Military Veterans Advocacy - Year End Report
2014 was a transition year as our organization strove to become financially stable and take a more active role both legislatively and judicially in military and veterans affairs. We have established a web site, www.militaryveteransadvocacy.org and a Facebook page (please like us). In addition we have joined a number of veterans and military Facebook groups and have posted updates concerning military and veterans affairs.
Our signature legislation, the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act died in committee with 258 co-sponsors. Still we are optimistic. Congressman Chris Gibson (R-NY) has agreed to reintroduce the bill early in the 114th Congress. Two of our co-sponsors, have moved on to the Senate. We have completed an analysis to present to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) which will hopefully allow them t accurately score the bill. We have also identified some cost offsets to comply with the Pay As You Go Act (PAYGO) of 2010. This year we concentrated on the House of Representatives. We were able to make several trips to Capitol Hill and visit with Members of Congress and their staffs. Primarily our mission was education. With over 6000 bills filed in the House every Congress, it is hard for them to keep up with them all. Our visits were well received. We found that once the Members and their staffs understood the problem, the were very receptive. In 2015 our emphasis will shift to the Senate, although our first visit in January of 2015 will be designed to meet with the newly elected House Members and their staffs.
Military-Veterans Advocacy was also invited to join the United States Senate’s Values Action Team, (VAT), chaired by Senators Roy Blunt R-MO and Tim Scott R-SC. The VAT addresses various issues of concern throughout the nation. During 2015, we will try to schedule our Washington DC trips around the VAT meetings.
On the religious freedom front, we worked with the Chaplain’s Alliance for Religious Liberty (CALL) and Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) as well as the Religious Military Freedom Coalition to ensure that members of the armed services and veterans, enjoy the religious freedom guaranteed by the Constitution. We met with the House and Senate Veterans Committee as well as individual staff members. Our efforts contributed to new religious freedom policy within the Department of Veterans Affairs, and a re-write of the divisive and prejudicial religious policy within the Air Force.
Judicially, we continued our efforts on behalf of the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Association, A preliminary hearing was held on December 4, 2014 on the VA’s Motion to Dismiss and we are waiting the Judge’s decision. We also initiated a suit on behalf of an Army Master Sergeant who was forced out of the Army because of his religious beliefs. We have continued the suit against the Air Force who discriminated against a Utah Air National Guardsman because he had voiced the tenets of his faith. We also appealed a dismissal, on standing grounds, of a case brought by a Baptist group whose endorsed Chaplains were forced out of VA service for quoting scripture. Additionally, we have filed suit on behalf of a "burn pit" whistle blower who was sexually assaulted and forced out of the Navy for her efforts to reduce health risks caused by the burn pits.
We received support from several organizations and individuals that allowed us to continue our mission. Unfortunately, costs are increasing. A one week trip to Washington, DC costs a minimum of $2000.00 including airfare, hotels, meals, metro and taxi fares. Preparation of briefing books and copying services can add as much as $200.00 to the cost of the trip. Generous contributions by all have allowed us to continue to travel to Washington for both court and Congressional visits. A copy of our year end financial statement is available upon request by e-mailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Remember, all contributions are tax deductible and can be made by VISA, Master Card or Discover. Donations can be made online at www.militaryveteransadvocacy.org
2015 is expected to be an exciting year as Military-Veterans Advocacy continues to grow, Our 2015 goals include:
-- Support the restoration of benefits to the crews of ships exposed to Agent Orange while operating in the bays, harbors and territorial seas of the Republic of Vietnam.
-- Request Congress to order a study of possible radiation exposure of a Navy Strike Force operating off the coast of Japan during the Fukushima disaster, when the nuclear plant released contaminated water into the sea.
-- Request Congress to review the military correction board process to establish additional due process requirements while allowing easier judicial review.
-- Working with other organizations, continue to monitor religious freedom issues within the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs.
-- Establish a Washington DC office.
-- Continue to defend the rights of veterans and military personnel by pursuing lawsuits in the various federal courts.
-- Continue the review of the appellate backlogs within the Department of Veterans Affairs and recommend legilsation to streamline the procedures. .
-- Monitor the courts-martial process and recommend changes to the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
-- Support the establishment of veterans courts and Veterans Law Clinics.
We are gaining credibility on Capitol Hill and in the federal courts as we continue to press agendas important to military personnel and veterans. Although our staff consists of volunteers only, we are hoping to attract more qualified volunteers and to increase our Washington, DC footprint. This, of course, requires additional funding to cover expenses.
On behalf of the Board of Advisors I would like to thank you all for your moral or financial support and ask that you continue to pray for our successes. We hope that you all have a happy and successful 2015.
John B. Wells
Commander, USN (Ret).