FRA NewsBytes December 19, 2014

FRA Newsbytes 12/19/2014

FRA Newsbytes 12/19/2014

In this issue:
113th Congress Sees Increase in Action Center Usage
Senate Derails Military Suicide Prevention Bill but Passes TBI Improvements
Fewer Veterans Starting Small Businesses
FRA Headquarters Holiday Closures

113th Congress Sees Increase in Action Center Usage
The 113th Congress was a record-breaking Congress for members using the FRA Action Center (nearly 116,000). Since starting the program in 2005, usage has increased more than tenfold. The Action Center (available at action.fra.org/action-center) provides pre-written messages either supporting or opposing legislation that shipmates can edit and send to their elected officials in Washington. Grassroots advocacy has a direct influence on the Association’s ability to effectively represent your concerns before Congress and appropriate federal agencies.

Legislation that was not passed during 113th Congress (2013–2014) is tabled and must be re-introduced in the new 114th Congress that starts on January 6, 2015. As key bills are introduced they will be listed on the Action Center.
Senate Derails Military Suicide Prevention Bill but Passes TBI Improvements
FRA staff (ADVP Ben Young) participated in a Capitol Hill press conference, along with nine other veterans’ service organizations (VSOs), to advocate for immediate passage of military and veteran suicide prevention legislation in the Senate before Congress adjourned. Also in attendance were Senators Bernie Sanders (Vt.), Richard Blumenthal (Conn.), and John Walsh (Mont.). Senate rules require unanimous consent to move a bill immediately to the floor for final consideration, but Senator Tom Coburn (Ok.) objected, which effectively killed the bill.

Last week, the House approved the “Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act” (H.R. 5059), which requires the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the Department of Defense (DoD) to allow an annual independent third party evaluation of their mental health care and suicide prevention programs. This FRA-supported legislation was approved by a voice vote, and sent onto the Senate for further consideration.

The bill further seeks to reduce veterans and military suicide by:

  • Requiring the VA to create a one-stop interactive website to serve as a centralized source of information regarding all VA mental health services;
  • Addressing the shortage of mental health care professionals by authorizing VA to conduct a student loan repayment pilot program to recruit and retain psychiatrists; and
  • Creating a pilot program to assist veterans who are transitioning from active duty to veteran status.

FRA will continue to work on legislation in the next session of Congress to reduce veteran and military suicides.

In related news, the Senate passed and sent to the President the “Veterans Traumatic Brain Injury Care Improvement Act” (H.R. 4276). The legislation, sponsored by Rep. (Sen.-elect) Bill Cassidy (La.), aims at enhancing treatment services for veterans living with traumatic brain injury (TBI).

 

Fewer Veterans Starting Small Businesses
A recent Bloomberg Businessweek report references the Kaufman Foundation’s “Index of Entrepreneurial Activity,” which found that the current veterans’ startup rate for businesses is less than the startup rates for all Americans, and less than the veteran startup rate in 1996. Despite the fact that the pool of federal money available to veteran entrepreneurs is increasing, Congress created a preference for government contractors owned by service-disabled veterans in 2003. The program has grown from $760 million in that year to $11 billion in 2014. The Small Business Administration (SBA), meanwhile, has offered steady support for loan programs designed to help veterans. For more information about SBA assistance for veterans, go to: http://www.sba.gov/content/veteran-service-disabled-veteran-owned.
FRA Headquarters Holiday Closures
FRA National Headquarters (NHQ) Staff wishes everyone a Merry Christmas, a safe and joyous holiday, and a very happy 2015! Our offices will be closed on December 24–26 for Christmas, and will reopen on Monday, December 29. NHQ will also be closed on December 31 and January 1 in observance of New Year’s Day.

Due to the holiday schedule, the next edition of FRA NewsBytes will be January 5, 2015.