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/

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