Mr. DeSANTIS. Mr. Speaker, I move to suspend the rules and pass the bill (H.R. 1171) to amend title 40, United States Code, to improve veterans service organizations' access to Federal surplus personal property.
The Clerk read the title of the bill.
The text of the bill is as follows:
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,
SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.
This Act may be cited as the ``Formerly Owned Resources for Veterans to Express Thanks for Service Act of 2013'' or the ``FOR VETS Act of 2013''.
SEC. 2. VETERANS ACCESS TO FEDERAL EXCESS AND SURPLUS PERSONAL PROPERTY.
Section 549(c)(3) of title 40, United States Code, is amended--
(1) in subparagraph (A), by striking ``or'' at the end;
(2) in subparagraph (B)--
(A) in clause (viii), by adding ``or'' at the end; and
(B) by striking clause (x); and
(3) by adding at the end the following:
``(C) for purposes of providing services to veterans (as defined in section 101 of title 38), to an organization whose--
``(i) membership comprises substantially veterans; and
``(ii) representatives are recognized by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs under section 5902 of title 38.''.
Mr. CONNOLLY. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
Mr. Speaker, I value and appreciate the sacrifices made by the men and women in our Armed Forces. For that reason, I am happy to rise in support of this legislation. The bill would simply amend current law to provide qualified veterans service organizations with greater access to Federal surplus property. The bill enjoys bipartisan support and is noncontroversial. In fact, in May of this year it was considered by the Oversight and Government Reform Committee and passed unanimously, a rarity in
In December, 2010, President Obama signed the original FOR VETS Act into law. That legislation established the eligibility of veterans service organizations to receive surplus property under the Federal surplus property program. The wording of the statute suggests that those organizations should also demonstrate they are acquiring the property for the purposes of education or public health. The narrow construction of that language really hurts veterans service organizations, who are not always
equipped to administer public health or educational programs, that not being their core mission. They have thus been prevented in some cases from accessing the Federal surplus property Congress intended them to access.
This legislation simply corrects any confusion and, if you will, that error to allow veterans organizations access to Federal surplus property to benefit veterans.
Mr. Speaker, we need to do better for our veterans, and I think this bill, H.R. 1171, is a good step forward. I urge Members to support the bill.
I reserve the balance of my time.
Mr. BENISHEK. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman from Florida, and I rise today in support of H.R. 1171, the FOR VETS Act of 2013.
This bipartisan legislation will allow veterans service organizations access to Federal surplus property. In December, 2010, President Obama signed the original FOR VETS Act into law. This legislation added qualified VSOs to the list of organizations eligible to receive Federal surplus property under the Federal surplus property program. However, the wording of the statute requires all organizations to demonstrate that they are acquiring the property for purposes of public health or education.
Unlike many of the other organizations on the list, most VSOs are not set up to administer a health or education program. A strict interpretation of the law by the General Services Administration has prevented these VSOs from accessing Federal surplus as Congress intended.
Our bill would simply correct the error in current law and ensure that qualified VSOs will have the access to Federal surplus that our veterans have earned. This bill has been scored by the CBO as having no significant impact on spending. In this difficult economy, veterans service organizations can use valuable service items that are considered surplus property to better serve those who have given so much to our Nation. Some of these items could be a refrigerator for everyday use at a local
post or even a vehicle to be used to take disabled veterans to appointments.
Last year I spoke to a veteran in Elk Rapids, Michigan, who told me that the error in current law was preventing his AMVETS post from using Federal surplus computers for unique veteran service tasks. This bill will help him and so many others like him put Federal surplus property to work for our Nation's veterans. I am very proud to be part of this effort.
I am grateful to Chairman Issa and Ranking Member Cummings and the members of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee for the unanimous support this bill received during markup on June 25.
I also want to thank the National Association of State Agencies for Surplus Property, as well as the American Legion and the Disabled American Veterans, for their support and assistance in getting this legislation to this point.
I urge the House to adopt this bipartisan legislation that will help veterans service organizations in every State better serve our Nation's veterans.