- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 10, 2013

As Veterans Day arrives, members of Congress have plenty of proposals on how to honor them — including one Iowa Democrat who has written a bill granting many veterans in the private sector a day off.

“It’s only right that our veterans are given the opportunity to be honored for their selfless service. Allowing them to take Veterans Day off work is just one small way of showing our gratitude for their commitment and service,” said Rep. Bruce L. Braley, the Iowa Democrat whose bill would push big companies to give a day off to their employees who are veterans, either paid or unpaid.

While not a major holiday in many school districts or for most businesses, Veterans Day is big for government officials looking to honor those who served in the armed forces and are still living.

Federal workers already get to take Veterans Day as a holiday at taxpayers’ expense, and Congress is out of session, with lawmakers back home attending parades and meetings with veterans.

But many members of Congress feel more should be done — and they’ve introduced hundreds of pieces of legislation in this session to further protect and honor veterans.

Spanning state and party lines, they range from speeding up the response time involved with disability compensation claims at the Department of Veterans Affairs to increasing employment opportunities available to vets and to helping homeless veterans.

Some have already passed.

The For Vets Act of Rep. Dan Benishek, Michigan Republican, would transfer surplus federal property to states to be donated for the use of veterans’ organizations, while the Helping Heroes Fly Act of Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, Hawaii Democrat, pushes the Transportation Security Administration to try to ease travel screening procedures for wounded veterans and their families.

Other legislation in the pipeline takes on touchy social issues.

The Veteran Spouses Equal Treatment Act would secure equal benefits, such as health care or housing allowances, for gay and lesbian spouses of service members who live or were married in a state that recognizes same-sex marriage.

Veterans Day was established in 1938 as Armistice Day, to celebrate when fighting ended in World War I. It was later changed to honor veterans of all wars. It is distinct from Memorial Day, which honors troops who were killed in service.

Sen. James M. Inhofe, Oklahoma Republican, said those who do have the day off should do something to recognize and honor the sacrifices made by members of the military.

Veterans Day too often is viewed as just another holiday for discounts and shopping,” Mr. Inhofe, an Army veteran, said. “For those who have the day off, there are many wonderful ways to spend it honoring those who have sacrificed for the national security of our country.”

Mr. Braley’s bill, called the Veteran’s Day Off Act, doesn’t have any co-sponsors yet. It was introduced just before the House left for 10-day holiday in the run-up to Veterans Day.

Under his bill, veterans working at private businesses with more than 50 employees would be able to take the day off, though it allows for the request to be denied if it would cause a significant impact on public health, safety or operational disruption.

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