CBS Information: Trump indicators payments holding VA accountable for delayed GI Invoice funds
BY STEFAN BECKET, ANNA GUNTHER
UPDATED ON: JANUARY three, 2019 / 5:50 PM / CBS NEWS
President Trump on Thursday signed into regulation the second of two payments meant to carry the Division of Veterans Affairs accountable for an IT failure that delayed funds to hundreds of veterans underneath the Eternally GI Invoice.
The White Home stated the president signed the Endlessly GI Invoice Housing Cost Achievement Act into regulation on Thursday, establishing a workforce to audit housing funds made to veterans and determine these affected by the delay. One other invoice, the Veterans Advantages and Transition Act of 2018, included a provision barring faculties from penalizing college students whose funds have been delayed due to the VA’s failure.
The 2 payments have been handed by each homes of Congress within the days main as much as the Christmas break. Mr. Trump signed the latter into regulation on Dec. 31.
The VA has come beneath harsh scrutiny by members of Congress and veterans teams for its botched implementation of a brand new system for making funds beneath the 2017 Perpetually GI Invoice, which expanded housing and tuition advantages for veterans pursuing an schooling.
The regulation mandated a change in the best way funds are calculated, and the VA was imagined to implement the modifications by August 2018. Nevertheless, the division’s decades-old IT techniques have been unable to deal with a backlog of claims and have been crippled for weeks, delaying funds for hundreds of veterans.
The VA owned as much as the failure in late November and delayed implementation of the brand new system till December 2019. Dealing with intense scrutiny, Secretary Robert Wilkie assured lawmakers the division would guarantee veterans obtain the advantages they have been due beneath the brand new regulation.
The 2 legal guidelines signed by Mr. Trump search to carry the VA to that assurance.
The Perpetually GI Invoice Housing Cost Achievement Act establishes a “Tiger Team” of division staff tasked with figuring out who was affected by the IT failure and establishing a plan to ensure they obtain the advantages they’re owed. The workforce have to be established inside 15 days and submit stories to Congress each three months, with a last report due in 2020.
Republican Sen. John Boozman of Arkansas, a co-author of the regulation, stated he was happy Mr. Trump promptly signed the laws.
“There’s simply no excuse for failing to fully deliver the housing benefits that GI bill recipients are owed,” Boozman stated in a press release Thursday. “I will continue to use congressional oversight to make certain VA’s errors do not go uncorrected.”
The Veterans Advantages and Transition Act included a provision that bars faculties from receiving GI Invoice funds in the event that they impose penalties on college students whose advantages have been delayed.
Republican Rep. Phil Roe of Tennessee, who was till Thursday the chairman of the Home Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, praised the president for shortly signing the Veterans Advantages and Transition Act, saying it “bring[s] us one step closer to fulfilling our promises to veterans.”
Army Occasions: Senate finalizes a pair of VA nominations in remaining hours of 115th Congress
By: Leo Shane III | 21 hours in the past
WASHINGTON — Lawmakers wrapped up the 115th Congress Wednesday night time by finalizing a pair of high-profile nominees for the Division of Veterans Affairs however left a pile of different army confirmations unfinished.
Within the Senate’s waning hours earlier than the brand new congressional session beginning Thursday, Republican and Democratic leaders labored out a deal to approve a slate of non-controversial nominations, together with VA’s new assistant secretary for info know-how and the brand new chief of the division’s Workplace of Accountability and Whistleblower Safety.
Lawmakers additionally confirmed Alan Shaffer as the brand new deputy beneath secretary of protection for acquisition and sustainment and two Military assistant secretaries: Casey Wardynski and Alex Beehler. The chamber additionally confirmed 24 new overseas ambassadors, together with new U.S. officers for Yemen, Australia and Kenya.
However the closing session settlement didn’t embrace six different Protection Division nominees awaiting a vote by the complete Senate, or promotions for 23 basic officers. That enterprise will now have to attend for a number of weeks, because the White Home re-nominates every particular person and their paperwork is once more authorised by the Senate Armed Providers Committee.
The group consists of Assistant Protection Secretary nominees Veronica Daigle and Thomas McCaffery and new Principal Deputy Administrator Nationwide Nuclear Safety Administration William Bookless and a number of other service leaders.
The sluggish affirmation course of has been a frequent goal of President Donald Trump during the last two years. Republican supporters have stated Democratic stalling techniques have left quite a few key authorities posts vacant for months with out cause. However Democrats have stated most of the prolonged management gaps have been due to sluggish work by the administration, each in choosing nominees and offering background details about their qualifications.
The nomination of James Gfrerer, who will oversee VA’s IT planning and insurance policies, had been pending since September. In current weeks, outdoors advocates had put further strain on Senators to cope with that emptiness as issues mounted with the division’s pc processing of veterans schooling advantages.
Throughout a listening to final month, a number of senators and Home members expressed considerations that wanted reforms inside the info know-how workplace have been going unfinished as a result of Gfrerer’s absence.
On Thursday, they praised his belated affirmation, and that of Tamara Bonzanto to supervise the whistleblower safety workplace.
New York Occasions: White Home Mulls Jim Webb, Ex-Democratic Senator, as Subsequent Protection Secretary
By Thomas Gibbons-Neff and Maggie Haberman | Jan. three, 2019
WASHINGTON — The Trump administration is contemplating Jim Webb, a former Democratic senator and Reagan-era secretary of the Navy, to be the subsequent protection secretary, in response to three officers, probably bypassing extra hawkish Republicans whose names have been floated to exchange Jim Mattis.
Mr. Webb, an outspoken opponent of the Iraq struggle, is being thought-about as President Trump seeks to hold out marketing campaign guarantees to withdraw American troops from Syria and Afghanistan.
These two selections prompted Mr. Mattis to resign late final month, placing the deputy protection secretary, Patrick M. Shanahan, a former Boeing government, within the prime position in an appearing capability.
Representatives for Vice President Mike Pence and Mick Mulvaney, the appearing White Home chief of employees, have reached out to Mr. Webb, one of many three officers stated. Individually, a senior Protection Division official confirmed that Mr. Webb’s identify had been circulating on the White Home. These two and the third official all spoke on the situation of anonymity to explain the interior discussions.
Mr. Webb didn’t reply to a request for remark, and a White Home official stated the vice chairman’s employees has had no contact with Mr. Webb. How significantly he’s being thought-about was unclear; Mr. Trump likes to drift names as he considers his choices for numerous openings within the authorities — typically to check responses and typically to maintain the information media guessing.
However the views of Mr. Webb, a former one-term Democratic senator from Virginia and candidate through the 2016 Democratic presidential primaries, align intently with Mr. Trump’s drive to tug American troops from the Center East and confront China extra aggressively.
Throughout a Democratic main debate in 2015, Mr. Webb railed towards Beijing’s actions within the South China Sea and cyberattacks on People.
“If you want a place where we need to be in terms of our national strategy, a focus, the greatest strategic threat that we have right now is resolving our relationship with China,” Mr. Webb stated.
Very similar to Mr. Trump, Mr. Webb was additionally essential of President Barack Obama’s efforts in 2015 to strike a deal to curtail Iran’s nuclear program. “The end result of this could well be our acquiescence in allowing Iran to develop a nuclear weapon,” Mr. Webb stated.
Mr. Webb, now 72, graduated from the Naval Academy in 1968 and served in Vietnam as a Marine rifle platoon and firm commander. He was wounded twice and awarded the Navy Cross, a prestigious award that ranks slightly below the Medal of Honor, together with different valor awards.
In a 1979 opinion article in Washingtonian journal titled “Women Can’t Fight,” Mr. Webb wrote that permitting ladies into the army — particularly in fight positions — would hurt nationwide protection. The article would hang-out him all through his political profession, regardless of his altering views on the topic.
The Pentagon opened all fight jobs to ladies in the course of the Obama administration. However Mr. Trump has not vigorously supported the coverage, and even Mr. Mattis stated the “jury is out” on whether or not ladies must be put into fight roles.
“This is a policy that I inherited, and so far the cadre is so small, we have no data on it,” Mr. Mattis stated in remarks to officer candidates on the Virginia Army Institute in September.
Ronald Reagan appointed Mr. Webb first as an assistant secretary of protection and, in 1987, as secretary of the Navy, the place he pushed for modernizing the fleet and opening extra jobs for ladies within the service. Between his stints in authorities, Mr. Webb continued his writing profession, which incorporates the critically acclaimed Vietnam Conflict novel “Fields of Fire.” He switched events and in 2006 ran for the Senate as a Democrat; there, he helped move the post-9/11 G.I. Invoice and oversaw Asia-Pacific points on the Overseas Relations Committee.
Different names which have surfaced as potential replacements for Mr. Mattis have included a former Republican senator, Jim Expertise of Missouri, and two present ones, Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. David H. Petraeus, the retired Military common and former C.I.A. director, was thought-about for the publish earlier within the Trump administration however just lately advised the BBC that he “cannot envision returning to government at this time.”
Final week, Mr. Trump stated Mr. Shanahan may stay as appearing secretary “for a long time.”
On Wednesday, his second day as Pentagon chief, Mr. Shanahan voiced a harder stand towards China, telling the army’s civilian leaders to focus extra on the nation, based on a Protection Division official.
Protection Information: Massive shakeup coming to Senate Armed Providers
By: Joe Gould | 13 hours in the past
WASHINGTON — The Senate Armed Providers Committee is welcoming a number of latest faces within the new congressional session and dropping some acquainted faces.
As many as eight seats on the army panel — almost one-third of the committee membership — might change earlier than its subsequent assembly, even with the Senate remaining in Republican management.
The official committee assignments for Republicans, launched by Senate Majority Chief Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., on Thursday night, has 5 GOP committee members leaving within the 116th Congress. (Politico broke the information earlier within the day, based mostly on a draft roster it obtained.)
That features Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., one of many Pentagon’s most vocal allies and one of many panel’s longest serving members.
Graham, who joined the panel in 2003, leaves as he’s anticipated to ascend to the position of chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. He’s additionally anticipated to retain the gavel of the highly effective Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Overseas Operations and Associated Packages, in addition to stay a member of the Appropriations Protection Subcommittee.
South Carolina, which has a big army presence, will lose illustration on the panel as Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., additionally departs — alongside GOP Sens. Ted Cruz, of Texas; Ben Sasse, of Nebraska; and Jon Kyl, of Arizona.
Senate Democrats have already introduced three new members for the Senate Armed Providers Committee. Sens. Tammy Duckworth, a combat-wounded Military veteran from Illinois; Joe Manchin, of West Virginia; and Doug Jones, of aerospace powerhouse Alabama will exchange three departing Democratic lawmakers.
“When I was first elected last year, and took a look at [Redstone] Arsenal and all of the bases, it was just stunning, everything that’s going on,” Jones stated. “I’m looking forward to carrying on a great tradition of Alabama senators on that committee and doing all I can to help my state.”
Committee turnover occurs each two years on Capitol Hill, as elections drive some lawmakers out of workplace and open new alternatives for others. However altering eight seats on the Senate Armed Providers Committee — lengthy seen as a strong pulpit on nationwide safety points — is an uncommon degree of upheaval.
In 2015, solely 5 seats on the panel turned over. In 2013, when the Senate final modified events, six members modified.
The shifts come because the committee, led by Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., should navigate a divided Congress, President Donald Trump’s indecision on a protection prime line for 2019, Trump’s nationwide safety views and certain the affirmation course of for a brand new protection secretary. Trump has additionally raised new questions for the committee with current pronouncements he would pull the U.S. army out of Syria and Afghanistan.
“What’s important and mainstay on the committee is the bipartisanship and the willingness to work together — not always agree, but work together,” stated the panel’s rating member, Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., including that Inhofe has been persevering with that custom.
The committee will add 5 incoming Republican senators: former U.S. Reps. Martha McSally, of Arizona; Kevin Cramer, of North Dakota; Marsha Blackburn, of Tennessee; in addition to former Florida Gov. Rick Scott and former Missouri Lawyer Common Josh Hawley.
With McSally, who Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey appointed to exchange Kyl in McCain’s seat after she misplaced a Senate bid, Congress retains an advocate of the A-10 Warthog — a platform McSally piloted within the Air Drive.
Democrats are dropping three senior members. Scott bested Sen. Invoice Nelson, previously the SASC’s No. 2 Democrat; Hawley beat Sen. Claire McCaskill, a senior SASC member and prime Democrat on the Senate Homeland Safety and Governmental Affairs Committee; and Indiana Sen. Joe Donnelly, the highest Democrat on the Strategic Forces subpanel misplaced to incoming Sen. Mike Braun.
The panel may also see a big proportion of girls, veterans and feminine veterans.
“Whether they’re a man or a woman, I just want them to dig in and drill down on the tough issues we have — and meet the security needs that we meet as a nation,” stated Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., the chair of the Strategic Forces Subcommittee. “Any career, any gender, any race, any geographic space brings variety, which is all the time a power.”
New York Occasions: Their Affect Diminishing, Veterans Teams Compete With Every Different and Wrestle With the V.A.
By Jennifer Steinhauer | Jan. 4, 2019
WASHINGTON — For generations, Veterans of Overseas Wars and American Legion posts have been as integral to American political tradition as pancake breakfasts, city squares and state festivals. In advocating for veterans — among the many nation’s most revered and coveted voters — the teams have wielded unquestioned energy on Capitol Hill and contained in the White Home.
Now, almost a era after the Sept. 11, 2001, assaults, the oldest and largest veterans service organizations — recognized colloquially as “the Big Six” — are seeing their affect diluted, as newer, smaller organizations targeted on post-9/11 veterans compete for cash, political affect and relevance.
The newer organizations mirror cultural shifts in a smaller group of youthful and more and more numerous veterans who’re changing the older, predominantly male veterans — lots of them having served due to a draft for now long-ago wars.
The scores of upstarts embrace Scholar Veterans of America, which advocates on schooling and job points; Staff Purple, White and Blue, which promotes service and “camaraderie” occasions; and Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, which focuses on the precise well being and employment challenges those that served in these two wars face.
Leaner and extra financially environment friendly than their predecessors, these newer veterans organizations give attention to points akin to schooling and job coaching moderately than on brick-and-mortar assembly areas for veterans to collect or on assets spent lobbying in Washington.
As well as, many officers of the newer organizations say, their objectives are to combine veterans again into civilian communities the place they really feel misunderstood and have misplaced ties, whereas serving to civilians who’ve had little contact with veterans — active-duty troops make up lower than 1 % of america inhabitants — perceive their experiences.
As older veterans die, so, too, do the V.F.W. halls, scores of which have shuttered in recent times. Whereas correct membership numbers are arduous to determine as a result of many veterans pay dues to a number of organizations, a shrinking veterans inhabitants over all has triggered memberships to fall and a few teams to restructure.
“The young vets are saying we need to do things differently with a different emphasis,” stated Chuck Hagel, a former protection secretary and Vietnam veteran who’s related to a small group, HillVets, that helps veterans discover employees jobs on Capitol Hill. “The Vietnam vet is a different kind of vet than Afghan or Iraq war vets; they were draft vets and they wanted in and out. Most veterans today are married with families, and that means new demands, new interests and new pressures.”
At occasions, the politically progressive leaders of a number of the organizations — many from the Vietnam period — take positions that seem out of step with extra socially conservative members from earlier wars. This has irritated Robert L. Wilkie, the Veterans Affairs secretary, who views these as unwelcome partisan positions, stated a number of company and veterans teams’ officers.
Final April, Mr. Wilkie hosted a breakfast for veterans service organizations that included representatives not simply of the normal Massive Six, but in addition the Independence Fund and Involved Veterans for America, which is financed by Charles G. and David H. Koch, who’ve backed conservative causes.
The Koch-supported group was instrumental in ousting the final head of the division. It has additionally been pushing for extra well being care to happen outdoors the V.A. system, with step one starting quickly underneath a sweeping new regulation. Their voices have been welcomed by Home Republicans as they handed the measure this yr.
At a listening to final month on Capitol Hill, some Democrats prompt that Mr. Wilkie was ignoring the opinions of conventional organizations on this regulation. “A lot of V.S.O.s have talked to me about the communication within the V.A.,” stated Senator Jon Tester of Montana, the rating Democrat on the Senate veterans committee. “It’s not where it needs to be.”
Mr. Wilkie made his place clear. “Half of our veterans are now under the age of 65,” he stated, “which means they have different cares, they have different interests. What I have done in my short time is actually open the aperture to the table at the Department of Veterans Affairs to bring in veterans who are not traditionally part of the system.”
The shifts, whereas maybe inevitable, depart some worrying that the exhausting work of urgent for the difficult and costly well being care wants, and different points, will lack a era of latest leaders.
“These smaller groups don’t do policy advocacy while the Big Six have been carrying all the water,” stated Kristofer Goldsmith, an assistant director for coverage and authorities affairs on the Vietnam Veterans of America. “The average vet has no idea what these groups are doing on their behalf. They have a free T-shirt from Red, White and Blue but don’t realize my 72-year-old boss with emphysema walks around Capitol Hill advocating for them on the G.I. Bill.”
The primary giant veterans service organizations, the Grand Military of the Republic and the United Accomplice Veterans, arose after the Civil Struggle, with new ones forming after every battle to serve veterans missing providers.
Whereas there are literally thousands of nonprofit veterans organizations registered with the Inner Income Service, nearly all of energy has been consolidated among the many Massive Six: Disabled American Veterans; Veterans of Overseas Wars; American Legion; Paralyzed Veterans of America; Amvets; and Vietnam Veterans of America, which was developed after Vietnam veterans have been turned away from different organizations.
Based on a research this yr by the Middle for a New American Safety, a nonpartisan coverage analysis middle in Washington, nonprofits that serve veterans generate about $three.6 billion in annual income.
Whereas the older organizations management roughly 68 % of complete revenue on this market, the current progress has been dominated by giant post-9/11 organizations, which have grown in extra of 15 % per yr, in contrast with the two % revenue progress of the Massive Six. The research additionally discovered that post-9/11 organizations save their cash at a price virtually 2.5 occasions higher than pre-9/11 organizations.
A comparatively new entry, the Wounded Warrior Challenge, has set a brand new mannequin for advocacy organizations, elevating cash from outdoors the veterans group and funding analysis and providers moderately than infrastructure. The group is extensively seen as having lastly recovered from a serious spending scandal in 2016.
“They figured out how to raise money from outside the vets community better than anyone else,” stated Emma Moore, one of many authors of the Middle for a New American Safety report. “The Big Six are struggling with overhead. As the veteran population shrinks, how they end up dealing with the overhead of maintaining buildings and their structures is yet to be determined.”
By way of grants, the Wounded Warriors Venture additionally marries legacy Huge Six organizations with newcomers to construct coalitions round points like poisonous publicity, which brings post-9/11 veterans into advocacy, and legacy teams into the longer term.
“Congress still listens to them,” stated Phillip Carter, a senior coverage researcher on the RAND Company who focuses on army and veterans points, describing the persevering with clout of the Massive Six. “Members and staff understand the political throw weight of veterans groups based on their large membership and the degree to which they command public respect.”
However on the subject of forming legal guidelines, some teams are clearly on the rise, like Scholar Veterans of America, which performed a big position in drafting a brand new G.I. Invoice. These teams, missing the massive governance buildings of the previous veterans service organizations, are typically quicker on their advocacy ft.
Outdoors Washington, the contrasts between the teams is stark. Most of the previous V.F.W. halls stay outposts of fellowship over beer, whereas youthful veterans want group facilities with more healthy and extra sensible belongings, like Wi-Fi, baby care and yoga courses. In lots of instances, social media has changed bodily areas as a spot the place veterans congregate.
Most of the new teams steer away from lobbying on Capitol Hill, and have turned as an alternative to group providers, operating races and different actions meant to not join veterans to at least one one other as a lot as to the remainder of the communities they’ve rejoined.
“The epidemic of alienation and loneliness in society writ large is magnified in the vets community,” stated Bana Miller, a spokeswoman for Group Pink, White and Blue, which engages veterans in group service and bodily actions.
“Many post-9/11 vets served five, 10, 15 years, and they are looking for connection and community and support,” she stated. “We are key to getting people from out behind their communities and taking what they learned from their service, doing things together shoulder to shoulder to build deep bonds with other people.
“Our organization is not necessarily in the advocacy space,” she added. “We work toward mental health solutions via physical and social activity.”
Conventional veterans organizations say this new focus doesn’t exchange theirs.
“We get bills passed,” stated Kayda Keleher, the affiliate director of nationwide legislative service for the Veterans of Overseas Wars of the USA. “We provide financial assistance to cover bills for veterans who were attending a college that shut down. We provide scholarships and fellowship opportunities, our National Home for Children, and so much more. Those are our strengths and our legacy that will keep us around.”
The best demonstration of the facility throughout the spectrum from previous and new teams, in addition to the Koch-backed group that has the Trump administration’s collective ear, might be on show subsequent yr as Congress rigorously examines main modifications to well being care providers for veterans stemming from a big invoice handed final yr.
“Veteran organizations can be like Sears, using the same business model with diminishing returns,” Mr. Carter stated. “Or, they can reinvent themselves and their business models to remain viable, and focus on issues that appeal to all generations to remain relevant.”