Military and Veterans
We are privileged to have around 15,000 active-duty servicemembers and more than 75,000 veterans living in the 10th Congressional District.
The 10th is also home to Joint Base Lewis-McChord, one of the largest military installations in the country.
AN UPDATED GI BILL TO MEET EDUCATIONAL NEEDS OF VETERANS
Rep. Denny Heck supported the Harry W. Colmery Vetearns Education Assistance Act of 2017 to improve and extend education benefits provided to veterans. This bill allows future eligible recipients to use their GI bill benefits for their entire lives, as opposed to the current 15-year timeline. It would also simplify the benefit for future servicemembers by consolidating the GI Bill into a single program over time, which would reduce the VA’s administrative costs. The legislation provides significant increases in GI Bill funding for Reservists and Guardsmen, dependents, surviving spouses and surviving dependents, and provides 100 percent GI Bill eligibility to Post 9/11 Purple Heart recipients. In addition, this bill restores eligibility for servicemembers whose school closes in the middle of a semester and creates a pilot program that would pay for veterans to take certain high technology courses.
HEALTH REFORM FOR OUR VETERANS
Rep. Denny Heck supported the Veterans Access to Care Act, which allows veterans located more than 40 miles from a VA facility to access private care, allows the VA to hire more medical personnel, authorizes upgrades to VA facilities, and gives the VA Secretary the ability to remove or demote employees for misconduct and/or poor performance.
Rep. Heck introduced The Commission for Our Veterans Care Act and Our Vets Deserve Better Act to find solutions to improve the existing VA health care system. The Our Vets Deserve Better Act addresses the immediate need for changes, while the Commission for Our Veterans’ Care Act will offer proactive, long-term analysis and oversight to ensure that the VA Health Care System fits the needs of America’s veterans.
FINANCIAL RELIEF FOR OUR SERVICEMEMBERS
Rep. Denny Heck believes all those who have served as members of our military deserve the chance to go to college and own a home while they serve, without having to worry about runaway interest rates on their loans and mortgages.
On February 11, 2014, Rep. Heck introduced the Servicemembers Opportunity Act, to make sure that all servicemembers are able to use the financial protections provided by the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act of 2003. This law capped interest rates at 6 percent for loan and mortgages for servicemembers.
On August 25, 2014, President Obama announced new private sector commitments to enforce protections outlined in the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act of 2003 to close the loophole identified in Rep. Heck’s Servicemembers Opportunity Act.
To prevent a pending expiration of foreclosure protection for military homeowners, Rep. Heck joined Rep. Stephen Fincher (TN-8) to offer the Stability for Servicemembers Act on December 4, 2014 to extend the one-year foreclosure prevention measure through December 31, 2015, and offered the the Foreclosure Relief and Extension for Servicemembers Act of 2015, to extend foreclosure protection for military homeowners from 90 days to a one year period until January 1, 2018. Both bills were signed by President Obama before any servicemembers were affected by the shorter timeline.
On July 24, 2017, Rep. Heck joined leading Democrats on the House Financial Services Committee to present a plan to strengthen enforcement of the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA). the Military Consumer Protection Act directs the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (Consumer Bureau) to oversee and enforce compliance with certain existing provisions of the SCRA, which was found by Government Accountability Office to be weakly enforced by prudential regulators. The introduction of H.R. 3357 follows the release of a Financial Services Committee Democratic Staff Report, which highlights the numerous successes of Consumer Bureau and discusses the importance of its rule banning forced arbitration.
HONORING OUR DECORATED FIGHTER ACES
Aces are U.S. fighter pilots credited with destroying five or more confirmed enemy aircraft in aerial combat. Since World War I, American fighter pilots have fought for freedom and democracy across the globe. More than 60,000 U.S. military fighter pilots that have taken to the air, however, less than 1,500 have been honored with the coveted status of Fighter Ace.
American Fighter Aces have led distinguished careers in the military, education, private enterprise, and politics. Twenty-two Fighter Aces have achieved the rank of Admiral in the Navy. Seventy-nine Fighter Aces have achieved the rank of General in the Army, Marines, and Air Force. Nineteen Medals of Honor have been awarded to individual Fighter Aces.
To honor America’s Fighter Aces, Rep. Denny Heck teamed up with Rep. Sam Johnson (R-TX) to present legislation that would honor them with a Congressional Gold Medal, Congress’ highest recognition.
This bill was one of only 296 bills, 2.8 percent of the 10,645 bills introduced, that became law during the 113th Congress.
NEW SCHOOLS FOR MILITARY FAMILIES
Military bases become the home for ambitious, promising students whose parents dedicate their lives to serving their country. There are about 80,000 students who attend public schools on military installations. Ninety-four percent of these students are the children of servicemembers.
A 2011 analysis by the DOD's Office of Economic Adjustment found that 33 public schools on military installations across the country were in poor condition. As a member of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, former Washington Congressman Norm Dicks ensured that funding was secured to update or rebuild the 33 schools identified by DOD.
Unfortunately, due to sequestration cuts, the funding for this project was cut and five schools remained in need of important repairs. Evergreen Elementary on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, school, recognized in the military community for its attention to students with special needs in education, was one of the schools.
In April 2014, Rep. Denny Heck went to the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee and asked that they restore the funding in the 2015 Department of Defense Appropriations Act. Rep. Heck’s request was honored and construction on the new Evergreen Elementary is currently underway.