Today, Congressman Jerry McNerney's (CA-11) bipartisan amendment to H.R. 4072 passed during markup of the bill in the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs. The McNerney amendment addresses three distinct issues facing veterans. The amendment focuses on helping veterans transition successfully from active duty to civilian life. H.R. 4072, including the McNerney amendment, is now expected to proceed to the House floor for a vote.
"It is absolutely vital that we take every opportunity we can to improve on the services we provide for our returning heroes. They have sacrificed so much to protect our country, and we owe it to them and their families to provide them with the tools they need to be successful upon their return," said Rep. McNerney. "My amendment will address some gaps in the current services we provide for our veterans."
The first provision of the McNerney amendment seeks to assist service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses (SDVOSBs). There are approximately 5 million veteran-owned small businesses, and about 500,000 SDVOSBs. Currently, if the owner of an SDVOSB is rated 100 percent disabled at the time of his or her death, the surviving spouse is provided with 10 years to transition the business from its federal status as an SDVOSB.
However, if the owner of an SDVOSB is rated less than 100 percent disabled at the time of death, the SDVOSB immediately loses its status. This discrepancy in the law creates instability and uncertainty for the business and its employees. The McNerney amendment will help to mitigate this inequity by providing SDVOSBs facing this scenario with a three year transition period, helping them to make the transition smoothly.
The second provision of the McNerney amendment improves the VA work-study program that allows veterans to work at national cemeteries, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), and the Department of Defense (DoD) medical facilities. The amendment makes these work-study opportunities permanent.
The final provision of the McNerney amendment extends the temporary residence assistance (TRA) grant program through 2014. The TRA, set to expire at the end of 2012, provides veterans residing with their families a grant to modify their home to meet specific physical needs.
"My amendment is a simple, straightforward, and responsible approach to assisting veterans as they transition to civilian life. I am proud to have bipartisan support for this amendment and look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues to improve the care we provide for our nation's veterans," said Rep. McNerney.
The McNerney amendment to H.R. 4072 is endorsed by the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW).
"Congressman McNerney's amendment is right on the mark for reducing burdens on veterans and their families," says Ray Kelley, director of national legislative service for the VFW. "Veterans should never have to choose between an adaptive housing grant for immediate use or future use when they need them both. Nor should a surviving spouse be rushed into decisions regarding a late disabled veteran's small business. Mr. McNerney's amendment is the right thing for veterans and the VFW is happy to support him in his effort pass these provisions."