American Legion National Commander James “Bill” Oxford presented the organization’s legislative priorities before members of Congress as part of the 60th annual Washington Conference in the nation’s capital.
For the second session of the 116th Congress, the following are The American Legion’s priorities. A more in-depth outline of these priorities can be found in the Legion’s Legislative Agenda at www.legion.org/publications.
Toxic exposures and burn pits. Millions of veterans have been deployed in the Global War on Terror, and a disturbingly high percentage of them have been exposed to airborne toxic hazards during their service as a result of burn pits. The American Legion has for decades fought for service-connected disability benefits for adverse health conditions linked to toxic exposures. The American Legion supports measures to establish a presumption of exposure as well as continued studies on the effects of burn pits. (S. 2950)
Health care for women veterans. VA must continue to develop and expand health-care services for the fast-growing population of female veterans. All veterans, regardless of gender, must receive fair and equal VA health-care services. (S. 514, H.R. 3224)
Support VA’s suicide-prevention efforts. An estimated 20 veterans die by suicide every day. Most were not receiving care or support through VA that may have saved them. The American Legion supports expanding and promoting mental health treatment for veterans and urges Congress to provide VA necessary funds to hire mental health professionals and proper staffing for its Integrative Health and Wellness Program. (S. 785)
Reaffirm commitment to our allies. The American Legion supports bills that would provide the State Department necessary resources to maintain and expand our alliance system, ensure aid programs to allies remain properly funded, and promote our national interests abroad. (H.Res 220)
Fully fund a superior national defense. The American Legion supports a defense budget that complies with the Pentagon’s 2018 National Defense Strategy in order to reverse the damaging effects of sequestration, provide fair compensation of military personnel and modernize the U.S. military to protect against any aggression, especially in a time of growing great power competition. (Resolution 35, 2018)
Pay the Coast Guard. The American Legion supports bills and provisions that will ensure the Coast Guard is paid during government shutdowns. (S. 21, H.R. 367)
Implement, oversee recent laws. The 115th Congress passed multiple American Legion-supported bills that help veterans and their families, from the backlog-aimed VA Appeals Modernization Act to the omnibus VA MISSION Act. The Legion continues to call on the 116th Congress to ensure these measures are accurately and quickly implemented, as intended.
Protect the GI Bill. The American Legion believes that legislation and federal agency action should be taken to ensure better quality and student outcomes for servicemembers and veterans, by excluding DoD and VA funds from the 90-10 calculation for federal student aid. Also, Congress should create common-sense oversight of schools and give military-connected students the same rights as non-veterans when their schools close, when they face an overpayment, and when a school loses its eligibility to operate. (H.R. 4625, S. 2857)
Help end veteran homelessness. To fully implement VA’s pledge to eradicate veteran homelessness, Congress must continue making investments in affordable housing and programs such as Supportive Services for Veteran Families that move veterans and their families off the streets and into stable housing with supportive services. (Resolution 340, 2016)
Support for Gold Star families. The American Legion is dedicated to ensuring Gold Star families receive the absolute best care and services from the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs. (Resolution 14, 2018)
Protecting the American flag. The American Legion strongly believes the U.S. flag is a symbol of our nation’s freedom and all that we hold in common as Americans, secured by military men and women who sacrificed so much for all citizens. That is why The American Legion continues to urge Congress to propose and approve an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would allow the Congress to prohibit the physical desecration of the flag of the United States. (Resolution No. 303, August 2016)