In Their Honor

May 23, 2014 | By CAP Action War Room

Progressive Policies For Veterans This Memorial Day
Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Washington, D.C.
Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Washington, D.C.    CREDIT: Shawn Davis

Memorial Day is a time for relaxation, but also for reflection and remembrance. The day is first and foremost about honoring American service members who are no longer with us. But there are also steps we can take to help improve the lives of the 10 million current vets and the many military families. So before you take off for the long weekend, take a few minutes to read our list of some progressive policies to help veterans:

  1. Support Vets Looking For Work. Veterans have suffered from Congressional Republicans’ refusal to extend emergency unemployment benefits. There are roughly 163,000 unemployed post-9/11 vets and more than 600,000 unemployed veterans overall. Those who volunteered to protect our nation oversees but can’t find a job back at home deserve more support from our elected officials.
  2. Give 1 Million Veterans A Raise. Of the roughly 10 million veterans in the United States today, one in ten — that’s 1 million vets — would get a boost in wages if we raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10. Almost two-thirds of these veterans are over the age of 40. Nobody should be paid wages so low that working full-time can still leave them in poverty, and that includes many former members of our Armed Forces.
  3. Help Keep Veterans Out Of Poverty. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, is a powerful anti-hunger and anti-poverty tool. But it’s been the subject of persistent attacks from some Republicans in Congress, who voted last year to cut $40 billion and push 4 to 6 million people from the program. SNAP has never been more needed for service members: there are 900,000 veterans who rely on the benefits in any given month, and military families’ reliance on the program hit a record high last year.
  4. Expand Health Care To Low-Income Residents. There are over a quarter million uninsured veterans in states that are currently refusing to accept federal funding to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. That’s just wrong. (While many people assume that all veterans have health benefits through the Department of Veterans Affairs, as of 2013 only two-thirds were eligible and just one-third were enrolled).
  5. Implement The Common Core. The average military family moves to six different states, and each state offers a separate set of academic standards for military children to follow. When relocating to one state, a child may be way ahead of her grade level; in another, she might be far behind. Having a high-quality, unified set of standards like the Common Core State Standards provide will help military families with transitions and ensure our nation’s economy and military remain strong.
  6. Expand Background Checks For Gun Buyers. Veterans are some of our nation’s foremost experts on guns, what they can do in the hands of trained, responsible people, and how they can be used in the hands of those who want to do us harm. The massive loopholes in our gun background check system allow criminals, domestic abusers, and other dangerous people to easily access guns. Expanding background checks to all gun sales goes hand in hand with strengthening our second amendment by helping keep guns out of the hands of criminals.
  7. Pass The Employment Non-Discrimination Act. There are over one million LGBT veterans and almost 50,000 more currently serving. Since the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, members of the military can serve with honesty and integrity and without the fear of discrimination based on sexual orientation. Unfortunately, the same fair treatment does not exist in the civilian sector. ENDA would go a long way to solve that problem and could also also significantly curtail high rates of veteran unemployment.

 

BOTTOM LINE: As a nation, we should pride ourselves on doing everything we can to make sure that citizens who sacrifice to protect our security and freedom are able to live healthy and secure lives back home. These are just a few of the many steps that we should take to get to that point for veterans, and create a more prosperous country for everyone.

PS: The allegations of long wait times and secret waiting lists at the Phoenix VA hospital is a serious concern and must be addressed immediately. But we must also not lose sight of the VA system’s successes, as well as its steady improvement in recent years. Here are key facts to know.


This material [the article above] was created by the Center for American Progress Action Fund. It was created for the Progress Report, the daily e-mail publication of the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Click here to subscribe.

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Support for Our Troops That Falls Short of the Mark

Amodei-SNAP02.fwFormer Vice President Dick Cheney took to Fox News on Monday night to lambaste the Obama administration’s proposed cuts to the military budget, lamenting the president’s desire to ensure that Americans have access to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), otherwise known as food stamps — despite the fact that over 900,000 veterans currently depend on them.

Cheney appeared on Sean Hannity’s prime-time show last night to discuss the the fiscal year 2015 military budget as previewed on Monday afternoon. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey announced among other initiatives a reduction in the size of the Army, a fact that didn’t sit well with Cheney. While the hand-wringing that the Army will be smaller than at any point after World War II is mostly hype, the former vice president still readily agreed with Hannity’s premise that the proposed cuts are “dangerous,” lamenting that Obama has not had Reagan-like increases in defense spending.

“You know, I’ve obviously not been a strong supporter of Barack Obama, but this really is over the top,” Cheney said. “It does enormous long-term damage to our military. They act as though it’s like highway spending and you can turn it on and off.” Cheney also remains worried that in announcing a rebalancing of U.S. strategy towards Asia — and away from the Middle East that was the focus of his time in office — is just a cover for Obama to slash the military budget further and display his dislike for the military further:

CHENEY: They peddle this line that now we’re going to pivot to Asia, but they’ve never justified it. And I think the whole thing is not driven by any change in world circumstances, it’s driven by budget considerations. He’d much rather spend the money on food stamps than he would on a strong military or support for our troops.

Amodei-SNAP.fwWhat Cheney apparently doesn’t realize is that many of the same troops that he claims the Obama administration doesn’t support rely heavily on the food stamps that he wishes to cut. A Defense Department review released last year showed that military families were more reliant on food stamps in 2013 than in any previous year, with over $100 million in food stamp spending at military grocery stores. “Food stamp usage at the stores has more than quadrupled since 2007 as the recession compounded the already difficult financial situation faced by military families,” ThinkProgress’ Deputy Economics editor Alan Pyke wrote last week.

Despite his experience in first the Pentagon and then the White House, Cheney also seems unaware that many of the troops he supports depend on the same food stamp program once they leave military service. “Nationwide, in any given month, a total of 900,000 veterans nationwide lived in households that relied on SNAP to provide food for their families in 2011,” the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities wrote in a recent analysis. Given the high unemployment rate among post-9/11 veterans — 9.7 percent for those who served when Cheney was in office — it’s unsurprising that many of them need assistance from the government to help make ends meet.

And in spite of the large number of former servicemen and women that count on the program, Cheney’s Republican colleagues are still fastidiously attempting to skin it to the bone. As of last November, thanks to House Republicans’ demands, veterans saw along with their fellow beneficiaries a cut of $36 a month for a family of four to $11 a month for a single person. The result: food stamps now average less than $1.40 per person per meal. Given just how sparse benefits were, at just $133 a month on average before the cut, Cheney’s protestation against Obama for wanting to provide more to those who have served comes across as somewhat unseemly.


This material [the article above] was created by the Center for American Progress Action Fund. It was created for the Progress Report, the daily e-mail publication of the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Click here to subscribe.

On the Hill this Week

With just a few weeks left before the August break, Congress will try this week to pass a few spending bills for the next fiscal year. And the Senate may address the student loan interest rate hike that took place July 1.

Spending Bills

While work continues on 2014 spending bills, chances are slim that they will be completed by the end of September, when the current continuing resolution expires. Most expect that Congress will again pass a continuing spending resolution to ensure 2014 funding.
Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act (S 1243): this bill would spend $54 billion in 2014, $10 billion more than the House version, and is the first spending bill for next year that the Senate has considered.
HR1243
Defense Appropriations Act (HR 2397): This bill spends $512 billion in non-war funding, down about $5 billion from last year’s bill but up $28 billion from current spending levels that include the sequester.
HR2397
As part of the debate on the defense spending bill, House members will be considering amendments to reduce military aid to Egypt and Syria — and limit NSA surveillance. Learn more in this week’s What to Watch with Charlie Mitchell.

In the Senate

Student Loan Interest Rates (S 1334): Congress might also finally pass a bill modifying the interest rate on student loans from the current 6.8 percent. A group of senators said they agreed to a bill last week that would peg the interest rate to the government’s borrowing rate, and the Senate may be in a position to pass this bill.
S1334
Many Democrats oppose the compromise, however, as it could lead the student rate to rise above 6.8% should interest rates rise higher. However, several key Democrats said last week that they support the bill, which would have the immediate effect of lowering the rate from 6.8 percent. The Senate compromise is very similar to a House-passed bill that many Democrats and President Obama said they oppose. As a result, Senate passage of the bill this week, could let the House quickly pass it as well.

In the House

The House may also take up to energy deregulation bills this week:

  • Energy Consumers Relief Act (HR 1852): would block regulations from the Environmental Protection Agency if they have an impact of $1 billion or more and would hurt job creation.
  • Coal Residuals Reuse and Management Act (HR 2218): would give states permission to set their own standards for managing coal runoff.

Finally, the House will consider up to six, less controversial suspension bills throughout the week:

  • Three Kids Mine Remediation and Reclamation Act (HR 697): conveying park land in Nevada to the city of Henderson, Nevada.
  • HR 1300: amending the Fish and Wildlife Act to reauthorize wildlife volunteer programs.
  • California Coastal National Monument Expansion Act (HR 1411): adding land in California to the National Landscape Conservation System.
  • WMD Intelligence and Information Sharing Act (HR 1542): establishing intelligence activities in the Office of Intelligence and Analysis in the Department of Homeland and security, related to weapons of mass destruction.
  • HR 2353: allowing vehicles currently allowed to operate on Route 41 in Wisconsin to remain legal even if a segment of the road is designated as a route on the Interstate System.
  • HConRes 44: A resolution allowing the Capitol grounds to be used for the Olympic torch run.

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Last week, the House voted last week to delay parts of Obamacare, the 2010 health care law, after the Obama Administration decided to delay the employer insurance mandate. 

Two Critics Of Government Spending Are Forcing The Army To Build Tanks It Doesn’t Want

By Annie-Rose Strasser on Apr 29, 2013 at 11:45 am

Credit: U.S. Army

Congress is forcing the Army to spend nearly half a billion dollars building tanks that Army officials insist they don’t want, with money they say could be better spent elsewhere, according to a new report from the AP.

Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) and Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) are the two members of congress at the helm of the effort to spend $436 million on upgrading the Abrams tank, “a weapon the experts explicitly say is not needed.” The reason? Both represent Ohio, home to the nation’s only tank manufacturing plant, which would profit from the money.

The move is contradictory for the two politicians; both are also vocal advocates for fiscal austerity, and have made careers insisting that the government cut what they see as wasteful spending. It would seem that pushing for tank production against the will of the Army — as Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno put it, “If we had our choice, we would use that money in a different way” — is in direct contradiction to that aim.

Still, Rep. Jordan defended his push for the funding, saying, “The one area where we are supposed to spend taxpayer money is in defense of the country.” This is a common line among Republicans. The House GOP’s proposed budget also seeks to restore funding the military says it doesn’t need.

Indeed, Republicans have pushed to maintain defense spending while pushing for cuts to mental health programs, cancer treatment, food safety inspectors, and preschool programs. They have repeatedly ignored or dismissed the assertion from military generals that President Obama’s budget, which would have made targeted cuts to military programs, was an acceptable path to spending reduction.

A cut to one specific program would by no means be a drastic setback for the military; between 2001 and 2011, military spending nearly doubled. American voters, much like the military’s generals, also support scaling back the military’s spending.


This material [the article above] was created by the Center for American Progress Action Fund. It was created for the Progress Report, the daily e-mail publication of the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Click here to subscribe.