VFW Announces Kick-Off of Youth Scholarship Competitions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Contact:  Kevin Jones, Director VFW Programs

kjones@vfw.org

Washington Weekly

WASHINGTON WEEKLY

September 27, 2013

In This Issue:

1. Budget Impact on VA

2. Budget Impact on DOD

3. Affordable Care Act Update

4. Congress Extends Veteran Programs

5. MIAs from Three Wars Identified

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Washington Weekly

VFW IN WASHINGTON TO DISCUSS CRITICAL ISSUES

 WASHINGTON (September 16, 2013) — The top leadership of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. is in Washington for the VFW’s Fall Legislative Conference and to meet with key officials in the Departments of Veterans Affairs and Defense.

“It is critical for the VFW to give our veteran and military communities a voice on Capitol Hill, especially with the end of the federal government’s fiscal year two weeks away and still no end to the continuing damage sequestration is doing inside the Defense Department,” said VFW National Commander William A. Thien, a Vietnam veteran from Georgetown, Ind. “That’s why it’s so important for the VFW National Legislative Committee to gather here twice a year to petition Congress on issues that are vitally important to all veterans, service members and their families.”

Leading a list of five critical issues to be presented is the budget sequestration, followed by military sexual assault protections, in-state tuition for all GI Bill recipients, grandfathering the Tricare Prime benefit for all current military retirees, and the passage of advanced appropriations for all VA programs. Thien is also scheduled to meet with the VA secretary as well as senior DOD officials. VFW Senior Vice Commander-in-Chief John Stroud from Nevada and Junior Vice Commander-in-Chief John Biedrzycki from Pennsylvania are scheduled to meet with wounded troops and their providers at Fort Belvoir, as the 70 legislative committee members stress the five critical issues inside the offices of all 535 members of Congress.

“The failure of Congress to pass a budget is having a perilous impact on a Defense Department that, despite appearances, is very worried about its ability to respond to a new contingency tasking elsewhere in our troubled world,” said Thien.

“The lack of a FY 2014 defense budget and the continuing sequestration is causing concerns our fighting force and their families do not need or deserve, not while they continue to shoulder 100 percent of a 12-year of war that has not yet ended. Congress must pass a budget for the Department of Defense and do so now.”

-vfw-

 ABOUT THE VFW: The Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. is a nonprofit veterans’ service organization composed of combat veterans and eligible 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 2 million VFW and Auxiliary members located in more than 7,000 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 worldwide. For more information or to join, visit our website at www.vfw.org.

Contact: Joe Davis, Director of Public Affairs, VFW Washington Office, (o) 202-608-8357,jdavis@vfw.org.

Washington Weekly

VFW WASHINGTON WEEKLY

September 6, 2013

In This Issue:

1. VA Releases Caregiver Expansion Report

2. VFW Joins DOL for Discussion on Women Veterans’ Employment

3. Congress Returns to Busy Fall Schedule

4. Change Affecting TRICARE for Life Beneficiaries Using VA

5. Korean War MIA Identified

1. VA Releases Caregiver Expansion Report:  Late this week, VA released a congressionally mandated report on expanding the Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers to caregivers of veterans of all eras.  The Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act of 2010 created a wide range of benefits for caregivers of severely disabled post 9/11 veterans, including a monthly stipend, training, mental health counseling, and respite care.  Although VA stated that they have the capability to provide these benefits, they could not recommend that Congress do so without first increasing funding for the program.  VA estimates that fully expanding the program would cost between $1.8 and $3.8 billion.  VA stated that if they had to find the funding within its current budget, it would diminish their ability to provide direct-to-veteran health care services. The VFW supported the original Caregiver Act, but has consistently called for a full expansion which would properly recognize the sacrifices of all severely disabled veterans and their families. Currently, the Senate VA committee has cleared legislation (S. 851), which would provide these services to veterans of all eras. The VFW testified in support of the bill and will continue to work with Congress to ensure it is funded and implemented. For more on the current caregiver program benefits, visit VA at: http://www.caregiver.va.gov/

2. VFW Joins DOL for Discussion on Women Veterans’ Employment: VFW was on hand at a recent Department of Labor (DOL) summit with private industry, academia and other veterans’ advocates to discuss women veterans’ employment issues. The meeting was the third in a series regarding employment for female veterans. DOL data shows unemployment has remained stagnant, with nearly 12 percent of women veterans still struggling to find work.  Hoping to make significant changes, the Women Veterans Employment Initiative was created as a collaboration between the secretary’s office, the Veterans Employment and Training Service, and the Women’s Bureau to help identify unique challenges to employment for women veterans and to develop potential solutions. Speakers and participants discussed additional research gaps for information on women veterans in the workforce; developing innovative solutions to help women veterans find meaningful employment; and building upon military-acquired skills to find civilian careers. The VFW will continue to work with Labor and private industry to ensure that all veterans have access to quality careers. For more information and to check back regularly for updates, visit our blog at: http://thevfw.blogspot.com/2013/09/vfw-joins-labor-dept-discussion-on.html

3. Congress Returns to Busy Fall Schedule: Next week, Congress returns from a month long recess with a full agenda of items to debate. Among the most critical are the budget debate and the effects of sequestration on DOD.  With the fiscal year just a few short weeks away (October 1) Congress looks to pass a two to three month continuing resolution (CR) to fund the government into the next fiscal year. The CR would fund the government at current FY 2014 levels, but allows some time to consider compromises on other issues, such as raising the government’s statutory borrowing authority and restructuring sequestration. VFW continues to urge Congress to come to a budget agreement. We urge all of you – our advocates – to reach out to your legislators and urge them to pass a budget agreement as soon as they return to Washington. Remind them their inability to reach a bipartisan budget agreement weakens the country, impacts military readiness and hurts our troops and their families.  Tell them it is their responsibility as leaders to work together to replace the senseless and irresponsible policy of sequestration.

To Take Action today, click here: http://capwiz.com/vfw/issues/alert/?alertid=62796221

 4. Change Affecting TRICARE for Life Beneficiaries who Use VA: Beginning October 1, TRICARE for Life (TFL) beneficiaries who are Priority Group (PG) 8e and 8g (non-service connected, over income and not enrolled as of January 16, 2003) will be responsible 80 percent of the cost of the care they receive at VA medical facilities.  Earlier this month, TRICARE sent out letters to the approximately 12,000 beneficiaries affected by this change, which resulted from a review of previously overlooked provisions of the 2001 NDAA.  Until now, PG 8e and 8g TFL beneficiaries have only been responsible for 20 percent of the cost of their care at VA, in accordance with a 1995 Memorandum of Understanding between VA and DOD.  It is highly recommended that those affected by this change should seek care from Medicare-authorized community providers in order to avoid the increased costs.  It is important to realize that this change will only affect vets who are Priority Group 8 and ineligible for VA enrollment but choose to use their TFL benefits at VA anyway.  TFL vets who are eligible for VA enrollment will still only be responsible for standard VA copays which generally range from $15 to $50 per visit for non-service connected care.  Care for service connected conditions remains free of charge. More information can be found here: http://www.tricare.mil/CoveredServices/BenefitUpdates/Archives/8_14_13_TFLVA.aspx

5. Korean War MIA Identified: The Defense POW/MIA Office announced the identification of remains belonging to Army Sgt. Charles L. Scott, 20, of Lynchburg, Va.. In late November 1950, Scott and elements of the 31st Regimental Combat Team were deployed along the east side of the Chosin Reservoir in North Korea when they were under attack and forced into a fighting withdrawal. Scott was reported missing in action on Dec. 2, 1950. Read more about his recovery and identification at http://www.dtic.mil/dpmo/news/news_releases/ 

Congratulations go out to VFW Departments of California, Florida, Texas and Virginia for being the August leaders in signing up new advocates to join our Action Corps team!!  Great job and keep up the good work!

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

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

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.

WASHINGTON WEEKLY JUNE 14, 2013

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: http://thevfw.blogspot.com/2013/06/vfw-testifies-on-in-state-tuition.html

 

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:   http://www.armed-services.senate.gov/

For the House NDAA click here: http://armedservices.house.gov/

 

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:  http://social.dol.gov/blog/?p=7553

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.

 

 

WASHINGTON WEEK 7 JUNE 2013

           

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 vfwac@vfw.org.

     

Washington Weekly May 24, 2013

VFW Washington Weekly
May 24, 2013
In This Issue:
1. Stolen Valor Act Headed to President
2. Obama Vows to Close Guantanamo
3. House VA Committee Evaluates Claims Initiative
4. House VA Subcommittee Discusses Health Care Bills
5. VFW Joins Discussion on Military Credentialing
6. HASC Subcommittee Clears Personnel Bill
7. VFW in Israel for Fact-Finding Mission
8. WWII Soldier Recovered
9. Memorial Day 2013
 
1. Stolen Valor Act Headed to President: The VFW is applauding Congress this week for passing the Stolen Valor Act of 2013, introduced by Rep. Joe Heck and Sen. Dean Heller, both from Nevada. H.R. 258 was passed overwhelmingly in the House on Monday by a vote of 390-3, and the Senate passed its companion, S. 210, Wednesday night by unanimous consent. The legislation now heads to the White House for the president’s signature. VFW National Commander John Hamilton said Congress followed the roadmap laid out by the U.S. Supreme Court when they overturned the original Stolen Valor Act last year. In their writings, the high court suggested any future legislation had to be narrower in focus than just to penalize people for simple lying, which they ruled as protected speech in a 6-3 decision. “Now the new language is bullet-proof,” said Hamilton, “because the focus is on the intent to profit from the lie, to obtain money, property or something of a tangible benefit, which is what con artists have been doing throughout history.” Not every combat award is covered, but the ones most worn by wannabe heroes will be protected once the bill becomes law. VFW advocates were able to reach all 100 Senate offices in record time after the House passed their bill, encouraging the Senate to take action. It is because of you that the Senate bill passed so quickly! Read about the VFW’s reaction at http://www.vfw.org/News-and-Events/Articles/2013-Articles/Stolen-Valor-Act-Passes-Congress!/. To send a thank you to your Senators, click here.http://capwiz.com/vfw/issues/alert/?alertid=62685126.
2. Obama Vows to Close Guantanamo: The president yesterday vowed again to close the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and tasked the Defense Department to locate a site in the U.S. where military tribunals can be held. The VFW is firmly against both proposals by national resolutions approved by delegates attending our past three national conventions. Guantanamo serves a purpose: it keeps our most dangerous enemies off the battlefield, out of America, and provides an extremely secure and controlled environment for the military court system.
 
3. House VA Committee Evaluates Claims Initiative: The House VA Committee held a hearing to evaluate VA’s recent initiative to process claims pending over two years. VFW provided written testimony acknowledging that although the project did provide decisions to many who have waited a long time, more needs to be done to ensure VA creates a viable, effective and efficient system to develop and manage claims. VA Under Secretary for Benefits Allison Hickey spoke about the 34,834 claims that have been adjudicated within the last 30 days and how VBA will finalize the remaining 32,000 by the end of June. Committee members voiced concerns about current backlog numbers, employee training and performance reviews, and how VA plans to justify to veterans lengthy wait times for decisions. To learn more about the hearing and to view an archived webcast click here:http://veterans.house.gov/hearing/expediting-claims-or-exploiting-statistics-an-examination-of-va%E2%80%99s-special-initiative-to. To read the VFW’s testimony in its entirety, click here:http://www.vfw.org/VFW-in-DC/Congressional-Testimony/Expediting-Claims-or-Exploiting-Statistics—An-Examination-of-VA%E2%80%99s-Special-Initiative-to-Process-Rating-Claims-Pending-Over-Two-Years/.
4. House VA Subcommittee Discusses Health Care Bills: The House VA Subcommittee on Health hosted a hearing to discuss pending veterans’ health care legislation. VFW provided written testimony offering comments on bills regarding VA travel benefits, CHAMPVA regulations and medical research. Among the bills we supported is legislation (H.R. 984) that would establish an interagency task force on genitourinary organ trauma, or urotrauma – the technical terms for the loss or damage to reproductive organs. A recent study shows that 5 to 10 percent of battlefield injuries involve urotrauma, and that these injuries have been on the rise in Afghanistan. For more on the hearing and to read our complete testimony visit the blog at: http://thevfw.blogspot.com/2013/05/house-hosts-hearing-on-veterans-health.html
5. VFW Joins Discussion on Military Credentialing: This week the VFW joined Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine and Illinois Rep. Tammy Duckworth for a discussion on professional credentialing for military training. Kaine and Duckworth are the sponsors of the VFW-supported Troop Talent Act of 2013, a bipartisan bill that would improve the path to civilian professional credentials for service members trained by the military, ensure credentials are relevant to civilian industries, and increase access to high-demand industries for service members. To learn more about the discussion, click here:http://thevfw.blogspot.com/2013/05/vfw-joins-military-credentialing.html.
6. HASC Subcommittee Clears Personnel Bill: This week, the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Military Personnel cleared its section of the FY 2014 Defense Authorization bill (HR 1960) by voice vote. Among the provisions is stricter language to combat military sexual assault, which 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 comes on the heels of recent reports from the Pentagon estimating that 70 sexual assaults take place every day in the military. Other provisions included a 1.8 percent pay raise for service members and strong rejections to any Tricare Fee increases. The full committee is expected to take up the bill sometime after the Memorial Day recess. Check back here for full coverage of the NDAA as it moves through Congress. For VFW statement on military sexual assaults, click here: http://www.vfw.org/News-and-Events/Articles/2013-Articles/VFW-Statement-on-Military-Sexual-Assaults/. To read the bill provisions, visit the committee website at http://armedservices.house.gov/index.cfm?p=fy14-subcommittee-marks.
7. VFW in Israel for Fact-Finding Mission: This week VFW Senior Vice Commander-in-Chief Bill Thien is in Israel to share ideas with our allies on issues like military personnel readiness and veterans’ issues like training, benefits, resiliency and access to mental healthcare. The VFW will also learn about the geopolitical issues facing Israelis and Palestinians in the volatile region. VFW National Legislative Director Ray Kelley accompanied Thien on the trip to provide updates. Click here for more information: http://thevfw.blogspot.com/2013/05/vfw-lands-in-israel-for-military-and.html.
8. WWII Soldier Recovered: The Defense POW/MIA Office announced the identification of remains belonging to Army Pvt. William Yawney, 23, of Freemansburg, Pa.. On June 15, 1944, U.S. forces were ordered into Saipan as part of an Allied strategic goal to secure the Mariana Islands. After a month of intense fighting, enemy forces conducted a final attack on the 105th Infantry Regiment, 27th Infantry Division’s position. Elements of the regiment sustained heavy losses, to include Yawney, who was originally thought to have been buried in a military cemetery on Saipan. Read more at http://www.dtic.mil/dpmo/news/news_releases/.
9. Memorial Day 2013: National Commander John Hamilton will be representing the VFW in the White House Monday morning, as well as participate in Memorial Day ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.  Locally, many of our 7,200 VFW Posts will be having similar ceremonies to honor our fallen. As we gather to remember the more than one million Americans who served and died in our nation’s conflicts going back to the Revolutionary War, please remember to keep our 83,000 missing and unaccounted-for servicemen—and their families—in your thoughts, as well as the men and women assigned to the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command, who are tasked with bringing them home from some of the most austere places on Earth. As of today, there are 73,661 missing from World War II; 7,918 from the Korean War; 1,647 from the Vietnam War; 126 from the Cold War; and 6 from our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. More information, plus loss statistics, are available at the DPMO website at http://www.dtic.mil/dpmo/summary_statistics/.
As always, we want to share your advocacy stories on the VFW Capitol Hill blog. To share your stories, either fill out our online form by clicking here,http://www.vfw.org/Forms/Capitol-Hill-Blog-Submissions/or simply email photos and stories directly to vfwac@vfw.org.

STOLEN VALOR ACT CALL OUR SENATORS NOW

Update:

Thanks to   all of you and our many advocates,  the Senate passed S. 210 , the   Stolen Valor Act last night – below is the link to the new alert and a   letter you can send to thank your Senators. We were able to get through to all   100 Senate offices!  Kudos!

Have a   wonderful Memorial Day!

 

Teresa   Morris

 

http://capwiz.com/vfw/issues/alert/?alertid=62685126

 

 

VFW Legislative Alert: Urge Senate to Pass Stolen Valor Act Today!

Take Action!

Background:  Earlier this week, the House overwhelmingly passed their version of the Stolen Valor Act (HR 258), which makes it a federal crime to profit from falsely identifying yourself as having received certain valorous military medals and awards.  The crime could include a fine and/or up to one year imprisonment.
The Senate bill, S. 210, now needs your support.
Action Needed:  Contact your two U.S. Senators today and urge them to pass S. 210, the Stolen Valor Act before Memorial Day. Tell them that America holds her military service members and veterans in high regard, and those who falsely identify themselves as war heroes in order to reap benefits should be punished!
Tell them to support our heroes and pass S. 210 today!

VFW Washington Weekly May 17, 2013

In This Issue: 1. VFW Attends DOJ Veterans Fraud Discussion 2. House Committee Clears VA Funding Bill 3. Senate VA Hearing Postponed 4. Korean War 60th 5. Three MIAs Identified
1. VFW Attends DOJ Veterans Fraud Discussion: This week, the Department of Justice (DOJ) hosted a meeting with veterans’ leaders to discuss ongoing efforts to prevent fraud against service members, veterans and their families. VFW joined in the conversation alongside officials from DOJ, the Federal Trade Commission, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and several other veterans’ organizations. Discussion centered on tools used across the agencies to collect consumer complaints, identify trends, alert law enforcement and track results. The VFW has watched this issue closely as issues of potential fraud within higher education; mortgage lending and credit reporting have become heightened within the veterans’ community during difficult economic times. We suggested that DOJ host similar quarterly roundtables to keep the veterans’ community up to date on trends and potential solutions to ensure companies cannot take advantage of veterans. For more on the event and to stay informed on this issue, visit our blog at.http://thevfw.blogspot.com/2013/05/justice-department-hosts-veterans-fraud.html
2. House Committee Clears VA Funding Bill: The House Appropriations’ Subcommittee on Military Construction/Veterans Affairs approved its FY 2014 funding bill which would provide $63.1 billion for VA programs and $9.9 billion for military construction. Overall, the bill calls for $147.6 billion to include a $1.4 billion dollar increase over FY 2013. Members of the Committee spoke at length about VA’s disability claims backlog and requested as part of the funding bill about $344 million for a single DOD-VA electronic health record and $155 million for the Veterans Benefit Management System or VBMS, a paperless claims process system. They also included $136 million for the Veterans Claims Intake Program, which aims to eliminate the paper-based system by digitally scanning existing paper health records. VA has testified that they believe VBMS will help to eliminate the backlog by 2015. The bill now moves to the full Appropriations Committee for approval.
3. Senate VA Hearing Postponed: The VFW was scheduled to testify this week before the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee on a series of veterans’ benefits bills. However, a series of votes forced the committee to postpone the meeting to Tuesday, June 5 at 10 a.m. Eastern. On June 5, the VFW plans to discuss a variety of bills like in-state tuition equity for GI Bill recipients, economic opportunity, sexual assault prevention and cost of living allowances. For more details about the hearing, visit the committee’s website here: http://www.veterans.senate.gov/hearings.cfm?action=release.display&release_id=04a17e8c-da3d-4584-8e39-7f8d6e1d3728
4. Korean War 60th: Plans are being set 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 9:30 a.m. ceremony. The event will be broadcast live, and VFW Posts 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 share the day will be provided as the anniversary draws nearer.
5. Three MIAs Identified: The Defense POW/MIA Office recently announced the identification of remains belonging to two soldiers from the Korean War and one Marine, who was lost during the ill-fated SS Mayaguez rescue operation in 1975. Recovered are: * Army Pfc. James L. Constant, 19, of Beach Grove, Ind. In late 1950, Constant and elements of 2nd Infantry Division were defending the Naktong Bulge, near Changnyong, South Korea, when they were attacked by enemy forces. Constant and many other service members were reported missing. Remains were later recovered and buried, reburied, and eventually transferred and reburied again as an “unknown” in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu. * Army Sgt. Charles Allen, 23, of Mineola, Texas. In late November 1950, Allen and elements of Company C, 1st Battalion, 24th Infantry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division, were deployed north of the Ch’ongch’on River in North Korea when their unit was encircled and attacked by enemy forces. Allen was captured but died in captivity on March 31, 1951. An exchange of remains after the war failed to identify Allen, so he buried as “unknown” at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu.  * Marine Pfc. Daniel A. Benedett, of Seattle. On May 12, 1975, Khmer Rouge gunboats captured the S.S. Mayaguez in international waters off the coast of Cambodia and took the civilian vessel to Koh Tang Island. After efforts to secure the release of the ship and crew failed, a rescue mission was launched that resulted in heavy U.S. losses. Benedett was aboard a helicopter that was shot down with 26 men aboard, only half of whom were rescued. Benedett was buried May 15 at Arlington National Cemetery in a mass grave containing the remains of his 12 other previously recovered crewmates. Theirs are the last names on the Vietnam Wall, Panel 1 West. Read more at http://www.dtic.mil/dpmo/news/news_releases/

VFW Washington Weekly
May 10, 2013

In This Issue:
1. VFW Testifies on VA   Construction Process
2. House Committee   Clears Veterans Bills
3. Senate VA Committee   Discusses Healthcare Bills
4. Two MIAs Identified

1.VFW Testifies on VA   Construction Process: This week, VFW testified before the   House VA Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, discussing   shortcomings in VA’s construction planning process. A recent GAO report   finding discrepancies in costs and delays averaging 35 months on critical   medical facility projects was also debated. Our testimony centered on how VA   could deliver new medical facilities in a timely manner with more accurate   cost projections. As the author of the IB section on VA major and minor   construction, we shared our thoughts on how VA should develop a master plan   for major medical construction projects, to include forecasting future needs   for veterans in certain areas. Other witnesses concluded that the process VA   uses to build its health care facilities has to be changed in order to avoid   delays in caring for veterans. We will continue monitoring and working with   all parties to ensure that major health care facilities can be delivered in a   timely manner to meet the health care needs of all veterans. For the hearing   specifics or to view the archived webcast, click here: http://thevfw.blogspot.com/2013/05/watch-vfw-testifies-before-house-on-va.html.   For more on VA’s major and minor construction needs in the IB click here, http://www.independentbudget.org/
2. House Committee   Clears Veterans Bills: Earlier this week, the House VA committee   cleared six pieces of veterans’ legislation. All of the bills now move to the   House floor for consideration and debate. Some of the VFW- supported bills   included:
HR 671, The Ruth Moore Act was amended to include more stringent reporting   requirements for VA which the committee hopes will pressure VA to update and   improve its sexual trauma regulations. VFW was disappointed that the bill did   not require a law change to aligned MST claims with combat PTSD regulations.
HR 357 included the original provision which requires public universities to   charge only what is equal to in-state tuition for veterans, and a   controversial amendment banning bonuses for senior VA executives for five   years. It also contains provisions of 6 other bills including HR 1405, HR 1305,   HR 844 HR 631, 562 and HR 1453.
HR 844 extends the eligibility period for veterans enrolling in vocational   rehabilitation programs from 12 years following discharge to 17 years.
For complete coverage of all the related bills visit the House VA website at:   http://veterans.house.gov/hearing/legislative-hearing-on-hr-569-hr-570-hr-602-hr-671-hr-679-hr-733-hr-894-and-hr-1405.   For VFW’s April testimony on the bills, click here: http://www.vfw.org/VFW-in-DC/Congressional-Testimony/HVAC-DAMA-Bill-Hearing/
3. Senate VA Committee   Discusses Healthcare Bills: The Senate Veterans Affairs’   Committee held a lengthy bill hearing examining a variety of healthcare   bills. Many of the bills would expand or extend existing programs for   veterans and their families. VFW provided testimony for the record and gave   our support to:
S. 851 which would expand the caregiver program and extend these services and   benefits to the caregivers of veterans of all eras.
S. 825, Homeless Veterans Prevention Act would improve and expand homeless   programs within VA.
S. 131, Women Veterans and Other Health Improvements Act would advance VA   programs for women veterans and their families by offering reproductive and   fertility services for service-connected veterans as well as require VA, DOD   and IOM to collaborate on research to improve the long-term reproductive   health needs of veterans. It also would provide child care assistance and   readjustment counseling in retreat settings for those seeking mental health   services.
S. 422, Chiropractic Care Available to All Veterans Act would require VA to   establish programs for chiropractic care and services in at least 75 medical   centers by December 2014.
For more on the hearing to include testimony and the recorded webcast click   here: http://www.veterans.senate.gov/hearings.cfm?action=release.display&release_id=784bc3b3-ec97-4437-b8a3-0fe3bf0c5e4d
To read VFW’s submitted testimony click here: http://www.vfw.org/VFW-in-DC/Congressional-Testimony/SVAC-Bill-Hearing/

4. Two MIAs   Identified: The Defense POW/MIA Office announced the   identification of remains belonging to:
* Army Sgt. William C. Knight, 20, of West Brookfield, Mass. In late November   1950, Knight and elements of the Headquarters Battery, 57th Field Artillery   Battalion, 31st Regimental Combat Team, known historically as Task Force   Faith, began a fighting withdrawal to a more defensible position south of the   Chosin Reservoir in North Korea. Knight would be reported missing during the   withdrawal.
* Navy Lt. Richard L. Laws, 26, of West Sacramento, Calif. On April 3, 1966,   Laws was strafing enemy targets in Thanh Hoa Province, North Vietnam, when   his F-8E Crusader was struck by enemy ground fire. His mission commander saw   his aircraft crash into a nearby hillside and explode. As a result, Laws   would be declared killed in action/body not recovered.
Read more about their individual recoveries at http://www.dtic.mil/dpmo/news/news_releases/.

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