The New Year is upon us at American Veteran magazine and this afternoon marks the start of the 112th Congress--with many shifts in leadership among the veterans affairs and armed services committees. Aside from the party shift in the House, the Senate is also slated to make significant changes to its committee assignments. American Veteran will follow today's developments and we will publish comprehensive lists of relevant committee assignments as they become available.
Over the next few weeks, AMVETS Acting Legislative Director Christina Roof will work diligently to deliver AMVETS Legislative Priorities for 2011 to each relevant committee member.
Yesterday marked another significant step in delivering quality educational and vocational training benefits to today's veterans with President Barack Obama's signing of the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2010, which passed Congress during the lame duck session.
The bill includes many of the improvements which AMVETS has called for over the last two years in an effort to make the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill more equitable for today's war fighters.
Among the critical improvements are offering benefits to Active Guard & Reserve, or AGR, soldiers and members of the military activated on Title 32 orders for homeland defense missions. The new law also allows veterans enrolled in non-degree or vocational training programs an opportunity to utilize their Post-9/11 G.I. Bill benefits to defray costs, and also offers distance learners a portion of the living stipend benefit.
The changes could make Post-9/11 G.I. Bill benefits available to an additional 400,000 veterans and current service members.
Unfortunately, the total law did not satisfy all of AMVETS' expectations, as Congressional leaders scrapped break payments of living stipends for more than 350,000 veterans currently enrolled under the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill. AMVETS recognized that offering break payments remained a budget-neutral proposal and asked Congressional leaders to keep the benefit intact. However, in the hours prior to the vote, the controversial proposal was kept in the bill.
Starting next fall, students enrolled under Chapter 33 will no longer be entitled to living stipend payments during winter and summer break months.
American Veteran will continue to follow implementation of the new G.I. Bill fixes.
On Monday, VA also announced its new plan to vet veteran-owned and service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses seeking government contracts. To read VA's announcement of the new policy, Click Here.
AMVETS Acting Legislative Director Christina Roof, who previously served as a small business consultant, has consistently called on VA to audit its contractors to ensure compliance. Roof called the new policy a "step in the right direction," but expressed concerns that the new verification process could create a backlog of contractors looking for work.
Under the new policy, VA will require the 13,000 companies currently listed in the Vendor Information Pages, or VIP, database to verify their status within 90 days. After this time, VA will consider additional applications for the VIP database from other potential VOSBs and SDVOSBs.
AMVETS outlined contractor compliance as a top priority in the 2011 Legislative Agenda. American Veteran will continue to follow this story closely. Check back regularly for updates.
(Image: Cover of AMVETS Legislative Priorities for 2011. Photo courtesy of Architect of the Capitol.)