07.02.18

ON THE EVE OF INDEPENDENCE DAY, JEFFERSON ROAD MAIN POST OFFICE STILL REFUSES TO APPROVE SCHUMER’S REQUEST TO ALLOW VETERANS TO DISTRIBUTE POPPIES & FLAGS OUTSIDE POST OFFICE; SENATOR RESPONDS BY INTRODUCING NEW BILL TO LIFT USPS’ BAN, SANCTIONING ROCHESTER VETERANS, WHO PROTECTED AND DEFENDED US, TO RIGHTFULLY HANDOUT POPPIES & FLAGS FOR VETERAN HOLIDAYS ONCE AND FOR ALL

In Response To An Incident At The Jefferson Road Post Office, Where VFW and  Local Veterans Were Stopped From Selling Poppies To Raise Money For Veterans Groups, Schumer Today Announced The Introduction Of The RAISE VET FUND Act

The Legislation Would Authorize Congressionally Chartered Veterans Organizations To Sell Flags, Poppies And Like Items At USPS Facilities To Fundraise At Holiday Times 

Schumer: Whether it’s Independence Day, Memorial Day, Veterans Day, or Flag Day, When a Veteran’s ‘Post’ is Standing to Support Veterans at Post Office, They Must Not Be Turned Away  

Standing with local veterans in front of the Jefferson Road Main Post Office in Henrietta, NY, U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer today announced he is introducing legislation that will require the United States Postal Service (USPS) to allow congressionally chartered Veteran Service Organizations (VSO) and VSO’s recognized by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to once again distribute poppies, flags and similar commemorative items and collect donations during federal holiday times at our nation’s Post Offices.  Specifically, Schumer is introducing the RAISE VET FUND Act: “Restoring Access, Improving Service to Enable Veterans Engaging To Fundraise Act” in response to a recent action by the U.S. Postal Service.  In May, citing a rarely enforced USPS policy against soliciting on post office property, removed and barred veterans of the VFW Post 5465 Rice-Hallock from distributing poppy flowers for Memorial Day in front of the Jefferson Road Main Post Office.  As they have done for the past thirty years, the VFW members had been receiving donations and distributing Memorial Day poppies in front of the post office in remembrance of our nation’s military members who sacrificed their lives while in service to our nation.  Schumer, who previously called on U.S. Postmaster General Megan Brennan to reverse this action, said this USPS policy is wrong and out of step in how it is impacting these annual veteran activities and needs to be corrected in law since the USPS is maintaining this ban policy.    

“As our nation prepares to celebrate Independence Day and honor our military members who served or sacrificed their lives to create and defend our nation, our veterans are enduring an injustice because of USPS policy that is now suddenly being enforced by the Jefferson Road Main Post Office,” said Senator Schumer.  “Even after my public urging last month, the Post Office is still preventing veterans from distributing poppies, which we can all agree is simply ridiculous. Not only is it exasperating that the post office would stand in the way of this long-standing tradition that helps so many veterans, but also that the post office cannot manage to see how veterans distributing poppies and flags is different than other solicitation activities. Whether it’s Independence Day, Memorial Day, Veterans Day, or Flag Day, when a veteran’s ‘post’ is standing to support veterans at the Post Office, they must not be turned away.”

Schumer’s announcement today comes in response to the Jefferson Road Post Office forcing local Rochester veterans from the VFW Rice-Hallock Post 5465 in Henrietta to leave the premises, citing a rarely enforced USPS policy against soliciting on post office property.  On May 22nd USPS officials instructed VFW Post 5465 Commander Joseph Jakus to vacate the Jefferson Road Post Office property where he was distributing poppies for Memorial Day and accepting donations to support the VFW’s veteran assistance work – a tradition the VFW had conducted at this post office for decades.   Many other veterans organizations, including the American Legion, similarly distribute poppies and raise funds at Memorial Day and Veterans Day.  At the same time in May, the USPS also notified the Rochester Veterans Outreach Center (VOC) that starting this June, the VOC would no longer be permitted to similarly conduct its long-held tradition of distributing American Flags and raising donations in front of the Jefferson Road Post Office on Flag Day.  Schumer said the USPS’ abrupt enforcement of this policy was not only an affront to local veterans celebrating their patriotism and honoring the sacrifices of our military members who died while defending our nation, but it also eliminated an important win-win opportunity for the community to raise funds for vital local veteran support activities.  An estimated 250,000 people use the Jefferson Road Post Office each year.  For example, the VOC reported it received approximately $7,000 less in donations from its Flag Day event this year, which is funding used to help fund local veteran job training and housing efforts.  Similarly, VFW Post 5465, which last year raised $4,100 from Memorial Day poppy donations at the post office to support local veterans in need, scholarships, and youth activities, missed out on raising that level of funding this year.

Schumer continued: “We must give veterans, who risked their lives to protect our country, every opportunity they need to raise awareness and accept donations. That is why today, I am announcing the introduction of the RAISE VET FUND Act to the Senate, which would permit Congressionally chartered and VA recognized veterans organizations to raise money outside of USPS facilities in times of national holidays including Independence Day, Memorial Day, Flag Day, and Veteran’s Day. This legislation is long overdue and I will fight in Congress to ensure that this crucial legislation passes ASAP.”

In May following reports of the USPS ban, Schumer demanded the U.S. Postal Service, specifically Postmaster General of the United States Megan Brennan, immediately reverse USPS policy that blocks veterans from distributing and accepting donations for items like poppies on post office property.  However, since the USPS is now indicating it will not amend this policy to restore VSOs’ ability to hold these activities outside post office buildings during holiday times, Schumer is now announcing he will introduce commonsense legislation to resolve the impasse.  There are currently 45 Veteran Service Organizations that are either Congressionally-Chartered or Recognized by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, including the VFW, American Legion, Disabled American Veterans (DAV), AmVets, Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA), and their chapters including the Rochester Veteran Outreach Center’s (VOC) established VVA Chapter and its forthcoming AmVets Chapter that is being established this summer.

Schumer was joined by VFW Post 5465 Rice-Hallock Commander Joseph Jakus, VFW Post 5465 Rice-Hallock Poppy Chairman Dan Lindsay, Monroe County American Legion County Commander Chuck Zeiner, Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 20 Executive Committee Member Valentino Gatto, AmVets National Executive Director Joseph Chenelly, and Rochester Veteran Outreach Center Director of Programs Brandon Kasperkoski.

Joseph Chenelly, National Executive Director of AmVets said, “AMVETS fully support this bill as it would allow veterans organizations to continue their important grassroots outreach at our post offices,” said Joe Chenelly, AMVETS national executive director, and Fairport resident. “The funds raised in these few events a year are hugely important to community charity, including directly assisting homeless veterans. Post offices have long been a center of communities and employ more veterans than any other entity in the United States. We appreciate Senator Schumer’s efforts to restore this American tradition.”

Schumer noted that Post offices are the centers of communities and towns across the nation and, as a symbol of our federal government, should continue to be places that support veterans. For example at the Jefferson Road Post Office, Schumer in 2013 alongside the Glende Family, authored the legislation to rename and dedicate the Jefferson Road Post Office in honor of Rochester native and Army Specialist Theodore Matthew Glende, who was killed in combat in Afghanistan.   Similarly, in 2015, Schumer authored the bill that dedicated the East Rochester Post Office to Army veteran and City of Rochester Police Officer Daryl Pierson.  During the dedication ceremonies, Schumer discussed how it was fitting to put these hero's names on proud display on these buildings to honor them, and so that every American who passes by or walks through their doors are reminded that our freedoms and government institutions exist because of the service and sacrifice of our military veterans. Today, Schumer said he is introducing the RAISE VET FUND Act in that same spirit.   

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