By: Frank McCurdy, National Executive Committeeman – As Published in the September Internet Observer
This week, the week of the 6th of September, the funding of our Fitzsimmons VA Medical Center (VAMC) is being negotiated in the Halls of Congress. During the last 90 days, the American Legion (TAL) in concert with the United Veterans Committee (UVC) has met with our Senators and Congresspersons, VA Secretary McDonald, and Deputy VA Secretary Sloan Gibson. All are in favor of funding the $625 million dollars needed to complete the VAMC. Today September 9th, no one except Speaker John Boehner, knows how this major funding issue will play out. If the VAMC does not impact other states projects, there is an excellent chance of success. If the VAMC funding impacts other states and goes political, the outcome is anyone’s guess.
Presidential candidate, Jeb Bush contacted the UVC and requested that he be given an opportunity to exchange ideas on veteran’s issues. The UVC, in concert with the American Legion, organized a veterans town hall meeting at VFW Post #9644 on Aug 25th. It was very successful! This was an information exchange and not a political event. Mr. Bush stated the he meet with Congressman Jeff Miller, Chairman of House Veteran Affairs, who informed Candidate Bush that the VAMC funding is forthcoming. We informed Mr. Bush that that was not our understanding. On a positive note, we briefed Mr. Bush that the PTSD Clinic and the Community Living Center (CLC) were not included in the current funding plan. He grasped the importance!
If Mr. Bush were to win his election, the VA would need $55 million dollar for both buildings and the buildings would be constructed during his administration. He agreed that the CLC and the PTSD Clinic should be included. We are simply making the PTSD Clinic and the CLC a Colorado priority that hopefully all candidates will support.
Please understand that the American Legion is an issue oriented non-profit and will not under any circumstances endorse any political candidate. We will also accept request from other candidates to provide Veteran Town Halls for other viable candidates.
As we all should know, the 2016 Presidential race will include issues concerning our “National Security” and “pay and benefits” for active duty troops and veterans. I cannot stress the importance of the American Legion’s task of advocating for fair and equitable treatment of our military and veterans. The ability of our National Organization to successfully advocate on our behalf depends upon the political capital we obtain through the strength of our membership.
Hopefully, our AL leaders grasp the importance of increasing our membership. We cannot expect other organization to fight our battles. Therefore, all Legionnaires should ask themselves, “How can I help Veterans?” It’s simple, “increase membership.”