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[Congressional Record: July 15, 2002 (House)]
[Page H4587-H4589]
From the Congressional Record Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]
[DOCID:cr15jy02-54]                         



 
             VETERANS OF FOREIGN WARS CHARTER AMENDMENT ACT

  Mr. SENSENBRENNER. Mr. Speaker, I move to suspend the rules and pass 
the bill (H.R. 3838) to amend the charter of the Veterans of Foreign 
Wars of the United States organization to make members of the armed 
forces who receive special pay for duty subject to hostile fire or 
imminent danger eligible for membership in the organization, and for 
other purposes.
  The Clerk read as follows:

                               H.R. 3838

       Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of 
     the United States of America in Congress assembled,

     SECTION 1. AMENDMENTS TO VETERANS OF FOREIGN WARS OF THE 
                   UNITED STATES CHARTER.

       (a) Eligibility for Membership of Individuals Receiving 
     Special Pay for Duty Subject to Hostile Fire or Imminent 
     Danger.--Section 230103 of title 36, United States Code, is 
     amended--
       (1) by striking ``or'' at the end of paragraph (1);
       (2) by striking the period at the end of paragraph (2) and 
     inserting ``; or''; and
       (3) by adding at the end the following new paragraph:
       ``(3) in an area which entitled the individual to receive 
     special pay for duty subject to hostile fire or imminent 
     danger under section 310 of title 37.''.
       (b) Clarification of Purposes of the Corporation.--Section 
     230102 of such title is amended in the matter preceding 
     paragraph (1) by inserting ``charitable,'' before ``and 
     educational,''.

  The SPEAKER pro tempore. Pursuant to the rule, the gentleman from

[[Page H4588]]

Wisconsin (Mr. Sensenbrenner) and the gentlewoman from Texas (Ms. 
Jackson-Lee) each will control 20 minutes.
  The Chair recognizes the gentleman from Wisconsin (Mr. 
Sensenbrenner).


                             General Leave

  Mr. SENSENBRENNER. Mr. Speaker, I ask unanimous consent that all 
Members may have 5 legislative days within which to revise and extend 
their remarks and include extraneous material on H.R. 3838, the bill 
currently under consideration.
  The SPEAKER pro tempore. Is there objection to the request of the 
gentleman from Wisconsin?
  There was no objection.
  Mr. SENSENBRENNER. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may 
consume.
  Mr. Speaker, H.R. 3838 would amend the Federal charter of the 
Veterans of Foreign Wars to allow any member of the Armed Forces who 
received hostile fire or imminent danger pay to be a member of the VFW. 
The language would allow veterans from conflict areas such as Somalia 
or Kosovo to be eligible for membership in the VFW.
  Currently, VFW membership is limited to those who have honorably 
served in the Armed Forces and who have received a campaign medal for 
service or those who served honorably for a specific period on the 
Korean peninsula.

                              {time}  1445

  Without this amendment, members of the Armed Forces who served under 
equally dangerous conditions, such as those experienced in the campaign 
medal service in Korea, are not eligible for VFW membership.
  The bill also adds the word ``charitable'' to the purpose of the VFW. 
VFW members volunteer millions of hours to local communities. Although 
volunteerism has always been a large part of the mission of the VFW, in 
some States the VFW is being denied qualification as a charitable 
organization because ``charitable'' is not included in their charter 
language.
  These amendments reflect the language of two resolutions approved by 
the voting delegates of the VFW at their national convention in 
Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I urge the House to pass this bill to ratify the 
changes to the VFW Federal charter, which have been approved by the 
membership.
  Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.
  Ms. JACKSON-LEE of Texas. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I 
may consume.
  Mr. Speaker, I rise to support this legislation. This bill amends the 
Federal charter of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, VFW, to allow any 
members of the armed services or Armed Forces who have received hostile 
fire or imminent-danger pay to be a member of the VFW, and that is a 
great honor for so many of our men and women who have served in the 
United States military.
  Without this amendment, members of the Armed Forces who have served 
under equally dangerous conditions as those experienced in campaign 
medal service in Korea and in conflict areas such as Somalia or Kosovo 
are not eligible for VFW membership.
  The act also amends the charter of the VFW to include the word 
``charitable'' as one of the purposes. VFW members have provided 
substantial amounts of time and volunteer efforts in their communities 
and to the needy. This will prevent some States from denying the VFW 
qualification as a charitable organization under 501(c) of the Tax Code 
simply because the word ``charitable'' is not mentioned in the charter.
  In Texas, there are tens of thousands of members of the VFW. In my 
district there are thousands of VFW members, and I can assure the 
Members they are outstanding members of our community. They always 
provide us with honor and grace in our patriotic parade, and they serve 
us in the Memorial Day commemoration as well as the Veterans Day 
commemoration, along with the many other veterans groups. Also, they 
are there to serve the community when we are in need.
  As I speak today, I pay tribute to all of the veterans groups in the 
State of Texas, in the 18th Congressional District, and, of course, 
this Nation. These members provide critical assistance to other 
veterans, they help raise funds for the March of Dimes, and they 
provide scholarships to our Nation's youth.
  I urge my colleagues to support this measure, which will simply allow 
veterans of succeeding conflicts entry into these esteemed veterans 
organizations. Again, I would be remiss without acknowledging the brave 
men and women who serve us now in Afghanistan, throughout the Nation, 
and throughout the world.
  Mr. Speaker, this bill amends the federal charter of the Veterans of 
Foreign Wars, VFW, to allow any member of the armed forces who has 
received hostile fire or imminent danger pay to be a member of the VFW. 
Without this amendment members of the armed forces who served under 
equally as dangerous conditions as those experienced in campaign medal 
service in Korea and in conflict areas such as Somalia or Kosovo are 
not eligible for VFW membership.
  The Act also amends the charter of the VFW to include the word 
``charitable'' as one of the purposes of the VFW. VFW members have 
provided substantial amounts of time to volunteer efforts in the 
communities and to the needy. This will prevent some states from 
denying VFW qualification as a charitable organization under 501(c) of 
the Tax Code simply because the word charitable is not mentioned in the 
charter. In the state of Texas, there are ten of thousands of members 
of the VFW. In my district there are thousands of VFW members. These 
members provided critical assistance to other Veterans, help raise 
funds for the March of Dimes and provide scholarships to our nation's 
youth.
  I urge my colleagues to support this measure which will simply allow 
veterans of succeeding conflicts entry into these esteemed veterans 
organizations.
  Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.
  Mr. SENSENBRENNER. Mr. Speaker, I yield 3 minutes to the gentleman 
from Pennsylvania (Mr. Gekas).
  Mr. GEKAS. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman for yielding time to 
me.
  Mr. Speaker, this time I rise to pose some reflections on the VFW. 
Many people will recall historically that during the Truman years there 
was an act of terrorism right in this Chamber, when terrorists of a 
different era shot up the entire Chamber here, wounding several people.
  One of the Members of the House at that time was the gentleman from 
Pennsylvania, Jimmy Van Zandt from Altoona, Pennsylvania, who helped to 
apprehend one of the terrorists with a gallant leap into the back 
portion of the balcony, and brought him or helped bring him to justice.
  But more than that, this Jimmy Van Zandt was also, prior to that, 
national commander of the VFW. He holds a place of honor in that 
organization for his special efforts and for his service directly to 
the country.
  Then there was Dominique DeFrancesco, also from central Pennsylvania, 
served as national commander of the American Legion when, in 1991, he 
joined then President Bush in the 50-year commemorations at Pearl 
Harbor.
  These are the kinds of devoted veteran citizens who are in the 
background of what we do here today when we enlarge the membership 
potential of their organizations.
  But the most important portion of the VFW, as far as I am concerned, 
is because the last 30 years or more I have participated as a judge in 
the VFW's annual Voice of Democracy contest. Here is a contest of 
radio-spoken essays by our high school students who speak on what 
America means to them, or some other subject matter having to do with 
patriotism. In this way, the VFW spreads the notion of loyalty to our 
Nation, service to our communities, and patriotism. For that, I salute 
the VFW and urge everyone to support the legislation that is in front 
of us.
  Ms. JACKSON-LEE of Texas. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I 
may consume.
  Mr. Speaker, let me just say that just a few minutes ago we have 
supported H.R. 3988, H.R. 3838, and H.R. 3214, legislative initiatives 
helping our veterans.
  I want to acknowledge and applaud the President for his recent 
pronouncement of allowing those who are serving in our military to 
apply for citizenship immediately, without having to wait a period of 
time previously embodied in our law.
  With that in mind, Mr. Speaker, I think as member of the Subcommittee 
on Immigration, Border Security, and Claims of the Committee on the 
Judiciary, I hope that the Congress will move

[[Page H4589]]

swiftly to pass 245(i) that will allow immigrants to access 
legalization and become citizens. This is long overdue. This is 
legislation that recognizes that we do not equate immigration to 
terrorism, and it is as patriotic as the legislation that we have just 
passed today.
  So I hope that the Congress will move quickly on this legislation, 
and I rise again to support the legislation before us and ask my 
colleagues to support this legislation as we honor the men and women 
who have served us in the United States military and now our veterans; 
and as we honor those, as well, who serve us every day fighting for our 
freedoms.
  I know the veterans of the nation, are sympathetic to doing the right 
thing for all of us!
  Mr. Speaker, I yield back the balance of my time.
  Mr. SENSENBRENNER. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may 
consume.
  Mr. Speaker, just let me make it clear, this bill has nothing to do 
with the immigration law, lest anybody have a misimpression on this. It 
is legislation that changes the qualification for membership in the 
VFW, as well as makes it clear that the VFW is a charitable 
organization. Both of these changes were requested by the delegates to 
the last VFW annual convention that was held in August of last year in 
my hometown of Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
  The best way we can help our veterans, I think, is by not confusing 
the issue. Let us help our veterans by doing what they asked us to do, 
which is to allow them to expand their membership, as well as to get 
some State departments of revenue off their back claiming that what the 
VFW does is not charitable in nature.
  I think all of us in this Chamber know that the VFW is a legitimate 
and honorable charitable organization, and I think that we can send the 
message very clearly by amending their charter to get the State tax 
departments off their backs so that they can continue to do their very 
meritorious work.
  Mr. SMITH of New Jersey. Mr. Speaker, as the sponsor of H.R. 3838, I 
rise to urge all of my colleagues to support this legislation that will 
amend the Congressional charter of the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW). 
As Chairman of the Veterans' Affairs Committee, I was pleased to 
introduce this bill on March 4, 2002, at the request of the VFW to 
allow Members of the armed forces who have received hostile fire or 
imminent danger pay to be eligible for VFW membership.
  Mr. Speaker, I want to especially commend the Chairman of the 
Judiciary Committee, Mr. Sensenbrenner; the Committee's Ranking Member, 
Mr. Conyers, the Chairman of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration 
and Claims; Mr. Gekas; and the Subcommittee's Ranking Member, Ms. 
Jackson-Lee, for their attention to this matter in moving the bill 
through the committee and to the floor for House consideration.
  This bipartisan amendment to the VFW charter simply allows the 
organization to keep up with the times as the nature of our Nation's 
military operations has changed. The VFW's charter currently requires a 
veteran to have received a campaign medal in order to join the 
organization. But the dangerous contingency operations our 
servicemembers have participated in over the past twenty or so years 
have not resulted in the award of campaign medals. Servicemenbers doing 
their duty in global hot spots have faced the type of risks that should 
qualify them for VFW membership. My bill would remove this barrier to 
membership in a way that is consistent with the type of military 
service the VFW has always required.
  Mr. Speaker, H.R. 3838 would also address a technical problem the VFW 
has occasionally encountered with the language of its charter regarding 
its purposes as an organization. The VFW has maintained a tax-exempt, 
nonprofit status, but some states do not want to qualify it as a tax-
exempt charitable organization despite its long history of charitable 
work in communities across America, because its charter does not 
contain the word ``charitable''. Well, Congress can and should fix this 
relatively simply problem by inserting the word ``charitable'' as one 
of its purposes in order to silence anyone who insists on elevating 
form over substance.
  Mr. Speaker, with roots that go back more than a century to the 
Spanish-American War, the Veterans of Foreign Wars has an admirable 
history of helping its fellow veterans, their communities and their 
Nation. This legislation will help to ensure that the VFW continues to 
perform these services in the 21st century and beyond. H.R. 3838 
deserves the support of every House member and I urge its approval.
  Mr. GILMAN. Mr. Speaker, I rise today in strong support of H.R. 3838, 
the Veterans of Foreign Wars Charter Amendment act. I urge my 
colleagues to support this timely measure.
  This legislation amends the charter of the Veterans of Foreign Wars 
Organization to make members of the armed forces who receive special 
pay for duty that is subject to hostile fire or imminent danger 
eligible for membership in the organization. This change would allow 
veterans of operations in Somolia and Kosovo to become eligible for VFW 
membership.
  The VFW is one of the oldest veterans service organizations in the 
country, and has a long and hallowed history. The VFW was founded in 
1899 for soldiers returning from the Spanish-American war and 
Philippine insurrection. It was instrumental in creating the Veterans 
Administration and its subsequent elevation to cabinet level status.
  The VFW participates in numerous community service efforts, and 
assists its members in seeking discharge upgrades, record corrections, 
education benefits, disability compensation matters and pension 
eligibility.
  Given our current military environment, it is appropriate for 
Congress to both recognize and promote the efforts of our Veterans 
Service Organizations. Accordingly, I urge my colleagues to support 
this bill.
  Mr. SENSENBRENNER. Mr. Speaker, I yield back the balance of my time.
  The SPEAKER pro tempore (Mr. Culberson). The question is on the 
motion offered by the gentleman from Wisconsin (Mr. Sensenbrenner) that 
the House suspend the rules and pass the bill, H.R. 3838.
  The question was taken; and (two-thirds having voted in favor 
thereof) the rules were suspended and the bill was passed.
  A motion to reconsider was laid on the table.

                          ____________________






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