1. National Healthcare Upheld
2. Stolen Valor Act Overturned; What do you think?
3. VFW Supported Bills Clear Subcommittees
4. Senate Reviews Health and Benefits Bills for Vets
5. VFW Applauds State AGs for Protecting Student-Vets
1. National Healthcare Upheld: The Supreme Court upheld the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act challenge on Thursday, even though a reversal would have had little to no impact on service-connected veterans served by the Department of Veterans Affairs or on military members and retirees served by military medicine or enrolled in TRICARE. This is because your VFW led the fight back in March 2010 to get Congress to recognize all VA and Defense Department health programs as meeting minimal acceptable coverage standards as required by a proposed national healthcare bill that had failed to include VA health programs for widows and disabled children, and almost 90 percent of military TRICARE programs. With the strong support of then-House Armed Service Committee Chairman Ike Skelton (D-Mo.) and Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.), and the grassroots advocacy of thousands of VFW members and supporters, the new, more encompassing legislation quickly passed Congress and was signed into law by the president on May 27, 2010. Read the high court’s ruling at http://www.supremecourt.gov/
2. Stolen Valor Act Overturned: The VFW was very disappointed to also learn Thursday that the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the Stolen Valor Act of 2005 in a 6-3 decision. Still, the high court did mention in their decision that a more narrowly defined law in the future might perhaps survive a First Amendment free speech trial. Despite the ruling, VFW National Commander Richard DeNoyer said the “VFW will continue to challenge far-fetched stories, and to publicize these false heroes to the broadest extent possible as a deterrent to others.” Read the justices’ opinions at http://www.supremecourt.gov/
What do you think? Let us know what you think of the Supreme Court’s decision on Stolen Valor by taking our poll and leaving comments on the blog: http://www.vfwonthehill.org/
3. VFW Supported Bills Clear Subcommittees: This House VA Committee had a busy week of mark-ups. A list of some of the bills cleared by subcommittees is below. All of the legislation now moves to the full committee for a vote. To read about the VFW-supported legislation and to read our complete testimony on several of the measures passed, click here: http://www.vfwonthehill.org/
The Subcommittee on Oversight & Investigation cleared –
* H.R. 3730, Veterans Data Breach Timely Notification Act would require VA, within ten days of a data breach to notify Congress and each individual whose sensitive personal information is involved in the breach
* H.R. 5948, Veterans Fiduciary Reform Act of 2012 would provide further protections and more oversight over veteran fiduciaries to ensure the veterans’ needs are being handled properly.
The Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs cleared –
* H.R. 5735 establishes a Tomb of Remembrance at Arlington National Cemetery
* H.R. 5880 authorizes VA to contract with private companies for examinations to help in the processing of disability claims.
The Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity cleared —
* H.R. 4115, HIRE at HOME Act which requires states to consider some military training received by a veteran as valid for certification — to include a commercial driver’s license or a certification to be a nursing assistant or certified nursing assistant, a registered nurse, or an emergency medical technician.
* H.R. 4057 would direct VA to develop a comprehensive outreach and transparency policy for veterans regarding information received about higher education institutions.
* H.R. 5747 would prohibit the sale, foreclosure or seizure of property for a year after a service member is discharged or deployed by the military. It also provides credit protections and asks large mortgage companies to maintain a toll-free number for answering any financial concerns.
The Subcommittee on Health cleared –
* H.R. 3337 the Open Burn Pit Registry Act, would direct VA to create a registry of all service members who have been exposed to open air burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan. As further research opens doors to new and improved treatments for health issues related to toxic inhalations, this registry will help VA target those resources to those who most need them.
* H.R. 4079, the Safe Housing for Homeless Veterans Act, will ensure housing for homeless veterans meets safe living standards.
For more information on all the bills that were cleared, visit the House VA Committee at: http://veterans.house.gov/
* S. 2259, Veterans Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment Act which increases the rates of disability compensation for service-disabled veterans and the rates of DIC for survivors (effective Dec 2012).
* S.1849, Rural Health Care Improvement Act legislation that requires VA to develop a 5-year plan for improving access to and quality of health care services for veterans in rural areas.
* S. 1391, legislation that would improve VA’s disability compensation evaluation procedure for veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder or mental health conditions related to military sexual trauma
* S. 2320, Remembering America’s Forgotten Veterans Cemetery Act of 2012, would give the American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) authority to care for Clark Cemetery.
For a complete list of all the bills considered or to view the recorded webcast, click here: http://veterans.senate.gov/
5. VFW Applauds State AGs for Protecting Student-Vets: The VFW applauded the work of 20 state attorneys general, who announced this week that the Web site GIBill.com had officially been turned over to the Department of Veterans Affairs, and that the Web site’s owner, QuinStreet, would pay $2.5 million to states as part of a settlement for fraudulent recruiting practices. To see highlights from this week’s press conference, announcing the settlement, and to learn about the VFW’s ongoing efforts to protect student-veterans, click here: http://www.vfwonthehill.org/
(via AP) Joe Davis, the Director of Public Affairs for the VFW, said Monday that the three new sites being opened in Vietnam to search for MIA remains is great news for the families of missing soldiers waiting for closure three decades later. (video)
The nation’s oldest and largest major combat veterans’ organization is calling President Obama’s new “We Can’t Wait” initiative an extremely positive step that will help thousands of service members with manufacturing and other high-demand skills receive civilian credentials and licenses.
Today’s announcement tasks the Defense Department’s new Military Credentialing and Licensing Task Force to focus on industries and career fields that have an identified need for more skilled workers, such as in manufacturing, emergency response, healthcare, information technology, transportation and logistics. Within a year, the Task Force will identify military specialties that can readily transfer to these high-demand jobs; work with civilian credentialing and licensing associations to address gaps between military training programs and civilian credentialing and licensing requirements; and provide service members with greater access to necessary certification and licensing exams.
“This will be extremely beneficial for transitioning service members and hopefully their spouses, too,” said Richard L. DeNoyer, a retired Marine and Vietnam combat veteran, who leads the 2 million-member Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. and its Auxiliaries.
In This Issue
1. Soldier to Receive Posthumous MoH
2. VFW Testifies on Disability Claims Process
3. VFW Testifies on VeteranIs’ Health Bills
4. House Subcommittee Clears Vets’ Bills
5. VOW Act Website Launched
6. Two Korean War MIAs Identified
1. Soldier to Receive Posthumous MoH: Army Spc. 4 Leslie H. Sabo Jr., a rifleman with the 101st Airborne Division during the Vietnam War, will posthumously receive the Medal of Honor in a White House ceremony next month. Sabo is credited with saving the lives of several of his comrades in Company B, 3rd Battalion, 506th Infantry, when his platoon was ambushed near the Se San River in eastern Cambodia on May 10, 1970. Sabo shielded a comrade from an enemy grenade and silenced a machine-gun bunker before he was killed. Sabo’s unit nominated him for the Medal of Honor, but the paperwork was lost until a fellow veteran and writer for the Screaming Eagle Association magazine came across a thick file on Sabo while on a research trip to the National Archives military repository in College Park, Md. Read more at http://www.defense.gov/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=67965.
2. VFW Testifies on Disability Claims Process: This week, the VFW testified as part of a panel of experts on the role of veterans’ representatives throughout the VA disability claims process. Speaking before the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, our remarks centered on the importance of having a claim representative help veterans obtain benefits from VA. Currently, VFW has 1,300 accredited individuals providing assistance to veterans and survivors.
We also spoke about our VA accredited training program and the critical need for a thorough understanding of the complexities of the disability claims process and rating system.
Other panelists included DAV, the American Legion, VA and a local law firm that does litigation on behalf of veterans. To learn more about the hearing and to view the archived webcast, click here: http://www.vfwonthehill.org/2012/04/watch-live-vfw-to-testify-on-va-claims.html.
3. VFW Testifies on Veterans’ Health Bills: On Monday, VFW testified before the House Subcommittee on Health on an array of veterans health care related bills. The Committee appeared most interested in H.R. 3279, legislation which clarifies a serious illness as being eligible for caregiver benefits and H.R. 1460, which would direct VA to automatically enroll service members returning from Iraq and Afghanistan into the VA health care system. The VFW also testified on H.R. 3016, which requires VA and DOD to operate a joint Federal Recovery Coordination Program, H.R. 3337, which establishes a burn pit registry for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who may have been exposed to toxins overseas and others. For our complete testimony and listing of all the bills, or to view the recorded webcast visit: http://www.vfwonthehill.org/2012/04/icymi-vfw-testifies-on-veterans-health.html.
4. House Subcommittee Clears Vets’ Bills: The House VA Subcommittee on Disability and Memorial Affairs cleared several VFW- supported bills out of committee. They now move to the full committee for a vote. They included:
H.R. 4142, which would automatically adjust the cost-of-living increase for veterans to the same percentage as social security COLA, thereby eliminating the need for legislation every year.
H.R. 2051, which provides burials for unclaimed veteran remains identified by the Missing in America project.
For a listing of all of the bills, visit the House VA Committee website at: http://veterans.house.gov/markup/markup-of-hr-4114-ans-to-hr-4142-ans-to-hr-2377
5. VOW Act Website Launched: On April 17, VA launched the VOW to Hire Heroes Act website. VFW played a critical role in getting this critical employment legislation passed into law. The site provides comprehensive information on all aspects of the VOW Act to include details about the Veterans Retraining Assistance Program (VRAP), tax credits for employers, vocational rehabilitation services, the transition assistance program, and Department of Labor resources for veterans. Qualified veterans will be able to apply for the VRAP program which offers 12 months of retraining assistance directly from the site starting on May 15, 2012. VFW highlighted the new website on our blog, which you can read about here: http://www.vfwonthehill.org/2012/04/va-introduces-vow-to-hire-heroes-act.html. For more information on the new programs and benefits, click here: http://www.benefits.va.gov/VOW/
6. Two Korean War MIAs Identified: The Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office announced the identifications of remains belonging to two soldiers who had been missing in action since the Korean War. Returned home are:
* Army Pfc. Richard E. Clapp, 19, of Seattle, Wash. On Sept. 2, 1950, Clapp and C Company, 1st Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment, came under fire near Yulchon, South Korea. Clapp was killed in action, but the Army was unable to identify his remains at the time, and he was buried as “Unknown” in a military cemetery on the Korean Peninsula, then reinterred in “The “Punchbowl” National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu.
* Army Cpl. James N. Larkin, 34, of Kirkwood, Mo. On Feb. 11, 1951, Larkin and his unit, known as “Support Force 21” from the 2nd Infantry Division, were attacked by Chinese forces near Changbong-ni, South Korea. Following the battle, Larkin was listed as missing in action. It was later learned he had died in April 1951 from battle wounds and malnutrition while held captive in the Chinese operated POW camp known as “Bean Camp” located in North Korea.
Read more at http://www.dtic.mil/dpmo/news/news_releases/.
The National Veterans of Foreign Wars has unveiled their first video in their new “No One Does More For Veterans” campaign. Click below to view it.
The congressional Super Committee has thrown in the towel and admitted they cannot reach a bipartisan agreement to cut a minimum of $1.2 trillion from the federal budget over the next decade. Under the law passed this summer, mandatory cuts will now take place across all federal departments and agencies beginning January 2013.
Where and how much, however, is still to be determined.
Each cabinet secretary will decide where the cuts will be made after the White House Office of Management and Budget identifies which, if any, programs are exempt. Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare have been mentioned as being exempt, as have veterans programs, but no one has yet identified which veterans programs.
The VFW believes that veterans’ healthcare programs and benefits will be exempt from any cuts. Questions remain, however, about increased co-payments for visits and prescriptions, as well as charging VA category 7 and 8 veterans an annual enrollment fee. We will continue to monitor and report any new developments as they occur.
Over at the Defense Department are recommendations to change the pay and benefits of those currently serving and military retirees. The threats include changing the military retirement system for future enlistees, limiting retiree healthcare program enrollment, and imposing or increasing healthcare fees on all TRICARE programs, regardless of age. These proposals are in addition to possible reductions in force and cuts to other quality of life programs. The budget crisis has also forced defense hawks to choose between supporting people programs and new weapon systems development. Sadly, some have forgotten that it still takes people to occupy territory and to operate their shiny new aircraft, ships and tanks.
Our nation hollowed out its force after Vietnam and again after the first Gulf War. If the past 10 years have proven anything, it is that the All Volunteer Force works, but it comes with a price and a promise to maintain the quality of life programs for those few who serve. Since 9/11, many of the less than 1 percent of the population who volunteered to serve their nation have been deployed into the fight numerous times. The service-connected disabilities thousands have already received will require a strong and viable military healthcare system to return them to duty, and a strong and viable VA healthcare system to meet their lifetime care needs.
Traumatic Brain Injury, Post-Traumatic Stress, amputations, and the risk of suicide are predominate issues of a military force at war. The preservation of military and veteran benefits, improved quality and accessible healthcare, and continued medical research into alternative treatments is how our nation can properly repay those who go into harm’s way.
Over the next year, many in Congress as well as thousands of registered lobbyists will be working hard to protect their special interests and programs. We must all work hard to protect the Department of Veterans Affairs health, benefits and cemetery administrations, as well as all military quality of life programs for the troops, their families and military retirees.
I ask each of you to contact your respective members of the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate to demand that these programs be protected. State Commanders and members of the National Legislative Committee must arrange individual face-to-face meetings with every member of their Congressional Delegation to alert them to our concerns. These meetings should be in addition to your visits to your Congressional delegations during the March 2012 Legislative Conference. I also ask that you report the responses you receive back to the VFW Action Corps at firstname.lastname@example.org.
These meetings will be in addition to a massive outreach campaign to the entire U.S. Congress that I ask National Legislative Committee members to spearhead in each state and department. We need Congress to be flooded with letters and phone calls to protect veterans’ programs and military quality of life programs from any cuts. This is an obligation of every member of the VFW and their families to keep the faith with our comrades who need us to be their collective voice in Washington. Please refer to the VFW website for constant updates and the “10 for 10” issues we have raised, along with sample letters for your use.
The VFW needs you to make your voice heard now, because the most powerful message Congress can receive is from the folks who employ them — their voting constituents.
Thank you for your continued support of America’s heroes.
ROBERT E. WALLACE
VFW Washington Office
The VFW joined President Barack Obama and leaders in veterans’ advocacy at the White House yesterday [Monday] to sign the VOW to Hire Heroes Act into law. This comprehensive piece of veterans’ jobs legislation passed both houses of Congress with unanimous bipartisan support before reaching the president’s desk thanks in large part to the advocacy of the VFW on the issue of veterans’ unemployment.
Over the last few years, the VFW has consistently passed a resolution at the VFW National Convention calling on Congress to address the ever-growing unemployment crisis among veterans, particularly the men and women who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan. VFW then testified in support of comprehensive veterans’ jobs legislation before both the House and Senate in the lead-up to the compromise bill that the president signed yesterday [Monday].
Both Republican and Democratic leaders, like House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller, R-Fla., and Senate Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Patty Murray, D-Wash., joined the president, First Lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden at the White House to mark the bipartisan victory that will help veterans become more marketable employees in a cut-throat jobs market.
Continue reading at VFW On The Hill
Membership recruitment video shot at the 112th National Convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars August 27-September 1, 2011. Our thanks to all who participated in the production. Please share this video with all of your friends and veterans on your social networks. And of course, if you have not yet joined the VFW, click here to join today!
Several headlines from the Department of Veterans Affairs in recent days. Click the links to read the full stories.
Statement from Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric K. Shinseki on the American Jobs Act – Shinseki comments on the proposed Act which includes support for veteran jobs.
VA Announces Expansion of Virtual Lifetime Electronic Record – The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced it will expand its pilot for the Virtual Lifetime Electronic Record (VLER), which enables sharing of Veterans’ health records.
VA Streamlines Online Applications for Health Benefits Renewal – Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has automated its online Health Benefits Renewal (10-10EZR) form as part of its ongoing effort to streamline access to benefits.
VA Posts Online List of Ships Associated with Presumptive Agent Orange Exposure – Veterans who served aboard U.S. Navy and Coast Guard ships operating on the waters of Vietnam between January 9, 1962, and May 7, 1975, may be eligible to receive Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) disability compensation for 14 medical conditions associated with presumptive exposure to Agent Orange.