News Briefs

VFW National Commander Meets With President
The national commander of the VFW met with President Obama recently to discuss issues important to veterans, service members and their families. Topping the agenda was protecting the VA from mandatory budget cuts should sequestration occur, and VFW opposition to certain DoD proposals that could jeopardize the continued existence of the all-volunteer force.

“The president has been consistent in word and action on protecting and increasing the Department of Veterans Affairs budget, and he pledged to continue to do so even in these tough budget times. We gratefully appreciate that commitment,” said Richard L. DeNoyer.

“The advocacy work he and First Lady Michelle, and Vice President Joe and Dr. Jill Biden, continue to do for our military and veteran families everywhere has been outstanding,” he said, citing as examples the passage of advanced VA budget appropriations, the Family Caregiver Bill, and just this week, bringing financial relief to thousands of service members and veterans whose homes may have been wrongfully foreclosed upon since 2006.

Discussed with the president was the VFW’s opposition to certain DOD proposals that would significantly raise healthcare fees on military families and retirees, and change the current military retirement system. DeNoyer also expressed his concern about the negative impact sequestration would have on overall force readiness and national security.

The VFW national commander said that ensuring the security of the nation is expensive, but that cost pales in comparison to asking people to voluntarily do more for their country in a few short years than most Americans do in a lifetime.

Stop Balancing Budget on Backs of Military and Veterans
In testimony before a joint hearing of the Senate and House Veterans Affairs Committees, the national commander of America’s oldest and largest major combat veterans’ organization urged Congress to not balance the budget on the backs of disabled veterans or on the men and women who continue to serve in uniform.

“Your two committees have a long history of taking care of veterans in a bipartisan manner,” said Richard L. DeNoyer, a retired Marine and Vietnam combat veteran from Middleton, Mass., who leads the 2 million-member Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. and its Auxiliaries.

“We understand that current budget realities are forcing very hard choices in Congress and in agencies and departments across the executive branch. I urge you all to remember in the coming days that Congress’ first mandate is the protection of its citizens, which can only be accomplished if Congress first protects those who volunteer to protect our nation in uniform.”

Today’s congressional testimony caps the VFW’s annual legislative conference in which 300 VFW leaders from around the country visited their elected officials to discuss issues important to veterans, service members and their families. Atop their legislative agenda this year was protecting the Department of Veterans Affairs budget from mandatory cuts should sequestration occur, and stopping Defense Department proposals that would reduce military pay, force military dependents and retirees to pay exponentially more for their Tricare health coverage, and to civilianize the current military retirement system.

Other high-interest topics range from military transition and assistance programs to Post 9/11 GI Bill improvements, the proper care and treatment of wounded warriors, women veterans, the 1.7 million VA claims workload and adjudication error rate, the VA rating schedule change that could have veterans with similar wounds compensated differently, and combating veteran suicides and homelessness, among others.

Watch Richard DeNoyer’s testimony or click here to read his prepared testimony.

IM Partners Release Critical Issues
The four Independent Budget (IB) partners have released their critical issues for FY 2013. The IB, which VFW coauthors with AMVETS, DAV and PVA, provides the Administration and Congress a veterans’ view of the most important issues pertaining to VA healthcare, benefits and infrastructure, as well as the transition from service member to veteran status. The full IB will be released in conjunction with the President’s proposed VA budget early next year. View the critical issues at http://www.independentbudget.org/

Be Aware of Key VFW Award/Program Deadlines
Citizenship Ed. Teacher of the Year – Nov. 1 Nominations to the Post Nov. 15 Completion of Post judging Dec. 15 Completion of Dist. judging Jan. 10 Completion of Dept. judging Jan. 15 Dist. participation reports to Dept. Jan. 15 Dept. winners to Nat’l Jan. 31 Dept. reports to Nat’l

Community Service – Dec. 1 Dept. 6-month Report to Nat’l April 30 Fred C. Hall Memorial Outstanding Post Special Project to National May 1 Comm. Service Post to Nat’l June 1 Dept. Year-End Report to Nat’l

Public Servant Nat’l Award – Jan. 1 Nominations from Post to Dept. Feb. 1 Nominations from Dept. to Nat’l

National Certificate of Recognition – March 1 List to Nat’l from Dept.

Scout of the Year – March 1 – Scout entries to the Post April 1 Post entries to Dept. May 1 Dept. entry to Nat’l

Voice of Democracy and Patriot’s Pen – Nov. 1 Student entries to Post Nov. 15 Completion of Post judging Dec. 6 Completion of Dist. judging Jan. 7 Completion of Dept. judging Jan. 15 Dist. participation reports to Dept. Chairmen Jan. 15 Dept. winners to Nat’l Jan. 31 Dept. reports to Nat’l

VFW Commander-in-Chief Appears on Russian TV
Chief DeNoyer was recently featured on Russian TV giving an interview on efforts to locate missing KIA/POW in foreign nations. The VFW and Russian government are working together to help the two nations recover their missing soldiers. See the interview below.
http://rt.com/programs/spotlight/soldier-usa-veterans-war/

Draft Gulf War Task Force Report Is Released by VA
Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki announced that the Department’s Gulf War Veterans’ Illnesses Task Force has completed the draft of a comprehensive report that will outline how the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) addresses the concerns of veterans who deployed during the Gulf War in 1990 and 1991.

“This report provides a road map  for our continued enhancements in our care and services we provide to Gulf War Veterans,” said Shinseki. “We will be applying lessons learned from this report to Veterans of all eras.”

Notification of the draft written report is being published today in the Federal Register, and the draft written report addresses seven areas where VA provides services for this group of Veterans.

Over the past year, the task force has examined, evaluated, designated and adjusted the initial road map outlined in last year’s report. VA has designated steps to improve care and services to Gulf War I Veterans and these improvements are becoming a part of our culture and operations.

This year’s report focuses on improvements in the delivery of health care for Gulf War Veterans. One of the most substantial additions is modifications to clinical care models used for Gulf War Veterans, which is the most critical point of service VA provides. There are better linkages between specialty knowledge and services at the basic point of care. Clinical research and development is significantly contributing new concepts and methods to clinical practice and clinical education throughout VA.

As a first step, VA is seeking public comments on the draft written report before final publication. The public notice and instructions for how to submit electronic and comments via postal mail will be posted atwww.regulations.gov, and the draft written report will be open for comment for 30 days. In addition, VA recognizes that a great number of Gulf War Veterans use the Internet on a daily basis to share their ideas and concerns, so VA has also created a public discussion board on the seven recommendations at:http://vagulfwartaskforce.uservoice.com/. To view the report without making recommendations, please visit VA’s website at http://www.va.gov/opa/publications/Draft_2011_GWVI-TF_Report.pdf.

VA Program Aims to Keep Vets in Homes
In 2009, nearly 150,000 Veterans spent at least one night in an emergency shelter or transitional housing program.  That’s a national disgrace that spurred the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ commitment to end Veteran homelessness by 2015.

VA has transformed its programs for at-risk Veterans and their families by providing comprehensive, coordinated access to healthcare, housing, employment, education, job counseling and training, and justice system assistance and benefits.  In fiscal year 2012, VA expects to spend $3.4 billion to provide healthcare to at-risk Veterans and $800 million in specialized homeless programs.

The kick-off events raised awareness of VA benefits and community-based programs and services that Veterans and their families have earned—to include healthcare, housing, employment and job training—not only for homeless Veterans, but also for those who may be at risk of losing their homes.  Veterans and their families and friends can also access these services through a one-stop hotline at 1-877-4AID-VET or online atwww.va.gov/homeless.  Both are staffed by trained counselors 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Military Faces Tough Benefits Fight
In testimony yesterday before the House Armed Services Committee, new Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey took a hard line against reforming the military retirement system. He said military pension programs need to be different than civilian programs because of the inherent challenges and dangers of military life. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, however, testified that every weapon system and personnel program needs to be on the table because of fiscal realities. He told an audience Wednesday at the Woodrow Wilson Center that difficult choices have to be made between the military America needs versus a military America can afford. The VFW is against balancing the budget on the backs of current and future military service members, retirees and their families. “Our nation’s financial situation cannot be solved by breaking faith with those who singlehandedly fight our nation’s wars—be it today or tomorrow,” said VFW National Commander Richard DeNoyer in an AP article published around the country.

DOD Reevaluating Some MEB/PEB Determinations
The DOD Physical Disability Board of Review is reevaluating Medical Evaluation Board and Physical Evaluation Board disability ratings for some veterans medically separated between Sept. 11, 2001, and Dec. 31, 2009, to ensure a correct disability retirement determination was made. Veterans who received a combined disability rating of 20 percent or less, and were not found eligible for retirement, can apply to have their MEB/PEB disability rating reviewed for fairness, consistency and accuracy. Former reserve members with greater than 20 years of total federal military service but fewer than 20 years of active duty—and who meet the above criteria—are also eligible to apply. Learn more here. Questions can also be e-mailed to[email protected].

VA Backs Down on Veterans Funerals Issue
Several veterans groups who had sued the VA over claims of religious discrimination by Houston VA officials have agreed to settle their lawsuit, according to attorneys at Liberty Institute representing the groups. According to Associated Press, the settlement agreement lists 50 provisions that VA officials agree to adhere to. The VA said in the decree that certain of these provisions “are already the policy or practice of the department.”

Some of these actions include no banning or interfering with prayers or recitations at committal services; agreeing to not edit or control the content of private religious speech and expression by speakers at special ceremonies or events at the cemetery; and agreeing not to ban religious speech or words such as “God” or “Jesus” in condolence cards or similar documents given by some of the groups that filed the suit. The VA also agreed to pay the veterans groups’ legal fees, which total $215,000.

Sen. Toomey Introduces Veterans Sexual Assault Prevention Act
U.S. Senator Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) introduced the Veterans Sexual Assault Prevention Act today to protect Veterans Affairs facility patients from sexual assault.

A June 2011 Government Accountability Office Report found serious lapses in the reporting of sexual assault in VA facilities, due, in part, to the lack of clear definitions, requirements and a central database for collecting and storing reports of assault.

The Veterans Sexual Assault Prevention Act will address these and other issues found in the GAO report by providing a new standard of care and protection for patients at VA facilities in Pennsylvania and across the country. “The GAO report was an eye-opener, highlighting serious lapses in the reporting of sexual assault at VA facilities. This bill will implement much-needed improvements in our VA facilities and will offer our veterans the care and protection they deserve,” Sen. Toomey said.

This legislation enjoys support from the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Disabled American Veterans, and Vietnam Veterans of America. The House of Representatives passed a companion bill, H.R. 2074, by voice vote Oct. 11.

Posts Needed to Support Deployed PA Guard Troops
The PA Guard’s 2nd Infantry BCT has troops deployed in the Middle East including soldiers from the Tactical Unmanned Aircraft System (TUAS) Platoon in Afghanistan . VFW Posts can show their support of these soldiers by sending care packages to the following contacts via the APOs shown:

11-Pax at FOB Shank is: David Behm, B/2BSTB/28th ID, FOB Shank, APO AE 09364

10-Pax at FOB Frontenac: David Bogle, A/2STB/2-4th ID, FOB Frontenac, APO AE 09380

1 Individual at Kandahar Airbase: Stephen Kelley, Kandahar Airbase, APO AE 09355

The contact information for the 12-Pax of POMLT 3 (15 October 2011 and beyond) is: JAMES CURREY, POMLT, CHAGHCHARAN, APO, AE 09382

Let’s show our Guardians that the VFW continues to be behind them 100%!

Military Children Get Free Tutoring
The www.Tutor.com for U.S. Military Families program gives eligible military families access to free online tutoring and free homework help from live, professional tutors in more than 16 subjects. Military families who are moving frequently or dealing with a deployed parent can rely on Tutor.com staff for expert help staying on top of tonight’s homework or catching up on missed concepts and lessons-at no cost.

Whatever you’re working on-from algebra homework to studying for a chemistry test to writing an essay for English class-Tutor.com can help. Military students can also get a tutor to help prepare for standardized tests, Advanced Placement classes, and college essays. Contact point: Sean P. O’Hare, CYSS School Support Specialist, Army Reserve Child, Youth & School Services Contractor, Serco-na[email protected]

National Home Awareness Week 2012 – Help Others “Make the Call”
Just a reminder that the VFW National Home for Children’s Awareness Week is right around the corner! This year’s Awareness Week will be March 25-31, 2012.

This year’s theme is “Make the Call”. Military and veteran families in crisis can be overwhelmed by the challenges they face. A call to the National Home Helpline 800.313.4200 can help… cut through the clutter so they can get back on the right path. But we can only help them if they “Make the Call”.

The National Home Helpline (800-313-4200) is available to help callers across the country – right in their own community. For ways to support the National Home visit www.vfwnationalhome.org