Status Update for November, 2015


BY JOHN WELLS, ATTORNEY AND LEGAL ADVISOR
FOR BLUE WATER NAVY ASSOCIATION

Nov. 16, 2015

Report from Capitol Hill
November 16, 2015

Military-Veterans Advocacy spent the last week in Washington advocating for veterans issues. Executive Director, Commander John B Wells, USN (retired) met with the Committee staffs for the Majority and Minority on both the House and Senate side.

This week was unusual because Congress was out of session, there were a number of court cases and everything was closed for Veterans Day. That gave me a great "veg time" which I used to wander around the various veterans monuments. I found this inspiring.

HR 969/S 681, the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2015 continues to be the focus of much of MVA’s work. This bill is supported by virtually every veterans organization. I am happy to report that MOAA, the American Legion, VFW, FRA, AUSN and others have consistently focused this bill in their sessions with members of the House and Senate. Their comments, as well as our on have been well received.

HR 969 has 289 co-sponsor and the Senate version S 681 has 34 co-sponsors. It is on the radar of both the House and Senate Committee Chairman. Two things are holding the bill up at this point. First the Congressional Budge Office score which is required to go over. CBO has missed two deadlines and the Committee is continuing to pressure them. The second holdup is the VA draft regulation to be issued in response to Gray v. McDonald which is supposedly over at the White House. Both of these items will directly affect the cost of the bill and the need to identify any offsets.

The Senate Committee staffs (both Democrat and Republican) have been trying to contact the VA to find the status on the regulation. So far there has been no response. Notably a planned meeting between a supporting Veterans Service Organization and Secretary McDonald was postponed until next year with little notice. One staffer told me that a "cone of silence " had descended over the VA on this issue.

Consequently I met with two other attorneys Friday morning concerning pending Da Nang harbor cases that had been disapproved by the Board of Veterans Appeals. We are all filing next week and intend to cooperate on the cases, ask the court for expedited consideration and possible consolidate cases. Accordingly, it is important that if anyone knows of a Da Nang Harbor case denied post-Gray that the veteran or his/her attorney contact me immediately. We need to coordinate these matters. Contact me via e-mail at jwells@hillandpontoon.com or instant message me.

I also met with the House Committee on HR 1769 the Toxic Exposure Research Act. They are working on fine tuning the bill. Again, the CBO is required to score the bill and there is no indication when that will happen.

We also won a Motion to Dismiss on a military religious freedom case. Based on a recent court decision, there was a strong possibility that the case would be dismissed because of a relatively obscure administrative remedy. The government agreed, however, that we had began the compliance and we were able to convince the Judge to continue the matter to allow the Service Secretary to respond.

I also had a very good oral argument on a case not connected to Military-Veterans Advocacy. I also conducted a one hour webinar on veteran’s law for the Federal Bar Association.

I will return to Washington DC on December 8. Our goal is to meet with the House leadership on HR 969 and to follow up on the post-Gray litigation.

I realize that some of you think this is an endless process. I started going to the Hill in 2010 and this version of the Bill was introduced in the autumn of 2011. I was told it takes 5-7 years to get a "new money " bill through Congress. So we are on schedule. This is not the time to give up hope. Keep the cards and letters coming to Members of Congress and the Senate as well as the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee and the White House.

John Well, Executive Director
Military-Veterans Advocacy, Inc.
Legal Counsel to Blue Water Navy Association



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