Courtesy of Congressman Jimmy Panetta:
On this Veterans Day we formally acknowledge and appreciate the service and sacrifice of those who put on the uniform for our nation. While the COVID-19 pandemic adversely impacts this year’s day of recognition of our veterans, it does not diminish our deep appreciation for them and their families on the central coast of California and across our country. Throughout our nation’s history, our veterans have secured the foundation for our democracy, which includes a recent national election in which a record number of people turned out to vote. As a veteran, community member, and United States Representative for our home in California’s 20th Congressional District, my absolute faith in our democratic system obligates me to fight for federal legislation and continue to personally serve our veterans who fought for our democracy every day.
Authoring Federal Legislation for Veterans
Full Military Honors Act of 2019:
Last month, I attended the interment ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery for Medal of Honor recipient U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Ronald Shurer. The family of SSG Shurer invited me to attend as the author of the Full Military Honors Act of 2019. My legislation was signed into law last year as part of the National Defense Authorization Act. Prior to the enactment of my bill, veterans who were enlisted service members and were prisoners of war or recipients of the Medal of Honor were not allowed to receive full military honor burials at Arlington National Cemetery. Due to my bill, the law now guarantees that any veteran, no matter their rank, who was a POW or MOH recipient, including SSG Shurer, can be interred at Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors.
Congressman Panetta (at far left of procession) and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chair General Mark A. Milley escort the family of SSG Shurer during the full military honors burial ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery.
The Veterans Treatment Court Act:
The Veterans Treatment Court Act, would provide funding for the necessary counseling, care, and support in veteran treatment courts. Our bill would direct the Department of Justice to establish a Veterans Treatment Court Program to provide grants and technical assistance for state, local, and tribal governments to develop and maintain veterans treatment courts. As a former prosecutor and co-founder of the Monterey County’s first veteran treatment court, I saw firsthand the life-changing impact that these courts can have on our veterans. My bill will not just help Central Coast veterans, but it also will help expand and bolster programs nationwide to provide the resources that veterans need. The bill passed the House and the Senate and was signed into law in August.
Other Federal Legislation for Veterans:
This year, I introduced multiple pieces of legislation, and cosponsored an additional 30 bipartisan bills, to help veterans, including:
- Student Veteran Coronavirus Response Act: Would authorizes the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to continue paying work-study allowances, educational assistance, and subsistence allowances during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act: Would extend the presumption of service-connected diseases associated with herbicide, such as Agent Orange, to veterans who served in the offshore waters of the Republic of Vietnam between January 9, 1962 and May 7, 1975.
- Legal Services for Homeless Veterans Act: Would require the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to make grants to entities that provide legal services to homeless veterans and veterans at risk for homelessness. My legislation also would require the VA to use a specified portion of the grants to provide legal services to women veterans and report on areas where VA programs are failing to meet the needs of homeless women veterans.
- I Am Vanessa Guillén Act: Would offer greater support to survivors of military sexual trauma (MST) and harassment and improve oversight of military sexual assault cases. The bill would make sexual harassment a punishable crime under the Uniform Code of Military Justice
Fighting For Veterans
Ensuring Veterans Receive COVID-19 Economic Impact Payments:
In April, my colleagues and I sent a letter to the Treasury Department, IRS, and the VA urging the administration to automatically deliver CARES Act stimulus payments to our nation’s veterans. Days after our letter, the administration reversed its policy and began to provide direct payments to every eligible veteran. Before our action, veterans receiving Supplemental Security Income benefits had to file a tax return to get the direct monetary payments from the CARES Act. I was proud to be part of this effort to ensure those payments were made quickly to help those households make ends meet.
Working with Dentistry4Vets to Open a Veterans Dental Care Clinic:
Dentistry4Vets, with the generous support of the Montage Medical Group, opened up a nonprofit dental clinic for veterans in Marina on November 10, 2020. Currently, the VA only provides dental care to veterans who have a service-related dental problem. Although I am working to close that gap for veterans dental care with H.R. 96, a bill that would make every veteran eligible for VA-provided dental care, we are thankful that Dentristry4Vets will fill that gap for now for our local veterans.