|The House of Representatives is in recess until after the November elections. The Senate, however, is still in session and apparently will be for a couple more weeks.
In any event, passage of any more legislation during this Congress (which will end whenever they officially adjourn sometime in December) that pertains to military people is highly unlikely, with the possible exception of one thing: the Blue Water Navy presumption bill.
The Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act (HR 299) would extend Agent Orange disability benefits and health care to between 70,000 and 90,000 veterans who served aboard ships in territorial waters off Vietnam during the war, and today suffer ailments associated with herbicides sprayed across its jungles for years.
The House passed the bill back in June and we all thought it would go through the Senate reasonably quickly. But then at the end of July the Department of Veterans Affairs testified before the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee and told them the VA opposes the bill. Since then, the bill has been stuck and although there is still a chance the Senate could pass the bill, most people are very doubtful that will happen.
Both the House and Senate must come back to finish their work after the elections because about a third of the government is funded for fy 2019 only until December 7. Just what they will work on when they return besides funding legislation is unclear, and could be determined by the results of the elections.
TREA supports the bill and has lobbied in favor of it but we are troubled by the way the House chose to pay for it – by forcing other veterans to pay more for their benefits and using that money to pay for HR 299. We are opposed in principle to cutting some veterans’ benefits in order to pay for other veterans’ benefits.
If HR 299 does not pass this year we will have to start over next year and, hopefully, we can find a different way to pay for the measure.
New veterans bills continue to be introduced in Congress but they will all be dead at the end of the year. That’s because any bill that does not get passed during the current session of Congress automatically dies and must be reintroduced next year in the new Congress.