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.

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:


  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:


To view the hearing, click here:


  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:


  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:


Read more about VA’s announcement here:


  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:


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:


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:

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:

·         Navy:

·         Air Force:

·         Marine Corps:


  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:



To sign up new veterans’ advocates, click here:


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:, or simply email photos and stories directly to

Action Corps Weekly

March 20, 2015

In This Issue:

  1. VFW Testifies at Education Hearing
  2. VFW Meets New SECDEF
  3. VFW Meets with the Veterans Advisory Committee on Education (VACE)
  4. VA Eliminates Net Worth a Factor in Determining Health Care Eligibility
  5. VA Accepting Applications for 2015 National Golden Age Games
  6. Eight MIAs Identified

VFW Testifies at Education Hearing: On Tuesday, National Legislative Director, Raymond Kelley, testified before the House Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity. The hearing reviewed higher education opportunities for veterans. Kelley discussed the importance of providing service members with quality information on their higher education options, stating, “quality information will lead to quality decisions.” Being prepared for college is important, but so is paying for it, so Kelley also discussed the importance of ensuring all states comply with the new in-state tuition requirements. Read the VFW’s testimony and watch the hearing here.

VFW Meets New SECDEF: After just a month on the job, new Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter held his first veterans and military service organization conference inside the Pentagon yesterday. It was very informative meeting and Carter was very receptive and appreciative of all the support the VFW and the other organizations provide to troops and their families. Ending sequestration is his number one priority, as well as the proper care and treatment of wounded, ill and injured service members, the families of the fallen, and outreach efforts to the younger generation to encourage them to serve.

VFW Meets with the Veterans Advisory Committee on Education (VACE): VACE consists of a panel of experts who advise the Secretary of Veterans Affairs on how to maximize educational benefits and help veterans launch new careers. Senior Legislative Associate, Brendon Gehrke, discussed the VFW’s concerns that some college administrators, VA employees and SAA officials are unaware that the GI Bill will pay for college exam preparatory courses such as GMAT, GRE, and LSAT prep courses, and, therefore, are denying veterans the ability to use their benefits for such programs. The VFW urged VACE to clarify how State Approving Agencies should approve preparatory courses offered by institutions of higher learning to ensure that veterans can start taking advantage of this opportunity.

VA Eliminates Net Worth as Factor in Determining Health Care Eligibility: Currently, VA combines a veteran’s income and assets when making income-based eligibility determinations for health care benefits and co-payment obligations.  Effective 2015, VA will only consider a veteran’s gross household income and deductible expenses from the previous year when making such determinations.  This change will expand health care access to low-income veterans and reduce out-of-pocket costs for thousands of veterans. VA estimates that 190,000 veterans will become eligible for reduced health care costs over the next five years. To read more about this change, visit:

VA Accepting Applications for 2015 National Golden Age Games: This year’s National Golden Age Games will take place in Omaha, Neb., from August 8 to August 12, 2015.  The event encourages participants to make physical activity a central part of their lives, and supports VA’s comprehensive recreation and rehabilitation therapy programs. Competitive events include air rifle, badminton, bowling, cycling, dominoes, track and field, golf, horseshoes, nine ball, shuffleboard, swimming, and table tennis. VA will be accepting applications through May 15, 2015.  To learn more about this event, visit:

Eight MIAs Identified: The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency has announced the identification of remains belonging to eight servicemen who had been missing and unaccounted for from World War II, Korea and Vietnam.  Returned home are:

  • Army Air Forces 2nd Lt. Harry B. McGuire, 718th Squadron, 449th Bomber Group, 15th Air Force, lost over Italy on Jan. 30, 1944.
  • Army Air Forces 2nd Lt. Edward F. Barker, Headquarters Squadron, 8th Air Service Group, lost over Papua New Guinea on Sept. 30, 1944.
  • Army Air Forces 2nd Lt. Alvin Bleethe, 393rd Fighter Squadron, 367th Fighter Group, 9th Air Force, lost over Germany on Nov. 26, 1944.
  • Army Air Forces 2nd Lt. Stephen V. Biezis, 575th Bombardment Squadron, 391st Bombardment Group, 9th Air Force, lost over Germany on Dec. 23, 1944.
  • Army Air Forces 2nd Lt. John W. Herb, 1st Air Division, 359th Fighter Group, 368th Fighter Squadron, lost over Germany on April 13, 1945.
  • Army Sgt. Wallace J. Dawson, Company L. 3rd Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division, lost in South Korea on Feb. 14, 1951.
  • Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Edwin E. Morgan, 6252nd Combat Support Group, lost over Laos on March 13, 1966.
  • Army Staff Sgt. Bunyan D. Price Jr., 2nd Battalion, 34th Armor Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division, lost in Vietnam on May 2, 1970.

To sign up new veterans’ advocates, click here:

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:, or simply email photos and stories directly to

VA Establishes MyVA Advisory Committee


Highly Respected Group of Outside Leaders to Advise VA Secretary


Washington – The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) today announced the establishment of the MyVA Advisory Committee (MVAC). The Committee brings together skilled experts from the private, non-profit and government sectors to assist in reorienting the Department to better meet the needs of Veterans. This Committee is charged with advising the Secretary of Veterans Affairs with a focus on improving customer service, Veteran outcomes and setting the course for long-term reform and excellence.


The Advisory Committee will meet multiple times per year and will engage in periodic reviews to ensure the Department achieves the goals of MyVA.  The Committee will provide advice on competing short-term and long-range plans, priorities and strategies to improve the operational functions, services, processes and outputs of the Department, and will also advise on appropriate levels of support and funding necessary to achieve objectives. Further, the Committee will review implementation of recommended improvements and suggest any necessary course corrections.


Members of the Committee have extensive experience in customer service, large- scale organizational change and advocacy for Veterans.


“The success of MyVA will be Veterans who are better served by VA, so the work of this committee is incredibly important,” said VA Secretary Robert A. McDonald.  “The collective wisdom of our committee members is invaluable and each of them understands that VA must improve customer service and focus the Department on the needs of our Veterans. They are dedicated to that mission and I am grateful for their principled service to our Veterans.”


The biographies of Committee members are below. The group will hold their first meeting in April.


MG Josue “Joe” Robles Jr., US Army (Ret.)

Mr. Robles retired from the U.S. Army as a Major General after 28 years in service and joined the United States Automobile Association (USAA), where he assumed the position of President and CEO in December 2007. In 2009, The Christian Science Monitor named Mr. Robles the “No. 1 Veteran in Business,” and American Banker named him “Innovator of the Year.”  Mr. Robles retired from USAA in February 2015. He will serve as Chairman of the MyVA Advisory Committee.


Michael Haynie, PhD, Vice Chancellor, Syracuse University

Dr. Haynie provides strategic leadership within the University’s campus-wide portfolio of Veteran and military-connected programs, partnerships and research – and works to develop new initiatives across the institution.  He is an Air Force Veteran and serves as the Chairman of the Secretary of Labor’s Advisory Committee on Veteran Employment, Training, and Employer Outreach.  Dr. Haynie serves as Executive Director of the University’s Institute for Veterans & Military Families, and he is the founder of Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities program.  He will service as Vice Chairman of the MyVA Advisory Committee


Herman Bulls, International Director, and Chairman Public Institutions, Jones Lang LaSalle

Bulls has vast experience in executive oversight of teams in real estate development, investment management, asset management, facilities operations and business development/retention. He serves on corporate boards including USAA, Tyco International, Comfort Systems and Exelis. Additionally he serves as a director of the West Point Association of Graduates and the Military Bowl, an NCAA sanctioned post season football game.  An Army Veteran, Bulls is a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point and Harvard Business School.


Teresa Carlson, Vice President, Worldwide Public Sector Amazon Web Services

Ms. Carlson brings more than 20 years of experience as a business executive driving innovation and change, and producing successful business results.  She is a leader in the information technology field.  Prior to joining Amazon, Ms. Carlson served as Vice President of federal government business at Microsoft.  She has 15 years of experience in the health care field and was recently named to Washingtonian Magazine’s “100 Most Powerful Women,” among other awards.


Richard H. Carmona, M.D., M.P.H, FACS, 17th Surgeon General of the United States

Dr. Carmona is a combat decorated and disabled U.S. Army Special Forces Vietnam Veteran.  He is currently a Distinguished Professor at the University of Arizona, holds numerous public and private leadership positions and has extensive experience in public health, clinical sciences, health care management, national preparedness and a commitment to prevention as an effective means to improve public health and reduce health care costs while improving the quality and quantity of life.


Delos “Toby” M. Cosgrove, M.D., CEO and President, Cleveland Clinic

Dr. Cosgrove has emphasized patient care and patient experience in his leadership of the Cleveland Clinic, including the reorganization of clinical services. Dr. Cosgrove has launched major wellness initiatives for patients, employees and communities. He was ranked in Modern Healthcare’s “100 most powerful people in healthcare” and “most powerful physician executives.”  He is a Veteran of the U.S. Air Force.


Laura Herrera, MD, Deputy Secretary for Public Health, Maryland Department of Health & Mental Hygiene

Dr, Herrera has served as Chief Medical Officer for Maryland and assisted the Secretary of Health on implementation of innovative health delivery reform structures in the state system.  She served as a Medical Officer in the U.S. Army Reserve, National Director of Women’s Health and the Acting Deputy Chief Officer of Patient Care Services in the VA’s Veterans Health Administration.


Chris Howard, DPhil, President, Hampden-Sydney College

Mr. Howard currently serves as president of Hampden-Sydney College. In addition, he was nominated and confirmed as a member of the National Security Education Program Board.  Mr. Howard is a member of the Board of Directors of the American Council on Education and has served as Vice President for Leadership & Strategic Initiatives at the University of Oklahoma. He is a retired Air Force Lieutenant Colonel.


Nancy Killefer

Ms. Killefer served as a Senior Director in the DC office of McKinsey & Company. During her career, Ms. Killefer has focused on strategy, marketing and organizational effectiveness and efficiency issues with an emphasis on consumer-based and retail industries. Ms. Killefer also founded and led McKinsey’s global public sector practice. She is a former Chief Financial Officer, Chief Operating Officer and Assistant Secretary for Management at the United States Department of the Treasury, and has previously chaired the IRS Oversight Board. Ms. Killefer now serves on a number of corporate Boards and is the Vice Chair of the Defense Business Board.


Fred Lee

Mr. Lee is a nationally recognized expert and consultant in the patient and family experience.  He is the author of the best-selling health care leadership book, “If Disney Ran Your Hospital, 9 ½ Things You Would Do Differently.”  His career in hospital management and expertise in quality improvement has changed the language of patient satisfaction in hospitals, and introduced experience based improvement to change management and staff engagement.


Eleanor “Connie” Mariano, M.D., Founder, Center for Executive Medicine

Dr. Mariano was the first female director of the White House Medical Unit and the first military woman to become a White House Physician to the President.  Dr. Mariano joined Mayo Clinic’s Executive Health Program upon departure from the White House, and has since founded the Center for Executive Medicine. Dr. Mariano is a retired Navy Rear Admiral.


Jean Reaves

Ms. Reaves is a Vietnam Era Veteran who has been a Veteran Advocate for the last 20 years.   She is a member of AMVETS and several other Veteran Service Organizations.  She is currently President of North Carolina AMVETS Service Foundation.  Ms. Reaves also served as Veteran Liaison for United States Senator Kay Hagan. She also is the wife and mother of Veterans.


Maria “Lourdes” Tiglao, Director of Outreach and Resource Development, The District Communications Group

Ms. Tigalo is a Veteran of the U.S. Air Force and was a co-founder of the first USAF Critical Care Medical Attendant Team in the Pacific.  Ms. Tigalo currently serves as Regional Communications Manager for Team Rubicon, a Veteran disaster response service organization.


Robert E. Wallace, Assistant Adjutant General and Executive Director, Veterans of Foreign Wars

Mr. Wallace is a Vietnam Veteran and is responsible for the day-to-day operations of VFW activities in Washington, DC.  Mr. Wallace’s VFW service follows a successful career in banking, and positions in New Jersey state government in Veterans Affairs and Employment and Training commission.





IMPORTANT NOTICE! This email message, including any attachments, is for the sole use of the intended recipient and may contain privileged and/or confidential information. If you are not the intended recipient, you are hereby notified that any unauthorized review, use, disclosure, or distribution of this electronic information and/or any attachment is prohibited. If you have received this email message in error, please notify the sender immediately and then delete the electronic message and any attachments.

VFW Demands Removal of VA Supervisor

vfw_logo_high_res_gubsWASHINGTON (March 10, 2015) — The national commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States is demanding that a Department of Veterans Affairs program manager at the VA Medical Center in Indianapolis be replaced.

Last December, Ms. Robin Paul sent an e-mail to her staff with photos of a toy elf in different poses and captions, two of which made light of mental health issues. Paul oversees a staff of more than 30 health care professionals in the Seamless Transition Integrated Care Clinic, which is responsible for assisting new veterans with their VA benefits, services and programs, to include mental health.

“There is nothing amusing about 22 veterans committing suicide every day,” said VFW National Commander John W. Stroud, “and it is absolutely inexcusable that a VA supervisor would make light of any issue that veterans face. Ms. Paul might be the most caring and dedicated employee the VA has, but this senseless attempt at gallows humor has caused her to lose the respect and trust of veterans. It is for that reason that the VFW demands she be replaced as program manager. Trust within the military means everything; it should mean no less inside the VA.”

As of this morning, Paul was still listed as the STICC program manager on the Indianapolis VA’s website.


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

Contact: Joe Davis, Director of Public Affairs, VFW Washington Office,


Technology in Place for Electronic Submission of Veterans’ Disability Claims

Technology in Place for Electronic Submission of Veterans’ Disability Claims

Capability Marks Major Milestone in VA Transformation to Digital Claims Process

WASHINGTON – A new online application from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) enables disability compensation claims to be processed faster in a more end-to-end electronic environment, and VA is urging Veterans and their Veterans Service Organization  (VSO) representatives to make full use of its capabilities to receive speedier decisions and reduce the backlog of claims. 

The availability of the joint VA-Department of Defense Web portal eBenefits, which now integrates with the new internal Veterans Benefits Management System (VBMS) electronic claims processing system, marks a major milestone in VA’s transformation from paper claims records to a fully digital operating environment, one of the keys to VA’s goal to eliminate the disability claims backlog by the end of 2015. VBMS has now been fielded at all 56 Regional Offices across the country, ahead of schedule.  VA will continue to upgrade and improve VBMS based on user feedback, and add features and tools that make it faster and easier to process claims. Instead of filling out and mailing paper forms to VA, Veterans can now use eBenefits to enter claim information online using a step-by-step, interview-style application, with pre-populated data fields and drop-down menus similar to popular tax preparation software. 

“There are so many advantages to making this move from paper to digital – for both Veterans and VA” said Under Secretary for Benefits Allison A. Hickey. “Veterans can now file their claims online through eBenefits like they might do their taxes online.”

By filing electronically, any compensation benefits that are awarded will be effective back to the date the Veteran started entering their claim information in eBenefits.  From that initial claim establishment date, each Veteran has up to a year to gather all necessary records and hit “submit” to preserve their original date of claim. 

eBenefits allows Veterans to upload digital images of records and evidence to support their claims, bypassing the need to physically mail in personal records and wait for confirmation of receipt. VA is advising Veterans to gather and submit all relevant medical records and file a Fully Developed Claim (FDC) in eBenefits, which entails entering all available evidence at the time the claim is submitted and verifying to VA that they have no more evidence to submit. Veterans filing an FDC will receive priority processing over the traditional claims process.   VA can typically process FDCs in half the time it takes for a traditionally filed claim, and there is no risk to Veterans in filing an FDC.  If VA finds that there is a piece of relevant evidence that was not submitted by the Veteran, but is needed for a rating decision (like private medical records), claims processors will work to obtain that evidence on the Veteran’s behalf and process the claim in the traditional way.

Once logged into eBenefits, Veterans can also choose to have an accredited VSO representative assist with their claim submission by filing an electronic power of attorney form.  Using this new system, the chosen VSO representative, with proper authorization, will be able to see the contents of a Veteran’s claim, track its status, and add additional information when needed. A Veteran and his or her representative can even work a claim simultaneously while both are logged into the system, enabling VSOs to assist more Veterans in their homes or even remotely. 

VA will still accept claims in paper form, though processing may take longer than for an electronically-submitted claim.  As of this summer, VA scans all new paper claims and uploads them into VBMS so they too can be processed electronically, though without many of the benefits provided when Veterans initiate the process in eBenefits such as guided questions that help ensure complete and accurate information and the immediate receipt of information without having to wait for the scanning and processing of paper documents. In addition to filing claims online, registered eBenefits users can track their claim status and access information on a variety of other benefits, like pension, education, health care, home loan eligibility, and vocational rehabilitation and employment programs. 

A free Premium eBenefits account is required to file claims electronically. The quickest and most convenient method of establishing a free premium eBenefits account is to complete the remote verification process through the eBenefits home page, or use DoD’s common access card (CAC) to register for and/or upgrade to a free premium account.  Veterans can also establish an account by telephone at 1-800-827-1000, option 7, if they are in receipt of VA benefits via direct deposit, or by visiting a VA regional office or TRICARE Service Center (if they are a military retiree). For the location of the nearest VA regional office, visit and search the VA regional benefits office locator.

While compensation claims are pending, eligible Veterans are able to receive healthcare and other benefits from VA.  Veterans who have served in recent conflicts are eligible for 5 years of free healthcare from VA. Currently, over 55% of returning Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans are using VA healthcare, a rate of utilization greater than previous generations of Veterans.

This is the latest effort in support of the Secretary’s plan to eliminate the backlog. On May 15, VA announced that it is mandating overtime for claims processors in its 56 regional benefits offices through the end of fiscal year 2013 to help eliminate the backlog, with continued emphasis on high-priority claims for homeless Veterans, those claiming financial hardship, the terminally ill, former Prisoners of War, Medal of Honor recipients, and Veterans filing Fully Developed Claims.

In April, VA announced an initiative to expedite compensation claims decisions for Veterans who have waited one year or longer.   On April 19, VA began prioritizing claims decisions for Veterans who have been waiting the longest by providing decisions based on evidence currently in hand that allow eligible Veterans to begin collecting compensation benefits quickly while waiting for theirfinal eligibility decision. 

For more information about VA benefits, go to  For more information on VA’s Transformation, go to



For Immediate Release

VA Hires Over 1,600 Mental Health Professionals to Meet Goal,

Expands Access to Care and Outreach Efforts

Manchester VAMC Hires 15 New Mental Health Professionals


Manchester, NH  – The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced that it has met the goal to hire 1,600 new mental health professionals outlined in President Obama’s August 31, 2012, Executive Order to Improve Access to Mental Health Services for Veterans, Service Members, and Military Families. Manchester VA Medical Center has hired 15 new mental health professionals toward this goal.

“I am proud of the hard work our staff has completed to bring these new staff members on board,” said Susan A. MacKenzie, PhD, Acting Medical Center Director. “We are not slowing our efforts however, and will continue to actively recruit for any vacant mental health positions for the future so Veterans will get the care they need. Not only have we hired new mental health professionals but the Manchester VAMC has specialty areas related to Mental Health, such as Veterans Justice Outreach, Homeless Veterans Outreach, Military Sexual Trauma, Women’s Wellness Group, just to name a few.”

As of May 31, 2013, VA has hired a total of 1,607 mental health clinical providers to meet the goal of 1,600 new mental health professionals outlined in the Executive Order. Additionally, VA has hired 2,005 mental health clinical providers to fill existing vacancies.

“Meeting this hiring milestone significantly enhances our ability to improve access to care for those Veterans seeking mental health services and demonstrates our continued commitment to the health and well-being of the men and women who have served the Nation,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. “Meeting this goal is an important achievement, but we recognize that we must continue to increase access to the quality mental health care Veterans have earned and deserve.”

VA provides a full range of comprehensive mental health services across the country.  In Fiscal Year 2012, more than 1.3 million Veterans received specialized mental health care from VA.  This number has risen each year from 927,052 in Fiscal Year 2006. In addition to hiring more mental health professionals, VA is expanding the use of innovative technology to serve Veterans in rural or underserved areas. VA expects to increase the number of Veterans receiving care from tele-mental health services in fiscal year 2013, and has increased the number of Vet Centers, which provide readjustment counseling and referral services from 233 in 2008 to 300 in 2012.

In November 2011, VA launched an award-winning, national public awareness campaign called Make the Connection, which is aimed at reducing the stigma associated with seeking mental health care and informing Veterans, their families, friends, and members of their communities about VA resources.  More information on Make the Connection can be found at

Mental health professionals interested in seeking employment with the Department of Veterans Affairs can obtain information at Veterans and their families interested in learning more about the mental health services provided by VA can go to


VFW Washington Weekly

June 14, 2013

Happy Flag Day

Happy 238th Army Birthday



In This Issue:

1. VFW Testifies before Senate VA Committee

2. VFW Attends SECDEF Meeting

3. Senate Armed Services Clears Defense Bill

4. VFW Joins Twitter Chat on Veterans Employment

5. VFW at National League of Families Meeting

6. Korean War 60th


1. VFW Testifies before Senate VA Committee: This week, the VFW testified before the Senate Veterans Affairs’ Committee on more than 35 veterans’ benefits bills that will improve or change employment, education, and the VA disability claims backlog, and other programs under VA. VFW focused on bills designed to protect student-veterans and also spoke in favor of COLA, and relaxing evidentiary standards to make it easier for Military Sexual Assault (MST) survivors to receive VA benefits. We will continue to follow each of these bills closely, making recommendations to the committee prior to mark-up in the coming months. Check back regularly for updates.

For our complete testimony and more information about the hearing visit our blog at:


2.  VFW Attends SECDEF Meeting: The VFW Washington Office attended a VSO/MSO conference with Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel yesterday. It was his second such conference with veterans and military service organization leadership since becoming SECDEF in February. The purpose was to update the VSO/MSO communities on DOD programs and policies that affect service members, veterans, retirees and their families, plus to listen to our concerns regarding budget impacts on training and readiness, as well as military healthcare, Quality of Life programs, and VFW’s long-term goal of creating one DOD electronic medical record that is 100 percent interoperable between the three military medical commands and the Department of Veterans Affairs. The VFW again reiterated its support of a programed 1.8-percent military pay increase—instead of the 1 percent requested raise—and our opposition to changing the current military retirement system, and any increases to Tricare premiums beyond what’s mandated by law, which links enrollment increases to cost-of-living adjustments.


3. Senate Armed Services Clears Defense Bill: Late yesterday, the Senate Armed Services Committee discussed over 100 amendments to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) before voting to send the bill to the Senate floor.  As expected, the bill included language regarding sexual assault within the military as well as a rejection of any increase in Tricare fees, deductible or copayments for military retirees and their families. Unfortunately, the Senate bill only provided for a 1 percent pay raise for service members, a .8 percent decrease from what the House has agreed to in their bill.  The House is continuing to debate their bill today with over 172 amendments being offered and the Senate is expected to hold floor votes sometime after the August recess.  The differences within the two bills will then be ironed out in a Conference Committee sometime in the fall. VFW will have more on both bills next week so check back. In the meantime for more information on the Senate bill or to view the recorded webcast from the mark-up, visit the Senate Armed Services Committee website at:

For the House NDAA click here:


4. VFW Joins Twitter Chat on Veterans Employment: On Wednesday, the VFW joined Acting Department of Labor Secretary Seth Harris and a number of veterans’ service organizations to host a Twitter chat on veterans’ employment issues. Some 361 tweets were sent by 158 contributors with questions about federal government resources, security clearances and expanding military job preference to include spouses of mobilized reservists. For more highlights click here:

5. VFW at National League of Families Meeting: The VFW Washington Office joined the National League of POW/MIA Families for their 44th annual meeting this week in nearby Arlington, Va. The League was founded in 1970 by family members of missing Americans who were frustrated at the U.S. Government’s unwillingness to confirm who was alive, captured, dead or missing-in-action. It was because of the League’s tenacity that the American government began formal recovery operations that would expand into a worldwide mission with more than 600 military and civilians assigned to the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command and the Defense POW/MIA Office. It was the League that created and gifted the POW/MIA Flag to the nation, which is the only flag to have flown over the White House with the American Flag. The VFW is a longtime friend of the League and the nation’s strongest supporter of the full accounting mission, having traveled annually into Southeast Asia since 1991, Russia since 2004, and now into the People’s Republic of China, to help U.S. government researchers gain deeper access into their military archives.

6. Korean War 60th: Plans continue to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the signing of the Korean War armistice in Washington, D.C., on Saturday, July 27. Thousands of veterans from across the nation, as well as representatives from other UN nations, are expected to be present at the Korean War Memorial for the ceremony, which will broadcast live on several cable networks. VFW Posts nationwide are encouraged to share in the commemoration by hosting “Pancakes for Patriots”-type events to honor and help educate local communities about the service and sacrifices made by so many of our VFW members and their families. The current June/July issue of VFW Magazine is dedicated to Korean War veterans, plus highlights our $600,000 donation towards building their national memorial—tops among all veterans’ organizations. More information regarding how your Posts can help commemorate the day will be provided as the anniversary draws nearer.



A Memorial Day Message From Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki

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.