Meng Bills Passed by House Committees
Aug 1, 2013
Two pieces of legislation sponsored by U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-Queens) were passed by House Committees today. Both measures now head to the House floor where they are expected to be passed by the full House in the fall.
The House Veterans Affairs Committee approved Meng's bill to eliminate the massive backlog of disability claims that has forced veterans in Queens and the rest of New York to wait a staggering average of nearly 500 days for their benefits, one of the longest wait times in the entire country.
In addition, the House Foreign Affairs Committee passed Meng's legislation to better protect the lives of American diplomats serving overseas, a measure she introduced in the wake of the terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya, that killed U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans working at the U.S. consulate there.
Meng's "VA Regional Office Accountability Act," which the Veterans Affairs Committee passed as part of legislation to evaluate the backlog, would require annual reports on VA regional offices that fail to meet the VA’s target for processing claims within 125 days with 98% accuracy. The reports would help speed up benefits for veterans. The findings would allow Congress and the VA to better understand the challenges that prevent these regional offices from reaching their goals, and would propose solutions on how to rectify the problems. The reports would be required to explain why the office did not meet the goal, what resources it needs to meet it, and how the failure to meet the goal affected the performance evaluation of the office director.
Meng’s “SAFE Embassies Act" – a bipartisan measure she introduced with Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA) – would increase accountability of State Department employees by providing the Secretary of State with more power to discipline personnel who put diplomats in danger. The bill was requested by then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton when she testified about the Benghazi attack during Meng's first Congressional hearing as a new member of Congress. Presently, State Department employees who are responsible for a diplomatic facility being vulnerable to a security incident, as occurred in Benghazi, cannot be reprimanded unless their actions are found to be a breach of duty, an extremely difficult standard to prove. The Foreign Affairs Committee included Meng's legislation in the State Operations and Embassy Security bill.
"I applaud the Veterans and Foreign Affairs Committees for approving these critical pieces of legislation," said Meng. "Our veterans and diplomats put their lives on the line to serve and protect our nation, and it is essential that we do all can for them. Veterans deserve the benefits to which they're entitled; diplomats must be provided with the security they need. I look forward to the House taking up these important bills, and I will strongly advocate for their passage."
Veterans-disability benefits include critical care for everything from major combat injuries to post-traumatic stress disorder to Agent Orange exposure. The New York VA regional office, located in downtown Manhattan, is one of 58 regional VA offices across the country that provides benefits and services to veterans and their dependents. The New York facility serves approximately 608,000 veterans throughout Queens and New York City, Long Island and New York State.
For more background on Meng's veterans legislation, click the following link: https://1.usa.gov/10Dd4s0
For additional background on Meng's diplomats bill, click the following link: https://1.usa.gov/13ED3kg
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