WASHINGTON, D.C.—On Wednesday, the House passed the final 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which supports a strong national defense and includes two key amendments offered by Rep. Greg Stanton to improve veterans’ quality of life. The legislation now heads to the Senate and then to the President’s desk for signature.
“Anyone who puts their life on the line for our country deserves to feel safe and prepared in the line of duty, and our veterans deserve access to the resources and support they’ve earned when they return home,” said Stanton.
Stanton’s two amendments will directly benefit Arizona’s veterans.
Naturalization of Veterans
In June 2019, the Government Accountability Office released a report that found that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement did not consistently follow its policies or accurately document its cases involving veterans from 2013 through 2018.
Stanton’s first amendment addresses this by improving the mandatory counseling that noncitizen servicemembers receive when they transition out of the U.S. Armed Forces. The change will ensure servicemembers are provided important information on the expedited naturalization resources available to them for their service.
Stanton was inspired to take legislative action after talking to Steven Borden, director of veteran services at Arizona State University’s Pat Tillman Veterans Center, and hearing stories about how veterans transitioning from military to student life were impacted by current law.
Recreation Programs to Address Veteran Suicide
Stanton’s second amendment helps combat the devastating veteran suicide rate by extending participation in the Wounded Warrior Program. The military recreation program provides crucial physical, psychological and social rehabilitation to help curb the high suicide rates.
Currently, once a servicemember separates from the U.S. Armed Forces, they no longer qualify for their respective service’s Wounded Warrior Program. Stanton’s amendment would change this by extending a veteran’s eligibility an additional year, a time in which veteran suicide is reported to be two times higher than the average rate.
Additional NDAA Measures
In addition to authorizing the most robust defense budget in history at $738 billion, the NDAA included a number of other provisions such as:
- A 3.1 percent pay raise for military members;
- Funding for 12 additional F-35 aircrafts which are flown at Luke Air Force Base;
- A repeal of the “widow tax” to relieve surviving spouses of fallen servicemembers of undue financial burdens;
- 12-week paid family leave for all federal employees;
- Protections for DACA and TPS servicemembers to prevent them from being involuntarily separated from service.
Stanton first advocated for his amendments in July. Video of his remarks on the House floor is available here: https://youtu.be/8p_rRCuyKSE