Blue Water Navy Act Now Law! VFW-championed legislation will benefit many thousands of veterans and dependent children

WASHINGTON (June 26, 2019) – The national commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States is saluting the president for signing the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019 into law last night.

“Tens of thousands of Blue Water Navy veterans of the Vietnam War and dependent children born with spina bifida due to a parent’s toxic exposure will now benefit from this new law,” exclaimed VFW National Commander B.J. Lawrence, “and the VFW is proud to have helped lead the charge to return these benefits to these deserving veterans and to expand existing benefits to dependent children. We look forward to the Department of Veterans Affairs publishing implementation guidance on their website very soon.”

The VFW-championed Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019, or H.R. 299, restores VA benefits to thousands of Blue Water Navy Vietnam veterans who had their disability eligibility taken away in 2002 after arbitrary regulatory changes. It benefits veterans exposed to Agent Orange while serving along the Korean DMZ with an earlier start date to encompass the timeframe when various defoliants were tested — to Sept. 1, 1967, instead of April 1, 1968 — and expands benefits to children born with spina bifida due to a parent’s exposure in Thailand, coverage that already exists for the children of Vietnam and Korean DMZ veterans.

The new law also requires the VA to report on research being conducted on a broad range of conditions possibly related to service in Southwest Asia, which is important for future legislative efforts to create a list of presumptive conditions for veterans seeking VA health care and benefits.
“The VFW is proud of the 116th Congress for ending this benefits inequity, and we salute President Trump for quickly signing H.R. 299 into law,” said Lawrence.

Top Membership/Program Participation Awards are Presented

The Department of Pennsylvania VFW congratulates and salutes the many VFW Posts, Districts and individuals that were honored during the State Convention for their strong work in membership recruiting and service program success.

The dedication shown and effort expended by these Posts, Districts and individuals helped drive the Department of Pennsylvania VFW’s membership growth to 100.60% of the previous year for the first time in 17 years.

State Commander’s Award for Highest Numerical Membership Increase by a Post by April 30:148 members – Post 8951: Commander Richard Olvitt, Quartermaster Lloyd Greenwood

Robert Musser Memorial Plaque for the Greatest Post Percentage Increase by April 30: 126.16% – Post 1620: Commander Henk Hymans, Quartermaster Ricky Snyder

Van Zandt Award for the Most New and Reinstated Post Members as a Percentage of Membership:23 members (20.54%) – Post 914: Commander Jake Bradich, Quartermaster Gary Ruston

Chosnyk Award given to District having Greatest Percentage Increase as of April 30: District 1

Joe Salvo Award for the Individual Member Signing Up the Most New and Reinstated Members (over 25) by April 30: 45 members – James Brown, Post 5958

All State Post Captains: Post Commander Clark Eberhart – Reynolds Post 7599, Transfer; Post Quartermaster Roger Irby – Reynolds Post 7599, Transfer

All State Posts/District/Location:1597 – 8 – CROYDON3258 – 8 – CHALFONT6495 – 8 – LEVITTOWN11322 – 8 – QUAKERTOWN1564 – 9 – PHOENIXVILLE1690 – 9 – LANCASTER3376 – 9 – EPHRATA5207 – 10 – DALEVILLE7069 – 10 – CLARKS SUMMIT32 – 16 – LANSDALE7155 – 16 – TRAPPE148 – 18 – HARRISBURG477 – 18 – CARLISLE1620 – 18 – MIDDLETOWN2385 – 18 – GRATZ6704 – 18 – MECHANICSBURG7343 – 18 – MT HOLLY SPRINGS464 – 19 – OIL CITY2076 – 19 – PUNXSUTAWNEY1446 – 21 – RED LION2493 – 21 – MOUNT WOLF5265 – 21 – SPRING GROVE8951 – 21 – WEST YORK8724 – 22 – DUNCANSVILLE879 – 25 – CRANBERRY TWP.6231 – 25 – SLIPPERY ROCK7505 – 25 – MARS566 – 27 – VANDERGRIFT5286 – 28 – FARRELL5958 – 28 – TITUSVILLE7599 – 28 – TRANSFER914 – 29 – WEST MIFFLIN

All State Districts: District/Commander/Quartermaster
1 –Zbigniew S. Laska/Joseph Sokol8 – Thomas Goodman/Leonard Spaar10 – Chester J. Potoski/William Long16 – Jonathan. S Bitner/Emmett Mayo18 – David Gyger/Wrayburn Reinsmith19 – Jason W. Reed/Robert Lott20 – Richard K. Ellis/David Jolly (Deceased)21 – Richard C. Olvitt/Lloyd Greenwood23 – Thomas McFadden/Allen Q. Jones25 – James D. Hodge/Edward Hodge

2018-19 State Commander Thomas Hanzes thanked these membership award recipients during the State Convention. “We were able to accomplish great success this year because of the dedication of these VFW leaders, Posts and Districts,” said Commander Hanzes. “It took a team effort to surpass 100% in membership and to keep our VFW programs running strong as we served veterans, military personnel and communities.”

“I also thank those Posts and Districts that may not have qualified for top awards, but which brought in new members and implemented our service programs. Every single new and reinstated member counts as we rebuild our membership. Every single service program that we run shows veterans and the public that the VFW is relevant and effective in being the most active combat veterans organization in the world.”

The Department also salutes the PA VFW Districts whose performance in membership and programs earned these units “Outstanding District” status, just missing “All State” status. The deadline for qualifying for this level of recognition is June 30.

All Post and District leaders are encouraged to closely review the 2019-20 Membership Contest Booklet when it arrives in the mail soon. Setting goals early in the program year will create a foundation for recruiting and VFW program success.

Please be sure to review all contest rules—including for the early-bird contests that have the earliest deadlines in 2019—and track your progress using the All State Worksheet. Some Posts/Districts fell just short of receiving All State honors this year due to missing just one or two elements of the required participation areas.

Post and District leaders should also review the National Membership Program to make plans to earn “All American” status.

Department’s 2019-20 Line Officers are Installed

The Pennsylvania Department of Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) installed its officers for the 2019-20 program year during the organization’s recent State Convention in Erie. These line officers will provide leadership and direction for the PA VFW, which consists of 74,100 members who served in combat zones and United Nation peacekeeping theaters.

State Commander Wayne Perry (center), State Senior Vice Commander Ronald Peters (left) and State Junior Vice Commander Nathaniel Smith.

Valencia resident Wayne D. Perry was elected as State VFW Commander. He served in the U.S. Navy from 1963-1967 on a destroyer in charge of the ship’s armory. He earned the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal— which was awarded for his duty in the Dominican Republic and which earned him VFW eligibility—the National Defense Medal and the Good Conduct Medal.

Commander Perry is a VFW Gold Life Legacy Member. He is a past Chaplain and past Commander of Post 499, past Commander of Post 7505, and past Commander for the State VFW’s District 25 covering Beaver, Butler and Lawrence counties. At the State VFW level, he was a co-chairman for Internal Affairs Committee and an advisor to District Commanders. His service to the VFW has included earning All-State Honors as a Post Commander and being recognized as an honorable District Commander. He earned recognition from the VFW’s National Headquarters for his outstanding service to the VFW including on the National VFW’s Resolutions Committee. Perry received the National VFW designation of Aide-de-Camp and Assistant Inspector General.

He has been involved in youth sports programs, church leadership and the Mars Fire Company, where he served as president and as a fire policeman. Commander Perry is also a member of the Military Order of Cooties, the American Legion and Kiwanis Club, a life member of the Mars Volunteer Fire Department, a charter member of the Adams Area Fire District, a member of the Butler County Fire Police, and a member of the Pennsylvania Fire Police.

Bradford resident Ronald J. Peters was elected as the Department’s State Senior Vice Commander, which puts him on course for serving as the Pennsylvania VFW’s State Commander for the organization’s 2020-21 program year.

He has held many leadership positions at the local Post, regional District and State VFW levels. Peters served as an armor reconnaissance specialist with the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War. He earned the Combat Infantry Badge, the Vietnam Service Medal, the Vietnam Campaign Medal with 60 Device and the National Defense Service Medal.

Whitehall resident Nathaniel Smith was elected as the Department of Pennsylvania VFW’s State Junior Vice Commander, which puts him on course for serving as the Pennsylvania VFW’s State Commander for the organization’s 2021-22 program year. His VFW involvement has included serving on the State VFW’s Sergeant-at-Arms unit, as a VFW membership recruiter and in leadership positions at the local and district levels.

He served in the U.S. Navy for more than 20 years—including nearly 12 of those years on sea service duty— reaching the rank of Master Chief Petty Officer. He received the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, the Southwest Asia Service Medal, Sea Service Deployment Ribbon four times, the Meritorious Service Medal, Good Conduct Medal five times, the Navy Achievement Medal three times, as well as many other decorations. He recently retired from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania as the State’s top boiler inspector.

Ephrata resident John B. Getz, Jr., a past State VFW Commander, was re-elected as State Quartermaster and reappointed to serve as State Adjutant of the Department. Getz is a Legacy Life member of Post 3376 who has served honorably at all levels of VFW leadership.

Getz has served on the national level including as a member of the National Service Committee, National General Resolution Committee, National By-Laws Committee and National Finance and Internal Affairs Committee. Getz served honorably in the U.S. Army in Vietnam during 1967-1968 and earned the Vietnam Service Medal, the Vietnam Campaign Medal, the National Defense Service Medal and the Good Conduct Medal.

Drexel Hill resident Frank McGovern of Post 3460 was re-elected State Judge Advocate. He is an Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran who serves as a Major in the Pennsylvania Army National Guard at the Joint Force Headquarters, Ft. Indiantown Gap, Annville. He earned his undergraduate, master’s in business and law degrees from Widener University. He also holds a degree from the London School of Economics.

McGovern completed many military education programs including the Command and General Staff College, and the Airborne and Air Assault Schools. His overseas military service includes deploying with the Guard’s 56th Stryker Brigade Combat Team to Tikrit, Iraq, in 2008-09. In 2003-04, he deployed to Iraq with the Army Reserves’ 358th Civil Affairs Brigade, a unit he also served with in Al Hillah, Iraq, during 2003.

Johnstown resident Nelson Lowes of Post 6743 was re-elected as the VFW’s State Surgeon. Nelson earned his VFW eligibility through his service in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War (1967-68). He earned the Vietnam Service Medal, Vietnam Campaign Medal, Vietnam Cross of Gallantry with Palm (Unit Citation), National Defense Service Medal, six Good Conduct Medals, two Overseas Service Bars and the Army Commendation Medal. He retired from the Army after 22 years of service.

As VFW State Surgeon, he visits all VA medical hospitals and State Veterans Homes in the Commonwealth to review how veterans are cared for in these facilities. He also interviews patients and residents to get their opinions about how they are treated. In addition, Nelson is also co-chairman of the Pennsylvania VFW’s Legislative Committee. In that role, he speaks with federal lawmakers to discuss veterans’ legislative priorities. He is also a member of the National VFW Legislative Committee and has held leadership positions at the Post and District levels.

Langhorne resident Peter Hook of Post 6393 was re-elected as the State Chaplain. His service to the VFW also includes serving as the VFW’s National Chaplain a few years ago. In 2012, he was named an honorary National VFW Deputy Chief of Staff. Rev. Hook, a graduate of the Lancaster Bible College and the Dallas Theological Seminary, has served as a pastor and as a faculty member at Philadelphia Biblical University. He is a national instructor for Walk Thru the Bible Ministries.

Hook is a veteran of the Vietnam War when he served as an officer with the U.S. Army’s 1st Infantry Division. Along with other commendations, he earned the Bronze Star and two Air Medals during his service in Vietnam.

North Abington Township resident Michael McLane of Post 7069 was re-elected as VFW State Inspector. He has held leadership positions at the local Post, District and State levels including as State Chief of Staff during the 2013-14 VFW program year.

During his military service, he earned the Vietnam Service Medal, the Vietnam Campaign Medal, the Vietnam Cross of Gallantry, Combat Action Ribbon, the National Defense Service Medal, Purple Heart and Expert Rifle Badge.

Conneaut Lake resident Bob Eiler of Post 7842, a Past State Commander, continues to serve as the Pennsylvania VFW’s representative on the National VFW Council of Administration. Eiler has served in many leadership positions at the local, regional, state and national levels. In 2005-06, he led the Pennsylvania Department as State Commander. He has also been appointed chairman of the Department’s Finance Committee and serves on its Internal Affairs Committee. His other state level service includes being state membership chairman when he helped lead the Pennsylvania VFW to top national membership honors. Eiler was post commander three times including twice being named All-State Commander.

In addition to serving as a National Council member, Eiler has served on the National VFW General Resolutions Committee and the Veterans Care Committee. Eiler’s U.S. Army began in 1961 and he became an advisor in Laos and Vietnam. He earned the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal to become eligible for the VFW as well as the Air Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster and Rifle Marksman Badge. After his military service, Eiler attended the Pittsburgh Institute of Aeronautics. He then opened a flight school and became a commercial airlines pilot for 35 years.

Mount Wolf resident John A. Brenner, a member of VFW Post 2493 in Mount Wolf, was appointed by State Commander Wayne Perry as Pennsylvania VFW Parliamentarian. A Vietnam War veteran and past Pennsylvania Department of VFW State Commander, Brenner has held the Parliamentarian position several times, in addition to holding many VFW command leadership positions at the local Post and regional District levels.

Brenner has served as the Chairman of the State Veterans Commission and in leadership positions for the Pennsylvania War Veterans Council. Brenner has served on the boards of many community service projects and has participated in events that honor veterans from all service eras.

Titusville resident Cecil K. Dennis is serving as State VFW Chief of Staff, a position to which he was appointed by State Commander Wayne Perry. In this position, he will accompany Commander Perry on his statewide tour of VFW Post and District visits, and join Commander Perry at many military and public events.

Dennis has held many VFW leadership positions at the local Post, regional District and State levels, including State Membership Chairman and member of the State VFW Sergeant-at-Arms unit. He is one of the State VFW’s leading new member recruiters. Dennis served in Vietnam with the U.S. Army for 29 months and received the Vietnam Service Medal, Vietnam Campaign Medal and other decorations.

Greenville resident Thomas M. Hanzes of Post 7599 is serving as Immediate Past State Commander after serving as the organization’s Commander during the 2018-19 VFW year. He has served as Chairman of the State VFW’s Community Activities program, which tracks the many thousands of hours VFW and VFW Auxiliary volunteers contribute and donations made to projects that serve veterans, military personnel and local communities. He has been a Post Commander four times and Post Quartermaster ten times including twice when he earned “VFW All-State Team” status.

At the VFW District level, he was an All-State and All-American Commander. His leadership at the state level includes serving as POW/MIA Chairman and as a member of the Legislative Resolution Committee. Nationally, he was named a Special Aide-de-Camp, three times as a National Aide-de-Camp, a National Assistant Inspector General and a member of the Veterans Service Resolutions Committee.

During his military service with the U.S. Army’s 25th Infantry Division, Hanzes earned the Vietnam Service Medal, the Vietnam Campaign Medal, the Bronze Service Star, Bronze Star for Valor, two Overseas Bars, the National Defense Service Medal and a Sharpshooter badge with the M-14 rifle.

In addition to these PA VFW officers and appointees, the Department’s Council of Administration consists of District Commanders and State Program Chairpersons (contact information for these leaders will soon be posted in the “About Us” section). The Council meets throughout the year to shape the direction and activities of the Department of PA VFW.

PA VFW Participating in Pocono Raceway NASCAR Events

PR to donate portion of ticket sales to VFW for veterans assistance.

The Pennsylvania VFW continues to increase its outreach to veterans of all ages by participating in a wide variety of events. This weekend, the State VFW will receive plenty of attention as an exhibitor at Pocono Raceway for numerous racing events:

– May 31: General Tire #AnywhereIsPossible 200- ARCA Menards Series
– June 1: Pocono Green 250 Recycled by J.P. Mascaro & Sons – NASCAR Xfinity Series
– June 2: Pocono 400 – Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series

Pocono Raceway will make a 20% donation of ticket sales to the VFW for veterans assistance when tickets are purchased through this link, https://www.poconoraceway.com/vfw.html

Make sure that the Promo Code “PAVFW” shows up to initiate the donation.

State HQ encourages all VFW Posts to participate in a variety of community programs to “tell the VFW story” and explain why our VFW can proudly claim, “No One Does More for Veterans.” Get out, shake veterans’ hands, ask them about their service and explain some of the ways that the VFW improves lives every day through our programs and services.

Tell Congress to Axe Widows Tax

America must honor military survivors NOT tax them

May 01, 2019

More than 65,000 surviving military spouses and dependents are unjustly penalized because their loved ones made the ultimate sacrifice for our country.

Similar to life insurance, the Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) is purchased through DOD by military retirees to ensure their surviving loved ones can maintain a modest standard of living. When service members or veterans die from injuries or illnesses related to their military service, survivors are eligible for VA Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC). Despite the two payments being paid for two different reasons from two different federal departments, all monthly SBP retirement payments are reduced by $1,319 –– the current payout for DIC benefits.

For many survivors, this offset completely eliminates their SBP payments and threatens their financial security. The recent tax law makes this situation worse by doubling the tax on dependents to whom parents transferred SBP benefits to avoid having to forfeit DIC benefits.

The VFW needs you to take action now!

Contact your members of Congress and urge them to end the injustice now! The message these aptly termed “Widow’s Tax” and “Kiddie Tax” sends to service members, veterans, and their families is that our government salutes their service while in uniform, but they cost too much if they die on active duty or from service-connected conditions.