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Washington Update for week of 8/28/2017


Hope to see you this week


TREA’s National Convention

In Pittsburgh


Well this is the last sleepy week in Washington DC. Next week both the House and the Senate will be back in session and everything will immediately go great guns again. We expect Congress to take up immediately the debt ceiling, continuing resolution (CR)?, FY2018 budget?, taxes?, healthcare?, National Defense Authorization and Appropriation Acts?, and who knows what else. It is going to be a wild September.


New Legislation in Congress


VA staffing new White House VA Hotline Principally with Veterans


2018 Dole Caregivers Fellowship Applications Open


White House gets design makeover


Possible cause for severe eczema has been found




New Legislation in Congress



Last week TREA’s Washington Office endorsed the following legislation on behalf of TREA’s members.



H.R.3492 –

To amend title 38, United States Code, to expand educational assistance to veterans who pursue certain apprenticeship program, to establish a pilot program for veterans to pursue certification programs in computer numerically controlled machining, and for other purposes.

Introduced by Rep. Dan Lipinski  (D- Ill.)



S.1635 - Keeping Our Commitment to Overseas Veterans Act-


This bill extends authority through September 30, 2018, for operation of the Department of Veterans Affairs Regional Office in Manila, the Republic of the Philippines.

Introduced by Sen. Mazie Hirono  (D- Hawaii)


HR 3370 - Fry Scholarship Enhancement Act-


This bill includes under the Yellow Ribbon G.I. Education Enhancement Program (public-private contributions for educational assistance in addition to post-9/11 educational assistance): (1) the child or spouse of an individual who, on or after September 11, 2001, dies in the line of duty while serving on active duty (Marine Gunnery Sergeant John David Fry scholarship recipients); and (2) an individual who, on or after such date, serves at least 90 days but less than 6 months on active duty and who, after completion of such service, either continues on active duty for an aggregate of less than 6 months or is discharged or released before completion of such amount of active duty service.

Introduced by Rep.Hakeem Jeffries  (D- N.Y.)


H.R. 3642 - Military SAVE Act-


Military Sexual Assault Victims Empowerment Act

This bill would direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to carry out a pilot program to improve the access to private health care for veterans who are survivors of military sexual trauma.

Introduced by Rep. Andy Barr (R-Ky.)


S.1619 –


A bill to amend the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act to extend the interest rate limitation on debt entered into during military service to debt incurred during military service to consolidate or refinance student loans incurred before military service.

This bill amends the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act to extend the 6% interest rate limitation on debt entered into during a servicemember's military service to any debt entered into to consolidate or refinance one or more student loans incurred before such service.

Dick Durbin – D- Il


Each of these bills, if passed, would improve things for veterans, members of the Guard and Reserve, and/or military families.

If you would like to see these passed into law it is important that you contact both of your  Senators and your Representative and urge them to support the bills.  Without strong support from military voters they will not make it through Congress.



VA staffing new White House VA Hotline Principally with Veterans


A few days ago the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs announced that the two-month pilot phase of the new White House VA Hotline that began in June has demonstrated that Veterans calling the hotline respond best when their calls are answered by fellow Veterans and others with first-hand experience on their issues.

As a result, VA announced that it will target highly qualified Veterans to staff the hotline going forward, instead of contracting the service to a third-party vendor, and is hiring additional VA personnel to complete the planned move to a 24-hour operation.

“The message we’ve heard loud and clear is Veterans want to talk to other Veterans to help them solve problems and get VA services,” said VA Secretary David J. Shulkin. “We’re taking steps to answer that call.”

This decision will delay the full-time stand-up of the 24-hour service by two months, to no later than October 15, in order to ensure the hiring and training processes are complete.

Until that time, the hotline’s current pilot program service is available to receive calls at 855-948-2311 from Veterans from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday.



2018 Dole Caregivers Fellowship Applications Open


Are you a caregiver to a military retiree or veteran? Do you know someone who is? Through September 22nd the Elizabeth Dole Foundation is accepting applications for their 2018 Fellowships. Make your voices heard.





Do you know anyone who is among our nation’s 5.5 million hidden heroes, those who care for wounded, ill, and injured service members and veterans? The Elizabeth Dole Foundation is now accepting applications for its 2018 class of Dole Caregiver Fellows. The program provides military and veteran caregivers with the opportunity to advise national leaders through the Foundation’s network of public, private, and nonprofit organizations. The Fellows are the heart and soul of the Elizabeth Dole Foundation, serving as advocates and ambassadors for their peers and elevating the nation’s awareness of the contributions and struggles of those caring for someone who has served.

Those wishing to apply for the Dole Caregiver Fellowship can find a link to the application on the Foundation’s homepage,, or access it directly hereThe application deadline is September 22, 2017.

We are currently seeking applicants from the following states:


  • Arizona 
  • Delaware
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Idaho
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Massachusetts
  • Minnesota
  • Mississippi
  • Montana
  • Nebraska
  • New Mexico
  • North Carolina
  • North Dakota
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • Oregon
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • South Carolina
  • South Dakota
  • Tennessee
  • Utah
  • Vermont


Since the inaugural class in 2012, the Dole Caregiver Fellows have presented in front of Congress, participated in landmark caregiver studies, provided feedback directly to the Secretary of Veterans Affairs and the White House, guided councils of experts developing new caregiver resources, served as supportive and knowledgeable peers in their local communities and nationwide, and shared their stories through hundreds of media interviews.

This past year the 2016 and 2017 Classes of Dole Caregiver Fellows met with their legislative representatives on Capitol Hill, advocated for improvement and expansion of the Department of Veteran Affairs’ caregiver programs, participated in the first ever congressional hearing for military caregivers, and assisted their local communities through the Hidden Heroes Cities program – working to help recruit over 100 cities to join.

Please share the 2018 Fellows Application with your networks on social media using the hashtag #HiddenHeroes and our handle, @DoleFoundation, or directly with the caregivers you know.
If you have questions or would like to request more information, please email

Thank you for helping ensure our hidden heroes are well represented on the national stage.





White House gets design makeover

As President Trump left the White House for 17 days carpenters, electricians, HVAC specialists and interior decorators flew to work. Below are pictures of some of their work. Not the sort of thing we usually cover but thought you would like to know that many people were working like mad in the federal government in August.


The Oval Office of the White House is seen after renovations including new wallpaper August 22, 2017 in Washington, DC.




The Roosevelt Room of the White House is seen after renovations August 22, 2017 in Washington, DC.



Possible cause for severe eczema has been found


Some patients living with severe eczema – a possible disqualifying factor for military service – have been found to have mutations on a gene called CARD11. Identified as a possible cause for the condition, the discovery can lead to exciting possibilities for advancements, according to the researchers.

For more than 17 million people in the United States living with severe eczema – a condition that results in dry, itchy rashes and disqualifies many from military service – the mystery behind its cause may be all too familiar. Thanks to researchers at the Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences and National Institutes of Health, certain patients may understand more about their condition.

“Studying these … disorders, especially when we can define the disease based on a single mutation, is incredibly informative because you can learn a lot,” said Andrew Snow, assistant professor in the department of pharmacology and molecular therapeutics at USU, and senior co-author of a study recently published in the journal Nature Genetics.

Researchers at the Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences and National Institutes of Health identified mutations in a gene known as CARD11 as one underlying cause for severe eczema. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ashlin Federick)

In this study, mutations in a gene known as CARD11 were identified as one underlying cause for severe eczema. The discovery led the researchers to ask whether excess glutamine can help correct some of the allergy-related defects in patients’ immune cells. The testing was done with T cells, known as the conductors of the body’s immune response against infections, from one patient in a lab, and the results were promising. Additional work with the NIH to study whether symptoms for patients with similar mutations improve with glutamine supplements – a readily available product in stores – is likely, said Snow.

Severe eczema can run in families, which suggests a genetic cause, said Snow. One by one, Snow and NIH allergist Dr. Joshua Milner received referrals for patients who had mutations in the same gene – totaling eight patients from four different families.

“However, such treatments are not a cure for the cause of the disease, particularly if it’s a genetic cause,” said Snow.

During the study, researchers discovered these CARD11 mutations can prevent T cells  from being able to do their jobs normally. The mutations prevent the cells from

taking in enough glutamine, which is needed for T cells to maintain their proper function. This may help explain why some patients with severe eczema have a history of pneumonia, warts, and other types of lung and skin infections, said Snow.

While a mutation in the CARD11 gene is only one possible cause for severe eczema, its discovery can influence new therapies. Current treatments, including over-the-counter and prescription pills or creams, focus on bringing down the inflammation and relieving the itching.

Jeffrey Stinson, a former USU graduate student in Snow’s laboratory, who is currently at the National Institute of Standards and Technology and co-author on the study, said the possibility of having something so easily accessible as a targeted form of treatment would be an incredible achievement for those living with severe eczema and other allergic symptoms.

“This genetic condition is considered rare, but it’s important to acknowledge the impact that findings from small, basic research studies like this can have in the medical field,” said Stinson, stressing that the research would not be possible without the time and participation of the families who volunteer. “Thanks to their dedication, we have new and exciting possibilities for advancement before us.” 



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