2014: A Message from the VFW Commander-in-Chief

This year promises to be a momentous one for America’s veterans and its warriors. Issues affecting those in and out of uniform will be on the front burner on Capitol Hill.

Two events in 2014 will no doubt put veterans and the armed forces in the national limelight: congressional elections and withdrawal of U.S. combat troops from Afghanistan. The ending of a war is always a watershed in history, and this one should be no exception.

Achieving such a milestone will attract publicity that should be maximized to the benefit of the Afghanistan War’s veterans and their families. While the media is focused on the political ramifications of the combat disengagement, we should draw attention to the needs of the youngest generation of war vets.

Recently, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told the 47,000 GIs remaining in Afghanistan: “I know more than occasionally you wonder if anybody’s paying attention, or if anybody cares, but we do.”

Hagel may have been speaking on behalf of the American people in general, but his words could have been our own. This is all part of our commitment to “fully support U.S. troops and their mission to prosecute the war on terrorism.”

VFW’s Priority Goals include a host of issues—health care, housing, education, employment, transition assistance and military quality-of-life as a whole—that are perfectly relevant to those on active duty today. Each and every one of these goals is being pursued with vigor by our Washington Office staff.

Continue reading…

VFW Legislative Alert: Oppose Budget Deal That Cuts Military Retiree COLA!

Here is info on a time sensitive issue that we need to call all of NH Congressional Representatives on:  (link provided at the end to automatically send e-mail)

VFW Legislative Alert: Oppose Budget Deal That Cuts Military Retiree COLA!

Background: The House and Senate Budget Committee have reached a deal within the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 (H.J.Res 59) that includes a proposal to cut future cost of living adjustments (COLA) by one percent for military retirees under age 62.  VFW calculates that this will have a devastating impact on retirement benefits for retirees and survivors and jeopardizes the future value of military career benefits, and adversely effects recruitment, retention and our national security.

Action Needed:  Call and email your legislators today and urge them to oppose any provision in the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 (H.J. Res. 89), that tries to balance the budget on the backs of our military retirees. Tell them that current and future service men and women are watching.

http://capwiz.com/vfw/issues/alert/?alertid=63026806

VFW Demands a Federal Budget Be Passed

VFW National Commander sends President and Congress formal letter

October 03, 2013
Dear Mr. President, Speaker Boehner, Representative Pelosi, Leader Reid and Senator McConnell:

The United States federal government is ending Day Three of a shutdown that both political parties created.  On behalf of 22 million veterans and 2.3 million service members and their families, I urge all of you to start doing what’s best for the country and not your own political interests.  Every American is or will feel the effects of this budget impasse, but I am writing to you concerning the effects on our nation’s veterans, our military personnel and their families.

The lack of a budget prevents countless veterans from taking advantage of transition assistance programs provided by the Departments of Veterans Affairs and Labor.  The lack of a budget will increase the VA claims backlog, and stop VA disability compensation and survivor benefit payments to millions of combat-wounded veterans and widows because Congress won’t extend the department’s authorization into the new fiscal year.  Many of these heroes depend on those payments to pay for their daily living expenses.

Our national security is threatened and at risk because of the lack of a defense budget and the ongoing sequester.  Training is what makes our military the strongest in the world, but without a budget, aircraft are being grounded, ships are staying in port, and our Army and Marine Corps ground forces are not receiving the necessary training they need to successfully accomplish their assigned missions and, more importantly, to survive to do it again.  We are also hearing the intelligence community is affected by the government shutdown, too.  Haven’t we all learned the lessons of 9/11?  National Security and those who defend us cannot be shortchanged.

Continue reading

Washington Weekly

WASHINGTON WEEKLY

September 27, 2013

In This Issue:

1. Budget Impact on VA

2. Budget Impact on DOD

3. Affordable Care Act Update

4. Congress Extends Veteran Programs

5. MIAs from Three Wars Identified

1. Budget Impact on VA: Certain Department of Veterans Affairs programs, like

yments for disability compensation, GI Bill education benefits, survivors benefits, and pensions for current beneficiaries, are not subject to the annual discretionary funding battle, and are therefore not impacted by the potential lack of an FY 2014 budget or Continuing Resolution on Oct. 1. Those veterans currently scheduled for burial should also be interred as scheduled. There should also be no noticeable change in healthcare, because the VFW led an effort to get advance appropriations signed into law that gives the Veterans Health Administration a preapproved budget two years out. Inpatient and outpatient care will continue to be provided, to include the filling of prescriptions, counseling services, surgeries and dental treatments, and the National Veterans Crisis Line, 1-800-273-8255, will remain operational. Advance appropriations, however, does not extend to VA’s two other agencies, the Veterans Benefits Administration and National Cemetery Administration, where veterans could see noticeable changes in customer contact and claims processing. VA said it has sufficient funds to keep its 57 VA Regional Offices (ROs) open through Oct. 4; however, if a budget or Continuing Resolution is not passed before Oct. 7, VA will be forced to close its ROs until Congress acts. This is important because all claims are processed by the ROs. Veterans will still be able to file claims electronically, but not in person. This also means no one will be processing their claims, which would further increase the backlog. The VFW is working hard to get all VA funding protected by advanced appropriations. To learn more about how a potential government shutdown would affect VA services, click here: http://www.va.gov/opa/docs/Field_Guide_20130927.pdf.

2. Budget Impact on DOD: The lack of an approved budget or Continuing Resolution will have a tremendous impact on the Department of Defense, should the federal government shut down on Oct. 1. All nonessential activities will cease in order to keep combat forces and forward deployed forces operational. In a telephone conference this afternoon, DOD told the VFW to expect the following actions to take place when the new fiscal year begins Oct. 1, barring a last minute funding extension:

  • ·       Personnel: All military personnel will report to work. They will receive their Oct. 1 paycheck because it was earned in September, but subsequent pay will be accrued but go unpaid until a budget or CR is passed. All appropriated fund civilian personnel will also report to work, but only those deemed mission critical—security and fire protection, for example—will remain on duty. Everyone else will be furloughed in a non-work, unpaid status. Nonappropriated fund civilians and military retiree pay should not be effected. Temporary duty and permanent change of station assignments may be cancelled or delayed.
  • ·       Operations & Maintenance: Aircraft and ships are already flying and sailing less, and ground troops are training less because of the current budget reduction and sequester. A government shutdown makes everything worse. Acute and emergency medical and dental care will continue, but routine appointments will be cancelled or delayed. Other military service providers, such as legal and human resources, will remain open but be minimally staffed due to the civilian workforce furlough. All DOD schools and childcare centers will remain open, but stateside commissaries will be closed. The duration of the shutdown will directly impact the severity of cost-saving measures.

Congress has a lot of work to do in a very short amount of time, and it all starts with getting rid of sequestration and passing a defense budget now. Add your voice to the fight today by contacting your congressional members at http://capwiz.com/vfw/issues/alert/?alertid=62940921.

3. Affordable Care Act Update: Thanks to the VFW and our friends in Congress, every veteran, service member, dependent, retiree or survivor enrolled in VA healthcare or any of the military’s 10 Tricare programs, plus the U.S. Family Health Plan, are deemed to have met the minimum essential coverage standards required by the new Affordable Care Act. Minimum essential coverage must be in place by Jan. 1, 2014. People who fail to do so will be assessed a fee for every month they do not have adequate coverage; the fee will be collected from 2014 tax returns. VA enrollees can learn more at www.va.gov/aca; Tricare enrollees at http://www.tricare.mil/Home/Welcome/AboutUs/MEC.aspx; and everyone can learn more about the new Affordable Care Act at www.healthcare.gov.

4. Congress Extends Veteran Programs: This week, Congress cleared VFW-supported legislation that will extend several programs within VA and the Department of Labor Veterans Employment and Training. H.R. 1412, the Improving Job Opportunities for Veterans Act of 2013, authorizes employment assistance under the Homeless Veteran Reintegration Program, which provides job placement, on-the-job and classroom training, career counseling, and money management skills. The program was extended through FY 2014. The bill also authorizes supportive services for veterans and their families, extends housing grants for disabled veterans requiring housing modifications, and allows VA to continue providing child care assistance for veterans receiving health services in their facilities. The bill now heads to the President for his signature. To read the final version of the bill in its entirety, click on http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c113:H.R.1412.EAS:/.

5. Four MIAs Identified: The Defense POW/MIA Office announced the identification of remains belonging to four MIAs from World War II and the Korean and Vietnam Wars. Recovered are:

  • ·       Army Air Force 2nd Lt. Vernal J. Bird, 26, of Lindon, Utah. On March 12, 1944, Bird, a member of the 13th Bombardment Squadron, 3rd Bombardment Group, was piloting an A-20G Havoc aircraft on an attack mission over the island of New Guinea. Bird’s aircraft did not return to base.
  • ·      Army Cpl. Armando Alvarez, 20, of El Paso, Texas. In late 1950, Alvarez and elements of the 31st Regimental Combat Team, also known as Task Force Faith, were forced into a fighting withdrawal to a more defensible position south of the Chosin Reservoir in North Korea. Alvarez was reported missing on Dec. 2, 1950.
    • ·       Air Force Majs. James E. Sizemore of Lawrenceville, Ill., and Howard V. Andre Jr., of Memphis, Tenn. On July 8, 1969, Sizemore and Andre were on a night armed reconnaissance mission when their A-26A Invader aircraft crashed in Xiangkhoang Province, Laos.

Read their individual recovery stories at http://www.dtic.mil/dpmo/news/news_releases/.

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.

To sign up new veterans’ advocates to receive the Washington Weekly every Friday, click here: http://capwiz.com/vfw/mlm/signup.htm.