Rep. Kathleen Rice and Rep. Lee Zeldin -- the freshmen of Long Island’s congressional delegation -- have each filed their first bills, both focusing on the politically popular issue of supporting veterans.
On Monday, Rice (D-Garden City) filed a measure that would “give preference to companies that have high concentrations of veteran employees” when awarding Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) contracts.
“We have to make it a priority, in government and in the private sector, to fully invest in our veterans, invest in their potential to use their unique training and experience to excel in the civilian workforce,” Rice said in a news release.
Zeldin (R-Shirley) filed a bill on Feb. 27 that would give the VA discretion to adjust how much money is approved for veterans seeking home loans under the department’s home loan program. The agency would have the authority to adjust for areas with higher costs of living such as Long Island.
Zeldin, a U.S. Army veteran who served in Iraq and sits on the House Veterans Affairs Committee, filed the legislation with two Democratic co-sponsors, Rep. Mark Takano and Rep. Zoe Lofgren, both of California.
“This bill is very helpful for veterans living in areas with a high cost of living, such as Long Island,” Zeldin said in an email to Newsday. “This is an issue that many veterans have called my office concerned about. I introduced this bill because after serving our country, our veterans have earned this support of a grateful nation. This legislation will address that issue by providing the VA with the flexibility to determine the appropriate limit for all veterans’ loans.”
Rice’s bill would authorize the VA to give preference to companies that have high concentrations of veteran employees. Rice’s aides said the VA currently gives preference to awarding contracts to veteran-owned small businesses, but not to businesses that actively employ veterans.
Rice, a member of the House committee on Veterans Affairs and the subcommittee on economic opportunity, filed the bill with co-lead sponsor Rep. Paul Cook, a California Republican and Vietnam vet. The measure is also co-sponsored by two other House Republicans and two Democrats.
The bill has also been endorsed by Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, a Washington, D.C., advocacy group, and Rice said it will provide an “incentive” to federal contractors to hire more veterans
“It’s important to me that the first bill I’ve introduced has balanced bipartisan support, and I’m confident we can get it to a vote and get it passed,” she said.