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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GOP Candidates Dishing Up Hatred and Bigotry in Iowa

Every major Republican presidential candidate has now promised to enshrine hatred in the U.S. Constitution with a permanent ban on marriage equality.  With the Iowa Caucuses just six days away, their promises present a very real threat to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people and our families.

  • Newt Gingrich, though he has an openly gay sister, recently called marriage equality a “temporary aberration.”  Gingrich has signed NOM’s anti-gay marriage pledge supporting a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.  He’s gone so far as to tell same-sex marriage advocates to go “vote for Obama.” Further, he has  formally stated he would reinstate the U.S. military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy if elected president.
  • Rick Perry has signed NOM’s anti-gay marriage pledge supporting a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.  He’s launched a TV ad blitz tearing into lesbians and gays serving openly in the armed forces.  Plus, he’s called President Obama’s bold decision to promote LGBT human rights abroad a “silly idea.” At a speech in Colorado: “We have amendments to our constitution abolishing slavery, giving women the right to vote, etc. Wouldn’t protecting traditional marriage qualify?”
  • Michele Bachmann (and her husband) believe all you need to do is pray the gay away.  Bachmann has signed NOM’s anti-gay marriage pledge supporting a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.She recently proclaimed – with pride – that as president, she would do nothing more to protect LGBT people from bullying and discrimination. She even had the gall to assert that gays and lesbians already have the right to marry, as long as it’s to someone of the opposite sex.  Recently, when asked a question about gay marriage, this was her response: “”I’m not involved in light, frivolous matters,” she said. “I’m not involved in fringe or side issues. I’m involved in serious issues.” So are we now to believe that being gay is a frivolous matter?
  • Mitt Romney has signed NOM’s anti-gay marriage pledge supporting a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. Currently, he is going door to door in Iowa to trumpet his “pro-marriage” (between only a man and a woman) credentials to conservative voters.
  • Rick Santorum has signed NOM’s anti-gay marriage pledge supporting a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.  He has proclaimed that being gay is a personal choice.  He has also criticized fellow Republicans for hesitating to back his efforts to ban same-sex marriage.  In response to a question asked by a gay soldier regarding DADT, Santorum had this to say: “We executed a policy that I think was detrimental to everyone, including them, in my opinion because sex and sexual preference should not be an issue in the military, period. It should not be something that is demonstrated in any shape or form in the military. And it shows how much our culture has changed that this is even a subject to be debated within the military.”  Santorum, who’s never served in the military, never bothered to thank the soldier (Stephen Hill) for his service.
  • Mitt Romney, Michele Bachmann, and Rick Santorum, as they have all pledged to form a “commission on religious liberty” to investigate the LGBT community (since NOM’s  history of extreme views against the granting of any rights for LGBT individuals) if elected President.”  Apparently these three candidates have learned nothing from history, specifically the McCarthyism of the 1950s or the Nazism of the 1940s.

Here is the full text of NOM’s (National Organization for Marriage) pledge, which has been signed by Rick Perry, Mitt Romney, Michele Bachmann, Rick Santorum, and Newt Gingrich:

I, _______, pledge to the American people that if elected President, I will:

One, support sending a federal constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman to the states for ratification.

Two, nominate to the U.S. Supreme Court and federal bench judges who are committed to restraint and to applying the original meaning of the Constitution, appoint an attorney general similarly committed, and thus reject the idea our Founding Fathers inserted a right to gay marriage into our Constitution.

Three, defend the federal Defense of Marriage Act vigorously in court.

Four, establish a presidential commission on religious liberty to investigate and document reports of American who have been harassed or threatened for exercising key civil rights to organize, to speak, to donate or to vote for marriage and to propose new protections, if need.

Five, advance legislation to return to the people of the District of Columbia their right to vote on marriage.

Thus far, Ron Paul and Jon Huntsman have not signed NOM’s pledge.

America is becoming more pro-equality by the minute, and we’re poised to secure key victories in 2012 – but the right wing has reacted with a panicked ferocity that has found its voice at the very highest levels.  As this campaign season progresses, we need you  to call out this kind of right-wing bigotry and to alert your friends and neighbors about anti-LGBT lies.  We need to be there, calling out every single offensive statement from a would-be president, all the while fighting for marriage equality and basic protections in the states.

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Next Week —The Defense Authorization Bill

The House is scheduled to take up HR 1540, the 2012 defense authorization bill, next week with plans to pass a $689B policy bill by Memorial Day.  That may prove challenging as this bill has some serious problems that any blue-blooded Democrat should have serious problems accepting.

The Potential and Precedence of Giving Too Much Authority to a President:

HR1540, the Fiscal Year 2012 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) in Section 1034, declares that the United States is in an armed conflict with not only al Qaeda and the Taliban, but “associated forces” and individuals, organizations and nations that support such forces. The President could then have the full legal authority to send American troops to engage in acts of war anywhere–Yemen, Somalia, Iran, even the United States–without  constitutionally required Congressional authorization and, consequently, without any restrictions or oversight from the American people or Congress.

SEC. 1034. AFFIRMATION OF ARMED CONFLICT WITH AL-QAEDA, THE TALIBAN, AND ASSOCIATED FORCES.

Congress affirms that—

  1. the United States is engaged in an armed conflict with al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and associated forces and that those entities continue to pose a threat to the United States and its citizens, both domestically and abroad;
  1. the President has the authority to use all necessary and appropriate force during the current armed conflict with al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and associated forces pursuant to the Authorization for Use of Military Force (Public Law 107–40; 50 U.S.C. 1541 note);
  1. the current armed conflict includes nations, organization, and persons who—
  1. are part of, or are substantially supporting, al-Qaeda, the Taliban, or associated forces that are engaged in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners; or
  1. have engaged in hostilities or have directly supported hostilities in aid of a nation, organization, or person described in subparagraph (A); and
  1. the President’s authority pursuant to the Authorization for Use of Military Force (Public Law 107–40; 50 U.S.C. 1541 note) includes the authority to detain belligerents, including persons described in paragraph (3), until the termination of hostilities.

Congress must protect the American people from the over-reach of any Chief Executive who is enamored with unilateralism, pre-emption, first strike and the power to prosecute war without Constitutional or statutory proscriptions.  Permanent, global war is not the answer. It will not increase our national security.  Far from ridding the world of terrorism, it will become a terrorist recruitment program.

It Continues to Fund Guantanamo and Disparage Human Rights of “Accused” Individuals

They’re not only NOT closing Guantanamo, they’re prohibiting the construction of facilities on U.S. soil. And, given the discussion of opening up travel to Cuba, they’ve added a provision that prohibits family visitations (to go along with all the other restrictions on access).

  • Section 1036 provides for the continued detention of individuals at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
  • Section 1037 prohibits the use of government funding to build and house detainees transferred from Guantanamo.
  • Section 1038 prohibits family visitations for anyone detained at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba
  • Section 1039 prohibits any transfers/releases of detainees within the United States
  • Section 1040 establishes prohibitions relating to the transfer/release of detainees
  • Section 1042 defines the term ‘‘terrorist offense’’ means any offense for which the defendant could be tried by a military commission under chapter 47A of title 10, United States Code (essentially denying any constitutional rights to anyone accused of a “terrorist offense … please notice that I said “accused” … and according to Section 1039, that person, a citizen, might be prohibited from being released back to the United States, even if found to be NOT guilty).

These sections have some pretty onerous requirements that will potentially impose bans on the transfer of any detainee held at Guantanamo, including those who have been cleared of any charges. This means that the United States would be forced to keep imprisoning men who are known to be innocent or are not a threat. This bill not only allows the imprisonment of innocent people, but could mandate it.

And then there’s all the anti-gay amendments that have been included in the bill:

The anti-gay coalition in the House has been actively amending the bill in committee.  Section 533 throws one last obstacle in the way of implementing Public law 111-321, the repeal of Don’t Ask-Don’t Tell Policy.  Section 534 defines marriage as a legal union between one man and one woman.  And, Secti0n 535 prohibits the use of military installation property for marriage ceremonies that do not comply with DOMA.

SEC. 533. ADDITIONAL CONDITION ON REPEAL OF DON’T ASK, DON’T TELL POLICY.

Effective as of December 22, 2010, and as if included therein as enacted, section 2(b) of Public Law 111–321 (124 Stat. 3516) is amended by adding at the end the following new paragraph:

‘‘(3) The Chief of Staff of the Army, the Chief of Naval Operations, the Commandant of the Marine Corps, and the Chief of Staff of the Air Force each submit to the congressional defense committees the officer’s written certification that repeal of section 654 of title 10, United States Code, will not degrade the readiness, effectiveness, cohesion, and morale of combat arms units and personnel of the Armed Force under the officer’s jurisdiction engaged in combat, deployed to a combat theater, or preparing for deployment to a combat theater.’’. 

SEC. 534. MILITARY REGULATIONS REGARDING MARRIAGE.

Congress reaffirms the policy of section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, codified as section 7 of title 1, United States Code. In determining the meaning of any Act of Congress, or of any ruling, regulation, or interpretation of the Department of Defense applicable to members of the Armed Forces or civilian employees of the Department of Defense, the word ‘‘marriage’’ means only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife, and the word ‘‘spouse’’ refers only to a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife.

SEC. 535. USE OF MILITARY INSTALLATIONS AS SITE FOR MARRIAGE CEREMONIES AND PARTICIPATION OF CHAPLAINS AND OTHER MILITARY AND CIVILIAN PERSONNEL IN THEIR OFFICIAL CAPACITY.

(a) LIMITATION ON USE.—A military installation or other property under the jurisdiction of the Department of Defense may be used as the site for a marriage ceremony only if the marriage complies with the definition of marriage in section 7 of title 1, United States Code.

(b) LIMITATION ON PARTICIPATION.—A member of the Armed Forces, including a chaplain, or civilian employee of the Department of Defense acting in an official capacity may assist in or perform a marriage ceremony only if the marriage complies with the definition of marriage in section 7 of title 1, United States Code.

And, there’s more yet to come once the bill hits the House Floor:

Something not yet in the bill is an amendment from Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-CA).  She intends to present an amendment that would repeal the military’s policy that prevents women from serving in front-line combat units in both the Army and the Marine Corps.  According to an article in the Marine Times, “As of April 1, a total of 137 women have died in the combat zones, with more than 60 killed in combat, showing women are involved in direct ground combat despite the exclusion policy, according to findings included in the bill.”

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