Time running out for lawmakers to get behind America's vets
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I’ve received a lot of feedback from my recent op-ed in The Hill, both positive and negative, and I want to thank my friends on the Hill for their support and criticisms. It is certainly fair to say that there are many dedicated lawmakers and staff who work on veterans issues every day, and based on this feedback, they are the ones who are most frustrated.

I want to thank Chairman Jeff Miller of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs for taking time to meet with us Tuesday and we appreciate the open dialog and candor. His points about the volume of bills offered by the committee are well taken and that my criticism included many that have worked extremely hard for veterans. 

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The American Legion’s responsibility is to its millions of members, the veterans of America, and the families and support networks that rely on veterans programs and good governance. In addition to the millions of dollars we donate to veterans and their families, and the thousands of veterans we work with every year to ensure they have access to the health care and disability benefits they have earned, we also lobby on their behalf. 

Lobbying isn’t always easy and sometimes we aren’t successful, but it’s our responsibility to represent our members in good faith and with all the passion they expect from us. Sometimes that means working with Congress on points where we agree, and sometimes we will disagree.

We have many friends on the hill who do excellent work, and just as it is the job of Congress to provide oversight to VA, it’s all of our jobs to provide oversight to Congress. Of the people, for the people. While I am sincere in my frustration at how slowly the system works, I am also sincere in offering my apologies to those members who work tirelessly on behalf of veterans, including Chairman Miller and his colleagues on the Veterans Affairs Committee. My broad brush stroke of criticism unfairly included many that should have been commended. 

And yet I am afraid that there are still some who do not realize the importance of appeals modernization or comprehend the suffering that is being inflicted on our veterans by each day’s delay.

After attending meetings in the Senate Wednesday, we were acutely aware that there are only two days left for Congress to pass the VA Appeals Modernization bill. The House has passed a bill that the American Legion supports, and the Senate can address this bill today.

Passing Appeals Modernization is the right thing to do. It has the backing and support of both chambers and parties, and every major veteran service organization (VSO) in the nation. American Legion members and supporters alone have sent more than 26,000 letters to Congress supporting Appeals Modernization over the past couple of months.

Two of our national commanders have written letters in support of this effort. The American Legion has testified in support of Appeals Modernization at least three times this year, as have other VSOs, and we recently held a press conference with members of both the House and Senate, Republican and Democrat, who all support Appeals Modernization.

Two days left. The American Legion along with several major VSOs have coauthored a letter to Congress imploring them to pass Appeals Modernization that was hand delivered Wednesday.  Pass Appeals Modernization, and everybody wins, especially our nation’s veterans who wait way too long for their appeals to be processed today.

Louis J. Celli Jr. is the National Director for Veterans Affairs and Rehabilitation for The American Legion. He is a 22 year retired Army MSG, spent 10 years as CEO of a nonprofit organization that teaches veterans to start and run successful businesses, graduated from Harvard University, and lives in Southern Maryland with his wife Elise.


 

The views of Contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.