.R.4872
IAVA Action Position: Support
(2010 Legislative Agenda §4.1, §4.3)
Members receive 1 point for voting YES
Final Vote 45-53-2

SUMMARY: To end the suicide epidemic and forever eliminate the stigma of seeking treatment for combat stress injuries Congress must knock down all barriers for veterans seeking care. Three years ago, Congress was considering critical suicide prevention legislation called the Joshua Omvig Suicide Prevention Act. When this desperately needed bill came to the Senate floor for a vote, rumors spread that the legislation would cause veterans, seeking help for PTSD, to lose their Second Amendment rights. Even though the National Rifle Association stated that the Joshua Omvig bill would have no impact on gun rights, critical sections of the Suicide Prevention Act were watered down in response. Unfortunately, even today IAVA still hears from veterans who worry that if they reach out for help that they will lose their second amendment rights. IAVA Action has strongly supported legislation, including this amendment, which would clarify that veterans seeking help from the VA would not be denied their Second Amendment rights for doing so. This amendment failed 45-53.

IAVA Action recognizes members of Congress who take a leadership roll by cosponsoring bills tied to our top legislative priorities. Cosponsorship plays a critical role in elevating these issues into the national debate, making it possible to secure a vote. They receive one point for each of the priorities they support.

Advance Appropriations was a top priority for IAVA Action in 2009. It was signed in to law in October of that year.


S. 423, 2009 Legislative Agenda §3.1
Members received 1 point for cosponsoring this bill

SUMMARY: Congress has been late passing the Department of Veterans Affairs budget 20 years out of the past 23 years. Late budgets lead to inadequate planning and rationed health care for veterans. The Veterans Health Care Budget Reform and Transparency Act, also known as Advance Appropriations, authorized the approval of the VA budget two years in advance. This legislation removed partisanship and politics from the veterans funding process and was the top priority for IAVA Action in 2009.


S. 3447, 2010 Legislative Agenda §2.1, in 2009, §2.1
Members received 1 point for cosponsoring this bill

SUMMARY: Our work on the new GI Bill is not done. In 2008 Congress made a historic investment in our nations newest veterans. However thousands of veterans were left out of the Post 9/11 GI Bill. IAVA was a leader in developing an upgrade package to the New GI Bill (New GI Bill 2.0). The New GI Bill 2.0 was one of IAVA Action’s top legislative priorities in 2010. Although over 300,000 students have already taken advantage of this historic new benefit, tens of thousands of veterans are still being left behind. Too many young veterans find themselves unable to take advantage of these GI Bill benefits because they are attending the wrong school and many others, already using the new GI Bill, have had their benefits cut by needlessly complicated regulations. New GI Bill 2.0 offers a comprehensive approach to upgrading the Post-9/11 GI Bill by expanding the benefit to include: 1) Vocational Training: Invaluable job training for students studying at vocational schools; 2) Title 32 AGR: Grant National Guardsmen responding to national disasters full GI Bill credit; 3) Distance Learners: Provide living allowances for veterans in distance learning programs. The New GI Bill 2.0 will also streamline and clarify the Post 9/11 GI Bill be removing tuition and fee caps and expand the Yellow Ribbon Program.


S. 3234 or S.3398, 2010 Legislative Agenda §2.2, in 2009 §2.3
Members received 1 point for cosponsoring any of these bills

SUMMARY: Fighting veteran unemployment was one of IAVA Action’s top legislative priorities in 2010. Unemployment rates among new veterans have risen significantly in the last 2 years. In 2009, the average unemployment rate for Iraq and Afghanistan-era veterans was 10.2%, up from 6.1% in 2007. The unemployment rate of Reserve and National Guardsmen, who often leave behind civilian jobs or their own business when they deploy, have more than quadrupled since 2007. In response IAVA Action supported two bills that offered unemployed veterans a meaningful chance at finding quality employment. The “Veteran Employment Assistance Act” (H.R.5120/S.3234) provides direct assistance to veteran owned small businesses, improves DOD’s Transition Assistance Program (TAP) and reauthorizes a program that helps veterans secure vocational certificates based on their military service. The “Veteran Employment Transition Act” (H.R.5400/S.3398) would extend a $2,400 tax credit to employers who hire unemployed veterans and simplify the process for employer to apply for that credit.


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