As May is National Military Appreciation Month, and also contains Armed Forces Day and Memorial Day, state and federal legislatures have been increasingly active in their passage of laws to improve the livelihoods of service members and veterans across the country. Although politicians have come a long way on certain matters related to supporting service members during their time on active duty and after they retire, there is still much to be done to improve life for the community.
"Moves in Washington will have an impact on veterans."
Some of the moves that have been made are a bit more symbolic than anything else, paying respect to those who have served their country, while others are expected to have a direct, substantive impact on the military community at large.
Spending bill signed
The New York Times recently reported that the U.S. House of Representatives has voted in favor of a spending program that will inject roughly $81.6 billion into the Department of Veterans Affairs and military construction initiatives. This particular bill will have a significant impact on the finances of service members and veterans, as the source pointed out that it includes a provision to give them a 2.1 percent increase in pay.
According to the news provider, $57 million will go to homeless veterans in the form of housing vouchers, $1.1 billion will go toward projects to manage and defeat the Zika virus, and other funds will be directed toward infrastructure.
"The bill makes vital investments in our nation's infrastructure, helps meet the housing needs of the most vulnerable among us and provides funding for economic development projects in our communities that create jobs," said Maine Senator Susan Collins, The New York Times added.
Interestingly, the source did point out that the legislation had certain components that caused an uproar on the House floor, including one that would lift a ban of sorts on government contractors that discriminate against staff members due to their sexual orientation.
Burial policy changed
Slate reported that the House also voted to end the display of Confederate flags on VA cemeteries. This has been somewhat of a major topic of discussion for several months now, as various states have fought to keep the image of the flag on certain state and federal properties, but public outcry has pushed many representatives to begin work to ban it from public areas.
The news provider noted that there had been a relatively large amount of disagreement between the two parties in the House regarding the statute, but that the Republicans who had argued against it eventually dropped the debate and did not try to block the law from taking shape.
Other more social matters were also covered in the legislation, but the biggest component – and piece that appeared to truly get the bill into motion – was the spending measure to ensure the VA has what it needs to support the veteran community.