Stakeholders Meeting of San Diego County Veterans Community
Last month, California State Assemblywoman Mary Salas and I sponsored a Meeting of Stakeholders of the San Diego County veterans' community. The stakeholders will discuss the California State Auditor's recent report regarding the performance of the California Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Salas, in her role as Chair of the Assembly Veterans' Affairs Committee, had requested a State Auditor's audit and report after several hearings in her Committee uncovered shortcomings in the VA's performance.
As reported in the San Diego Union-Tribune, Auditor Elaine Howle said the agency came up short in helping former service members secure affordable housing, alarming because of the number of homeless veterans. She also said that the VA could do a better job of informing veterans about federal benefits available to them.
Said Howle: The agency "provides few direct person-to-person services to veterans and receives very little funding" to support California's homeless veterans and to increase awareness of mental-health programs. "The Department has only recently begun to step up its efforts to collaborate with other state entities."
The leaders in the Meeting of Stakeholders will review and discuss the auditor's report and ways to improve services for California's veterans. A document will come out of the meeting with recommendations to present to the California VA.
In my role as Chair of the U.S. House Veterans Affairs Committee and Assemblymember Salas' role as Chair of the California Veterans' Affairs Committees, we are in an ideal position to call for veteran leaders to provide direction to the California VA. "There are thousands of veterans falling through the cracks and not getting the services they need," said Salas. "Our aim in convening the Meeting of Stakeholders is to provide helpful suggestions coming from veteran leaders to the VA."
Introducing Legislation to Support our Federal Wildland Firefighters
I recently introduced H.R. 4488, the National Wildfire Infrastructure Improvement & Cost Containment Act. This bill seeks to restore the strength of federal wildfire response as it was originally envisioned by the National Fire Plan adopted by Congress earlier this decade. H.R. 4488 will help improve the effectiveness and efficiencies of these programs.
It is about time that we properly recognize our brave federal wildland firefighters and make sure they are on par with other federal firefighters. Congress must provide American citizens with the strongest, most cost-effective, and efficient federal wildfire response possible to meet the challenges and complexities of wildfires in the 21st Century.
This legislation will lead to reforms in fiscal management of the federal land management agency fire programs which will provide significant savings in wildfire suppression spending. H.R. 4488 is also a solution to an outdated personnel law that currently provides federal wildland firefighters with lower salaries and benefits than other firefighters facing similar risks and responsibilities.
The Chula Vista Park View Little League Will be Visiting Washington, D.C.!
I am proud to announce that the Chula Vista Park View Little League World Champions are scheduled to visit President Barack Obama in Washington, D.C. on February 5, 2010!
I enlisted the support of Southwest Airlines and AT&T to help cover the expenses of the trip.
These boys displayed the success of solid coaching and execution of fundamentals and discipline. They are indeed the pride of Chula Vista!. I am proud to have them visit our nation's capital!
On Sunday, August 30, 2009, the Park View Little League Team from Chula Vista, California, rallied to defeat the Chinese Taipei Little League Team by a score of 6-3 to win the 2009 Little League World Series Championship. Throughout their six games, the World Champions hit a Little League World Series record 19 homers, breaking the previous mark of 15 set in 2003 by a team from Tokyo, Japan.
In September of 2009, I introduced a Congressional Resolution to celebrate and honor the Chula Vista Park View Little League team for winning the 2009 World Championship game of the Little League World Series.
Congratulating Calexico High School!
I would like to extend my congratulations to the principal and students of Calexico High School for being selected as the number one school in the United States in AP Spanish Language by The College Board AP Report to the Nation!
I am always pleased to learn when our students are being recognized for their hard work and academic achievement. I also extend my personal congratulations to teachers Yolanda Cota and Ana Montes for their outstanding work with the students.
Keep up the good work!
Honoring Civil Rights Hero Medgar Evers
I recently co-sponsored H.R. 1022, recognizing the recent naming of a US Naval Ship ("USNS") after Medgar Evers for his courageous efforts to guarantee equal rights for all Americans. This resolution also commemorates Mr. Evers' contributions to our country as a soldier in the Battle of Normandy, as the organizer of a boycott against merchants who denied patrons equal treatment, and as the man whose efforts and diligence led to the desegregation of the University of Mississippi School of Law in 1962.
Medgar Evers' life represents unfettered equality for all and I hope Congress will pass this resolution celebrating his life and commending the US Navy for naming the USNS Medgar Evers in his honor.
Throughout his life, Evers diligently pursued the elimination of Jim Crow laws and discriminatory practices. A longtime student of non-violence, Evers was eventually gunned down in front of his home in 1963 only hours after President John F. Kennedy's speech on the urgent necessity of civil rights legislation. Evers' work was not in vain, as he heavily influenced the passage of civil rights legislation in the decade to follow and is frequently referenced in the music, art and literature of today's popular culture as a symbol of progress and equality. He was a prominent voice in the struggle for civil rights in Mississippi, willing to take a stand for those unable to.
Working to Close Medicare Part D Donut Hole
Last month, I joined several of my colleagues in signing a letter (enclosed) to Speaker Pelosi, Majority Leader Hoyer and Majority Leader Reid in support of completely closing the Medicare Part D donut hole as a part of healthcare reform.
Seniors often face difficult financial decisions; this problem is only exacerbated by the donut hole, where seniors have to cover the full cost of their medications out of pocket. Completely closing the donut hole is a critical step to providing affordable, accessible and comprehensive healthcare for all Americans.
The healthcare reform bill passed by the House of Representatives completely closes the donut hole by 2019 while the Senate-passed bill only shrinks the donut hole. The letter supports the provision in the House-passed bill.
Co-Authoring SPACE-A Travel Act
I co-authored H.R. 4403, the Securing Patriots Access to Convenient and Economic Air Travel Act (SPACE-A Travel Act).
Currently, military retirees and their dependents can travel on military space available (space-A) flights. However, once the military retiree dies, the surviving spouse and dependents lose access to ride on space-A flights. Additionally, surviving spouses of those service members who are not military retirees, but have died due to a service connected injury or illness, have no access to military space-A flights.
The SPACE-A Travel Act would extend access to space-A travel on military aircraft to un-remarried surviving spouses of retired members of the armed forces and surviving spouses of veterans who died from a service-connected injury or illness. The bill would also extend the benefit to the dependents of these surviving spouses.
Military families make enormous sacrifices every day to support our troops. When a veteran passes away, his or her family should not lose the space-A travel benefit that they have earned.
As Chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, I introduced the SPACE-A Travel Act along with Congressman Tim Walz, Congressman Roscoe Bartlett, and Congressman Steve Buyer, Ranking Member of the House Veterans Affairs Committee. The legislation is currently under consideration in the House Armed Services Committee.
House Veterans Affairs Committee Meets with VSO Leaders
With both Democratic and Republican Members of the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs in attendance, I held a meeting with 40 veterans service organizations to discuss priorities for the second session of the 111th Congress.
Last month's roundtable marks the second time during the 111th Congress that this Committee has met with veterans' advocates to discuss the important issues facing our Nation's veterans and plan how best to solve these problems. The purpose of today's meeting is to build upon the successes of the first session and collaborate on how we can better serve our veterans and wounded warriors going forward.
I detailed the priorities of the Committee which include ensuring adequate VA budgets for the next two years. Following the passage of advance funding legislation, Congress will approve a budget for Fiscal Year 2011 and 2012. I also discussed the need to reconcile health care and benefits legislation with the Senate. The House passed legislation to provide support for veteran caregivers, improve access and care options for female veterans, prevent veteran homelessness, provide better insurance options, increase disabled veteran housing grants, and strengthen reintegration programs for returning veterans. I reminded veterans of the Committee's commitment to fix the claims processing system, restructure the VA for the 21st Century, conduct oversight of VA spending, and monitor the progress of the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill.
Participants discussed the priorities of each of the 40 different veteran advocacy organizations. Many discussed how the disability claims backlog impacts veterans while they are most vulnerable. The lengthy wait for some veterans' disability claims has contributed to financial problems and a domino effect that can result in economic turmoil from which some veterans never recover. Additional issues addressed included caregiver needs, the importance of strong reintegration programs, and the immediate need for greater VA outreach to alert veterans of available benefits and programs.
I concluded the meeting by thanking the VSO leaders for coming to express the needs of veterans to this Committee. I truly believe that because of their help and support and our ability to work together as partners, the VA is in a better position to serve veterans. Members of this Committee not only take seriously these recommendations from veterans, but we commit to you that we will take action as well.
Constituent Mail Bag
From Chula Vista:
As your constituent, I urge you to move quickly to repeal the discrimatory "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" law.
This law weakens our national security by firing more than 800 specialists with critical skills, including more than 300 linguists, of which more than 60 specialized in Arabic.
Please support our Armed Forces by making sure this critical legislation
Congressman Filner replies:
Thank you for contacting me about repealing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell".
I wholeheartedly agree with you, and that is why I have co-sponsored H.R. 1283, the Military Readiness Enhancement Act. This bill will protect members of the military from unfair expulsions.
I appreciate your advocacy on this issue!
Useful Website: Census 2010
The U.S. Census is mandated by The Constitution to take place every 10 years in order to count every resident in the country. The Census is one of the most important tools of our democracy as it allocates spending and re-apportions congressional seats, the state legislative body and even local city council districts. Please visit the U.S. Census website for questions you have about the Census, or if you need help with the forms.