This afternoon, AMVETS will once again be out in force on Capitol Hill when AMVETS Acting Legislative Director Christina Roof appears alongside Rep. John Carter, R-Texas, AMVETS members Sue Downes and Kevin Stone, and other Congressional leaders to introduce the Veterans Equal Treatment of Service Dogs Act, or VETS Dogs Act, a critical piece of legislation that will permanently close a loophole in VA policy that has created hurdles to care for disabled veterans.
Carter and AMVETS will officially announce the bill during a press conference at the House Triangle, outside the U.S. Capitol Building at 3 p.m.
Both Downes and Stone are veterans utilize service dogs as VA-sanctioned prosthetic devices for physical injuries, but both have experienced barriers to care at VA facilities. Though VA issued a directive recently to ensure veterans and their service dogs will not be turned away, AMVETS and Congressional leaders continue to push for a policy change that will offer permanent equality in access.
Downes, a double amputee who was severely wounded in Afghanistan, was the first female combat veteran from the current conflicts to receive a service dog. Downes earned two Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star for her service and today she is a mother of two.
Stone, a former Army infantry light fighter who was injured in a training accident, is now a U.S. Paralympic medalist in archery who represented Team USA in Athens in 2004 and Beijing in 2008.
Downes and her service dog, Lila, and Stone and his service dog, Mambo, will be available to explain what the legislation means for veterans and share some of their personal, inspiring experiences.
This afternoon, AMVETS National Communications Director Jay Agg will also appear before the House VA Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs to discuss the proposed 2012 budget for VA's National Cemetery Administration, or NCA, and the Veterans Benefits Administration, or VBA.
The hearing will come to order at 1 p.m. in the House Veterans Affairs Committee chambers, Cannon 334. To view live video of the hearing, Click Here.
Agg will appear alongside Independent Budget partner Disabled American Veterans and VA officials, including VA Acting Under Secretary of Veterans Benefits Mike Walcoff. Agg's testimony will focus heavily on the mission of NCA, but will also touch on issues facing VBA, such as the ongoing claims backlog.
To view a full list of witnesses and to read their prepared remarks, Click Here.
Sons of AMVETS from around the country will also continue their visits with legislators, armed with the AMVETS Legislative Priorities for 2011, and AMVETS Department of Ohio will commence its annual visits with the Ohio Congressional delegation.
Finally, tonight, AMVETS will honor Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn., with the 2011 Congressional Silver Helmet Award during a special reception in the Cannon Caucus Room at 5:30 p.m. Roe, a former Army doctor and current member of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, was chosen for the award for his sustained commitment to American veterans, which spans both his career as an Army surgeon and his current role as a veterans' advocate in Congress.
All events are open to the public and all members of the AMVETS family in Washington for LZ:DC are invited to attend. American Veteran will also be on hand throughout the day, bringing continuing coverage of AMVETS LZ:DC. Check back regularly for updates from the LZ.
(Image: Kevin Stone meets with Rep. John Carter, R-Texas, during visits to Capitol Hill last March when AMVETS and partner non-profit Paws With A Cause educated legislators on the benefits of service dogs for disabled veterans. Photo by Ryan Gallucci.)