JWV’s 2021 Legislative Priorities

By Larry Jasper, National Editor and Cara Rinkoff, Managing Editor

At JWV’s National Convention in New Orleans last month, the Resolutions Committee approved 12 resolutions which will inform our organization’s legislative priorities moving forward. One of the resolutions called on Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin to reinstate the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services. Since he did that on August 14th, we have removed that from our resolutions, leaving just 11 you should talk to your members of Congress about.

The Department of Defense has ordered a review of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) concerning extremist activities. JWV supports both the review and possible amendments to the UCMJ as appropriate to address extremism in the military.

JWV wants to immediately stop the deportation of veterans and servicemembers who committed or were found guilty of drug offenses that numerous jurisdictions have already decriminalized. Also, veterans who committed these acts due to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or other issues related to their military service should be pardoned and given a path to citizenship. Immigration judges should also be required to consider an individual’s honorable military service when they are deciding whether to issue a deportation order.

Congress should immediately pass the Veterans Burn Pits Exposure Recognition Act (S. 437 and H.R. 2436). This would require the VA to give benefits to all veterans who were in locations where they may have been exposed to toxic substances unless the department can prove they were not. The burden of proof would be on the Department of Veterans Affairs instead of the veteran.

JWV is asking the Secretary of Defense to pay members of the reserve component of an armed force a special bonus or incentive pay in the same monthly amount as what is paid to a member in the regular component of the armed forces performing comparable work requiring comparable skills. Congress should pass the National Guard and Reserve Incentive Pay Parity Act (S.1859 and H.R. 3626).

Our organization wants to make sure non-veteran members of the National Guard and National Reserve have the option of being interred in VA cemeteries without cost and to extend their families the same rights and privileges extended to families of other veterans.

JWV is calling on both the House and Senate to pass the Brandon Act (S. 2088 and H.R. 3942). The goal of the Brandon Act is to expand the current law regulating how service members are referred for mental health evaluations to make sure service members can self-report mental health issues in a confidential manner. This would help service members avoid the stigma associated with seeking mental health services.

The Department of Veterans Affairs should be required to provide reproductive counseling to female veterans to address issues arising from difficulty conceiving and/or the loss of a pregnancy due to their service in uniform.

Another resolution indicates that we support efforts by the Global War on Terrorism Memorial Foundation to have Congress allow the creation of such a memorial on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Congress should therefore pass the Global War on Terrorism Memorial Location Act (S. 535 and H.R. 1115).

Congress should resist any changes to the formula which calculates Cost-of-Living Adjustments (COLA) which could mean that over time retired pay for former military service members would not keep pace with rising prices, causing quality-of-life issues for veterans.

JWV supports the passage of the ‘Six Triple Eight’ Congressional Gold Medal Act (S.321 and H.R. 1012). The African American women who served in the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion in Europe during World War II deserve to receive the Congressional Gold Medal for their work setting up a system to handle mail for deceased servicemembers and also clearing a three-year backlog of mail.

Our organization also calls for the removal of cannabis from the list of controlled substances in the case of medical usage.

For assistance with writing letters to your members of Congress about any of these issues, or about how to talk with them in person, you can contact Membership Director Harrison Heller at hheller@jwv.org or Programs and Public Relations Director Cara Rinkoff at crinkoff@jwv.org.

The committee also approved a resolution opposing all forms of extremist behavior within our organization’s membership. It states that JWV reaffirms that “our members must not actively advocate supremacist, extremist, antisemitic, or criminal gang doctrine, ideology, or causes, including those that advance, encourage, or advocate illegal discrimination based on race, creed, color, sex, religion, ethnicity, or national origin or those that advance, encourage, or advocate the use of force, violence, or criminal activity or otherwise advance efforts to deprive individuals of their civil rights.”

You can find details on all of these resolutions at www.jwv.org.

Volume 75. Number 3. 2021