Stan Spangle Sr.: We see new faces on VA committees
First let me note that we had a good turnout for our first Saturday of the first quarter gathering for 2013. I hope everybody learned something and enjoyed our time together. Our next meeting will be the April 6. If you missed the last couple of meetings, mark your calendar and watch the paper for my reminders.
Last week, President Obama nominated Chuck Hagel to be the next secretary of Defense. I, for one, hope he gets the post without too much hassle. I don’t know how I missed knowing that he was an enlisted veteran of the Vietnam War.
Here are some new folks on congressional committees: Sen. Dean A. Heller, R-Nev., new Republican and appointed to the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee; Sen. Mazie Keiko Hirono, D-Hawaii, new Democrat on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.
New members of the House Veterans Affairs Committee are: Rep. Brad Wenstrup, R-Ohio; Rep. Paul Cook, R-Calif.; Rep. Mark Allan Takano, D-Calif.; Rep. Julia Brownley, D-Calif.; Rep. Alice Costandina “Dina” Titus, D-Nevada; Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, R-Ari., and Raul Ruiz, D-Calif., Rep. Gloria Negrete McLeod, D-Calif., Rep. Ann (Annie) McLane Kuster, D-N.H., and Rep. Robert Francis “Beto” O’Rourke, D-Texas.
Help me to keep up with these “newbies” and how they handle their new environment especially during the next two months.
The Department of Defense (DoD) is gravely concerned about its budget, and how large the cuts will be. Even though the VA budget is not “on the table,” some of the services that the retirees and dependents use are funded through DoD. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta in a recent press conference made this point: “If Congress fails to pass an appropriations bill for fiscal 2013 and instead extends the continuing resolution through the fiscal year, overall operating accounts would decrease by about 5 percent … about $11 billion that would come out of operations and maintenance funds.” The O&M budget is what funds DoD health care, including TRICARE.
The unemployment rate of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans has dropped. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics the jobless rate for 2012 dropped to 9.9 percent from 12.1 percent for 2011. That is much too high when compared to the national rate of 7.8 percent. With the force reduction continuing, it is expected that 300,000 more will leave the military in each of the next four years. The VA reports that 880,000 veterans used the post-9/11 GI Bill.
Rep. Jeff Miller, chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, made the following statement: “During the 112th Congress, we came together with the higher education community and the Veterans Service Organizations in our commitment to ensuring that student veterans are getting the very best out of the GI Bill. The enactment of H.R.4057 only strengthens the educational benefits afforded America’s veterans and will give access to the best available information as they make life-changing decisions about higher education.”
Pray for the families of the fallen.
Stan Spangle Sr. is a 21-year veteran of the Marine Corps, serving in Korea and Vietnam. He’s a member of numerous veterans organizations. Representations of fact and opinions are solely those of the author.