With the Oct. 1 budget deadline looming, Canon City R. Tim Grabin, National Legislative Council Colorado was one of 400 American Legion representatives, who traveled to Washington D.C. to stand up for veterans rights.
As a member of the legislative council with Rep. Doug Lamborn’s office, he attended the American Legion National Commanders annual presentation of Legislative Priorities to Congress and related events to visit with congress members about veterans issues.
“We, the American Legion, are not political, but when it comes to veterans issues, you bet we are,” he said. “We’re very political when it comes to veterans issues, as well as for the active duty military.”
The conference began with a briefing on current legislative matters Sept. 20 then a follow up with the National Commanders breakfast reception to honor selected congressional members in the Top of the Hill at the Reserve Officers building.
From there, the group traveled to the Dirkson Senate building, where National Commander Fang A. Wong, of New York, gave his testimony before a joint session of the United States House and Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committees.
One of the top priorities for the fiscal year of 2012 is the VA budget, which consists of H.R. 2055, approved by the House of Representatives for military construction and VA appropriations measure with a recommendation of $129.7 billion for VA programs or $7.8 billion more than the current year. On the other side, the Senate recommended spending $128.1 billion for the same programs at a $6.2 billion rate higher than this year.
“The American Legion believes vital military benefits, such as healthcare cannot be sacrificied merely for short-term savings and urges protection of these programs,” said Grabin, who quoted the American Legion drop sheet. “We want it passed before the deadline. What we were expressing to our congressmen is to put pressure on getting this bill passed.”
To continue the process on the local front, Grabin urged residents to call their local representatives and senators. In Colorado, constituents may call Sen. Mark Udall at (202) 224-5941, Sen. Bennett at (202) 224-5852, Rep. Mike Coffman at (202) 225-7882 or Rep. Doug Lamborn at (202) 225-4422.
“The American Legion urges Congress to reconcile the appropriations bill and provide Veterans Administration with a budget before Oct. 1 deadline,” Grabin said. “We oppose including this in a continuing resolution. We urge everyone to call and have their friends call their state representatives before this deadline.”
Other priorities which the American Legion supports are the Flag Protection Amendment and the Veterans Jobs Legislation.
Fifty seven representatives co-sponsored the H.J. Res. 13 and 26 senators co-sponsored a similar bill, S.J. Res. 19, in favor of the amendment to protect the flag.
“The American Legion is committed to protecting Old Glory from acts of physical desecration,” Grabin added. “The final say should be with the people as expresed through Congress and the 50 state legislatures.”
In the meantime, the Veterans Jobs Administration would provide jobs for veterans, who have returned home after being trained in various occupations.
“We stress hiring the heroes as of 2011,” Grabin said. “This was under S.951, introduced by Chairman Miller. According to the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, there are more than 1 million veterans who are unemployed.”
From a personal standpoint, Grabin said a soldier who has driven a truck carrying millions of dollars of equipment in a war zone should be able to return home and drive a truck, hauling eggs to the local market, but this is not the case. Also someone who has served as a paramedic should be able to get a job in the healthcare field without starting from scratch.
“Let’s give credit where credit is due,” he said. “They are more than qualified. Our credentials are not honored and taken care of for their military skills.”
The American Legion urged that H.R. 2433 and S. 951 be approved in order to resolve veterans joblessness, the drop sheet added.
“My personal feeling as a Legionnaire of Colorado, we ought to treat our veterans more of a status of being a Roman soldier, which was a first class citizen,” Grabin said. “They’re the second person forgotten as soon as the war is over. The first person is God.”