Van Hollen, Blunt Lead Letter Pushing to Include WWI Valor Medals Review Act in NDAA Conference Report
Today U.S. Senators Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) led a letter to the Chairman and Ranking Members of the Senate and House Armed Services Committees urging them to include the World War I (WWI) Valor Medals Review Act in the final FY 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) conference report.
The bipartisan legislation would ensure that minority veterans who may have been passed over for a Medal of Honor during WWI – often because of racist attitudes at the time – have their files reviewed. It has 22 Senate cosponsors and was included in the House-passed NDAA. It is also supported by more than 25 Veterans Service Organizations, including the VFW and the American Legion.
“Given the longstanding precedent of Congressionally-authorized valor medals reviews and the strong bipartisan support for this review and the work of the Valor Medals Review Task Force, we respectfully request that final conference report include the text of the World War I Valor Medals Review Act,” the Senators wrote.
In addition to Senators Van Hollen and Blunt, the letter was signed by Senators Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.).
The full text of the letter is available below and here.
Dear Chairman Inhofe, Chairman Smith, Ranking Member Reed, and Ranking Member Thornberry:
As you continue the process of negotiating a conference agreement on the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020, we respectfully request that final conference report include the text of the World War I Valor Medals Review Act. This bipartisan measure has earned 22 cosponsors, ten of whom serve on the Senate Armed Services Committee, and was included in the House-passed NDAA.
This bill would to require the Defense Department to review the service records of African American, Asian American, Hispanic American, Jewish American, and Native American war veterans who were awarded the Distinguished Service Cross or Navy Cross or were recommended for the Medal of Honor for an action that occurred between April 6, 1917, and November 11, 1918. It would also require a review of the service record of veterans awarded the Croix de Guerre with Palm by the Government of France. Many African American World War I veterans served under French command because the U.S. military would not take them.
The bill directs the relevant service secretary to recommend veterans determined to merit the Medal of Honor as a result of the review to the Secretary of Defense, who in turn will make recommendations to the President. It also waives statutory time limits which would preclude such recommendations being made. The review will be conducted in coordination with the Valor Medals Review Task Force, a project of the Congressionally-established World War I Centennial Commission, which will raise private funds to complete the project. The Department will only be required to review cases recommended by the Task Force.
This legislation is supported by the VFW, the American Legion, the Association of the United States Army, the Congressional Black Caucus Veteran's Braintrust, the Air Force Association, the American GI Forum, AMSUS the Society of Federal Health Professionals, the Army Aviation Association of America, the Association of the United States Navy, the Commissioned Officers Association of the United States Public Health Service, the Fleet Reserve Association, the IAVA, the Jewish War Veterans of the USA, the Marine Corps League, the Military Chaplains Association of the USA, the Military Order of the Purple Heart, the MOAA, the Naval Enlisted Reserve Association, the Reserve Officers Association, the Retired Enlisted Association, the Service Women’s Action Network, the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, the US Army Warrant Officers Association, the US Coast Guard Chief Petty Officers Association, the Vietnam Veterans of America, and the Wounded Warrior Project.
This legislation as introduced was included in the House-passed NDAA. On the Senate side, our staffs have engaged in extensive consultation with the Defense Department and have agreed to multiple amendments to address potential areas of concern.
Given the longstanding precedent of Congressionally-authorized valor medals reviews and the strong bipartisan support for this review and the work of the Valor Medals Review Task Force, we respectfully request that final conference report include the text of the World War I Valor Medals Review Act.
Thank you for your consideration.
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