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Government Affairs, July/August 2023 -   -  

Effectively Communicating on the Chapter and State Levels in a Convention Year

Especially in a Convention year, VVA state council presidents and chapter presidents play a crucial role in providing the membership with up-to-date information about national developments.

Chapter presidents should engage in discussions with their members about current issues and concerns. It is particularly important to consider that there may be new leadership at the chapter and state levels requiring effective communication and planning with committee chairs and senior state council presidents in a timely manner.

In the past, the participation of committee chairs and SCPs has been insufficient, and this needs to be addressed. Timely communication of information, especially when feedback from members is required for critical decisions, is vital. Without the support and active involvement of committee chairs and SCPs, our efforts may be in vain. It is essential to plan Zoom meetings and other communications platforms and insure sufficient member participation. Given that funding may pose a challenge for chapters and state councils, it is important to provide them with ample planning time and support. By acknowledging these considerations and working collaboratively, we can overcome obstacles and ensure effective planning and execution at the Convention.

Having an active and engaged assistant for state council presidents can greatly contribute to keeping chapter presidents and members informed and up to date. This assistant can play a crucial role in providing necessary information, facilitating communication, and insuring that members have access to the resources they need to make informed decisions.

It is important for members to become familiar with state and national leaders, their positions on critical matters, and the overall issues at hand. This knowledge empowers members to get involved, voice their opinions, and contribute to the organization’s direction.


The passage of the bipartisan Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2023 budget agreement in the House and the Senate reflects a compromise between Republicans and Democrats on the issues of the federal debt limit and federal spending. The agreement suspends the federal debt limit until January 1, 2025, and establishes new discretionary spending limits for FY2024 and FY2025.

Under the agreement, non-Defense discretionary spending is set to remain at approximately FY2023 levels for FY2024, with a one percent increase the following year. The agreement also includes the rescission of unobligated funds totaling around $30 billion from government programs that were allocated for pandemic-related purposes.

Importantly, the agreement protects medical spending in the Department of Veterans Affairs and insures that future funding for the VA is secured. It also prohibits the rescission of pandemic appropriations for the VA. As a result, total VA spending is projected to increase to more than $320 billion, up from some $300 billion in the current fiscal year.

Other provisions of the law include:

  • The rescission of unobligated funds that were allocated for COVID-19 relief efforts and to the Internal Revenue Service.
  • The funding of the VA Cost of War Toxic Exposure Fund. This fund receives $20.3 billion, which becomes available on October 1, and remains available until September 30, 2028. An additional $24.5 billion is allocated, becoming available on October 1, 2024.
  • The extending of statutory authority through 2024 for the requirement that agencies proposing administrative actions resulting in increased direct spending must also propose at least one administrative action that will decrease direct spending by at least the same amount. This is commonly known as administrative pay-as-you-go rules.
  • Terminating the suspension of federal student loan payments.
  • Expanding work requirements for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program. Veterans and the homeless are exempt from the expanded work requirements.
  • Expediting the permitting process for energy projects.
  • The House Veterans Affairs Committee conducted a hearing to assess how the VA has used COVID-19 pandemic supplemental funding. While the VA has allocated nearly all these funds, there is still approximately $500 million remaining from the American Rescue Plan Act. VA officials, including Chief Financial Officer Jon Rychalski, testified that the ARP funding was not designated for COVID-19-related needs. They stated that the VA plans to use the remaining funds for veterans healthcare before the end of the current fiscal year.

    Several Republican members said that the unspent money should be returned to the Treasury rather than being retained by the VA for future use.

    The HVAC Technology Modernization Subcommittee recently conducted a hearing to assess the VA’s contracting practices for information technology. The Government Accountability Office provided a special analysis for the subcommittee, highlighting that the VA is on the high-risk list for IT activities. The hearing primarily focused on the increasing concentration of technology companies that have VA contracts, a trend seen throughout government.

    The following legislation is currently being considered in the House and Senate:

  • S. 777, the Veterans’ COLA Act of 2023. This bill, if signed into law, would increase benefits established by the Social Security Administration in December 2023. It has passed both the House and Senate and has been sent to the President.
  • H.R. 366, Korean American VALOR Act. This bill, supported by VVA, extends access to healthcare for Republic of Korea veterans who served alongside Vietnam veterans and have since become U.S. citizens. It has passed the House and has been sent to the Senate for consideration.
  • S.112, a bill to amend title 38, United States Code aims to strengthen benefits for children of Vietnam War veterans born with spina bifida. VVA supports this bill, and it was expected to pass the Senate in June.

    The VVA Government Affairs staff has been actively engaged in advocacy efforts by meeting with members of Congress and their staff. They are promoting VVA’s Legislative Priorities and Policy Agenda for the 118th Congress. Some of the key issues they are addressing include:

  • Multigenerational toxic exposure study: VVA supports the implementation of a study required by Section 623 of the Toxic Exposure Act (P.L. 114-315) to examine the impacts of toxic exposures on multiple generations of veterans and their families.
  • Protection of funding for Cost of War Toxic Exposure Funds: VVA opposes any attempts to cut funding from the Cost of War Toxic Exposure Funds established under Section 805 of P.L. 117-168 in the PACT Act.
  • GAO study on burn pits in Southeast Asia: VVA advocates for a study conducted by the Government Accountability Office that addresses the issue of burn pits in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War. This study would help assess the long-term health impacts on veterans exposed to burn pits. If you were exposed to burn pits in Vietnam, please contact Harold Hanson at Hhanson@vva.org or by mail at 8719 Colesville Road, Silver Spring, MD 20910.
  • Expansion of eligibility for Vietnam War veterans: VVA supports amending P.L. 116-23 to remove the 12-mile limit and include veterans aboard ships assigned to the Vietnam Theater of Combat Operations and Navy and Marine Corps veterans who received the Vietnam Service Medal.
  • Removal of barriers to veteran-centric healthcare: VVA advocates for the removal of barriers in the Veterans Health Administration to provide veteran-centric, age-friendly healthcare, including addressing the healthcare needs of veterans in rural communities.

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