Legislative News

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  • 12 Jul 2015 6:40 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    WASHINGTON - Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-TX), Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, made the following statement on the naming of conferees by Speaker Boehner (R-OH) to serve on the formal House-Senate Conference committee to resolve the differences in the FY2016 National Defense Authorization Act, to read the entire new release click here.   

  • 12 Jul 2015 6:38 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    WASHINGTON – This past week Senator Tom Carper (D-Del.) was joined by Senators Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) announced the introduction of legislation that would close a loophole in the law that allows for-profit schools to receive 100 percent of their funding from the federal government.  To read the entire article click here.  

  • 28 Jun 2015 8:26 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    I want to inform everyone of a pending piece of legislation that Senators Ayotte and Gillibrand are planning to offer as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act. We believe this is important legislation and hope you will, too. 

    The idea behind the legislation is that innocent military family members who endure significant sacrifices over many years should not be deprived of benefits they would have been afforded just because the service member is convicted of a crime in which the family was innocent.  Specifically:

    • Would give the innocent dependent of a military member who loses benefits due to misconduct access to the portion of benefits he or she would have received in a divorce settlement if the member had not committed misconduct.
    • Would provide transitional compensation to allow a dependent to receive payments and benefits for up to three years after the service member forfeits his or her retired pay (conceived to act in many cases to provide benefits while the dependent is awaiting a final divorce settlement in order to qualify for the benefit described above).

    To read the entire bill click here, to read a one page executive summary click here. 

  • 09 Mar 2015 8:56 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    Did you know that every day on average, 22 veterans commit suicide?  The Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act will help the Department of Veterans Affairs study new strategies for suicide prevention and give student loan incentives to recruit psychiatrists to work with veterans.

    The Act complements VA’s ongoing, multi-faceted efforts to improve mental health care for our nation’s veterans, and I’m pleased that both houses of Congress came together to pass the SAV Act. I’m proud to stand with President Obama today as he signs this important legislation.              

    The VA has many entry points for care: medical centers, more than 800 community-based outpatient clinics, 300 Vet Centers that provide readjustment counseling, the Veterans Crisis Line, VA staff oncollege and university campuses, and the VA is offering expanded access to mental health services with longer clinic hours, telemental health capabilityto deliver services, and standards that mandate rapid access to mental health services.

    The Clay Hunt SAV Act seeks to quell the suicide epidemic by:

    Increasing Access to Mental Health Care and Capacity at VA to Meet Demand

    • Requires VA to create a one-stop, interactive website to serve as a centralized source of information regarding all department mental health services.
    • Addresses the shortage of mental health care professionals by authorizing VA to conduct a student loan repayment pilot program aimed at recruiting and retaining psychiatrists.

    Improving the Quality of Care and Boosting Accountability at VA

    • Requires a yearly evaluation of all VA mental health care and suicide prevention practices and programs to find out what’s working and what’s not working and make recommendations to improve care.

    Developing a Community Support System for Veterans 

    • Establishes a pilot program to assist veterans transitioning from active duty to veteran status.
    • Requires VA to collaborate with nonprofit mental health organizations to improve the efficiency of suicide prevention efforts.

     If you need assistance or know someone who does you can contact the VA Veterans Crisis HOTLINE at1-800-273-8255 or  www.VeteransCrisisLine.net

    To view the signing ceremony click here

    To read the bill click here

  • 06 Dec 2014 7:33 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2014 is the key mechanism to provide necessary authorities and funding for America’s military. This is the fifty-second consecutive NDAA. The legislation meets Chairman McKeon’s goal of providing for a strong defense in an era of uncertain and declining resources. The total funding authorized reflects the will of the House to provide our troops the resources they need to meet a dangerous world. However, Chairman McKeon also recognizes that, more than ever, the impacts of rapid defense cuts, FY13 sequestration, and the prospect of future sequester cuts in the years to come, will force our warfighters to be not only keen stewards of our national security, but to maximize value for every taxpayer dollar. To that end, this legislation supports and protects our warfighters and their families; addresses ongoing and emerging conflicts with resolve and accountability; protects America today while making wise choices.

    Highlights include:

    The NDAA will provide the National Guard and Reserve Component Equipment - $1,250 million!

    1. A limited, $3 increase in select pharmacy co-pays is approved. There will be no increase in mail-order generic pharmaceuticals. Consideration of any further increases is postponed until after the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission reports in February of 2015.

    2. The 2015 military pay increase at 1 percent.

    3.  A pay freeze for General and Flag Officers

    4. The NDAA rejects the Pentagon’s request for a 5% reduction in basic allowance for housing (BAH) and replaces it with a 1% decrease.

    5. Purple Heart: The NDAA provides authorization for awarding the Purple Heart to members of the armed forces killed or wounded in a domestic attack inspired by a foreign terrorist organization - like the attack at Ft. Hood.

    6. Military Suicide: The NDAA authorizes an additional $18.8 million towards behavioral and psychological health programs and efforts specifically for Special Operations Force.

    7.  Military Readines: Our military is experiencing ever growing challenges maintaining readiness as a result of sequestration, leading to a system of tiered readiness where only deploying military personnel are fully trained and ready to deploy. The NDAA provides over $212 billion for operation and maintenance requirements funding activities such as ship refueling and overhaul, depot maintenance, and facilities sustainment.

    To read a summary of the NDAA click here.

    To read the entire NDAA ACT click here

  • 25 Nov 2014 8:15 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    By Megan Scully, CQ Roll Call

    Negotiations on the final defense policy bill have stalled amid disagreements between House and Senate Armed Services committee leaders over issues affecting military benefits, congressional sources tracking the bill said Tuesday.

    Committee leaders had hoped to finalize the negotiated bill early this week, but they have reached an impasse over differences in the two measures on cost-saving Pentagon proposals to increase some TRICARE pharmacy co-pays and reduce the basic housing allowance for military personnel.

    The House-passed version of the bill (HR 4435) would deny the Pentagon its request on both issues, calling those proposals “piecemeal” and deferring instead to the findings of an upcoming commission on military compensation and benefits, which will issue a report early next year.

    “While the committee recognizes the need for compensation reform, it believes such reforms must be examined holistically before proceeding with wide-impacting changes, and it looks forward to reviewing the recommendations provided by the congressionally directed Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission,” according to the committee’s report on the bill.

    But the Senate Armed Services version of the bill (S 2410) would limit the housing allowance increase below the rate of inflation, which could ultimately mean troops pay 5 percent of housing costs out of pocket. The bill also would green-light the Pentagon’s proposal to increase pharmacy co-pays for prescriptions filled outside of military treatment facilities.

    In its report on the bill, the Senate panel said it “reluctantly” agreed to those Pentagon proposals, as well as a limited pay raise for military personnel.

    The proposals, “while undesirable, are necessary to produce a DOD budget that provides sufficient funding to address readiness and modernization deficits, authorizes a sufficiently sized and trained force to meet national defense objectives, and adheres to congressionally mandated budget levels,” the Senate report states.

    The savings generated by the co-pay increase and the reduced housing allowance are expected to total billions of dollars over the next several years. But even modest efforts to scale back military benefits have traditionally been met with heavy resistance on Capitol Hill.

    The so-called “Big Four” undefined the top Republican and Democrat on each of the Armed Services panels undefined have been working for the last week to resolve the remaining differences in the bill, with the hopes of moving it through Congress during the lame duck session.

    Congress has enacted a defense authorization measure every year for more than half a century, a track record that has boosted the power and influence the two committees have over Pentagon policy-making and budgetary priorities.

    Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich., and House Armed Services Chairman Howard “Buck” McKeon, R-Calif., are retiring at the end of this Congress, and neither man wants the committees’ streak to break on his watch.

    Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Levin would not discuss any details of the private negotiations or the remaining points of contention between the two chambers, but he said he hopes the bill would be completed soon.

    “We’re not there yet,” Levin said. “That’s what it amounts to.” 

  • 27 May 2014 8:15 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    The bottom line of the mark-up includes:
    • Includes the Department’s proposals concerning the pay raise (1 percent rather than the 1.8 percent under current law), the housing allowance (allowing the Department to increase BAH at a rate below inflation), and increased pharmacy copays for prescriptions filled outside of military treatment facilities.
    • Does not include the Department’s proposals to establish enrollment fees for TRICARE for Life beneficiaries, the reorganization of the TRICARE program, or the cut to the commissary subsidy (although it does authorize the commissaries to purchase and sell generics).
    • Expresses the view of the committee that inclusion of provisions proposed by the Department to slow the growth of personnel costs – proposals relating to the pay raise, housing allowance, and pharmacy – are undesirable but necessary to produce a defense budget that provides sufficient funding to address readiness and modernization deficits, authorizes a sufficiently sized and trained force to meet national defense objectives, and adheres to congressionally-mandated budget levels.
    • Authorizes the payment of the Survivor Benefit Plan annuity to a special needs trust for the sole benefit of a disabled dependent child incapable of self-support because of mental or physical incapacity.
    • Expresses the view of the committee that inclusion of provisions proposed by the Department to slow the growth of personnel costs – proposals relating to the pay raise, housing allowance, and pharmacy – are undesirable but necessary to produce a defense budget that provides sufficient funding to address readiness and modernization deficits, authorizes a sufficiently sized and trained force to meet national defense objectives, and adheres to congressionally-mandated budget levels.
    • Authorizes $25 million in supplemental impact aid to local educational agencies with military dependent children and $5 million in impact aid for schools with military dependent children with severe disabilities.
    • Reinstates the cap on retired pay of general and flag officers at the monthly equivalent of level II of the Executive Schedule, and ensures the equitable treatment of those officers serving on or after the date of enactment of this Act that would be affected by this change.
    • Establishes a new defense agency with overall responsibility for the POW/MIA accounting community.
    • Includes numerous provisions to enhance sexual assault prevention and response in the military.
    • Grandfathers those who join the military prior to January 1, 2016, from the reduced annual cost of living adjustment applicable to military retired pay (CPI minus 1 percent). Current law grandfathers those who first join prior to January 1, 2014.

  • 23 May 2014 4:08 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    By Connor Obrien, CQ Roll Call

    The House Thursday passed its fiscal 2015 defense authorization bill by a wide bipartisan margin, on the same day the Senate Armed Services Committee is expected to approve its own measure.  The House advanced 325-98 the annual defense policy legislation (HR 4435) after disposing of 169 amendments, debating all proposals Wednesday night and holding a rapid-fire vote session Thursday morning before final passage.

    Thursday’s vote puts the authorization measure on the path to enactment for the 53rd consecutive year. At the outset of floor debate, House Armed Services Chairman Howard “Buck” McKeon, R-Calif., who will retire from Congress at the end of his current term, called leading the panel the highlight of his career and hailed the bipartisan process that produced the legislation year after year.  “Congress has no higher responsibility than to provide for the common defense,” McKeon said. “And with that in mind, I look forward to passing this bill for the 53rd consecutive year, my last year as chairman and as a member of Congress.”

    The bill adheres to the discretionary top-line figure established by December budget law ( PL 113-67 ), but largely avoids contentious issues such as an additional round of base closures, prosecution of sexual assaults in the military, illegal immigrants serving in the armed forces, overhauling military compensation and retirement of weapons systems.

    The ranking Democrat on the Armed Services Committee, Adam Smith of Washington, praised McKeon for upholding the panel’s bipartisan traditions, but also criticized lawmakers for refusing to make tough choices. Smith called the House’s rule (H Res 590) for amendment debate “weak.”

    “It avoided, you know, the more difficult issues, and I think that’s unfortunate,” said Smith, who supported the bill. Smith had proposed amendments to authorize a 2017 BRAC and permit the Navy to take cruisers out of service, neither of which were made in order.  The measure would authorize $592.9 billion for discretionary Pentagon and Defense-related programs in fiscal 2015, $2.7 billion less than the president’s request, including $79.4 billion to support overseas contingency operations, including the war in Afghanistan. The bill does not, however, specify where the overseas contingency funds are to be spent because the administration has yet to formally submit a detailed budget request for the account to Congress.

     Use of Force Authorization Lawmakers rejected 191-233 a bid by California Democrat Adam B. Schiff to sunset the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force ( PL 107-40 ), which was enacted shortly after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Schiff’s amendment would repeal the authorization undefined the central legal justification for military activities in Afghanistan, Pakistan and elsewhere undefined one year after the bill’s enactment. Schiff, a member of the Intelligence Committee, argued the law was overly broad and outdated and that his amendment would provide a timeline for both the president and Congress to consider a new strategy.

    “Without a sunset, I am convinced that a year from now we will be exactly where we are today undefined continuing to rely on an increasingly legally unreliable AUMF,” Schiff said. The bill incorporates a Duncan Hunter , R-Calif., amendment, adopted by voice vote in an en bloc package, that would require the president to report to Congress on the identity and location of the perpetrators of the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, as well as a description of all actions taken to kill or capture those individuals. It also would call on the White House to determine whether the president possesses the authority to use military force against the people and organizations involved in the attack. Guantanamo Detainees As with previous years’ authorization measures, the fiscal 2015 bill would bar the transfer of detainees currently held at the detention center at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, to the United States for imprisonment. In a similar fashion as prior years, the House rebuffed 177-247 a Smith amendment that would establish a framework for closure of the facility by the end of 2016. Smith echoed Democratic contentions that the facility was needlessly expensive and that terrorists are already held in U.S. prisons.

    “We have the ability in the United States of America to hold dangerous people,” Smith said. “I will submit to you that if we didn’t have that ability we would be in a whole lot of trouble regardless of the people at Guantánamo Bay.” Republicans countered that the facility is a solid alternative to the politically unpopular act of housing detainees domestically and an asset to U.S. national security.

     “If al Qaida’s on the run, I think it’s toward us,” said Ohio Republican Brad Wenstrup . New START Funding The bill includes a spate of provisions that restrict contact and cooperation with the Russian military in light of its annexation of Crimea. Prior to passing the bill, lawmakers adopted 233-191 an amendment proposed by Doug Lamborn , R-Colo., that would restrict funding for the implementation of the 2010 New START nuclear arms reduction treaty until the Defense secretary certifies that Russia is no longer occupying Ukrainian territory and is in compliance with the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty and the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe.

    “Why in the world would we want to give up further nuclear forces when the party that’s supposed to be working with us on this is not reliable?” Lamborn said.  Major Weapons Systems The bill would authorize $8 billion for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, equal to the administration’s request. The legislation also would prohibit the retirement of the A-10 Thunderbolt II close air support aircraft–a popular platform among lawmakers from both parties that saw heavy use in support of ground operations in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Due to sequestration, the Air Force planned to deactivate its A-10 fleet, but the bill would fund the aircraft by tapping $635 million from the overseas contingency operations fund. It would further nix Air Force plans to retire the U-2 spy plane.  The legislation also would restrict an Army plan to transfer AH-64 Apache helicopters from the National Guard to the active component Army during fiscal 2015.

    The bill would authorize $15.1 billion for Navy vessels, including unrequested funds for refueling and overhaul of the USS George Washington (CVN-73) aircraft carrier. The bill also would block the Navy from retiring or deactivating any of its cruisers as part of the service’s phased modernization plan.

    Personnel Provisions The bill would authorize $31.4 billion for the defense health program and would reject Pentagon attempts to curb growing personnel costs, such as increased Tricare fees and copayments.  The bill supports a 1.8 percent pay increase for military personnel in fiscal 2015, while the administration has proposed a one percent pay hike.The House adopted, by voice vote, a Jackie Speier, D-Calif., amendment that would require the inspectors general of the Defense Department and the individual services to publicly release reports of investigations that confirm misconduct by members of the senior executive service, political appointees or commissioned officers in the armed forces in pay grades O-6 or above.

    Sequestration During debate, McKeon cautioned fellow lawmakers, who will take up the task of crafting the next defense authorization bill after he retires, that the worst is yet to come if the across-the-board cuts imposed by sequestration continue.  “While this bill makes tough choices, Congress will be called upon to make impossible choices in years ahead if sequestration is not addressed,” he said.  Smith, too, said sequestration had already adversely impacted military readiness and cautioned that a “reckoning will come.”

     “Put simply, we have a lot less money now than we thought we were going to have,” Smith said. “It will get even smaller if eight more years of sequestration come to pass.”

  • 30 Apr 2014 8:33 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    In the first official congressional action on the Pentagon’s proposed 2015 budget, House lawmakers have rejected proposed cuts in housing allowances and commissary funding, as well as an overhaul of the Tricare system that would increase out-of-pocket costs for some beneficiaries.

    But members of the House Armed Services Committee’s personnel panel remained noticeably silent on the Defense Department’s proposed 1 percent basic pay raise for troops next year, opening the door for another smaller-than-expected pay boost in January.

    And the lawmakers also signaled that they want service members to play a role in deciding what pay and benefits cuts they’ll see in the future, proposing a study that would ask troops to rank their benefits in value and importance undefined for example, whether they value health care and bigger paychecks over retirement pay and housing allowances.

    Top Pentagon officials had spent the last two months arguing that the pay and benefits changes are necessary to help contain growing personnel costs, which threaten to overwhelm funding for readiness and modernization as long as the mandatory, automatic budget cuts known as sequestration remain in effect.

    The personnel subcommittee’s draft of the 2015 defense authorization bill shows lawmakers remain unconvinced by that argument. In a statement, the subcommittee said the draft bill “rejects proposals that would have increased out-of-pocket costs for military families.”

    Instead, the plan punts long-term compensation reform to next year, after the congressionally mandated Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission is scheduled to release its final report on ways to revamp the way pay and benefits are handled.

    The subcommittee action is just the first step in a long process, and defense officials still have months of lobbying opportunity ahead before a final defense authorization bill is approved by Congress. But Senate leaders have expressed similar reluctance to cut troops’ compensation before the commission has a chance to weigh in.

    Outside advocacy groups also have argued that no compensation changes should be considered until the commission finishes its work.

    Service officials say delaying all the changes could cost DoD tens of billions in compounding personnel spending in years to come.

    Benefits saved

    The Pentagon’s fiscal 2015 budget proposal had included plans to gradually reduce housing allowance rates to cover only 95 percent of average off-base rental costs, down from 100 percent. The House subcommittee would sideline that plan for now.

    Defense leaders had also pushed to eliminate commissary subsidies at most domestic bases, effectively reducing annual funding for the system by two-thirds, which would have led to price increases of about 20 percent for patrons. Instead, the House plan asks for a study “to identify efficiencies that could lead to cost savings without reducing military family benefits.”

    The subcommittee also rejects a DoD proposal to combine the three major existing Tricare plans undefined Prime, Standard and Extra undefined into a single system with a fee structure based on where beneficiaries get their medical care.

    Instead, lawmakers asked for an anonymous survey of service members to determine “the value that members of the Armed Forces place on ... forms of compensation relative to one another.” That would include basic pay, bonuses, health care benefits and retirement pay.

    Lower pay

    The authorization bill draft does not weigh in on a pay raise for 2015. Under current law, basic pay raises that take effect each Jan. 1 are pegged to the increase in private-sector wage growth in the most recent full fiscal year. Under that formula, the pay raise for 2015 would be at least 1.8 percent.

    But Pentagon officials have pushed for a 1 percent capped pay raise instead, to cut costs. And without specific congressional language mandating a higher raise, the president can intervene and set a lower pay raise.

    If the 1 percent proposal is adopted by the Senate later this year, it would mark the second consecutive year troops would see a pay raise lower than expected private-sector wage growth.

    For an E-3 with three years of service, the difference in the two pay plans will cost about $195 a year. For an E-7 with 10 years, it comes out to $356. For an O-5 with 12 years of service, the lower pay plan would erase about $667 of annual salary.

    Military advocates have argued that the smaller annual pay is only part of the problem. After years of lobbying to close the so-called “pay gap” between private-sector wages and military paychecks undefined which by common measure peaked at more than 13 percent in the late 1990s undefined they worry the recent trend will leave service members with less purchasing power and more debt.

    Ultimately, advocates say, capped pay raises would lead to the same recruiting and retention problems that plagued the military in the 1990s, when the pay gap was peaking.

    Pentagon budget officials are proposing similar capped pay raises through at least 2018, which would continue to widen the gap. But they argue the trims, while difficult, will not devastate military families, and will help protect readiness and modernization efforts.

    The 1 percent pay raise troops received this year was the lowest in the history of the all-volunteer military, dating back to 1973. In congressional testimony, service leaders have repeatedly pointed out that troops are still in line to see a pay increase at a time when some private-sector firms are withholding raises.

    The full House is expected to vote on a final draft of the full defense authorization bill later this month. The Senate is scheduled to offer its initial drafts of the legislation in coming weeks, with a full chamber vote possible in early summer.

  • 06 Mar 2014 6:17 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    WASHINGTON (AP) undefined A divided Senate on Thursday derailed Democratic legislation that would have provided $21 billion for medical, education and job-training benefits for the nation's veterans. The bill fell victim to election-year disputes over spending and fresh penalties against Iran. Each party covets the allegiance of the country's 22 million veterans and their families, and each party blamed the other for turning the effort into a chess match aimed at forcing politically embarrassing votes.

    Republicans used a procedural move to block the bill after Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., chided GOP lawmakers about their priorities.

    "I personally, I have to say this honestly, have a hard time understanding how anyone could vote for tax breaks for billionaires, for millionaires, for large corporations and then say we don't have the resources to protect our veterans," said Sanders, the measure's chief author.

    Democrats noted that more than two dozen veterans groups supported the legislation. But Republicans said they still favor helping veterans while also wanting to be prudent about federal spending.

    "We're not going to be intimidated on this," said Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, top Republican on the Senate Budget Committee. "We're going to do the right things for the veterans of America."

    The fight over priorities demonstrated again the bitter divisions that have restrained the legislative process in recent years. Efforts to address immigration, a tax overhaul and job creation all seem likely to go nowhere this year.

    Republicans criticized how most of Sanders' bill was paid for undefined with unspent money from the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq and the winding down of American military involvement in Afghanistan. The GOP says those are not real savings because no one expected those dollars to be spent as those wars ended.

    Republicans also objected to provisions making more veterans without service-connected injuries eligible for treatment at Department of Veterans Affairs facilities. They said that would swamp an already overburdened system.

    The vote sidetracking the bill was 56-41, with supporters falling four votes short of the 60 they needed to prevail. Sens. Jerry Moran of Kansas and Dean Heller of Nevada were the only Republicans voting to keep the legislation alive and the only lawmakers crossing party lines on the vote.

    Veterans groups complained about being caught in partisan crossfire.

    "Veterans don't have time for this nonsense and veterans are tired of being used as political chew toys," said Paul Rieckhoff, founder and CEO of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, which supported the legislation.

    Democrats wasted little time trying to cash in on the vote.

    Within moments, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee unleashed an email headlined, "Mitch McConnell Votes Against Kentucky Veterans." McConnell is up for re-election this year.

    Republicans said there would be no retribution from voters because the Democratic bill would have harmed veterans' services by flooding them with too many people. They also said this year's election campaigns will focus on other issues, such as President Barack Obama's health law.

    "We're sort of fooling ourselves to believe that this drives the election issue list," said Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina, top Republican on the Veterans' Affairs Committee.

    Thursday's showdown came after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., refused to allow votes on a GOP amendment slicing the bill's size and adding the penalties against Iran for its nuclear program.

    Obama opposes new penalties while international negotiations with Iran proceed.

    Fifty-nine senators of both parties have sponsored a separate bill imposing the punishment if the talks fail, though Obama's effort has weakened Democratic calls for a quick Senate vote. A vote could put the administration and some Democrats who favor the proposal in an awkward spot.

    The White House did not issue a public statement on whether it supported the veterans' bill.

    Sanders' legislation addressed everything from making more veterans eligible for in-state college tuition to providing fertility or adoption services for some wounded troops left unable to conceive.

    The VA would have been given more tools to eat into its backlog of 390,000 benefit claims awaiting action for more than 125 days. The bill also would have bolstered programs for veterans who suffered sexual abuse, and would have increased dental care and provided more alternative medicine, such as yoga for stress.

    In a two-year test program, some overweight veterans living more than 15 minutes from a VA gym would have been given memberships at private health clubs.

    Benefits for some spouses of deceased veterans would have improved, and aid to relatives caring for a wounded veteran would have been expanded to include those who served before the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

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