The American Legion laid out its legislative priorities this week at the group’s annual Washington conference, backing at least 14 bills and calling for greater support for veterans’ programs.

Legion commander Daniel Dellinger testified Wednesday before a joint hearing of the Senate and House veterans’ affairs committees, calling for more VA medical facilities, a greater focus on mental health treatments and specialized care for women veterans. He also met with several lawmakers, including Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Reps. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), Howard McKeon (R-Calif.) and Joe Wilson (R-S.C.).

In his hearing remarks, Dellinger criticized the VA for delays and cost overruns with its hospital-construction projects and pressed the department to eliminate its massive backlog of disability claims without sacrificing accuracy.

The commander also called on lawmakers to provide “advance appropriations” for all parts of the VA budget, shielding the department’s programs from annual budget battles by providing funding for several years at a time. Most of the VA’s programs already receive advance appropriations, but some, such as disability claims processing, construction and IT, do not.

Among the bills the Legion supported were measures in the House and Senate to: allow in-state tuition to all veterans, regardless of where they live; extend tax credits for hiring former troops; combating veterans’ homelessness; and prohibiting physical desecration of the American flag.

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