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Contact Your Local Election Official Today

In 2009, Congress enacted the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act (MOVE Act) which now requires every state to mail out absentee ballots to military and overseas voters 45 days prior to any primary or general election for Federal office.

Your local election official (LEO) must have absentee ballots printed and ready to mail by Saturday, September 22, so that military personnel from your community will be able to vote in the November 6 general election regardless of where the service of our country has taken them. Unfortunately, the fact that this is required by federal law does not necessarily mean that it is going to happen.

According to Military Voter Protection Project, in 2010 mid-term election, 15 states requested waivers from DOD to the 45 day deadline. The waiver in New York state allowed ballots to be mailed by October 1, 2010 (32 days before the election). New York missed this deadline and sent ballots on October 12, 2010, only 3 weeks left until the election, causing 43,000 military and overseas voters to be affected. Similarly, at least 35 counties in Illinois failed to meet the 45 day deadline and waited until October 5 or later to mail absentee ballots. This clearly demonstrates there is little concern in many states that our active duty military is still the most disenfranchised voting group in the United States today.

There are more than 7,500 local election offices administering absentee voting for federal elections, and many of them are ignorant of their obligations under federal law. September 22 is this Saturday. Please contact your LEO (County Clerk, etc.) and the LEOs for several nearby counties or municipalities and find out if the ballots were mailed out on time. Remind the LEO of the requirement to mail ballots is by September 22. Check back on Monday, September 24, to determine if the ballots have been mailed.

The passing of the MOVE Act amended the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA). UOCAVA voters are active duty service members and their voting age family members, whether within or outside the United States, as well as U.S. citizens outside our country. Please note that the requirement to send out ballots not later than September 22 applies to active duty service members who are currently serving within the United States, as well as those who are in places like Afghanistan.

Please report to Concerned Veterans for America if you discover ballots by your LEO have not been mailed on time. We’d like to know who isn’t defending the right to vote for our men and women in uniform.


Disappointing Outcome On Today’s Armed Services Committee Hearing On Federal Voting Assistance Program

Arlington, VA – Today, the House Armed Services Committee took a small step to confront the challenges military personnel face in obtaining or submitting an absentee ballot by conducting a hearing focused on the DoD’s Federal Voting Assistance program. Unfortunately, despite direct questions from the members, no answers were forthcoming as to why reforms mandated by Congress had not taken place.

Jessie Jane Duff, Gunnery Sergeant, USMC (Ret) said the following:

“I was very disappointed. There was no answer to the $64,000 question—has DoD fully implemented the reforms mandated by the 2009 MOVE Act? Even when asked directly, DoD’s representatives dodged the question.

“What we heard was the same old finger pointing that allows the military to remain the most disenfranchised voting group in the United States today.

“Our leaders in Washington face big challenges with the $16 trillion national debt, runaway spending and a struggling economy. Compared to those problems, this one should be an easy fix (to say nothing of the right thing to do). All they have to do is set up an office and add a piece of paper to the pile when a servicemember checks in. If they can’t manage to get their heads around this, what hope is there on the national debt?”

What’s the issue? Here are the numbers:

As of August 2012, a survey of several states showed that in most of the states fewer than 10 percent of military voters had requested ballots, according to a recent report from the Military Voters Protection (MVP) Project.
As of August, in Virginia and North Carolina, only 1.4 and 1.7 percent of military voters had requested ballots.
As of today, North Carolina is still behind the 2008 pace – this after four years of supposed reforms and millions of dollars spent.
A 2012 Department of Defense IG investigation was able to reach fewer than half of the voting assistance offices mandated by the MOVE Act.  Congress appropriated $46 million for voting assistance activities in 2011 alone.


Don’t Cut Guard, Reserve Drill Pay

Are you starting to get the feeling that no one in Washington is serious about looking out for our uniformed military personnel? Recent budget talks about cuts to veterans programs and military pay leave me dismayed.

In recent months, we’ve seen repeated indications that the Obama administration is prepared to get tough and cut spending—that is, only so long as they can cut spending on defense and military priorities, while allowing the rest of the federal budget to continue growing by leaps and bounds.

We’ve seen it with the Pentagon’s push for higher fees on veterans covered under the Tricare system (while the administration leaves Medicare and Social Security spending untouched). We’ve seen it with the push for “early outs,” forcing uniformed personnel to leave the service—while allowing the civilian bureaucracy to grow unchecked.

Here’s Washington’s latest assault on our military personnel: the 11th Quadrennial Review of Military Compensation has recommended that National Guard and Reserve drill pay for training days be slashed in half.

The QRMC’s stated goal is to reduce complexity in the reserve and guard pay system. That’s a worthwhile goal—but not if it comes at the expense of force readiness or creates a disincentive for men and women to serve. Those are precisely the effects that slashing drill pay would have on the services. (You can read the full QRMC report here in PDF format.)

The National Guard Association of the United States has raised the alarm over this attack on our service members. I encourage you to visit the NGAUS website to learn more and how you can get involved to stop these assaults on our military.


Defense Secretary: D.C. ‘Dysfunction’ A National Security Threat

On Friday, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta spoke at the Center for National Policy, where he warned that “dysfunction” in Congress will have serious implications for the nation’s security.

As one report on Panetta’s speech details it:

The “dysfunction” in the US Congress, where Republicans and Democrats have failed to compromise on debt reduction, threatens US national security, according to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.

“One my greatest concerns as secretary is the dysfunction that we see in Washington,” he said late Thursday at a ceremony in which he received an award for public service.

“It threatens our security and it raises questions about the capacity of our democracy to respond to crisis.”

You don’t have to agree with Panetta on every issue—we don’t always see eye with the secretary’s positions. But he raises interesting questions about how the divisive atmosphere in Washington, and particularly our elected officials’ inability and unwillingness to reduce the national debt, is causing real harm to the nation’s standing.

Panetta is the latest in a line of national leaders to underscore the security implications of our current budget morass.

Earlier this year, former Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who held the post under both Presidents Bush and Obama, expressed concern over how partisanship and polarization are making it difficult for the government to function.

And Admiral Mike Mullen, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has warned repeatedly over the last few years that the national debt is the single greatest threat to the nation’s security.

The national debt towers at more than $15.6 trillion and the national deficit continues to mount with each passing year. We grow increasingly concerned about the nation’s ability to meet its long-term obligations to defend our freedom, ensure global security and provide for our uniformed military personnel and veterans.

Our military is the single greatest asset to defend the freedom we have like no other country in the world. Our fiscal irresponsibility, however, is the largest assault to our freedom that our men and women in uniform can not defend.

These imminent leaders in the defense community have issued a series of warnings. Will anyone in Congress get the message and protect our nation before it’s too late?


The Politics Of Sequestration Front And Center At The Disabled American Veterans Conference

President Obama spoke to an audience of disabled veterans and their families at the Disabled American Veterans conference in Orlando this past Friday. Normally, I would applaud the President for finally speaking about the backlog at the Veteran’s Administration and how he plans to help correct the problem. Instead, what I heard shocked me.

President Obama praised the “fighting spirit of wounded warriors” and announced a $100 million grant to treat brain injuries and mental health conditions, particularly post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The president went on and pledged to cut the backlogs that have made it so difficult for veterans to access benefits for disabilities.

But then, he said the cuts from sequestration (a policy created by his White House in 2011) are reckless. He assured the crowd that benefits for veterans won’t be cut THIS year with sequestration, but added that the best way to protect the VA care “that you have earned” for the future is to get rid of this sequester.

I sat back and thought, “Did he just try to intimidate disabled veterans to support his economic agenda in order for them to continue to receive their VA benefits? Was this a veiled threat?”

I am a member of Disabled American Veterans and I find it appalling the Commander in Chief would imply, suggest, or hint that disabled veterans need to demand the government continues business as usual with its reckless deficit spending or else our benefits will be cut from the VA.

Veterans should not have to choose between a government that habitually overspends and one that keeps promises to veterans. While the President suggests that Sequestration is a draconian reduction in spending, it is actually just a term used to describe the practice of using mandatory spending cuts in the federal budget to bring spending down closer in line with revenue. That makes sense: don’t spend more than you bring in. There may be better ways to cut spending, but Sequestration is better than nothing.

And the problems at the VA have nothing to do with the recent Sequestration. Currently, there are nearly 800,000 claims pending with the VA, 64% in backlog. The backlog has increased 2000% in 4 years. The Veterans Administration has a plan in place that supposedly would resolve the backlog by 2015, however, President Obama is now suggesting that Sequestration may impact the ability of VA to make good on that promise. One can’t help but wonder: Is this a way for the VA to duck out of their self-imposed schedule to resolve the backlog? Was this a way to claim “I tried to help veterans, but it’s out of my hands”?

Between their enormous budget, disability benefits backlog, a largely manual medical record process, as well as bonuses for failing VA executives, there is a lot of reason for concern that the government and the VA don’t have their priorities in order. Those waiting on their medical benefits have reason to assume that the government bureaucracy isn’t going to change any time soon.

We have seen how these promises work before. We’ve all heard how implementing an electronic health record integration system throughout Department of Defense and the VA component will help shrink the backlog. That makes sense. Unfortunately, the VA has failed to create an electronic system even after receiving an additional 25 billion dollars over the last 4 years to assist resolve their floundering system. This hardly gives one confidence looking forward.

The Veterans Administration already has the second largest budget next to Department of Defense. Now there is an additional $100 million grant that President Obama mentioned in his speech. However, the problem of the backlog still hasn’t been resolved even with the billions poured into the VA. The problem clearly isn’t a lack of money: its inefficiency and mismanagement. Unfortunately, the wounded warriors are the ones who ultimately pay the price without medical benefits.

After hearing the president speak, disabled American veterans have more reason than ever to worry that their benefits may not be there after this year. Sadly I’d hoped for better from the one we call Commander in Chief.