VFW WASHINGTON WEEKLY
March 23, 2012
In This Issue
1. Army Chief Questioned on PTSD Diagnoses During Budget Hearing
2. VA Funding Update
3. VFW Action Sparks Legislation to Help Student-Veterans
4. Stop Loss Pay Extended
5. North Korean MIA Operations Suspended
6. Field Report: VFW Helps Colorado Veterans’ Forum Develop Solutions
1. Army Chief Questioned on PTSD Diagnoses During Budget Hearing: During a routine Defense Appropriations hearing this week, Senate VA Committee Chairman Patty Murray (D-WA) questioned Army Secretary John McHugh on the handling of PTSD cases by the forensic psychiatry unit at Madigan Army Medical Center on Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Murray’s home state. Murray asked why more than 40 percent of the service members who walked in the door with a PTSD diagnosis at Madigan had their diagnosis either changed or overturned entirely. The forensic psychiatry unit at Madigan is currently under investigation for failure to properly diagnose and treat the invisible wounds of war. Information dated back to 2007 has shown that hundreds of cases are under investigation for changing mental health diagnoses based on the cost of providing care and benefits to service members. The Army is currently reevaluating nearly 300 service members and veterans who have had their PTSD diagnoses changed by that unit since 2007. To read Stars & Stripes coverage of the hearing, click here: http://www.stripes.com/news/senator-diverts-hearing-to-get-answers-on-ptsd-care-1.172285.
2. VA Funding Update: The House Appropriations’ Subcommittee on Military Construction and VA discussed the FY 2013 VA budget. The legislation is still in draft form but committee members discussed funding for medical care, compensation and pension and weighed in on education, vocational rehabilitation and employment assistance for veterans. Committee members also raised concerns about the disability claims backlog and the amount of time it takes to process a claim and high unemployment rates among young veterans. Secretary Shinseki provided testimony for VA.
To view the recorded webcast of the hearing click here: http://appropriations.house.gov/Subcommittees/Subcommittee/?IssueID=35986
3. VFW Action Sparks Legislation to Help Student-Veterans: This week Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) introduced the “GI Education Equity Act of 2012,” a bipartisan bill to help ensure student-veterans have access to quality educational counseling before tapping into their G.I. Bill benefits, and a clear method of recourse should student-veterans feel they have become victims of fraud, waste or abuse. The bill reflects the two main tenets of a letter VFW sent to House, Senate and Obama Administration leadership, calling for improved consumer education and recourse mechanisms for student-veterans, and signed by a diverse coalition of veterans’ education stakeholders. To learn more about the bill click here: http://www.vfwonthehill.org/2012/03/vfw-action-sparks-legislation-to-better.html.
4. Stop Loss Pay Extended: Retroactive Stop Loss Special Pay (RSLSP) has been extended to Oct. 21, 2012. The Office of Enlisted Personnel Management believes many qualified individuals have not applied for the pay and hopes that the extension will allow those eligible more time to apply under the program guidelines. RSLSP was established to compensate for the hardships military members encountered when their service was involuntarily extended under Stop Loss authority between Sept. 11, 2001, and Sept. 30, 2009. Eligible members or their beneficiaries may submit a claim to their respective military service in order to receive the benefit of $500 for each full or partial month served in a Stop Loss status. To apply for the pay, or for more information on RSLSP, including submission requirements and service-specific links, go to http://www.defense.gov/stoploss
5. North Korean MIA Operations Suspended: The U.S. has suspended efforts to find remains of U.S. service members lost during the Korean War due to North Korean threats to launch a ballistic missile. The announcement came less than two months after it was announced MIA recovery operations would resume after a seven-year absence. An estimated 5,300 of almost 8,000 American MIAs from the Korean War are missing in North Korea. Read more at http://www.defense.gov/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=67639.
6. Field Report: VFW Helps Colorado Veterans’ Forum Develop Solutions: Last year Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) put together a state veterans’ forum, comprised of veterans’ advocates and leaders across the state in an effort to better serve Colorado’s veterans. In January, a forum subcommittee, chaired by VFW Post 1 Commander Izzy Abbass came together to address a series of veterans’ issues under the title “Better Serving Those Who Have Served.” To learn more about the subcommittee and its priorities for serving Colorado’s veterans, click here: http://www.vfwonthehill.org/2012/03/field-report-vfw-helps-colorado.html.