World War II Memorial in Washington, DC

Legislative Proposal: National Veterans Council Act of 2017

Since the attacks of September 11th, 2001, our Nation has experienced tremendous transformation in how we care for our Veterans. The budget of the Veterans Administration (VA) has been greatly increased. The number of government agencies involved in Veterans affairs and the level of inter-government collaboration has drastically increased at, between, and within all levels of government. The community of Military and Veteran Service Organizations (MSOs and VSOs) has grown at record pace. The generosity of private citizens, Main Street, and corporate America has reached record levels.

In response to this increased activity, the Bush and Obama Administrations both created specialized approaches to provide support for and to help maximize the efforts to best serve our Nation’s Veterans. Word on the street is that the Trump Administration is also planning its own specialized response dedicated to enhancing these efforts. Though President Trump’s commitment to Veterans is accepted as sincere and the efforts underway in his administration seem poised to improve the services provided to Veterans, this paper offers a way to truly maximize this administration’s dedication to Veterans.

Instead of a solution custom made to fit this administration — one that will ultimately end with this administration — we call upon President Trump, supported by Congressional legislation, to enact an enduring, historic, and truly transformational approach. Based on this vision, this paper proposes the creation of a permanent structure capable of uniting the entire spectrum of Veterans services in a way never attempted, though appropriate at this time and place in our nation’s history. It is critical to note that this proposal is not a big government plan for centralizing power, but a way to maximize the effect of Presidential leadership in service to our Veterans.

As a top priority for Trump administration, Veterans issues should be addressed in way similar as national security issues. As part of the National Security Act of 1947, Congress created the National Security Council to ensure the President’s ability to effectively manage and control the proper execution of Congressional policy and budgeting. To confront the growing complexity facing today’s Veteran, it is time for Congress to pass the National Veterans Council Act of 2017. In short, this proposal equips the Executive Branch with additional tools to serve Veterans, as well as promote collaboration between private, public and nonprofit organizations.

NOTE: This act creates four entities for the purposes of uniting the entire spectrum of Veterans affairs activities. This act creates a National Veterans Council, a President’s Advisory Board on Veterans Affairs, and directs the President to appoint a Veterans Services Adviser who would be supported by a robust Veterans Services Staff (Office of the American Hero).

The National Veterans Council Act of 2017 will ensure more staffing, more coordination, and more focus on Veterans’ issues from within the White House, to include more attention from POTUS. Through the National Veterans Council, the heads of federal departments and agencies active in Veterans affairs, will work to coordinate the actions of government. Finally, the Veterans Services Adviser and his or her robust Veterans Services Staff (Office of the American Hero) will gather the necessary information and data, along with the required access, to ensure POTUS remains abreast of Veterans’ issues.

National Veterans Council Act of 2017 will:

· Ensure the current level of inter-governmental collaboration and other congressional mandated activities continue.

· Synchronize the management of the myriad of government departments and agencies dedicated to providing Veterans’ services.

· Reduce budgets by eliminating duplication and creating efficiencies between government agency and through partnerships with non-profit organizations to inspire action from all sectors of society.

· Institutionalize the Veterans’ voice at the highest level of executive leadership in the U.S. Government.

· Ensure Congressional recognized MSOs and VSOs are heard by the President of the United States (POTUS).

· Coordinate the continuous exchange of ideas and recommendations across government departments and the Veterans’ community.

· Bring attention to the unique needs and contributions of America’s Veterans and their families to ensure they receive the opportunities, resources, and support they have earned.

National Veterans Council shall:

· Be chaired by a Veterans Services Adviser, modeled after the National Security Adviser.

· Include as members, the head of each federal department and agency providing Veterans’ services and modeled after the National Security Council.

· Periodically seek the advice of the President’s Advisory Board on Veterans Affairs.

Veterans Services Adviser shall:

· Be the primary staff adviser to POTUS concerning all matters pertaining to our Nation’s Veterans.

· Manage a robust communications staff as well as personnel to coordinate events and action national initiatives.

· Ensure proper staffing of critical Veterans’ issues through the establishment of a Veterans’ office (Office of the American Hero) within the Executive Office of the President.

In addition to providing mutual support and collaboration throughout the federal government, Veterans Services Adviser and his or her robust Veterans Services Staff (Office of the American Hero) will create a shared community of all entities evolved Veterans’ services. To enable this goal, the President’s Advisory Board on Veterans Affairs will be drawn from relevant and active Veterans’ groups, representing the broadest spectrum of the Veterans advocacy community, for the purposes of uniting the voice of our Nation’s Veterans.

NOTE: This concept has been discussed with several MSOs and VSOs. Based on these initial conversations, there appear to be a general consensus on the need for a National Veterans Council Act of 2017. The MSOs and VSOs are especially excited about the concept of the President’s Advisory Board on Veterans Affairs based on the belief that there is a need to make permanent the ability of Veterans’ groups to have assured and routine access to the Nation’s top executive officials including POTUS.

President’s Advisory Board on Veterans Affairs shall:

· Be chaired by a Veterans Services Adviser, modeled after the National Security Adviser.

· Consist of 25 members, modeled after the President’s Advisory Council on Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships.

· Provide advice from the MSO and VSO community to POTUS and the National Veterans Council.

However, the various MSOs and VSOs have yet to agree on the composition of an advisory board. Though the support for an advisory board is near universal, the views on the composition and rules pertaining to an advisory board appear to be widely diverse with little agreement.

In order to help the MSO and VSO community reach a compromise, the following points of contention need to be resolved.

1. Who should serve on the President’s Advisory Board on Veterans Affairs?

2. Should members be selected only from MSOs and VSOs?

3. What standards should be used to determine if a group qualifies as a MSO or VSO?

NOTE: The standards for a MSO or VSO could be adopted from existing criteria i.e. the by-laws of the National Veterans Day Committee.

4. What nomination criteria should be used for members?

5. Who should nominate members of the President’s Advisory Board on Veterans Affairs?

NOTE: Nominations could originate from the White House (Veterans Services Adviser) or from the MSOs and VSOs.

6. How long should members of the President’s Advisory Board on Veterans Affairs serve?

NOTE: Shorter terms would allow for more MSOs and VSOs to have an opportunity to have a member of the board. Longer terms would allow for more continuity and allow members more time to bring issue to a resolution.

7. Should terms of service be staggered or differ in length in term of service?

8. Should a board member’s length of service be based on the size of the MSO or VSO they represent?

In closing, we echo the commitment of our 45th President of the United States, “Under the Trump Administration, America will meet its commitments to our veterans.” Please help pass the National Veterans Council Act of 2017 to ensure Veterans’ issues are back-up by the highest level of executive leadership and the highest prospects for results that only POTUS can deliver — for this administration and all future administrations.

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