By: Frank McCurdy, National Executive Committeeman

Year 2014 could be a banner year for Colorado Veterans. Legislative efforts, both nationally and locally, are encouraging. Numerous VA projects are under construction. Be assured, your American Legion (TAL) is in the forefront at all levels.

Nationally, US Senator Bernie Sanders (I), Vermont, Chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee has introduced the “Comprehensive Veterans Health and Benefits and Military Retirement Pay Restoration Act of 2014.” If you have a particular veteran topic of interest, I am fairly sure this legislation covers the issue. There are 130 separate provisions covered in this bill. To see a copy of the bill (367 pages), go to url address:www.veterans.senate.gov and click Legislation S.1982

During the 2014 Washington Conference, S.1982 will be the focus of attention. National staff will provide essential information to arm our Legionnaires with veteran issues and priorities to discuss with their Representatives. This will happen at the “Know Before You Go” session. I would also expect S.1982 to be addressed during Commander Dellinger’s testimony before a joint session of the House and Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. TAL and the UVC (United Veterans Committee) work together to pass legislation in Colorado.

Our most important 2014 issue is the passage of the “Veterans Assistance Grant Program” to be recognized as a permanent line item in the State Budget (called the Long Bill). This bill allows Veterans Service Organizations (Legion, VFW, DVA, etc.) to apply for grants similar to the “Veterans Trust Fund.” This bill also allows County Governments to apply for grants to supplement their County Veteran Service Officer Program. Effective non-profits, serving veterans, can also apply for grants.

The new VAMC on Fitzsimmons is headed for a resolution circa May/Jun 2014. In spite of the problems associated with our 38% finished new VA hospital, other VA facilities are newly opened or under construction. Outpatient clinics under construction or recently completed include Pueblo, Colorado Springs, and Golden. “Good News,” the VA has purchased land for the new VA National Cemetery east of Colorado Springs. It is difficult to deal with delays; however, major commitments to Colorado have been made.

The commitments made by our government to support our vets have not happened by accident. The efforts of the great Veteran Service Organizations with the TAL taking a leadership role has and will continue to protect the earned benefits of our veterans. Every single Legionnaire, by virtue of their membership, has played a part in ensuring the protection of our veterans’ benefits.

Thank you for your service, membership, and support.