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Money for veteran event may be restored

McNerney

McNerney

A successful amendment passed today to a House defense authorization bill would restore federal dollars for East Bay Stand Down, an annual event in Pleasanton that provides aide to homeless military veterans.

Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, authored the amendment.

Under the original version of the National Defense Authorization Act, according to McNerney’s office, funding was cut for innovative readiness training, the program that allowed military reservists to participate in East Bay Stand Down.

McNerney also authored a second successful amendment that requires coordinated credit counseling for active members of the military and their families.

Read on for McNerney’s full press release.

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Posted on Wednesday, May 25th, 2011
Under: veterans | 1 Comment »

Today’s Congressional odds and ends

Jerry McNerneyMcNerney seeks jobs for vets: Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, today announced he’s among the co-authors of the bipartisan Hiring Heroes Act of 2011, aimed at helping reduce unemployment among veterans. Among other provisions, H.R. 1941 aims to ensure every veteran takes part in the Transition Assistance Program – which provides information about transitioning from military service to civilian life to armed forces members within 180 days of their separation or retirement – and that the program delivers individualized assistance to each returning veteran. The bill also encourages federal agencies to hire veterans; provides additional Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment benefits to qualifying veterans with service-connected disabilities; creates a competitive grant program for nonprofits that help veterans find employment through job training and mentorship initiatives; and requires the Department of Labor, the Department of Defense, and the VA to work to reduce and eliminate barriers between military training and civilian licensing requirements for specialized work. “Taking aggressive steps to help returning veterans find good jobs is the right thing to do and will benefit the economy,” McNerney said in a news release. “Employers and veterans alike will benefit from the Hiring Heroes Act, and I look forward to working with a bipartisan group of my colleagues to move this bill forward.” The bill was introduced yesterday by Rep. Sanford Bishop, D-Ga., and the other co-sponsors are Bob Filner, D-San Diego; C.W. Bill Young, R-Fla.; and Norm Dicks, D-Wash. Companion legislation was introduced in the Senate earlier this year.

John GaramendiGaramendi again urges Afghanistan withdrawal: Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, brought his amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act, calling for a substantial drawdown in U.S. forces in Afghanistan by 2013, to the House Rules Committee today. He’d brought a similar amendment last week to the Armed Services Committee, of which he’s a member; the bill without his amendment was approved in a 60-1 vote with Garamendi the sole dissenter, saying he couldn’t in good conscience vote for a bill that extends the counterinsurgency strategy and needlessly puts servicemembers’ lives at risk. He instead advocates pulling most troops out and shifting the remaining ones away from nation building and toward tightly focused counterterrorism efforts.

Pete StarkStark pushes missing-kids bill: Rep. Pete Stark, D-Calif., the Ways and Means Health Subcommittee’s ranking Democrat, will host a news conference tomorrow – which is National Missing Children’s Day – to introduce the Recovering Missing Children Act. His office says the bill would ensure that state and local law enforcement have access to the resources they need to bring missing children home safely. The U.S. Treasury Department studied 1,700 parental abductions and found that in over one third of the cases, tax returns were filed using the missing child’s Social Security number; hundreds of those tax returns had a new address for the child and the abductor, but law enforcement officers weren’t allowed access to this information. The Recovering Missing Children Act would allow such access. Expected to join Stark for the bill’s introduction are U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.; Rep. Joe Courtney, D-Conn.; Rep. Erik Paulsen, R-Minn.; Rep. Pat Tiberi, R-Ohio; National Center for Missing and Exploited Children President Ernie Allen; and Association of Missing and Exploited Children’s Organizations National Coordinator Wendy Jolley-Kabi.

Posted on Tuesday, May 24th, 2011
Under: Afghanistan, economy, Jerry McNerney, John Garamendi, Pete Stark, U.S. House, veterans | 2 Comments »

McNerney pushes VA on Livermore, San Joaquin

Rep. Jerry McNerney says he went to bat for a couple of 11th Congressional District projects as well as veterans across the nation in his one-on-one meeting today with U.S. Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki.

McNerney and Shinseki 2-9-2011McNerney, D-Pleasanton – who had announced yesterday that he’ll be the ranking Democrat on the House Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs – said he again urged the secretary to revisit decisions made by his predecessors to close the Livermore VA facility and to instead develop a plan that would keep it in veterans’ hands.

“The Livermore VA is a uniquely situated facility that is an important resource for the thousands of veterans who live in the area,” McNerney said in a news release. “Given its tranquil setting, I’ve long advocated for the facility to remain in veterans’ hands and be used to provide treatment for veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. With an increasing number of veterans suffering from PTSD, this type of care is more important than ever.”

He said they also discussed the new veterans’ nursing home and outpatient medical facility planned for San Joaquin County.

“Just the other week, local veterans attended my most recent Congress at Your Corner event in Stockton to ask for an update on the VA’s decision on where to locate the new medical facility,” McNerney said. “At today’s meeting with the secretary I expressed again the importance of reaching a decision. This facility will create about 900 jobs and serve thousands of veterans in the area and it’s very important to our community that a final location is selected without delay.”

And McNerney said he and Shinseki discussed the VA’s backlog of benefits claims waiting to be processed – a figure the VA puts at about 400,000, but advocacy groups such as the American Legion say could be closer to 1 million – as well as the need to improve care for veterans with PTSD and traumatic brain injuries.

Posted on Wednesday, February 9th, 2011
Under: Jerry McNerney, U.S. House, veterans | 8 Comments »

McNerney named leader on veterans committee

McNerney

McNerney

Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, will serve as the ranking Democratic Party member of the Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs.

In a quote provided by his office, McNerney said, “I’m honored to serve as the Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs. This subcommittee is responsible for overseeing most benefits for our veterans, such as disability and pension benefits. I’m committed to improving care for the men and women who have served our country and, as ranking member of this important subcommittee I will continue my work in this area.”

Like most members of Congress, McNerney has developed an strong policy interest in a particular arena. McNerney focuses heavily on veterans issues and has sat on the committee since 2007. Many Democrats lost their favored committee assignments after the GOP took majority control of the House. The Republican leaders also reduced committee sizes, which further reduced the Democrats’ assignments.

According to McNerney’s office: The Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs oversees the process by which the Department of Veterans Affairs provides benefits for veterans, including disability, pension, life insurance and burial benefits. The Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs is also responsible for overseeing the Board of Veterans’ Appeals and the Court of Appeals for Veterans’ Claims. These bodies review and issue decisions for benefit claims determinations made by local veterans offices.

Posted on Tuesday, February 8th, 2011
Under: congressional district 11, veterans | No Comments »

Help for a Gold Star wife

Jessica and Sean on their wedding day, 2005

Jessica and Sean on their wedding day, 2005

Let’s take a much deserved break from politics.

I have posted below a flyer for an Oct. 30 pancake breakfast fundraiser in Pittsburg to benefit a special young woman, Gold Star wife Jessica Langevin, whose husband, Sean, was killed in 2007 while serving in the Army in Afghanistan.

Click here to read my colleague Rick Radin’s story about why people are raising money for Jessica right now. The link also includes information about an account set up to accept donations.

In the interests of full disclosure, I confess utter and total bias. I call Jessica my “bonus” daughter. It’s a little complicated (blended families usually are) but Jessica is the step-sister of my three step-children, and my husband, Joe, and I, love her as though she were our own. (All total, between his, mine and our exes, Joe & I have claims of one variety or another on seven wonderful children and seven beautiful grandchildren.)

It has been a rough three years for Jessica. She was 7 months pregnant when Sean was killed. But she has been working hard. She used Sean’s death benefit money and bought a new house in Pittsburg where she began setting up an in-home daycare center. She wanted a job that would allow her to stay at home with their little girl, Zoe, and build a new life for them both.

The back yard was nothing but a dirt hillside and to obtain a childcare license, she needed a safe and secure place for the kids to play. She hired a contractor, who took her money and didn’t finish the job. The hill kept slumping and sliding.

I mentioned Jessica’ predicament to Spike Schau, the California State Coordinator of the Warriors’ Watch Riders, a motorcycle group that escorts fallen soldiers. Spike had helped escort Sean to his resting place in Queen of Heaven cemetery in Pleasant Hill. I met Spike again, while working as a reporter, a few times at veterans events.

I can’t say exactly what triggered my call to Spike, although Jessica believes it was God answering her prayers. But I’m glad I did. It was as though I had unleashed a tornado. Spike took a hold of Jessica’s dilemma and tapped into the vast and often unheralded support system for our military families. He called it a team effort and he is right.  Rick’s story details the names and details of just some of the wonderful people who have volunteered their time, money and skills just in the past week.

Sean’s death was and remains a source of terrible loss and sadness for Jessica, a void that those of us who love her cannot fill. But watching the community sweep this young woman into their arms and give her the help and support she needs sure goes a long way.

So, come on over to the pancake breakfast in Pittsburg on Saturday. It will fill your stomach and your heart. And if you are anything like me, you’ll shed a few tears, too.

UPDATE: Spike says what the project needs most is a donation of 38 cubic yards of concrete or the money to help pay for it. So, eat pancakes!

Posted on Saturday, October 23rd, 2010
Under: veterans | 8 Comments »

McNerney calls for boost in veterans benefit

Rep. Jerry McNerney

Rep. Jerry McNerney

Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, introduced a bill today that will boost payments to the families of soldiers who have been killed in action.

H.R. 5921 would increase the death benefit by an amount equal to the service member’s total contributions to the Social Security system. These benefits would be made available to the families of military personnel killed on or after Sept. 11, 2001.

Read the full news release below:

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Posted on Thursday, July 29th, 2010
Under: congressional district 11, veterans | No Comments »

Veterans embrace TBI legislation

Watch video of Rep. Jerry McNerney’s ceremony in Dublin this morning, where veterans placed ceremonial signatures on newly passed legislation that will increase federal attention on treatments for traumatic brain injury.

See the full story here. Watch the video below.

Posted on Tuesday, June 1st, 2010
Under: congressional district 11, veterans | 1 Comment »