veterans-affairs

Lawmakers Seek to Crack Down on Veterans Affairs Budget Requests
VA would be required to provide a spending plan and justification

Sen. Jon Tester was among a bipartisan group of senators who introduced legislation that would require Veterans Affairs officials to provide a spending plan and justification for certain funding requests. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Following repeated last-minute requests from the Department of Veterans Affairs for billions of dollars to keep a private care access program running, lawmakers have introduced legislation to crack down on how the agency comes calling for more money.

Sens. Jon Tester, D-Mont., John McCain, R-Ariz., Tim Kaine, D-Va., and Joe Manchin III, D-W.Va., introduced legislation that would require the VA to make additional funding requests outside the regular budget process 45 days before a veteran could lose health care or benefits, according to a press release late last week.

Donnelly: 'Heartbreaking' Military Suicide 'Has to End'

Donnelly spoke at the panel Thursday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Maj. Gen. Mark Graham stood in front of the handful of people gathered in a Senate office building Tuesday and recited a phone number.  

"855-838-8255. Don't wait. Don't wait. Call," Graham said. He was listing the number of Vets4Warriors, a 24/7 call center where veterans provide support to service members and their families. In 2003, Graham's his son, Kevin, who had planned on becoming an Army doctor, committed suicide. Fewer than nine months later, his other son, Jeff, was killed by an improvised explosive device while serving in Iraq.  

Honoring Veterans, One Story at a Time

The Veterans History Project has more than 99,000 collections. (Al Drago/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Americans will pause Wednesday to remember the nation's veterans. But one Library of Congress project is working to ensure veterans' stories are preserved for years to come.  

The Veterans History Project is celebrating its 15th anniversary this year. It was established on Oct. 27, 2000, by an act of Congress, and over the past 15 years the project has collected more than 99,000 stories of service members. Former Librarian of Congress James H. Billington touted the program at congressional hearings on the Library's budget, noting in his March testimony to the Senate subcommittee of jurisdiction it "is now the largest oral history project in America."  

It's Veterans Week in the Senate

Kirk is the MilCon-VA subcommittee chairman. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has an aggressive plan for what could be a two-day workweek ahead of the Veterans Day holiday.  

The Kentucky Republican secured a consent agreement Nov. 5 that sets up a Tuesday morning vote on the Senate agreeing to a House-passed revision of the fiscal 2016 defense authorization bill, clearing one must-do item off the calendar. While the changes to the policy measure reflect the funding levels for the Pentagon in the recent bipartisan budget agreement, eliminating one key reason President Barack Obama vetoed the original measure, a disagreement remains over potentially closing the detention facility at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.  

McCain to Democrats: Do You 'Give a Damn' About Servicemembers?

McCain gave a biting floor speech about the blockade of the defense spending bill. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The Republican defense policy leader in the Senate wondered aloud Thursday if Democrats "don't give a damn" about military personnel.  

During a stem-winding floor speech, Armed Services Chairman John McCain, R-Ariz., asked if his Democratic counterparts were blocking the defense spending bill debate not for procedural reasons — but because they don't care. "It's foolish, it's cynical and dangerous to hold defense legislation hostage until every one of their political demands is met," McCain said. "Veterans Day is one week away. I urge my Democratic colleagues: Stop treating our national defense as a tool for extracting political leverage."  

Senators Form Unlikely Alliance on Veterans' Education

Brown is working with his GOP colleague from North Carolina on a trio of veterans issues. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

When it comes to veterans issues, a seemingly unlikely partnership is emerging in the Senate between Ohio Democrat Sherrod Brown and freshman Republican Thom Tillis of North Carolina.  

Tillis and Brown have already introduced a trio of bills related to education and vocational training for veterans, including those fresh out of the armed forces. The most recent measure, filed last week, would direct the Department of Veterans Affairs to put together an action plan to improve rehabilitation services so disabled veterans can receive enhanced job training. Brown said he often develops proposals of this nature after holding a town hall meeting or other communication with his Ohio constituents. Then, given the Senate's rules making it difficult to advance legislation regardless of whether the author is in the majority or not, he seeks a partner in the GOP.  

Tim Kaine: Sequestration, VA Hospital Top Concerns

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

RICHMOND, Va. — While Sen. Mark Warner round-tabled down the street on Tuesday with a group of gig-economy workers, Virginia’s junior senator, Democrat Tim Kaine, met with local black business leaders in Richmond on a five-day economic tour through the state.  

Talk primarily focused on federal contracting, which Kaine said later was consistent with the most common concern voiced by Virginia business interests: sequestration and the federal budget. Kaine predicted he’d hear sequester questions wherever he goes.  

GOP Seeking Venues to Attack Planned Parenthood

Tillis drafted an amendment that could effectively block the VA from funding Planned Parenthood. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Republicans want the debate over federal funding of Planned Parenthood to take place everywhere.  

As expected , Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., has filed an amendment to the vehicle for the highway bill that would block taxpayer dollars from flowing to the organization in the aftermath of controversial videos that critics said showed the organization was engaging in improper organ harvesting after abortions.  

House GOP Postpones Votes on VA Spending Bill

South Carolina Republican Mulvaney teamed Wednesday with Maryland Democrat Van Hollen to derail, for now, the veterans spending bill. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

House Republicans have been boasting about their early start to appropriations season, but consideration of the very first spending bill — considered the least controversial of all 12 annual measures — hit a snag Wednesday night.  

GOP leaders had intended to hold evening votes on a slew of amendments and on final passage of the fiscal 2016 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs appropriations bill, but ultimately opted to postpone that vote series at the very last minute. Some sources suggested it was a matter of fatigue, with House lawmakers still on tap to start slogging through amendment debate on the second appropriations bill in the queue, one to fund energy and water-related programs. Others pointed to the late-night markup of the National Defense Authorization Act that was still going on inside the House Armed Services Committee, with members of that panel possibly missing the chance to weigh in on important provisions.  

House Democrats Threaten to Sink House GOP Spending Bills

Becerra and other Democrats may defect on the Department of Veterans Affairs spending bill. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

House Democrats voted unanimously last year for the appropriations bill to fund the Department of Veterans Affairs and related programs; this year, there could be considerable defections.  

Reps. Xavier Becerra of California and Joseph Crowley of New York, the chairman and vice chairman of the House Democratic Caucus respectively, told reporters Wednesday morning they would not be complicit in passing the fiscal 2016 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs appropriations bill this week — a bill they contend would ultimately decimate veterans services.