FRA NewsBytes - 07-25-2014

In this issue:
VA Reform Talks Falter as Deadline Looms
VA Secretary Nomination Moves Forward
Honor Flight Bill Passes House
FRA Needs your Perspective on VA Care Experience
Keep Informed with FRA’s Mobile App


VA Reform Talks Falter as Deadline Looms
Conference Committee negotiations to craft legislation (H.R. 3230) that will reduce wait times at VA hospitals and clinics and empower the VA Secretary to fire incompetent senior officials stalled as Senate Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vt.) accused the House Veterans Affairs Committee (HVAC) Chairman Rep. Jeff Miller (Fla.) of pursuing a "take-it-or-leave-it” approach. Sanders boycotted a meeting of the Conference Committee this week because it was a “meeting called by one person,” not a conference. Miller responded in a statement saying that “reaching a compromise is impossible if Democrats don’t show up for conference committee meetings.” At a HVAC hearing, Chairman Miller criticized the VA for submitting a two-page explanation for the request for an additional $17.6 billion in emergency funding. The latest disagreement could jeopardize lawmakers' goal of completing work on the legislation before their five-week recess begins at the end of next week. Sanders said he wants to continue negotiations.

In related news, FRA staff and representatives of other VSO/MSO groups met with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, HVAC Ranking Member Mike Michaud (Me.) and other key lawmakers to discuss current status negotiations on VA reform funding. Shipmates should use the FRA Action Center to tell their legislators (senators and representatives) that no veteran who is eligible for health care services from the VA should be forced to wait too long or travel too far to get medical treatment and services earned through their service in defending the nation.

VA Secretary Nomination Moves Forward
The Senate Veterans Affairs Committee (SVAC) this week unanimously approved Robert A. McDonald, President Obama’s choice to serve as Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). If confirmed by the full Senate, Mr. McDonald would take over from Sloan Gibson, who has been acting as VA secretary since Eric Shinseki's resignation in late May following revelations of systemic problems, including falsified reports about patient appointment wait times.

McDonald graduated West Point in 1975 and served as a paratrooper in the Army's 82nd Airborne Division. In 1980, McDonald left the Army as a captain for a 33-year career at Procter & Gamble, including serving as CEO from 2009 to 2011. McDonald’s private sector experience includes serving on the boards of directors for Xerox and U.S. Steel.


Honor Flight Bill Passes House
The House of Representatives passed by voice vote this week the “Honor Flight Act” (H.R. 4812), a bill sponsored by Rep. Richmond (La.). The bill would codify the process by which the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) provides expedited and dignified passenger screening services for veterans traveling to visit war memorials built and dedicated to honor their service in Washington D.C. Expedited screening services will save veterans’ time and show them their proper respect and appreciation.

The measure seeks to pay a debt of gratitude to a group of Americans who were willing to make the ultimate sacrifice to ensure that we are able to enjoy the freedoms that we have today,” said Rep. Richmond. “Although we may never be able to fully repay our veterans for their bravery, our national memorials bring into focus their lasting contribution and their impact on American history. It just makes sense that they are treated with the reverence and gratitude they deserve when visiting memorials erected in their honor.”


FRA Needs your Perspective on VA Care Experience
FRA shipmates can be part of the solution to the current VA problems by participating in efforts to improve care for our nation’s veterans. Sharing your views of and experiences at the VA can make a difference in handling this crisis. You can contribute directly to the solution by participating in FRA’s online survey: www.fra.org/survey.
FRA is conducting this online survey to gather data about shipmates’ experiences with the VA healthcare system. Please take our five minute survey today to share your perspective on seeking and receiving care at VA medical facilities. The results will help focus our legislative efforts on fixing and/or reforming those aspects of the VA that present the greatest challenge to the people who need it most.


Keep Informed with FRA’s Mobile App
FRA’s mobile app is now available for iPhone/iPad and Android devices. It gives you easy access to FRA news and legislative alerts, events, branch locator, the Action Center, and more, wherever you go. Need information about the National Convention or directions to a branch? It’s all at your fingertips. The FRA mobile app contains the same information you find on our website, but optimized for viewing on small screens. You can even log in to the secure section to edit your personal information, renew your membership, and more. Download it today!

iPhone/iPad users will easily find the FRA app in the App store. Go to the Search page, type FRA in the box and click Search. As of this writing, we are the third app you will see in the results.

Android users can find our app in similar fashion in the Google Play store, though currently it takes some time to locate. We are still working out the final update to the app, which will be available next week. In next week’s NewsBytes we will also include a link that you can take using your Android device to go directly to FRA’s app in the Google Play store.