The official blog of American Veteran Magazine, the national quarterly publication of AMVETS.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Diane Zumatto, National Legislative Director, Spring 2012 American Veteran Column

Hill Watch with Diane Zumatto

According to Webster’s Dictionary, the definition of the word ‘association’ is an organization of persons having a common interest.  This common interest is what initially brings people together and motivates them to join associations.  If you consider yourself a professional and interested in furthering your career, then joining a professional association, such as AMVETS, is a good start. There are associations for nearly every profession or area of interest and many, including AMVETS, have national, state, and regional chapters available to join. An association is a powerful and energetic group; the energy of each component is multiplied as it feeds off the energy around it, which simply means that the effect of a collection of people is greater than just one individual.

For most of us, establishing and maintaining professional relationships is important, and joining a group like AMVETS allows you, through shared experiences, to have a sense of security and trust. Associations, like AMVETS, sponsor various events throughout the year, allowing members to connect with their military and veteran peers.  Members share ideas, ask for advice, volunteer, sponsor local events or serve on committees as well as learn "best practices" and new ideas. Regardless of why you join, giving back can be the best reward and benefit.
AMVETS is a military and veteran service organization which:

  • provides advocacy;
  • can help you network to access job opportunities; 
  • can assist you in filing a disability claim with the VA; and 
  • lobbies Congress to protect your earned benefits 
All of the above, plus our quarterly magazine, for the price of a dinner out. 

Your National Legislative Department has been very busy meeting with legislators on Capitol Hill and discussing several issues of interest to veterans, including, but not limited to:  the importance of avoiding sequestration for VA; affirmative action designation for veterans; mental health care accessibility for veterans; no increases in TRICARE fees; keeping the VETS program as part of the Department of Labor; Post-9/11 GI Bill improvements and consumer awareness;  veteran status for career National Guard and Reserve members; the importance of funding the Vision Trauma Program; Transition Assistance Program modernization; and the special needs of homeless women veterans.

The importance of your personal involvement in the legislative process cannot be underestimated.  Each of you, as constituents within your home states, has the power to join your efforts with ours at National Headquarters.  I encourage each and every one of you to stay informed and get involved.  How you ask?  There are many things you can do including:  respond to ‘Legislative Alerts’ from AMVETS; attend a regional or state-level hearing on veterans issues; attend a town meeting in your home town; make an appointment to meet with your legislators the next time they are back in your home state; write a letter to the editor on an issue of importance to veterans; and offer to speak on veteran issues at your local Chamber of Commerce or school or better yet, run for a political office at the local, state or federal level.

Now that you have some ideas about how to become involved in the legislative process, how will you stay informed?  Take advantage of the resources available on the AMVETS legislative page; read the AMVETS magazine, American Veteran, when it arrives; visit the Library of Congress’ legislative website, THOMAS at; and visit the Web pages of your legislators  and the White House to sign up for their newsletters, participate in veterans blogs, read targeted publications, etc.

What resources are available to you on the AMVETS legislative home page?  Near the middle of the page you’ll see a new feature you can take advantage of - CapWiz.  This option not only allows you to respond to legislative alerts but provides many additional informational resources including: Elected Officials, Issues, Election, and Media tabs. Elected Officials is where you can find various information on all your elected officials through a search by state or zip code. The Issues tab directs you to links for legislative alerts and updates, including current legislation that we’re monitoring, key vote information and Capitol Hill basics. Election directs you to an election guide that is searchable by races, candidates, and/or states, and you can even register to vote. The last tab, Media, leads you to contacts for local and national media, which is searchable by the name of a media organization, state or zip code.

Look a little further down the page and you’ll see these additional resources:  ‘Stay Informed,’ ‘Spread the Word’ and ‘Congress Today,’ which will link you to the House and Senate schedules as well as the hearings schedule for both houses.

If you want to make a difference and protect yourself, we need to combine our efforts and let your legislators know that you care about veteran’s issues, that you are watching them, and that you vote.  Once you have their attention you need to let them know that there is no more important issue facing veterans right now than sequestration.   I say this because if sequestration is invoked and the VA is not protected or excluded, then none of our other legislative priorities will have any meaning.  I cannot overemphasize the importance of this one issue.  If each member sent a letter to the editor and/or to their legislators indicating the importance of protecting the VA from sequestration we would make major headway in protecting our earned benefits.

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1 comment:

  1. Thank you for the info. It sounds pretty user friendly. I guess I’ll pick one up for fun. thank u

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