VFW Announces Kick-Off of Youth Scholarship Competitions

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (April 14, 2015) – The Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. (VFW) is pleased to announce the kick-off of the 2015-16 VFW’s Voice of Democracy and Patriot’s Pen scholarship competitions. The announcement comes just weeks after students from across the globe took home their share of the more than $3 million in scholarships and awards from last year’s competitions.

The VFW’s Voice of Democracy and Patriot’s Pen essay competitions are dedicated to encouraging a better understanding and appreciation for our great country and fostering patriotism among our nation’s youth. Students are asked to submit an essay in response to a question or statement on a subject which prompts them to consider how American history and democratic ideals and principles apply to their lives.

This year’s Voice of Democracy theme asks students to contemplate, “My Vision for America.” The Voice of Democracy scholarship competition is an audio-essay competition open to students in grades 9-12. The national winner will receive the $30,000 T.C. Selman Memorial Scholarship Award.

The Patriot’s Pen competition is open to students in grades 6-8. This year, students are asked to reflect on the statement, “What Freedom Means to Me.” The national winner will receive a $5,000 award.

Student participants are asked to submit their entry (along with a completed entry form) to their participating local VFW Post. The deadline for student entries in both contests is November 1, 2015.

For more information on the contests, visit www.vfw.org/Youth.

ABOUT THE VFW: The Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. is a nonprofit veterans service organization comprised of eligible veterans and military service members from the active, Guard and Reserve forces. Founded in 1899 and chartered by Congress in 1936, the VFW is the nation’s largest organization of war veterans and its oldest major veterans organization. With nearly 1.9 million VFW and Auxiliary members located in more than 6,800 Posts worldwide, “NO ONE DOES MORE FOR VETERANS.” The VFW and its Auxiliaries are dedicated to veterans’ service, legislative advocacy, and military and community service programs. For more information or to join, visit our website at www.vfw.org.

Contact:  Kevin Jones, Director VFW Programs



WASHINGTON. D.C. – Congressman Frank Guinta today announced the first Job Fair for Granite State veterans and service members looking for employment. Attendees will have the opportunity to attend workshops on resume writing and interviewing techniques, speak with representatives from various companies, apply for new positions and discuss concerns with Congressman Guinta and staff.

“In New Hampshire, we have one of the highest veterans’ populations in the nation. We know all too well the challenges our servicemen and women face during their transition into civilian life. Unfortunately, one of the hardest challenges remains finding a good-paying job upon returning home. Our veterans are some of the brightest and most dedicated employees out there; and, we owe it to them to help smooth their transition, which is why I’m hosting this Job Fair for our veterans and military service members to attend.”

Over 20 local businesses will be participating in the Job Fair, including Service Credit Union, UPS, Walmart, Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, UN Police Department, Kelly Services, Great Bay Community College, Foss Manufacturing Company, Sig Sauer, Adecco and more.

The Veterans Job Fair is open to all New Hampshire active military, National Guard, Reserve, Veterans and their families. There is no cost to participate in the fair and parking is free.

Constituents or employers wishing to participate are encouraged to call the Manchester office at (603) 641-9536 with further questions.


WHAT: Congressman Guinta hosts Veterans & Military Service Members Job Fair.

WHO: New Hampshire active duty, National Guardsmen and women, reservists, veterans and their families are invited to attend. Members of the press are also invited to attend.

WHERE: Great Bay Community College, 320 Corporate Drive, Portsmouth, New Hampshire 03801.

WHEN: Friday, April 10th from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

Plymouth Seasonal Jobs and Opportunities Fair

Thursday, April 2, 2015 – 10:00am

On Thursday, April 2, I will be hosting a Seasonal Jobs and Opportunities Fair at the Flying Monkey in Plymouth, NH. As the Representative for the Second Congressional District I am committed to doing everything I can to help businesses grow and create jobs, and to advocate for New Hampshire workers. This job fair is an opportunity for me to help bring employers and job seekers together. I hope that you can join me!

WHAT: Seasonal Jobs and Opportunities Fair with Rep. Annie Kuster

WHEN: 10:00AM – 1:00PM, Thursday, April 2, 2015

WHERE: The Flying Monkey, 39 Main Street, Plymouth, NH

To register for the job fair, please provide the following information:

Action Corps



                                                               March 27, 2015


In This Issue:

  1. VFW Testifies at Choice Program Hearing
  2. VFW Testifies on Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization
  3. VFW Testifies on Economic Opportunity Bills
  4. VFW Participates in Steering Committee Roundtable
  5. VA Expands Eligibility for Choice Program
  6. Legislation on the Move
  7. Bergdahl Charged With Desertion
  8. Afghanistan Troop Level Remains Constant
  9. All Four Services Now Offering COOL Assistance
  10. Pennsylvania Desert Shield/Storm Bonus to Expire


  1. VFW Testifies at Choice Program Hearing: On Tuesday, Senior Legislative Associate Carlos Fuentes testified before the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. The hearing reviewed the Choice Program’s distance criteria. Fuentes discussed the importance of ensuring eligibility for non-VA care is veteran centric and clinically based.  Before the hearing, VA announced it would change the way it calculates distance from “as the crow flies” to driving distance when determining Choice Program eligibility. Fuentes acknowledged the efforts of VFW members in prompting the change. Read the VFW’s testimony and watch the hearing here:http://www.veterans.senate.gov/hearings/the-veterans-choice-act_exploring-the-distance-criteria032415.


  1. VFW Testifies on Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization: Senior Legislative Associate Brendon Gehrke testified before the House Armed Services Personnel Subcommittee on Thursday regarding recommendations made by the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission. In his testimony, Gehrke stated that “we believe that it is not only fair to provide all service members with some retirement compensation, especially those who deploy several times to combat zones before exiting short of 20 years; but it’s our patriotic duty to prepare all service members for retirement.” Congress is likely to act on some of the Commission’s recommendations later this year. To read the VFW’s testimony about the Commission’s 15 recommendations, click here:http://docs.house.gov/Committee/Calendar/ByEvent.aspx?EventID=103194.


To view the hearing, click here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=imQ97wYLfhs.


  1. VFW Testifies on Economic Opportunity Bills: On Tuesday, the House Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity held a hearing to discuss pending legislation. VFW Deputy Legislative Director Aleks Morosky testified, offering the VFW’s positions on bills that would allow student veterans to use GI Bill benefits to cover college application fees, direct VA to consider time spent by reservists recovering from injuries toward GI Bill eligibility, and commission a survey of GI Bill beneficiaries on their college experiences, among others.  Additional bills supported by the VFW include legislation to remove the cap on the VA Home Loan Program, reauthorize VA’s homeless veterans programs and allow VA to reduce the retirement benefits of certain employees who are later found to have committed felonies while working at VA. We will provide updates on these important bills as they continue to move through the House. To read the full transcript and watch a webcast of the hearing, click here: http://veterans.house.gov/hearing/legislative-hearing-0.


  1. VFW Participates in Steering Committee Roundtable: On Wednesday, Raymond Kelley, VFW’s director of National Legislative Service, participated in the Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee roundtable discussion on veterans’ transition priorities. These roundtables are an opportunity to speak directly with congressional leadership as they formulate their priorities for the year.


Kelley explained the need to make the Transition Assistance Program (TAP) a military life-cycle program, allowing service members the opportunity to receive information and training on post-service needs as early as 6 months after entering service and maintain access to that information after they leave service. Kelley also discussed the need for a change to current GI Bill eligibility, allowing service members who do not quality for full GI Bill eligibility because of time-in-service restriction to qualify for full benefits if they are a Purple Heart recipient.


  1. VA Expands Eligibility for Choice Program:  On Tuesday, VA announced it would change the way it calculates distance when determining eligibility for the Choice Program. Currently, VA calculates travel using “as the crow flies,” or straight line distance. Due to veterans’ concerns and the VFW’s work on this issue, VA will soon align the Choice Program with its Beneficiary Travel Program, which calculates the shortest route to a VA medical facility using driving distance instead of straight line distance. The change will take effect after VA publishes an interim final rule through the federal register, which it intends to do soon. The change is estimated to expand eligibility to an additional 300,000 veterans who drive more than 40 miles to their nearest VA medical facility. However, distance will continue to be calculated to the nearest VA medical facility, which includes a community based outpatient clinic, regardless if that facility provides the care a veteran needs. Read the VFW National Commander John W. Stroud’s statement here:  http://www.vfw.org/News-and-Events/Articles/2015-Articles/VFW-Statement-Regarding-VA-%E2%80%98Crow-Flies%E2%80%99-Rule-Change/.


Read more about VA’s announcement here: http://www.va.gov/opa/pressrel/pressrelease.cfm?id=2687.


  1. Legislation on the Move: On Tuesday, the House unanimously passed H.R. 216, the Department of Veterans Affairs Budget Planning Reform Act of 2015, which requires VA to estimate and report to Congress its budgetary needs for four fiscal years and establish a Quadrennial Veterans Review to ensure VA has a strategy to meet the future needs of America’s veterans. The VFW supports this important bill and looks forward to its swift consideration and passage in the Senate. Read the VFW’s testimony here:  http://veterans.house.gov/hearing/legislative-hearing-on-hr-189-hr-216-hr-245-hr-280-and-hr-294.


This week the House and Senate both passed budget resolutions laying out their respective budget priorities. Both bills include nearly $167 billion in fiscal year 2016 for VA, which is nearly $3 billion less than the Independent Budget’s recommendation for fiscal year 2016.  Both budgets make increasing health care access for veterans a policy priority. The Senate bill includes other policy priorities, such as eliminating the SBP-DIC offset; improving benefits for transitioning service members; improving research for PTSD, TBI and toxic exposures; and expanding Choice Program eligibility for veterans who travel more than 40 miles to receive their health care from VA.


Also this week, the House and Senate advanced their respective budget resolutions that would stick to the statutory caps of $523 billion for defense programs in the coming year. The Senate plan raises the limit on war related funds to $96 billion, providing additional resources for the Pentagon without the $523 billion cap. While the defense proposals in the House and Senate budgets match, the two chambers still have to send representatives to negotiate non-defense provisions in the bill.


Although these resolutions provide for increased funding for DOD, the VFW is still concerned that neither version directly addresses the need to end the budget sequestration. We will continue to press Congress to end sequestration as the budget process moves forward.

7. Bergdahl Charged With Desertion: The Army has charged Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl with one count each of Article 85 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, “Desertion with Intent to Shirk Important or Hazardous Duty,” and Article 99, “Misbehavior Before The Enemy by Endangering the Safety of a Command, Unit or Place.” Bergdahl, then a private first class, was held captive by the Taliban for almost five years after he allegedly left his post in Afghanistan on June 30, 2009. He was released in a controversial five-for-one prisoner swap on May 31, 2014. The case now goes to an Article 32 hearing, similar to a civilian grand jury, to decide whether the charges are appropriate to refer to a General Court-Martial. Bergdahl faces a maximum penalty of life in a military prison, as well as being stripped of rank and the forfeiture of all pay and allowances. Read more at: http://www.defense.gov/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=128453&source=GovDelivery.


8. Afghanistan Troop Level Remains Constant: President Obama announced this week that 9,800 U.S. troops will remain in Afghanistan through the end of 2015. Troop levels had previously been scheduled to drop from 9,800 to 5,500 beginning Oct. 1. The decision to extend current levels was based on a request from the Afghan president, who had asked for some flexibility in U.S. drawdown timelines in order to accelerate internal reforms and ensure that Afghan national security forces are better led, equipped, trained and focused on their mission. Read more at: http://www.defense.gov/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=128449.

9. All Four Services Now Offering COOL Assistance: The four military services are now offering COOL (Credentialing Opportunities On-Line) assistance to help soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines find information regarding civilian certification and licensing requirements related to their Military Occupational Specialties. The transition planning tool allows troops, regardless of MOS, to focus on what they need should they decide to use their military training and experience in a civilian market. For respective service COOL information, go to:

·         Army: https://www.cool.army.mil/overview.htm?rmb=overview_rm3#abtBtnsTop.

·         Navy: https://www.cool.navy.mil/usn/.

·         Air Force: https://afvec.langley.af.mil/afvec/Public/COOL/Default.aspx.

·         Marine Corps: https://www.cool.navy.mil/usmc/.


  1. Pennsylvania Desert Shield/Storm Bonus to Expire: The deadline for submitting applications for the Persian Gulf Conflict Veterans Benefit Program is Aug. 31, 2015. Pennsylvania veterans or beneficiaries of deceased veterans could be eligible for:
  • A one-time benefit of $75 per month for each month (or major fraction thereof) of active service in the Persian Gulf Conflict Theater of Operations during the period of Aug. 2, 1990 to Aug. 31, 1991. The maximum compensation is $525.
  • An additional one-time benefit of $5,000 if the service member was declared a prisoner of war at any time while on “active service” during the covered period.
  • Beneficiaries may also be eligible to receive an additional one-time benefit of $5,000 if the service member died while on “active service” during the covered period, or died as a result of service-connected wounds, diseases or injuries sustained during such active service, as certified by DOD or VA.

Proof of residency, military service, and the receipt of the Southwest Asia Service Medal are required, among other documentation. For more information or to apply, go to: http://www.milvet.state.pa.us/DMVA/Docs_BVA//PGVB/Digest.pdf.



To sign up new veterans’ advocates, click here: http://capwiz.com/vfw/mlm/signup.htm.


As always, we want to share your advocacy stories on the VFW Capitol Hill blog. To share your stories, either fill out our online form by clicking here:http://www.vfw.org/Forms/Capitol-Hill-Blog-Submissions/, or simply email photos and stories directly to vfwac@vfw.org.