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Lipinski's Veteran, Anti-Terror, Armored Vehicle Safety, Healthcare Innovation, and Small Business Provisions Included in Annual Defense Bill

Several key provisions authored by Congressman Dan Lipinski (IL-3) have been included in the final version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2019, H.R. 5515, which passed the House today and will soon become law.  These provisions will aid veterans, keep military personnel safer, fight terrorism, promote medical innovation, and help small business innovators.

An amendment Lipinski added to the bill on the House floor ensures access to commissaries and morale, welfare, and recreation (MWR) facilities for Purple Heart recipients, all veterans with a service-connected disability, Medal of Honor recipients, former prisoners of war, and veteran caregivers.  A 2017 Defense Department report shows that expanding access will not only make lives easier for these veterans, but it will also strengthen the commissary and exchange system.  Lipinski’s provision has been endorsed by the VFW, American Legion, Military Order of the Purple Heart, Wounded Warrior Project, Disabled American Veterans, and AMVETS.  This was based on his legislation, H.R. 5467, the Purple Heart and Disabled Veterans Equal Access Act, which he introduced in April of this year.

“On the behalf of our two million members, The American Legion supports Representative Lipinski’s National Defense Authorization Act amendment, as currently written, to expand commissary and Morale, Welfare and Recreation access to Purple Heart recipients, all disabled veterans, and their caregivers,” said American Legion National Commander Denise Rohan. “This will provide better quality of life for our wounded warriors and their families, and create a larger commissary customer base which will further strengthen this important benefit.  Military families gain substantial savings by using the commissary system and this benefit helps in military recruiting and retention efforts. Representative Lipinski’s amendment is good for military families and the veteran community. “ 

“Extending military commissary and exchange benefits to Purple Heart recipients is a priority for which our organization has long advocated, and the Military Order of the Purple Heart (MOPH) is immensely pleased that this will finally become a reality with the passage of this year's NDAA,” said MOPH National Commander Neil Van Ess.  “This is a win for veterans and a win for the commissary and exchange systems.  MOPH strongly supported Congressman Lipinski's Purple Heart and Disabled Veterans Equal Access Act, and we thank him for his steadfast leadership on this issue.”

“Wounded Warrior Project appreciates the leadership of Representative Lipinski and members of the Armed Services Committees for approving legislation to open commissaries, exchanges, and recreational programming to wounded warriors and their caregivers,” said René Bardorf, Senior Vice President of Government and Community Relations for the Wounded Warrior Project.  “This new law will provide significant cost savings for our warriors on a fixed income, and associated increases in revenue will help support on-base quality-of-life programs for those who serve and their families.”

“Extending commissary privileges to discharged veterans who have been wounded in the line of duty or disabled as a result of their service to our nation is the least we can do for them,” stated AMVETS Executive Director Joseph Chenelly.  “Including a provision in the National Defense Authorization Act to extend these privileges to such a deserving segment of our nation's veterans represents a small but important and meaningful act of fidelity.”

Rep. Lipinski was also able to secure language in the NDAA that helps ensure closer oversight in the production of armored commercial vehicles used by the Department of Defense and other federal agencies.  This issue has been brought to light by failures of vehicles intended to keep personnel safe in dangerous locations around the world.  This will help local and American businesses by preventing sub-standard foreign armored vehicles from being procured by military services.

Earlier this year, Lipinski introduced the Iranian Military and Terror Financing Reporting Act, H.R. 5612, to require the Secretary of State, in consultation with the Director of National Intelligence, to report on Iranian support for proxy forces and terrorist groups outside the country, including Hezbollah.  A modified version of this proposal has been included in the NDAA and will help better inform anti-terrorism policymaking. 

The Congressman was also able to include legislation which will help lead to better health outcomes for everyone.  Specifically, his language will reauthorize the Research Evaluation and Commercialization Hubs, a National Institutes of Health program, to accelerate medical innovations to market.  Since its inception, the program has resulted in a significant number of new patents filed and promising technologies in the pipeline. 

Finally, Lipinski was able to secure a win for U.S. small businesses in the bill.  This provision gives recipients of federal small business grants greater flexibility to spend their grant funds on technical and business assistance.