VFW Washington Weekly June 7, 2013
In This Issue: 1. New Stolen Valor Law 2. Senate Discusses Sexual Assault in Military 3. MST Bill Clears House 4. Military-VA Funding Bill Clears House 5. House Armed Services Moves NDAA 6. VFW Defends Commissaries 7. Burn Pit Registry Seeking Public Comment 8. Three MIAs Identified 1. New Stolen Valor Law: The president signed the new VFW-supported Stolen Valor Act of 2013 into law on Monday. Said VFW National Commander John Hamilton, “the new law is bullet-proof against another constitutional challenge because the focus is now on the intent to profit from the lie — to obtain money, property or something of a tangible benefit or value — which is what con artists have been doing throughout history.” Not every combat award is covered, but the ones most coveted will now have wannabe heroes facing up to a year in jail and $100,000 fines for each offense. For the VFW statement click here: http://www.vfw.org/News-and-Events/Articles/2013-Articles/VFW-Salutes-New-Stolen-Valor-Law/
2. Senate Discusses Sexual Assaults in Military: On Tuesday, the Senate Armed Services Committee held a hearing to discuss pending legislation regarding sexual assaults in the military. The hearing marked the first time that each service chief answered specific questions on sexual misconduct in the military and the committee took advantage of the opportunity to speak at length with all stakeholders about legislative proposals. The VFW has consistently advocated for improved reporting mechanisms and recourse for victims of sexual assault in the military, as well as streamlining the path to necessary health care and benefits for victims. For more information, including the archived webcast of the hearing, visit our Capitol Hill blog at: http://thevfw.blogspot.com/2013/06/senate-discusses-sexual-assault-in.html. 3. MST Bill Clears House: VFW-supported legislation, HR 671, The Ruth Moore Act passed the house this week. The bill brings military assault victims a step closer to receiving the care and compensation they deserve. VFW will be testifying on the Senate version, S. 294, introduced by Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) next week when the Senate VA Committee holds its hearing on pending benefits’ legislation. Tester’s bill contains stronger language then what was passed in the House, requiring a law change to aligned MST claims with combat PTSD regulations within current VA regulations. VFW has strongly supported this change and looks to the Senate to move the bill quickly.
4. Military-VA Funding Bill Clears House: This week, The House passed the Military Construction-VA funding bill 421-4. HR 2216 is the first appropriations measure to be advanced by the House this session. Overall the bill provides $157.8 billion for veterans programs and military construction in FY 2014. The bill also included several amendments designed to reduce wait times for disability claim decisions to include increased funding for a paperless claims system for digital scanning of health and benefits files to help VA in its goal to end the backlog by 2015. Other Highlights included: * $57.5 billion for VA medical care accounts (this includes $54.5 billion for advanced appropriations for FY 2014). * $55.6 billion in advanced funding for VA Medical programs for FY 2015. * $290 million for disability claims systems * $35 million for TBI and PTSD research * $252 million to establish a single, integrated Department of Defense (DOD) and VA electronic health record system. Short comings include: * Prosthetics research, $586 million requested, $25 million less than the IB request * Medical Facilities (which include non-recurring maintenance), $4.87 billion requested, $698 million less than the IB request. * Construction, $1.2 billion requested, $1 billion less than the IB request. For the IBs press release regarding the Administration’s budget request click here: http://finance.yahoo.com/news/veterans-groups-president-budget-falls-212200801.html. For more highlights of the bill, visit the House Appropriations website at: http://appropriations.house.gov/news/documentsingle.aspx?DocumentID=336730. 5. House Armed Services Moves NDAA: This week, the House Armed Services Committee cleared their FY 2014 Defense Authorization bill (HR 1960) after a long day of amendments and discussion about military programs. Among the provisions included in the bills mark was personnel subcommittee language that would bar commanders from dismissing all but minor sexual offenses from a court martial, and prohibit them from reducing a guilty finding in a sexual assault case to a lesser offense. The language adopted comes just a day after the Senate discussed similar bills within their chamber with top military leaders in a hearing about military sexual assaults (see item #2). Other key provisions included a 1.8. percent pay raise for service members, rejection of Tricare Fees or higher pharmacy co-pays except for a $4 increase in out-patient co-pays for Tricare Prime beneficiaries. Members also adopted a bill by Congressman John Kline (R-MN) that would allow those beneficiaries to stay under Tricare Prime using one-time “opt-in” feature — DOD is requiring Prime enrollees who reside more than 40 miles from a military treatment facility to switch to Tricare Standard, effective October 1, 2013. The House is expected to vote on the bill next week and the Senate is schedule to begin discussion on their authorization bill as well. Check back here for more coverage of the NDAA as it moves through Congress. For complete highlights of the bill visit the HASC website at: http://armedservices.house.gov/index.cfm/press-releases?ContentRecord_id=dd06bb6d-c031-488d-88c4-b60e8ff35e28. 6. VFW Defends Commissaries: Last weekend the Washington Post published an article defending critics of military commissaries while attacking groups like the VFW who they believe are advocating to save “wasteful” military programs. The VFW first called attention to proposals to gut the commissary system as part of our “10 for 10” campaign in 2011. Now, it seems the opposition is coming after groups like the VFW. VFW will never apologize for advocating for our active duty military, veterans, retirees and their families. To read our entire blog posting, to include the Washington Post article, and our 10 for 10 campaign talking points, click here: http://thevfw.blogspot.com/2013/06/defending-military-commissariesagain.html.
7. Burn Pit Registry Seeking Public Comment: The VA is asking for public comment on a planned registry of military members potentially exposed to open-air burn pit toxins from our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the from the first Gulf War. To establish its “Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry,” the VA is required to solicit public comment on the proposed collection of information for the index. According to a VA press release issued Wednesday, the registry will include a web-based questionnaire for troops and veterans to report health concerns and exposures. The 2012 Dignified Burial and Veterans Benefits Improvement Act required VA to establish a burn-pit registry by January 2014. Read more at https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2013/06/05/2013-13224/proposed-information-collection-open-burn-pit-registry-airborne-hazard-self-assessment-questionnaire.
8. Three MIAs Identified: The Defense POW/MIA Affairs Office announced the identification of remains belonging to a World War II airman and two Korean War soldiers. Returned home are: * Army Air Force Sgt. Charles R. Marshall, 19, of Martin, Ky. On July 21, 1944, a B-24H Liberator with nine crew aboard was shot down and crashed while on a bombing raid against enemy targets in Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany. Of the nine crew members, six parachuted to safety; a seventh crewmen’s remains were recovered near Hadorf. Marshall and another crewman were not recovered, and attempts to recover their remains after the war were unsuccessful.
* Army 1st Lt. Douglas H. Haag, 26, of Louisville, Ky. In early July 1950, Haag, and elements of the 21st Infantry Regiment, 24th Infantry Division, were deployed along the Kum River in western South Korea when North Korean forces struck and overran the U.S. positions. Haag was reported missing, and later would be presumed dead and his remains non-recoverable.
* Army Master Sgt. Olen B. Williams, 37, of Verbena, Ala. In late 1950, Williams and elements of the 31st Regimental Combat Team were establishing a defensive line south of a bridge across the P’ungnyuri River, near a small village in Sinhung-ni, North Korea, when they were attacked by enemy forces. Williams was reported missing in action after the battle. Read more about 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 email@example.com.
A Memorial Day Message
From Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki
WASHINGTON (May 24, 2013) — This weekend, Americans in large numbers will visit our national cemeteries and other final resting places to honor their loved ones, their friends, neighbors, colleagues, even some unknown to them—men and women who gave their lives in defense of our Nation.
Memorial Day is a time to reflect on their service and their sacrifice, even as our Armed Forces are performing difficult and dangerous missions in distant lands. They continue to safeguard our American way of life.
Memorial Day is set aside to honor the more than one million of our fellow citizens who have fallen in battle since the founding of our Republic. Their service helped to shape us as a Nation and secured, for us and our friends and allies, our security in a troubled world. Except for their service, we all would be facing different circumstances today.
During World War II, American forces literally helped to save the world from tyranny and oppression. Those who marched to the guns in the 1950’s saved a Nation. And the most devastating conflict in our history, the American Civil War, preserved a Union that would, within a hundred years, emerge as a world power, dedicated to preserving freedom and liberty.
Every generation has done its duty, just as today’s 1.37 million members of our Armed Forces are doing theirs under difficult circumstances.
On Memorial Day, their service in uniform stands in contrast to our ball games and backyard barbeques. Our defenders are ordinary Americans performing extraordinary deeds, bearing all the risks for our way of life. In remembering the Fallen, we honor the men and women who kept faith with our enduring principles of “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.” We remember, as well, those who keep the faith today and honor their patriotism, valor, dedication, and loyalty.
A memorial written by Civil War-era orator, Robert Green Ingersoll, eloquently captures the significance of Memorial Day for all generations of our Fallen:
They died for liberty—they died for us. They are at rest.
They sleep in the land they made free, under the flag they rendered stainless. . . . Earth may run red with other wars, but they are at peace.
In the midst of battles, in the roar of conflict, they found the serenity of death.
I join with all VA employees in honoring those who have been called to the Altar of Freedom, in offering prayers for them and their families, who sacrifice still today, and in asking for the Almighty’s continued blessings on this great Nation.
American Veterans Traveling Tribute: The Cost of Freedom
May 23, 2013 – May 27, 2013
North Haverhill Fairground, Rt. 10 North Haverhill, NH
Allan helped review genealogical records and break red tape to posthumously honor 59 POWs from New Hampshire with Purple Hearts.
He was remembered at our POW Recognition Day Ceremony back in April – and now will be laid to rest. I hope you will be able to join with me and his Family on Friday morning. Many thanks to the Derry Firing Squad who will be on hand as well.
Thank you ……
Gregory P. Lynch Dept. of NH VFW Commander
Comrades and citizens of Southern New Hampshire and Merrimack Valley –
Pelham New Hampshire will honor the sacrifice and memory of US Army Sgt. Daniel R. Gionet in a bridge dedication ceremony at 1:00 on Sunday June 2nd 2013 at the Main Street Bridge. Sgt Gionet was killed in action on June 4, 2006 while serving in Irag.
A reception with light refreshments will be held at the Pelham VFW Post 10722 immediately following.
All are encouraged to attend and are welcome to join us as we pay tribute.
Please help us with widest distribution.
Mark T. McCabe
John H. Hargreaves
Memorial VFW Post 10722
Pelham, NH 03076
VFW Washington Weekly
In this issue:
1. VFW Applauds White House Effort to Combat Suicide
1. VFW Applauds White House Effort to Combat Suicide: Today, the President signed an executive order designed to curb military and veteran suicide and improve the delivery of mental health resources to our nation’s heroes. The executive order, “Improving Access to Mental Health Services for Veterans, Service Members and Military Families,” which President Obama is scheduled to announce during a visit to Fort Bliss in Texas, includes nearly a dozen specific initiatives designed to improve mental health resources and intervention tools. National Commander John E. Hamilton, noted the VFW support for the president’s vision to prevent military suicides and improve mental health care delivery, but also expressed concerns about potential funding shortfalls to accomplish the president’s goals. Click here for the VFW’s Press release: http://www.vfw.org/News-and-Events/Articles/2012-Articles/VFW-Applauds-White-House-Efforts-to-Stop-Military-Suicide/
2. VFW Active at Republican Convention: VFW Representatives attending the Republican National Convention (RNC) listened to key note speakers and spoke with delegates on critical issues like veterans mental and behavioral health, accurate claims processing and helping service members secure educational, employment and entrepreneurship opportunities. The VFW will also be represented at next week’s Democratic National Convention in Charlotte to ensure the voice of veterans, service members and their families remains a key priority during Campaign 2012. Leading both delegations will be VFW Legislative Director Ray Kelley. Stay informed throughout by reading blog postings at: www.vfwonthehill.org/
3. VA Increases Vets Retraining Assistance Program: This week, VA announced that have filled 36,000 of the 45,000 job training openings available under the Veterans Retraining Assistance Program (VRAP) passed as a part of the VOW to Heroes Act. An additional 55,000 openings will be available October 1, 2012. VRAP provides up to $1,473 a month in GI Bill benefits for those taking full-time courses to learn the skills necessary to land a job. VFW was instrumental in getting the provision passed as a part of the comprehensive jobs bill and encourages veterans eligible to apply online. Click here for more information: http://www.benefits.va.gov/VOW/
4. Combating Veterans’ Homelessness: Veterans’ homelessness is a national problem that is best solved at the local level. As such, the VA recently launched a new online ordering portal for communities and national partners to order free informational material and promotional items ranging from brochures and posters to wallet cards, drawstring bags and hygiene kits, among other items. Share the portal link with your VFW members and Posts and with others in your community to help spread the word. For more information or to place an order, go to http://www.va.gov/homeless/materials_center.asp.
5. VFW Hears from Marine Corps Commandant: This week, VFW attended a Press Club event where Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Amos spoke on a number of issues important to the Corps. Leading the list was the continuing success of combat operations in Afghanistan and the transfer of responsibilities over to Afghan national security forces. Following his remarks, Amos fielded questions from the audience on a variety of military quality-of-life and force readiness issues ranging from fiscal responsibility and budget constraints on the Marines Corps, to women serving in combat, suicide, and sexual assault. When asked about potential across-the-board cuts to the Defense budget, Amos said he believed the Marine Corps would be hit disproportionately hard, considering the size of the force and the value it delivers to the U.S. military. Amos also said that the greatest challenge for the Corps moving forward would be ensuring the force remains balanced through a period of fiscal austerity. To learn more about Amos’ remarks and to view C-SPAN’s full coverage of the event, click here: http://www.vfwonthehill.org/2012/08/vfw-hears-from-marine-commandant.html?m=1
6. Army and NFL Discuss TBI: Earlier this week, Army representatives hosted NFL leaders at West Point to discuss how they can affect positive change surrounding Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI) and concussions. The military, alongside the NFL have continued conversations regarding the Soldier-Athlete commitment to education and awareness of these serious injuries. To watch the discussion, click here: http://www.dvidshub.net/webcast/2578#.UD5iiqCoz1l.
7. Five MIAs Return Home: The Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office recently announced the identification of remains belonging to one airmen and four soldiers who had been missing in action since World War II, Korea and Vietnam. Returned home are:
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Project New Hope Inc offers “free” weekend Retreats for combat veterans and their families to include Gold Star & Survivor families throughout New England. Please visit your state web site to find out more information about Project New Hope Inc and upcoming Retreats and other activities. www.Projectnewhopema.org (Massachusetts) www.projectnewhoperi.org (Rhode Island) www.projectnewhopect.org (Connecticut) www.projectnewhopevt.org (Vermont) www.projectnewhopenh.org (New Hampshire) www.projectnewhopeme.org (Maine) Best, Bill Moore, M.A., President Project New Hope Inc P.O. Box 91 Leicester, Massachusetts 01524 Phone: (508) 713-3362 Web Site: www.projectnewhopema.org E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Soldier Missing from Korean War Identified
The Department of Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office announced today that the remains of a serviceman, missing in action from the Korean War, were identified and will be returned to his family for burial with full military honors. Army Cpl. Robert I. Wax of Detroit will be buried June 20 at Arlington National Cemetery. In August 1950, Wax and Battery A, 555th Field Artillery Battalion, were fighting against North Korean forces in a battle known as the “Bloody Gulch,” near Pongam-ni, South Korea. After the battle, on Aug. 11, 1950, Wax was listed as missing in action. In late 1950, U.S. Army Graves Registration Service personnel recovered remains of service members from that battlefield, including nine men who were unidentified. These men were buried at the 25th Infantry Division Cemetery in South Korea. In 1951, the U.S. consolidated cemeteries on the peninsula. The unknown remains were re-interred in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific. In 2011, due to advances in identification technology, the remains were exhumed for identification. Based on available evidence such as metal identification tags, military clothing, and wartime records, analysts from the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) were able to conclude that the remains were those of a soldier who died at Pongam-ni. Scientists from JPAC used the circumstantial evidence and forensic identification tools including radiograph and dental comparisons in the identification of Wax. For additional information on the Defense Department’s mission to account for missing Americans, visit the DPMO website at http://www.dtic.mil/dpmo or call 703-699-1420.
________________________________________ Airman Missing from Vietnam War Identified
The Department of Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO) announced today that the remains of a serviceman, missing in action from the Vietnam War, have been identified and will be returned to his family for burial with full military honors. Air Force Capt. Clyde W. Campbell of Longview, Texas, will be buried June 21 at Arlington National Cemetery. On March 1, 1969, Campbell was a pilot aboard an A-1J Skyraider aircraft that crashed while carrying out a close air-support mission in Houaphan Province, Laos. American forward air controllers directing the mission in the area reported hearing an explosion that they believed to be Campbell’s bombs, but later learned Campbell’s aircraft had crashed. No parachutes were seen in the area. In 1997, a joint United States – Lao People’s Democratic Republic (L.P.D.R.) team investigated a crash site in Houaphan Province, Laos, within 330 feet of the last known location of Campbell. In addition to human remains, the team located aircraft wreckage and military equipment, which correlated with Campbell’s aircraft. From 2009 to 2010, additional joint U.S.-L.P.D.R. recovery teams investigated and excavated the crash site three times. Teams recovered additional human remains, military equipment — including an aircraft data plate — and a .38-caliber pistol matching the serial number issued to Campbell. Scientists from the JPAC used circumstantial evidence and forensic identification tools in the identification of Campbell. For additional information on the Defense Department’s mission to account for missing Americans, call 703-699-1420 or visit the DPMO website at http://www.dtic.mil/dpmo .
U.S. Department of Defense Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)