WASHINGTON D.C. — Less than a year into his first term in Congress, U.S. Rep. Anthony Brindisi celebrated the president’s signing of his first bill into law Friday.
Brindisi’s legislation, he said, keys in on extending benefits for veterans through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Brindisi, D-Utica, told The Palladium-Times in a Friday interview he felt “elated” once he was contacted in regards to the bill’s signing.
“It felt so satisfying to pass the bill because it affects veterans in upstate New York,” the congressman said, noting he will receive a copy of the signed bill to frame and display at his office on Capitol Hill. “I initially got involved in public service because I wanted to help people and I wish the bill rose to national attention.”
The Utica Democrat, who sits on the House of Representatives’ Veterans Affairs Committee, proposed in September the Department of Veterans Affairs Expiring Authorities Act of 2019.
The piece of legislation, Brindisi said, would extend benefit programs to veterans through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), including financial support for low-income veteran families and travel allowances for veterans seeking health care at remote support clinics for former service members.
The bipartisan legislation, cosponsored in the House of Representatives by Illinois Republican Mike Bost and Pennsylvania GOPer Brian Fitzpatrick, allows for a two-year extension of authority for the VA to fund financial assistance for supportive services for low-income veteran families in permanent housing.
Further, the bill allows a one-year extension of the VA’s authority to temporarily expand payments and allowances for beneficiary travel in connection with veterans receiving clinical care.
“This is a huge win for veterans in upstate New York and across the country,” Brindisi said. “They fought for our freedoms, and they should always have access to the health care and benefits they earned through their service.”
Oswego County Veterans Services Agency Director Jamie Hamlin praised the bill, noting extending beneficiary travel payments is “huge” for Oswego County veterans.
“Extending beneficiary travel payments is huge considering that one roundtrip to the Syracuse VA Medical Center pays out roughly $19 to qualifying veterans depending on where the patient lives in the Oswego area,” Hamlin told The Palladium-Times Friday.
Additionally, the bill allows the VA to extend its authority to operate a regional office in the Philippines.
“Congressman Brindisi is admirable in that his support of our community veterans is transparent and bipartisan,” Hamlin added. “I fully support his continued efforts to preserve benefits for veterans.”
Despite the current political climate in Washington, and with a presidential impeachment narrative circling around the House of Representatives, Brindisi said he wants to remain “laser focused” on working for his constituents, noting veterans affairs is one of the most “important areas of work” for him.
Over the past several weeks, a July phone call between Trump and Ukranian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and a whistleblower’s complaint related to that conversation came to light, causing Democrats to push for an impeachment inquiry. A subject of controversy found in the White House memorandum of the call’s transcript suggests Trump asked the Ukrainian president to investigate presidential hopeful and former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter’s dealings in the Eastern European country.
Trump doubled down on this narrative when he told reporters outside the White House Thursday the Chinese government should look into Hunter Biden's involvement with an investment fund that raised money in China.
"China should start an investigation into the Bidens because what happened in China is just about as bad as what happened with Ukraine," Trump told reporters outside the White House.
Commenting on the accusations and requests from by the president, Brindisi called Trump’s comments “highly inappropriate.”
“It is a major national security threat asking a communist dictatorship to assist in the investigation of a political adversary,” Brindisi said, advising carefulness in the president’s verbiage used to address foreign nations.