Constituent Services
Higgins Leads House Democrats in Sending Letter to Speaker Hastert Expressing Strong Opposition to Decision to Discontinue Joint Hearings of House and Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committees
November 22, 2005
Hearings Allowed Congress to Better Respond to Veterans’ Needs
Washington, DC—Today, Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-27), sent a letter to Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) asking him to overturn Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Buyers’ decision to end a decades long practice of joint hearings between the House and Senate that lets veterans groups express their concerns on the budget and legislative priorities in a back and forth dialogue with committee members.  Higgins’ letter was signed by 53 House Democrats.  Historically, the hearings, which were cancelled by Chairman Buyer, provided a forum to review the legislative priorities of veterans and military service organizations (VSOs and MSOs).  The hearings allowed Congress to better respond to veterans’ needs and often led to legislative fixes to identified problems.
“The cancellation of the hearing adds to the continued lackluster attitude of the Republican party towards our veterans,” said Congressman Higgins.  “The over 60,000 veterans in the 27th district of New York deserve to have a voice in decisions that will directly impact them.  We must live up to our commitments to the heroes who have defended our freedom, instead of shortchanging them.  With the number of veterans growing with our returning soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan, it is not good enough to talk the talk on Veterans’ Day—we must truly meet our obligation to the men and women who have bravely defended our freedom and democracy.”
Congressman Higgins’ plan to assist and honor veterans includes:
  • Cosponsor of H.R. 515, Assured Funding for Veterans Healthcare Act of 2005, which will guarantee VA funding and make it mandatory instead of discretionary so that it does not face cuts in the appropriations process each year.
  • Cosponsor of H.R. 303, Concurrent Receipt, which will allow veterans to get full disability and military retiree pay without penalty.
  • Cosponsor of H.R. 2131, GI Bill of Rights for the 21st Century, which will modernize and enhance the GI Bill – providing for the full cost for college or job training for those who serve four years or more of active duty.  It also includes provisions to ensure an adequate number of troops and to make sure they have adequate equipment, and to provide a $1,000 bonus to the nearly 1 million who have served in imminent danger in Operation Iraqi Freedom and in Afghanistan.  Finally, it recognizes the great sacrifice of our National Guard and Reserve -- by expanding military health care to cover all reservists, making sure they do not suffer a pay cut while deployed, and improving recruitment and retention incentives. 
  • Cosponsor of H.R. 3312, Honor Our Commitment to Veterans Act, which will allow Priority 8 veterans to enroll for VA healthcare; a benefit they were guaranteed and have now been denied.
 On November 28, 2005, Higgins will host a Veterans’ Roundtable at the Matthew Glab Post, 1965 Abbott Road, Lackawanna, NY.  For more information please call 716-852-3501.
Attached is Higgins’ letter to Speaker Hastert.

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