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Public Statements

Veterans Outreach Improvement Act of 2007

Floor Speech

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Location: Washington, DC


VETERANS OUTREACH IMPROVEMENT ACT OF 2007 -- (House of Representatives - May 23, 2007)

Mr. FILNER. Mr. Speaker, I move to suspend the rules and pass the bill (H.R. 67) to amend title 38, United States Code, to improve the outreach activities of the Department of Veterans Affairs, and for other purposes, as amended.

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Mr. FILNER. Mr. Speaker, I yield to myself such time as I may consume.

This bill comes to us from the gentleman from North Carolina (Mr. McIntyre), and we thank him for his leadership on veterans outreach.

If I had to sum up this bill in one phrase, I would say that it allows local organizations to provide more bang for the buck by having greater resources at the local level.

This bill requires the VA to partner with State and local governments, through grant opportunities, to reach out to veterans and their families to ensure receipt of benefit for which they are eligible and assist them in completing their benefits claims.

As we have seen from recent news reports all over the country, we still have veterans slipping through the cracks of this system. They are either unaware of their veterans benefits or are having difficulty getting those benefits processed.

This bill establishes a grant program for the VA to provide to States' outreach activities, cooperative relationships and benefit claims development. The grant program allows State veterans agencies to award a portion of the grants to local governments for outreach purposes.

In addition, the grant allows funding for education and training of State and local government employees for accreditation to provide outreach services. It may also be used to establish a local government veterans service program.

The bill prohibits any portion of the grant to be used by the State for administrative purposes and requires the VA to allocate grants based on veteran populations.

The bill limits grant use by States to less than 50 percent of the cost of State and local government outreach activities and prohibits grant funds from supplanting State and local funds for such activities.

H.R. 67 authorizes $25 million annually, in fact $1 per veteran in our Nation, to improve outreach to veterans and remove some of the significant obstacles veterans must overcome to access their benefits. This is particularly true in rural areas, which Mr. McIntyre represents. The bill also contains performance measures to ensure that grant recipients are properly fulfilling the requirements of the program.

The bill is supported by the American Legion, Military Officers Association, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Paralyzed Veterans of America, National County Veteran Service Officers, National Organization of Veterans Advocates, and Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.

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Mr. FILNER. Mr. Speaker, I ask unanimous consent that all Members may have 5 legislative days in which to revise and extend their remarks and include extraneous material on H.R. 67, as amended.

The SPEAKER pro tempore. Is there objection to the request of the gentleman from California?

There was no objection.

Mr. FILNER. Mr. Speaker, I urge all my colleagues to unanimously support this bill.

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