VFW WASHINGTON WEEKLY NEWS

VFW WASHINGTON WEEKLY
May 4, 2012

In This Issue:
1. Defense Bill Update
2. Camp Lejeune   Exposure
3. Seeking Desert   Shield/Storm Veterans
4. Promote Veteran   Retraining Assistance Program
5. Nine Thousand   Marines to Move
6. Bataan, Corregidor   Survivors
7. WWII MIA Identified

1. Defense Bill   Update: The House Armed Services Committee is set to hold a   full-committee markup next week on the fiscal year 2013 National Defense   Authorization Act. The bill being considered would set the base defense   budget at about $554 billion, or about $4 billion above the president’s   request and $8 billion above the caps set by the Budget Control Act. It is   expected that the bill will eliminate the controversial TRICARE fee hikes   proposed by the administration, as well slow the pace of the planned 100,000   active duty troop reduction that will primarily impact the Army and Marine   Corps. The bill would also allocate money for an environmental impact study   of potential locations along the East Coast for weapons capable of shooting   down ballistic missiles. VFW Resolution 405 calls a ballistic missile defense   system a national security priority.

2. Camp Lejeune   Exposure: The House and Senate Veterans Affairs Committees   joined forces to request that the Administration provide immediate VA   healthcare to Camp Lejeune veterans and their families who were exposed to   contaminated water over a 30-year period. After receiving correspondence from   VA Secretary Eric Shinseki that it was “premature” to provide   healthcare to these veterans, House Chairman Jeff Miller (R-Fla.) and Ranking   Member Bob Filner (D-Calif.), and Senate Chairman Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and   Ranking Member Richard Burr (R-N.C.) sent a letter to President Obama to   plead their case. The VFW will continue to monitor developments. If you or   someone you know was stationed at Camp Lejeune during the time of exposure   (1957-1987), please contact the VFW at: vfwac@vfw.org.   To learn more about the exposure of Camp Lejeune veterans at http://www.militarytimes.com/news/2012/04/military-veterans-affairs-should-care-for-camp-lejeune-vets-lawmakers-say-042312w/.

3. Seeking Desert   Shield/Storm Veterans: The VA’s War Related Injury and Study   Center in East Orange, N.J., is asking all Desert Shield/Storm veterans to   complete an anonymous online survey to help the VA better understand the   problems and needs of first Gulf War veterans. The survey asks for   demographic information, deployment experience, physical and mental health   problems, and treatments or wellness practices that veterans may or may not   be currently using. To complete the survey, go to https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/WRIISC_PGW.   To learn more about the VA’s War Related Injury and Study Centers, go to http://www.warrelatedillness.va.gov/.

4. Promote Veteran   Retraining Assistance Program: Over the next couple of   months, the VFW will continue to raise awareness of a new VA employment   training assistance program called the Veterans Retraining Assistance Program   (VRAP), authorized by last year’s VOW to Hire Heroes Act. VRAP offers 12   months of training assistance to veterans age 35 to 60. Eligible participants   will receive up to 12 months of training assistance at the full-time payment   rate under the Montgomery GI Bill–Active Duty program (currently $1,473 per   month). The Department of Labor will also offer employment assistance to   every veteran who participates or applies to the VRAP program. Learn more   about VRAP at http://benefits.va.gov/vow/education.htm.   To learn more about each of the new programs authorized under VOW, click   here: http://www.vfwonthehill.org/2012/04/va-introduces-vow-to-hire-heroes-act.html.

5. Nine Thousand   Marines to Move: U.S. and Japanese officials agreed to move   9,000 U.S. Marines off Okinawa to other locations in the Pacific. About 5,000   Marines will head to Guam, with the rest to Hawaii, Australia and possibly   California. About 10,000 Marines will remain on Okinawa when the relocation   is complete. Read more at http://www.defense.gov/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=116105.

6. Bataan, Corregidor   Survivors: The VFW Washington Office joined five Bataan and   Corregidor survivors last week to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the   infamous Bataan Death March. The veterans included past national commanders   of the now-disbanded American Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor, who   traveled to Japan in 2010 and 2011 to receive an official apology from the   Japanese government for their maltreatment, and to visit their former POW   camps. The five veterans, who represent only about 200 remaining Bataan and   Corregidor survivors, are:
* Dr. Lester Tenney, 92, from San Diego, formerly assigned to Company B,   192nd Tank Battalion, Illinois Army National Guard;
* Mr. Joseph Alexander, 85, San Antonio, 440th Ordnance Aviation Bombardment   Squadron, Army Air Corps;
* Mr. Donald Versaw, 91, Lakewood, Calif., E Company, 2nd Battalion 4th   Marines (China Marines);
* Mr. Ben Steele, 94, Billings, Mont., 7th Material Squadron, 19th Bomb   Group, Army Air Corps;
* Mr. Roland Towery, 89, Austin, Texas, Battery C, 60th Army Coast Artillery.

7. WWII MIA   Identified: The Defense POW/Missing Personnel announced the   identification of remains belonging to Army Air Forces 2nd Lt. Charles R.   Moritz, 21, of Effingham, Ill. On June 7, 1944, Moritz, of the 555th Fighter   Squadron, was piloting a P-51C Mustang when it collided with another U.S.   aircraft while on a training flight over Lincolnshire, England. A witness   reported the crash, but officials were not able to recover his remains at the   time. Read more at http://www.dtic.mil/dpmo/news/news_releases/2012/release_moritz.pdf

 
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VFW Commander In Chief rebuts editorial on DOD Budget

On Monday, three representatives of the Center for American Progress attacked the Veterans of Foreign Wars of

the U.S. in an opinion editorial published in Politico. Entitled “VFW, Allies Mislead On Pay, Benefits,” they

criticized the VFW for opposing Pentagon budget-reduction plans that would reduce military pay increase percentages, civilianize the retirement system, and shift more TRICARE health program costs onto military dependents and retirees. VFW National Commander Richard L. DeNoyer responded to the attack in a 300-word letter to editor that was published in today’s issue of Politico. Below is the expanded version.

VFW Rebuts Center for American Progress Editorial Attack

By Richard L. DeNoyer

Monday’s opinion editorial by Lawrence Korb, Alex Rothman and Max Hoffman would have readers believe that the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States is misleading America

into believing that the Pentagon’s proposals to reform military compensation, retirement and healthcare are bad for the nation.

As the national commander of America’s oldest and largest combat veterans’ organization, I can guarantee that nothing the VFW says about protecting military pay and benefits is misleading.

The Defense Department’s “budget first, people second” proposals are bad for America because they threaten the continued viability of the all-volunteer force. It takes people to fight and win our nation’s wars — to put boots on the ground as well as to operate our ships, planes and tanks.

The VFW makes no apologies for wanting to protect those military programs that attract and retain our best and brightest in uniform.

The authors would have you believe that proposed military pay raises between .5 and 1.7 percent over the next five years will help rebalance the budget, yet they make no mention of the affect a resurging economy will have on recruiting and retention, much less the still volatile and

unpredictable world that awaits our military of 2015 and beyond. They and others seem to have forgotten the huge recruiting and retention bonuses the military services had to offer just seven

short years ago.

It is the constitutional responsibility of Congress to raise, support, and make rules for the regulation of our armed forces. And while DOD input is crucial for informed decisions, Congress

must not be rushed into any “up or down” decision, similar to Base Realignment and Closure Commission votes, that could put a professionally-led, all-volunteer force at risk.

Based on earlier trial balloons, DOD wants a new military retirement system that would resemble more participatory, 401(k)-type civilian programs, with the delayed receipt of

retirement benefits until almost age 60. Since less than 10 percent of the force stays 20 years or more — not 17 percent as reported by the authors — a civilianized military retirement system will hurt retention because a 401(k)-style retirement plan can be earned virtually anywhere, and in professions far safer than serving in the military.

Congress needs to carefully review and determine the potential impacts of such proposals on the force, because the immediate receipt of retirement pay and inexpensive healthcare for life for the retiree and spouse are the only two incentives the Pentagon offers to entice someone to first

donate 20 or more years of their youth to the nation.

Our entire nation faces a health cost crisis, but change advocates want all military dependents and retirees to shoulder more TRICARE health program costs. They cite national averages and what federal civilian employees pay in an attempt to justify plans to more than quadruple TRICARE premiums for some retirees. They call military healthcare and the retirement system

“too generous,” with some even referring to these earned benefits as something far more insulting — “entitlements.”

The authors would also have you believe that the Pentagon’s proposals are reasonable and fair, and should be supported by groups like the VFW, the Military Officers Association of America, and other veteran and military service organizations. They even wrote that “Reforming the system of military compensation is necessary — and should be supported by all Americans.”

Yet the authors failed to present the whole picture in their argument. They focus on the overall monetary cost, but not the human cost that first requires decades of faithful service just to qualify — the multiple moves and hazardous deployments; children constantly uprooted from schools

and spouses from any semblance of careers; zero home equity; potential age discrimination when applying for post-military employment; and now, being relegated to the expense ledger by the very department that was supposed to have your back.

Only 1.9 million of America’s 22.2 million veterans are military retirees. Their ranks include former military service chiefs and commanders, and exponentially more from the enlisted ranks

— the rank and file who also help to define a professionally-led, all-volunteer force. But during this budget debate, nobody seems to care about the people side of the equation; they only want to compare military pay, healthcare and retirement programs with civilians who choose not to serve.

Putting the budget ahead of the troops is going to signal an end to the all-volunteer force, which for 39 years and more than a decade of continuous war has served our nation extremely well.

That is not a misleading statement; it is a dire warning, and we urge Congress to focus on the difference.

AYOTTE, BASS, GUINTA URGE CONGRESSIONAL LEADERS TO AVERT DANGEROUS, ACROSS-THE-BOARD DEFENSE CUTS

AYOTTE, BASS, GUINTA URGE CONGRESSIONAL LEADERS TO AVERT DANGEROUS, ACROSS-THE-BOARD DEFENSE CUTS

Defense sequestration would have devastating impact on Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, Pease, and New Hampshire’s defense industry

 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – In a letter to Senate and House leadership today, U.S. Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), Rep. Charles F. Bass (R-NH), and Rep. Frank Guinta (R-NH), urged leaders of both parties to work together to prevent automatic, across-the-board defense sequestration cuts that Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta has said would “inflict severe damage to our national defense for generations.”

 

“All totaled, defense sequestration would result in an approximately $1 trillion cut in defense spending over the next decade,” Ayotte, Bass, and Guinta wrote. “This reduction would jeopardize our national security, deprive our warfighters of the resources they need, and inflict severe damage upon our defense industrial base. No state’s defense installations would be immune, including those vital to the state of New Hampshire – the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard and Pease Air National Guard Base.”

 

If defense sequestration cuts are implemented, Secretary Panetta estimates that the U.S. would have the smallest ground force since 1940, the smallest number of ships since 1915, and the smallest Air Force in its history. The Chief of Naval Operations testified recently that defense sequestration will cause the Navy to slash approximately 50 ships and submarines from the naval inventory, resulting in a 235-ship Navy that is 78 fewer ships than the Navy has said our national security requires. In addition, defense sequestration could result in the procurement of fewer KC-46A tankers or the outright cancelation of the program, which could endanger Pease’s future. According to one study, sequestration could cost 3,300 jobs in New Hampshire’s defense industrial base.

 

AYOTTE/BASS/GUINTA LETTER TO CONGRESSIONAL LEADERS:

 

Dear Leader Reid, Leader McConnell, Speaker Boehner, and Leader Pelosi:

 

On behalf of the people of New Hampshire, we are committed to working together to prevent the devastating across-the-board defense sequestration cuts that are scheduled to begin in January 2013. The inability of the “super committee” to find $1.2 trillion in savings will force the Department of Defense (DoD) to absorb $492 billion ($600 billion including debt service) in reductions – which is in addition to the $487 billion in reductions that DoD is already implementing.

 

While the defense budget only accounts for approximately 19 percent of federal spending, defense will absorb 50 percent of the sequestration cuts. This will amount to an additional $55 billion annual cut in the defense budget over the next nine years. All totaled, defense sequestration would result in an approximately $1 trillion cut in defense spending over the next decade. This reduction would jeopardize our national security, deprive our warfighters of the resources they need, and inflict severe damage upon our defense industrial base. No state’s defense installations would be immune, including those vital to the state of New Hampshire – the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard and Pease Air National Guard Base.

 

While the defense sequestration cuts will not begin until January, the uncertainty regarding defense sequestration is exacerbating DoD efforts to plan next year’s defense budget. As we are hearing daily from our constituents, this uncertainty at DoD is having a chilling effect on DoD contracting—putting companies at risk and potentially leading to employee layoffs. For these reasons, as well as the difficulties facing a congressional lame duck session, we cannot afford to wait until December to act to prevent these draconian cuts from occurring.

 

The testimony of our senior DoD leaders leaves little doubt regarding the impact of the defense sequestration cuts. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta has said these reductions would “inflict severe damage to our national defense for generations.” These comments have been echoed by all of our service secretaries and chiefs of staff. Secretary Panetta has also stated that such reductions would leave our nation with the smallest ground force since 1940, the smallest number of ships since 1915, and the smallest Air Force in our history.

 

Defending our country represents the federal government’s primary constitutional responsibility, and our military leaders have consistently testified that threats to our national security have increased, not decreased. Yet, in this national security context, defense sequestration would reduce our military capabilities, harm our military readiness to respond to future contingencies, and break faith with our troops. To replace these dangerous cuts and avert a national security crisis, we ask you to work with us to identify responsible spending reductions elsewhere in the federal budget, including through the consolidation of duplicative programs and the termination of wasteful, inefficient, or low priority spending.

 

The impending defense sequester is not a Democratic concern or a Republican concern. It is an American concern, and we hope you will join with us to resolve this difficult, but solvable situation.

 

Thank you for your consideration of our letter, and for your continued leadership in the Senate and the House of Representatives.

 

Sincerely,

 

 

U.S. Senator Kelly Ayotte

U.S. Rep. Charles F. Bass

U.S. Rep. Frank Guinta

DEFENSE BUDGET BREAKS FAITH WITH TROOPS

 

DEFENSE BUDGET BREAKS FAITH WITH TROOPS

Defeating negative proposals key VFW legislative goals

 

WASHINGTON (February 14, 2012)—America’s military is the strongest and most powerful on Earth because it takes care of the people who take care of the mission, but the nation’s largest combat veterans organization believes that two principal proposals in yesterday’s fiscal year 2013 budget request for the Department of Defense are going to be “deal breakers” with the troops.

 

“We will not allow the nation’s economic problems drive a military downsizing strategy that breaks faith with every man and woman who has ever worn the uniform,” said Richard L. DeNoyer, national commander of the 2 million-member Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. and its Auxiliaries. “We will not allow the budget crisis to be more important than the men and women who serve and sacrifice to keep everything and everyone we hold dear safe.”

 

DOD’s proposal contains two recommendations that would significantly change military pay and benefits, which in a vocation as inherently dangerous as the military might convince some recruits not to join much less reenlist.

 

One proposal recommends 1.7-percent military pay increases for 2013 and 2014, and a mere half percent in 2015. Tied to pay changes is DOD’s concurrence to create a Military Retirement Modernization Commission, which some in Congress already said should also examine the non-taxed status of military allowances, such as separate rations, housing and combat pay.

 

“The VFW is appreciative that the White House and Pentagon support grandfathering military retirees and those currently serving under the existing retirement system,” said DeNoyer, “but our concern is for tomorrow’s recruits, the young 18-year-old enlistees and new 22-year-old officers who will be fighting tomorrow’s wars with the same force challenges as today—high operations tempos, too little dwell time, and not enough troops to meet worldwide threats and commitments.”

 

The second proposal would force military dependents and retirees to pay more for their Tricare health programs.

 

DOD recommended a three-tiered annual enrollment fee for Tricare Prime, which over the next five years would quadruple existing fees for some working age military retirees—based on the amount of retirement pay received—and index future increases to medical inflation. Congress rejected a similar three-tiered proposal in 2006, and last year opted instead to link fee increases to annual cost of living adjustments. New this year are also proposals to institute one-tier annual enrollments and increased deductibles for Tricare Standard and Extra programs, a three-tiered fee for Tricare for Life coverage, and new pharmaceutical copays for everyone except uniformed service members.

 

DOD wants Tricare beneficiaries to use military treatment facilities to help reduce costs, but DeNoyer said every military family member and retiree is well aware how difficult appointments are already to schedule, which will become even harder with two more recommended Base Realignment & Closure Commission rounds.

 

“The new generation’s service and sacrifice to country will continue to be exponentially greater than the vast majority of Americans who choose not to serve, and that’s why defeating these negative Quality of Life proposals are top VFW legislative priorities,” said DeNoyer, a retired Marine and Vietnam combat veteran from Middleton, Mass.

 

“Keeping intact the incentive of a modest and immediate retirement stipend, and somewhat inexpensive healthcare for oneself and spouse for life, are not too high a cost for a nation to pay for the 1 percent of Americans who serve us in uniform, or the even fewer who stay in uniform 20 or more years.”

 

The VFW national commander is also wary of DOD’s plan to increase its reliance on the Reserve Component, since gone over the next five years will be more than 100,000 active-duty troops, primarily soldiers and Marines, even though the world remains an extremely dangerous and very unpredictable place. “America’s Guard and Reserve forces are magnificent, but they are equally tired after more than 10 years of war, and their capabilities are meant to complement the active force, not outright replace it,” he said.

 

The VFW regards budget-driven proposals to diminish pay and benefits as unconscionable and a breach of faith with those who serve and those who will follow.

 

“There is an inherent cost to fielding a professional, all-volunteer military, and breaking faith with our military and their families, and to deem their pay and benefits programs ‘too generous’ compared to corporate America, is insulting and totally forgetful of how much our nation asks of them,” said DeNoyer.

 

“It is for these reasons that the VFW will work with Congress to oppose all plans to make those who sacrifice the most for our country to sacrifice even more, and we will hold accountable those elected officials who support these proposals.”

VFW Legislative Alert: Defense Budget Harms Military

VFW Legislative Alert – Defense Budget Harms Military

Take Action!

Background:All military retirees and active duty service members will see increases in their health care costs under the proposed Department of Defense (DOD) FY 2013 budget.

All existing fees and copays will drastically increase over the next five years.  Fees and copays will nearly double for lower retirement pay earners; however, because the budget proposals include tiers which tie future increases based on retired pay, many will pay more than four times the current amount within five years.  In addition to increasing existing fees and copays (starting Oct 1, 2012), the budget proposal would also institute entirely new and costly enrollment fees for TRICARE Standard and TRICARE for Life (TFL).

For example, a TFL beneficiary making less than $22,589 would pay $150 per individual by FY 2016, and the fee would be indexed to civilian medical inflation thereafter.

Active-duty service members and their families would also feel the pinch as copays for brand name drugs would double in 2013 for all pharmacy beneficiaries and would continue to rise each year.

We cannot stand by and allow the Defense budget to harm the military and its personnel. VFW opposes any increases in healthcare costs for all military retirees and our service members.

Congress must support a budget that does not include fee increases which passes budget savings on to our service members and retirees.

Action Needed:

Contact your Legislators today and urge them to block DOD’s authority to increase any TRICARE fees as part of the Defense Authorization bill. Those who have fought for our country deserve no less.  Congress should insist that DOD find efficiencies in other areas and leave those who have fought and continue to fight for our country out of any budget savings!

Let them know we expect any fee increases to be dead on arrival!

 

 

 

 

Senator Ayotte Helps Craft Bill to Prevent Devastating Military Cuts

Senator Ayotte unveiled legislation on Thursday that would prevent draconian, across the board defense cuts by finding more responsible budget savings in other areas of the federal government. Under the “Down Payment to Protect National Security Act,” of which Ayotte is an original co-sponsor, arbitrary military spending reductions set for next year would be avoided by freezing pay for civilian federal workers – including members of Congress – and reducing the federal civilian workforce through attrition.

The Budget Control Act, which Ayotte voted against last August, raised the debt limit and mandated $1.2 trillion in automatic “sequestration” cuts over ten years – half from defense and half from non-defense areas of the federal budget – unless a joint Congressional committee found alternative savings. With the super committee having failed to reach an agreement last fall, the Pentagon’s budget would be reduced by approximately $600 billion during the next decade (in addition to $487 billion in separate, pending military cuts) starting in 2013.

“We have a fundamental duty to the American people as set forth in our Constitution to keep them safe. National defense is the most important constitutional duty that we have,” said Senator Ayotte, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. “Defense Secretary Panetta has been very clear about the impact sequestration cuts would have on our military. He said just last week that it ‘would inflict severe damage to our national defense for generations.'”

She continued: “Defense sequestration cuts would harm our military in a way that our enemies have not been able to.While we all agree that targeted savings must be found at the Pentagon, allowing across the board defense sequestration to move forward would be one of the most dangerous and irresponsible political decisions that we’ve seen in Washington in a long time. I’m calling on the president as commander in chief of this country to listen to his commanders and his Secretary of Defense to make sure we don’t allow our national defense to be undermined. We must keep faith with the American people and our troops by not allowing these cuts to happen.”

The bill specifically extends the federal employee pay freeze – first implemented by President Barack Obama – though June 2014, and restricts federal hiring to only two employees for every three leaving, until the size of the federal government workforce is reduced by five percent. According to a January 30 report from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, federal employees are compensated on average 16 percent higher than their private sector counterparts.

Read more in the New Hampshire Union Leader.