Points of Interest


Trump signs bill to speed up veteran disability appeals process

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© Getty Images

President Trump on Wednesday signed into law a measure meant to accelerate the appeals process for disability claims at the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA), easing for veterans a process criticized as too cumbersome.

The bill is aimed at helping veterans challenge rejected bids for benefits and to mitigate a backlog of appeals.

Veterans that have become sick or injured while serving are entitled to disability payments from the VA, which determines how much to compensate them through a process that looks at medical records and other documentation. But not all veterans are happy with the amount they've been allocated and can appeal the decision. 

The appeals process at the VA is lengthy, however, with a five-year average wait for a decision. The White House said this week that there are 470,000 appeals cases currently pending in the VA system.

Lawmakers said they want the wait time to be reduced to less than a year.

The new law will give veterans more options on how to appeal benefits decisions they think are unfair and do not compensate them enough. 

“This is a big one,” Trump said, pointing to the bill before signing it to a roar of applause Wednesday. VA Secretary David Shulkin stood behind him along with leadership from the nation’s largest veterans group.

Trump signed the Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act after addressing veterans at the American Legion's national convention in Reno, Nev.

“One year ago at this gathering … I promised you I would make it my priority to fix the broken VA and deliver our veterans the care they so richly deserve,” Trump told the audience. 

Trump spoke to American Legion while on the campaign trail last year. 

Prior to signing the bill, Trump boasted of several recent VA reforms, including a promised White House veterans hotline and new legislation meant more easily oust ineffective VA employees.

“If somebody who works at the VA is bad to the people of the VA … we look at them and we say, ‘you’re fired’ that’s it,” Trump said. “They don’t do a good job, they’re out.”

http://thehill.com/policy/defense/347717-trump-signs-bill-to-speed-up-veteran-disability-appeals-process


VA Secretary Testifies at Senate Hearing: VA Secretary Eric Shinseki declared he was "mad as hell" regarding allegations that possibly 40 veterans may have died while awaiting care at the Phoenix VA Medical Center, as well as other incidents at other locations. "If these allegations are true, they are completely unacceptable to me, to veterans," Shinseki told the Senate VA Committee on Thursday, and "if any allegations are substantiated by the inspector general, we will act." Also testifying was Acting VA Inspector General Richard Griffin, who has a team of 185 in Phoenix investigating the case, which originated from whistleblower complaints. Because of the complexity of the investigation, the IG said it could be August before a final report is issued. Meanwhile, regarding the alleged 40 deaths and a second waiting list, Griffin said a preliminary review of 17 patient deaths associated with the Phoenix VAMC had not shown they were caused by delays in receiving treatment. "It's one thing to be on a waiting list," he said, "and it's another thing to conclude that as a result of being on the waiting list, that's the cause of death." View the hearing in its entirety on the committee's website athttp://www.veterans.senate.gov/hearings/the-state-of-va-health-care-051514


VFW Testifies at Senate Hearing: VFW National Veterans Service Deputy Director Ryan Gallucci testified before the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee on Thursday to express the VFW's outrage and frustration over the lack of information coming out of the VA nearly a month since allegations of veterans' deaths and a secret scheduling book surfaced from the Phoenix VA Medical Center. "We do not know who the veterans are who may have died waiting for care," he said. "We do not know if other hospitals are cooking their appointment scheduling books just to keep up appearances, or if veterans waiting for care are paying for it elsewhere out of their own pockets. Regardless of what comes out of ongoing investigations in Phoenix, Wyoming, Atlanta, Chicago, Spokane and elsewhere, the VFW knows that veterans have died waiting for care, which is inexcusable," he said. "And true or not, the allegations are causing veterans and their families to rapidly lose faith and confidence in a system that is supposed to care for them, which is unacceptable." Read Gallucci's full testimony here: http://www.vfw.org/uploadedFiles/VFW.org/News_and_Events/State%20of%20VA%20Health%20Care.pdf



VFW Urges President's Involvement: Getting to the bottom of VA's problems and restoring confidence prompted VFW National Commander Bill Thien to write President Obama last week to urge his personal involvement to fix the problems that are plaguing the VA, and consequently undermining the public's trust in VA Secretary Eric Shinseki and his organization. On Wednesday, the president dispatched one of his closest advisors, White House Deputy Chief of Staff Rob Nabors, to work with Shinseki to get to the bottom of what allegedly happened in Phoenix and elsewhere. "The president heard our voice and took the appropriate action to add additional oversight to what has evolved into a crisis in confidence," said Thien. Read his letter to the president here:http://www.vfw.org/uploadedFiles/VFW.org/News_and_Events/VFW%20Ltr%20to%20President%20VA.pdf

Additional information on Points of Interest from the VFW perspective can be found at:

http://www.vfw.org/News-and-Events/

And

from VFW Department of Nevada at:

http://www.vfwnevada.org/news/default.html

Student Veteran Dedicated to Helping Fellow Veterans Receives Scholarship

March 10, 2014

After five years in the Army, America Luna transitioned into the life of a student veteran. During her years in the service, she was deployed twice and learned how to be an effective leader, a skill that proved to serve her well in her post-military endeavors.

Her leadership abilities helped her become the vice president of her university’s student veterans association and allowed her to help other transitioning veterans succeed.

Her college career was progressing nicely until she hit a speed bump. With just one semester left in her undergraduate studies, she had depleted her GI Bill benefits. The VFW “Sport Clips Help A Hero Scholarship” was able to fund her final semester of college.  

She learned about the scholarship through the student veterans association’s Facebook page.

When America received the letter announcing she was one of the 43 scholarship recipients, she read it multiple times in disbelief, double checking to make sure she understood the letter correctly.

She views the VFW “Sport Clips Help A Hero Scholarship” as much more than just free money to pay for her tuition. “Through my academic and professional goals, this scholarship will provide me the chance to help the veteran population accomplish their dreams,” says America.

Currently, America is pursuing a degree in Human Services and plans to continue helping student veterans as a college advisor for veterans transitioning out of the military.

Additional information on Points of Interest from the VFW perspective can be found at:

http://www.vfw.org/News-and-Events/

And

from VFW Department of Nevada at:

http://www.vfwnevada.org/news/default.html


Veterans Groups Urge Congress to Strengthen VA Budget

Authors of Annual ‘Independent Budget’ Look to Congress to Correct Funding Deficiencies

March 04, 2014

Four of the nation’s leading veterans service organizations — AMVETS, Disabled American Veterans, Paralyzed Veterans of America, and Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. — are expressing their concerns with the President’s Budget for Fiscal Year 2015, which proposes $68.4 billion for the Department of Veterans Affairs. The groups, who coauthor of The Independent Budget (IB), a comprehensive budget and policy document, now look to Congress to correct the funding deficiencies and to reconsider the recommendations outlined in the IB — which calls for $72.9 billion to sufficiently meet veterans’ health care and benefits needs.   

Of great concern to the veterans groups is the serious underfunding of VA construction accounts. The President’s budget for construction is approximately $2.75 billion less than what the IB recommends.   

“While we appreciate the increases offered by the Administration's Budget for FY 2015 and for advance appropriations for FY 2016, particularly with regards to health care and benefits services, we have concerns that the serious lack of commitment to infrastructure funding to support the system will undermine the VA’s ability to deliver those services,” said The Independent Budget authors. “We now look to Congress to correct the funding deficiencies.”   

The President’s budget proposes $61.9 billion for total medical care for FY 2016 advance appropriations and $589 million for medical and prosthetic research. While The Independent Budget recommends $62.4 billion for total medical care for FY 2016 advance appropriations and $611 million for medical and prosthetic research.   

Additionally the President’s overall budget request for VA is approximately $4.5 billion less than what the IB recommends for overall discretionary spending for FY 2015.   

This marks the 28th year that The Independent Budget has been developed by AMVETS, DAV, Paralyzed Veterans and VFW. The document is written by veterans for veterans detailing funding requirements for VA. The Independent Budget aims to present a full picture of veterans’ needs—and how government can meet these needs.

Additional information on Points of Interest from the VFW perspective can be found at:

http://www.vfw.org/News-and-Events/

And

from VFW Department of Nevada at:

http://www.vfwnevada.org/news/default.html




BUDGET UNCERTAINTY FORCES MILITARY REDUCTIONS

VFW again calls on Congress to end sequestration

February 25, 2014

The Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. met with Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel yesterday morning to learn firsthand the impact of his department's fiscal year 2015 budget request on future readiness and modernization programs, and on those who serve in uniform and their families.      

The VFW and other veteran and military service organization representatives in attendance also learned of the continued implications of congressional budget decisions that could reduce defense spending by almost $1 trillion over the next decade. 

“There are consequences to forcing the Department of Defense to first reduce its budget by $487 billion over 10 years, then to double that amount due to sequestration,” said VFW National Commander William A. Thien, a Vietnam veteran from Georgetown, Ind. “And no matter how some might perceive these lower troop numbers, weapons systems retirements and benefits reductions, the truth is these cuts will continue to grow deeper  the longer Congress is unable to end the sequester.” 

Joined by his top leadership, to include Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey, the defense secretary brought some of those consequences to light when he unveiled major provisions of his department’s budget request.    

Previously announced reductions to the size of the active Army were increased, as were reductions to the Army National Guard and Reserve, all of which could worsen with a continued sequester.   

The budget plan had no new troop reductions for the other services, but the proposed loss of some major weapons systems could further lower Air Force and Navy personnel requirements. 

The VFW national commander is especially worried about the proposed reductions to pay and benefits, because "in an all-volunteer force, the troops get a vote," he said, "and a resurging economy will impact individual decisions to join and reenlist."   

On the table for FY 2015 is a 1 percent pay raise for everyone below the pay grade of O-7; admirals and general officers would have their pay frozen for one year. Housing allowances would be gradually reduced from 100 percent of costs to 95 percent; payments would be grandfathered for troops in their current assignments. DOD is again recommending a TRICARE for Life enrollment fee, but this time it would be equal to 1 percent of retiree pay — not to exceed $300 per person — plus additional increases to pharmaceutical copayments, which would impact military dependents as well as retirees. DOD also wants to merge the three TRICARE Prime, Standard and Extra programs into one, and reduce the current $1.4 billion appropriated support of commissaries to $400 million, which would force the Defense Commissary Agency to offset the difference either by raising prices, increasing the 5 percent surcharge, or both. DOD estimates that such decisions would lower overall commissary savings from 30 percent to 10 percent, which could close some smaller stores.

“Despite all the challenges of fighting a two-front war over the past 13 years, we know America will continue to field the world’s most professional and lethal military,” said Thien. “That’s why the VFW will redouble our efforts to work with Congress and the administration to preserve the all-volunteer force, end the sequester, and help bring some financial stability to a military that will continue to operate in a very dangerous and unpredictable world.  

“We are, of course, very concerned for our men and women in uniform, and for their families who serve and sacrifice, too, and that is why we are asking the Pentagon to provide more details on their people program changes,” he said. “The VFW understands fiscal realities, but we also understand that it first takes people to make our military the world’s best.” 

Additional information on Points of Interest from the VFW perspective can be found at:

http://www.vfw.org/News-and-Events/

And

from VFW Department of Nevada at:

http://www.vfwnevada.org/news/default.html



VFW STATEMENT ON MILITARY RETIREE COLA VOTE

VFW will continue to fight for a full repeal of the COLA penalty

February 12, 2014

“The Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States thanks all our supporters in the House of Representatives and Senate for taking quick action to repeal the one-percent COLA penalty on working-age military retirees. The Senate today followed yesterday’s House passage of a bill to eliminate the penalty for current retirees and everyone serving in uniform prior to the end of 2013, should they choose to remain until retirement eligible. The legislation does not, however, remove the penalty on future retirees who enter the military after Jan. 1, 2014.

“The world will remain a very dangerous and unpredictable place even after America ends its involvement in Afghanistan, and future military retirees will be required to serve just as long and perhaps sacrifice even more than their predecessors. It is in that regard that the VFW will continue to fight for a full repeal of the COLA penalty, and we hope that this vote will continue that conversation.”

Additional information on Points of Interest from the VFW perspective can be found at:

http://www.vfw.org/News-and-Events/

And

from VFW Department of Nevada at:

http://www.vfwnevada.org/news/default.html


February 2014

Veterans Service Organizations Urge $72.9 Billion Investment in Veterans’ Health Care and Benefits

February 04, 2014

Washington, DC—Four of the nation’s leading veterans service organizations—AMVETS, DAV, Paralyzed Veterans of America (Paralyzed Veterans) and the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW)—are urging the Administration and Congress to provide $72.9 billion to sufficiently meet veterans’ health care and benefits needs. The recommendation is contained in The Independent Budget, released today and available online at www.independentbudget.org.

  The Independent Budget for Fiscal Year 2015 recommends the following: 

  • $61.1 billion total for health care for FY 2015—$2.3 billion more than what the Administration recommended ($58.8 billion) in the FY 2015 advance appropriation last year 
  • $62.4 billion total advance appropriation for health care for FY 2016
  • $2.5 billion for the Veterans Benefits Administration—approximately $44 million more than the FY 2014 appropriated level
  • $3.9 billion for all construction programs—approximately $2.7 billion more than the FY 2014 appropriated level and well below the true funding needs of construction projects that the VA must undertake
  • $611 million for medical and prosthetics research, which is approximately $25 million more than the FY 2014 appropriated level

Of great concern to TheIndependent Budget coauthors is the serious underfunding of Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) construction accounts. From FY 2002 through 2014, The Independent Budget recommended $23.5 billion for major and minor construction, yet less than $13.5 billion was appropriated to keep rapidly aging facilities safe and operational for the proper care and treatment of millions of wounded, ill and injured veterans of all generations and for the staff who serve them. 

“World-class health care requires first-class facilities, but through 13 years of war, VA construction accounts have only received 57 percent of what’s required, and we project VA will need to invest $31 billion over the next decade to close its major and minor construction gaps,” said VFW National Commander William A. Thien. “Sixty-year-old facilities do not get better with age,” he said, “and continuous underfunding only makes construction more expensive, our facilities less safe, and jeopardizes the VA’s ability to honor its commitment to America’s veterans. We urge the Administration to request and Congress to appropriate sufficient funding to correct these deficiencies now.”

AMVETS National Commander John Mitchell added the following addressing the breakdown in the appropriations process and effect on VA operations.

“The significant delay in the Administration’s funding recommendations for VA in FY 2015 and the ongoing breakdown in the appropriations process are major concerns about how program funding may be impacted going forward, and will most certainly have a negative effect on all VA operations,” stated Mitchell. “Underlying the issues, are the accountability of our Congress and the Administration to not forget the sacred obligation they have to those who serve and protect this country.  Our nation must remain steadfast and committed to ensuring that our military, veterans, their eligible family members and survivors receive their earned benefits in a timely and efficient manner.”

DAV National Commander Joseph W. Johnston stated the following addressing the need for appropriate funding of VA’s Information Technology infrastructure.

“We applaud VA’s progress during the past year in reducing the benefits claims backlog and putting in place a new organizational paperless claims process model, and we hope the Administration and Congress remain committed to providing the resources needed to continue this vital transformation,” said Johnston. “That means funding the proper staffing levels and providing sufficient training. Additionally, it is crucial that appropriate funding is provided to continue building and maintaining the VA’s Information Technology infrastructure.”

The organizations are also calling for the House and Senate to immediately consider and approve H.R. 813 and S. 932, legislation that would extend advance appropriations to all VA discretionary and mandatory appropriations accounts.

“The past couple of years have clearly shown the benefits to the VA of having the health-care system funded by advance appropriations,” said Bill Lawson, national president of Paralyzed Veterans of America. The VA health-care system has been shielded from the severe negative consequences of political gridlock that ultimately led to a partial government shutdown last fall. It is time that the rest of the VA is afforded the same protection.”

In its 28th year, The Independent Budget is an annual comprehensive budget and policy document, written by veterans for veterans detailing funding requirements for VA. The Independent Budget aims to present a full picture of veterans’ needs—and how government can meet these needs. The full report can be viewed online at www.independentbudget.org.

Additional information on Points of Interest from the VFW perspective can be found at:

http://www.vfw.org/News-and-Events/

And

from VFW Department of Nevada at:

http://www.vfwnevada.org/news/default.html

VFW CALLS GI BILL COMPLAINT SYSTEM A ‘GAME-CHANGER’

New system will allow student veterans to report fraud, waste and abuse

January 30, 2014

The Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States is applauding today’s roll out of a new consolidated complaint system to help the Department of Veterans Affairs and its partner agencies weed out fraud, waste and abuse among those organizations and educational institutions that serve student veterans. The new complaint system was a cornerstone of the VFW’s education reform priorities over the past two years, and is a joint effort between VA and the departments of Defense, Education and Justice, as well as the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Federal Trade Commission.   

“For years the VFW was concerned that some in higher education were out to exploit our veterans and their lucrative benefits programs like the Post-9/11 GI Bill,” said VFW National Commander William A. Thien. “This new complaint process will be a game-changer for student veterans, who in the past didn’t have a standardized or secure system for reporting alleged abuses.”    

The centralized complaint system allows veterans, service members and eligible dependents — who use GI Bill benefits, military tuition assistance or other federal aid programs — to report fraud, waste and abuse in a secure, online mode. Once a complaint is filed, VA and its partner agencies, to include law enforcement, can gather the information needed to identify and directly address unfair or misleading practices in higher education, as well as help ensure schools deliver quality academic, trade, and associated support services to student veterans. Veterans who file complaints may remain anonymous, but those who wish to leave contact information can be confident that the system adheres to strict federal privacy guidelines to prevent against retaliation.    

The new complaint process was one of two major consumer resources set into motion by a 2012 presidential executive order and codified through the Improving Transparency in Education for Veterans Act of 2012. Along with its partners from Student Veterans of America and the American Legion, the VFW worked closely with the White House and legislators to craft and implement both the executive order and the Transparency Act. In the coming weeks, the VFW anticipates that VA will launch a second major consumer resource, a GI Bill Comparison Tool to help veterans compare GI Bill-eligible education programs before choosing to enroll.

Additional information on Points of Interest from the VFW perspective can be found at:

http://www.vfw.org/News-and-Events/

And

from VFW Department of Nevada at:

http://www.vfwnevada.org/news/default.html



December 2013

VFW Releases 2014 Legislative Priority Goals

Each year the VFW outlines its priority goals to maintain and improve quality of life and benefit programs

December 20, 2013

 WASHINGTON – This week the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. announced its 2014 Legislative Priority Goals for the second session of the 113th Congress. Each year the VFW outlines its priority goals to maintain and improve quality of life and benefit programs for service members, veterans and their families. The 2014 priority goals are based on resolutions approved at this year’s 114th VFW National Convention in Louisville, Ky.

The new priority goals include advocating for advance funding for all Department of Veterans Affairs programs; protecting quality of life programs for military veterans, service members, retirees and their families; improving transition assistance programs for separating service members and veterans; and continued oversight and improvements to the VA disability claims system.    

“For more than a century, veterans’ advocacy has been a cornerstone of the VFW’s service to our fellow veterans,” said VFW National Commander William A. Thien, “and our advocates will continue to fight in 2014 to help ensure veterans, service members and their families aren’t used to balance the federal government’s budget.”

Among the many VFW successes over the past year were critical improvements to VA’s consumer resources for student veterans, the creation of a new Stolen Valor Act and the reinstatement of military tuition assistance programs, but VFW advocates know there are still many challenges to overcome in the new year, such as efforts to change the military retirement system, reduce retiree and medically-retired pay, close stateside commissaries, and other threats to veteran and military quality of life programs and benefits.

In 2013 alone, VFW’s Action Corps generated tens of thousands of e-mails and phone calls to every congressional office, and their grassroots advocacy will required even more in 2014. 

“VFW advocates must remain ever vigilant and continue to make sure their elected officials and the public never forgets the service and sacrifices made by our men and women in uniform and their families,” said Thien.

Additional information on Points of Interest from the VFW perspective can be found at:

http://www.vfw.org/News-and-Events/

And

from VFW Department of Nevada at:

http://www.vfwnevada.org/news/default.html



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VFW and Partners Receive Google Global Impact Award to Expand Student Veteran Support


VFW will expand its '1 Student Veteran' program


November 13, 2013


 KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The Veterans of Foreign Wars is pleased to announce it is a recipient of a $100,000 Google Global Impact Award to improve veterans’ higher education. Through the support of Google, the VFW will join the Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF), Student Veterans of America (SVA) and the Posse Foundation in a cross-coalition effort to conduct the first nationwide analysis of U.S. veterans’ higher education and implement proven best practices that help veterans persist in college.


As part of this initiative, VFW will expand its “1 Student Veteran” program, which is dedicated to quickly resolving problems that student veterans often encounter when accessing their GI Bill benefits.


1 Student Veteran expedites the education claims and appeals process, allowing student veterans to simply email 1studentveteran@vfw.org and explain any problems they are experiencing. A VFW staff member specializing in student veterans issues will acknowledge receipt of each inquiry within 24 hours or one business day, and will then either intervene with the VA on behalf of the student veteran or recommend other courses of action—free of charge. 


“The VFW is extremely excited to have been named a recipient of a Google Global Impact Award and to team up with other veterans service organizations that believe strongly in higher education for veterans. The 1 Student Veteran program eases the often frustrating process of receiving one’s VA education benefits and allows student veterans to focus on their coursework. That’s a great first step toward success,” said VFW National Commander Bill Thien.


The VFW is the only major veterans service organization that has an outreach program dedicated specifically to resolving VA-related educational problems. To learn more about 1 Student Veteran, click here.


Last year, VFW’s nationwide network of 1,200 VA-accredited service officers helped more than 125,000 veterans to obtain $3.7 billion in earned compensation and pension from the VA at no cost to the veterans. Through direct access to VA Regional Offices, VFW Service Officers are able to resolve most GI Bill issues within a few days, whereas filing a formal appeal with the VA may take months. 


Additional information on Points of Interest from the VFW perspective can be found at:


http://www.vfw.org/News-and-Events/


And


from VFW Department of Nevada at:


http://www.vfwnevada.org/news/default.html10/15

A Letter from A Post Member


The democracy within our Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States is a cornerstone of the organization. For democracy to work dissent needs to be heard. It is often from dissenters that we are able to learn some of the most valuable lessons that allow any organization grow. In fact, it is the protections of those who dissent that our Constitution gains it's greatest repute. 


It is with all of these things in mind that I include the following letter that was emailed by Comrade Colonel Frank. I believe that it is open, honest dialogue like this that keeps any organization strong and growing. One of the things that has made me proud of our post is that together we have included more civic service to our collective calendar and have been able to actually see the good we do in our community.


Dear fellow VFW Members,


I have worked on AL and VFW membership campaigns many times in past years in the Northern CA area, and this latest email has forced me to say what is on my mind.  I apologize in advance for the harshness of my words.   I regret that it is likely to annoy or insult some of you on the address list.   And, if there are those who think I am dead wrong, or possibly over-stated the situation, I would like to hear the opposing opinion.  I don't mind blunt exchanges as long as they are mutually respectful of differing opinions.


The barriers to membership growth to pre-WWII-vintage organizations are well known, but the historic organizations have massively failed when they have tried to force modern veterans and families to change their behavior to conform to the old fashioned behavior--rather than allow new methods and protocols to be merged at the post and higher level protocols.   Sure, annual "twist the arms of a few more vets" can pump up the membership a bit each year, but nothing since Vietnam has stopped the hemorrhaging of members.   The wrongful, anti-vietnam-veteran attitude projected by so many VFW posts was a key turning point--downward.  I believe VFW still suffers from the negative image projected in the 1960's and 1970's.


When the VFW started early in the early 1900's there were few choices for veterans, and it was obvious that AL and VFW represented a kind of veterans "unions" that had political clout from massive numbers of voters by the end of WWII.  Hundreds of thousands of members have stayed for decades (but not attended meetings) because of insurance programs and life membership benefits.


But, the truth is that the obsolete protocols for meetings, titles and behavior do not often appeal to modern veterans.  This is similar to the membership problems experienced by the Catholic Church,  Masons and Shriners.  It is clear that organizational protocols must evolve, much like other businesses do, or be replaced by new ones that start off with meeting the demands of new members.


For example, there are thousands of new veterans organizations established since WWII that make no pretense of emulating AL and VFW.  And, new generation Christian Church organizations with vastly different, modern service protocols and musical styles to suit new generation believers are growing in leaps and bounds while taking members from the Catholic Church and Protestant Denominations.  The new Christian churches are still teaching the Bible as it is written, but they have modernized the service protocols so the younger generations feel comfortable when attending.


In my opinion, a good example of of vastly obsolete VFW thinking is continued calling its highest organizational level the "Military Order of the Cootie" headed up by the "Supreme Seam Squirrel". Excuse me folks for being so blunt, but that is absolutely ridiculous!   It is not cute, funny or respectful.  I can not imagine aspiring to become a member of  something that requires such juvenile titles and behavior.


What modern warrior returning from the Vietnam or Middle East wars will feel a high degree of self-respect by an organization that tries to pretend that being called a Cootie and/or Supreme Squirrel is an honor?   And, while I am at it, as a retired Cold War veteran who spent every waking minute for over 20 years worrying about how to defeat and/or kill the Communist Comrades, I truly HATE having to use the socialist term "Comrade" in AL and VFW communities.  I suspect I am not the only modern warrior that rejects such an obsolete practice.


These kinds of protocols and titles fail to recognize the seriousness of global war fighting and national defense by global nuclear forces.  By trying to get serious warriors and former warriors to aspire to the highest levels in VFW they must have high pride in what and how the organization behaves.  And, while it is impossible to get veterans to stop participating in dozens of other attractive veterans organizations such the Purple Heart and Vietnam Veterans associations, I believe it is possible to get a large number of them to additionally join VFW if it has the strength to modernize itself.


What I am saying is not new, but many VFW members are very reluctant to be critical.   I was like that until today.  The fact that the VFW has failed to change with the times while millions of vets go elsewhere has created a negative forecast for the future.  VFW does not have to perish, but its days are certainly numbered if all it does is double down and try to force young vets to fully comply with all of the old ways. Refusing to face reality has gotten us nowhere in the past two decades.


I sincerely would like to participate in helping to modernize the VFW so it is a growing leader again, but am not interested in spending any more time trying to promote the old, obsolete protocols.  I am wondering if this is a waste of my time on this email, or are there others in the Post who share my concerns about how the VFW faces the future?


Best regards,


Robert Frank, Colonel, USAF (Ret.)

Member of 4 other veterans organizations in addition to VFW


PS.  I presented similar agruments to the California Department of American Legion and VFW Department when I was Post 333 Commander for 3 years and very active in VFW Post 236 in the early 2000's. But, those in charge did not want to hear such ideas, and nothing has changed.  My efforts relating to leading the work to save the San Francisco Veterans Memorial Building for all CA veterans is briefly described in the following link.  I only include this info at this time to reflect that I have more extensive experience in VFW and AL activities than I have shown in NV.  I was somewhat burned out when leaving CA to retire in NV.

http://www.anthemvoice.org/resources/SF-Sentinel_30oct02.pdf

Additional information on Points of Interest from the VFW perspective can be found at:


http://www.vfw.org/News-and-Events/


And


from VFW Department of Nevada at:


http://www.vfwnevada.org/news/default.html

VFW Washington Weekly October 4, 2013


VFW WASHINGTON WEEKLY

October 4, 2013


In This Issue:

1. VFW Demands a Federal Budget be Passed

2. Shutdown Update on VA Services

3. VFW to Launch In-State Tuition Campaign

4. Overseas Initiative Helps POW/MIA Mission

5. Wounded Warrior Dinner Marks 10th Anniversary

6. Four MIAs Recovered


1. VFW Demands a Federal Budget be Passed: In a letter addressed yesterday to the President and House and Senate leadership, VFW National Commander Bill Thien demanded that they start working together to enact a federal budget now. He said the lack of a budget prevents countless veterans from taking advantage of transition assistance programs provided by the Departments of VA and Labor, plus it will increase the claims backlog and threatens to stop disability compensation and survivor benefit payments to millions of combat-wounded veterans and widows. The Chief also said the lack of a defense budget and the ongoing sequester is threatening national security. "We expect more from our elected leadership, and not a piecemeal approach that would use the military or disabled veterans as leverage in a political game," he said. "This current failure in Washington by the elected representatives of the people is having a very real impact on America, and as advocates for all veterans, military and their families, the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States demands that Congress and the Administration stop the political gamesmanship and do the job you were elected to do." Read the Chief's full letter at http://www.vfw.org/News-and-Events/Articles/2013-Articles/VFW-Demands-a-Federal-Budget-Be-Passed/. 

To find contact information for your elected official, click here: http://capwiz.com/vfw/dbq/officials/


2. Shutdown Update on VA Services: Without House/Senate agreement on a budget/appropriations package, the VA continues to operate many services on a shuttered schedule. VA medical centers, clinics and other health services continue to operate as normal because of advance appropriations, but the Veterans Benefits Administration, which processes claims and provides payments for compensation, pension, education, and vocational rehabilitation programs, will run out of money by late October if Congress doesn't extend their mandatory funding appropriations for FY 2014. VFW continues to be updated by Congress and the VA and will pass along any information we receive. For a two-page Field Guide on the shutdown's impact on VA, go to http://www.va.gov/opa/appropriations_lapse_plan.asp. 

To read more on the VA, veterans and the government shut down, visit our Capitol Hill blog at: http://thevfw.blogspot.com/2013/10/government-shutdown-whats-at-stake-for.html


3. VFW to Launch In-State Tuition Campaign: Next week your VFW will roll out its new #InState4Vets campaign alongside Student Veterans of America and the American Legion, pushing for in-state tuition protections for veterans enrolled at public colleges and universities from coast to coast. Be on the lookout as VFW, SVA and Legion unveil new tools to help veterans understand the higher education landscape in their homes states, ways to share stories through the Twitter hashtag #InState4Vets, and ways to take action both locally and nationally. VFW, SVA and the Legion plan to make the announcement next Wednesday, October 9. Check back with www.vfw.org for updates, and to learn more about the issue, click here: http://thevfw.blogspot.com/2013/01/analysis-why-millermichaud-veterans.html


4. Overseas Initiative Helps POW/MIA Mission: VFW National Commander Bill Thien returned this week from traveling to Moscow to continue our mission to help American researchers gain deeper access into Russia's central military archives and to potential eyewitnesses. It was a very productive trip that included meetings with the U.S. Deputy Chief of Mission and American military assigned in Moscow, as well as with two of Russia's largest veterans' organization, and senior members of the Russian Federation Council and State Duma. From Russia, the Chief traveled to Italy to lay wreathes at the American Cemetery in Florence, and he met with senior officers and junior enlisted assigned to U.S. Army-Africa and the 173rd Airborne Brigade in Vicenza, and the Air Force's 31st Fighter Wing at Aviano AB, to discuss how the VFW can better serve them and their families during the current budget crisis and sequester. 


5. Wounded Warrior Dinner Marks 10th Anniversary: VFW is a longtime sponsor of the Wounded Warrior Dinners, which have been held once a week since October 2003. The dinners used to be held at the old Fran O-Brien's Steakhouse inside the Capitol Hilton until a contract dispute closed the restaurant. Co-owner and VFW life member Hal Koster pledged to keep the dinners going until the wars ended. He created the nonprofit Aleethia Foundation to keep that promise, and in 2007, the VFW awarded him its Citizenship Award at its National Convention in Kansas City. VFW is proud to be a major co-sponsor of the 10th Anniversary Wounded Warrior Dinner tomorrow night near the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md. 


6. Four MIAs Recovered: The Defense POW/MIA Office announced the identification of remains belonging to two soldiers from the Korean War and to airmen from Vietnam. Recovered are:

* Army Cpls. Harold A. Evans, 22, of Linsell, Minn., and Robert J. Tait, 19, of Bar Harbor, Maine. In late 1950, Evans was a member of Headquarters Company, 3rd Battalion, and Tait was a member of Headquarters Battery, 57th Field Artillery Battalion, both assigned to the 31st Regimental Combat Team, that was forced into a fighting withdrawal south of the Chosin Reservoir in North Korea. Evans was reported missing on Dec. 12, 1950. Tait was also reported missing, but in 1953 returning U.S. POWs said he had been captured but died shortly afterward due to lack of medical care and malnutrition.

* Air Force Lt. Col. Robert E. Pietsch, 31, of Pittsburgh, Pa., and Maj. Louis F. Guillermin, 25, of West Chester, Pa. On April 30, 1968, Guillermin and Pietsch were on an armed-reconnaissance mission over Savannakhet Province, Laos when their A-26A Invader aircraft crashed. Search and rescue efforts were unsuccessful.

Read more about their individual stories at http://www.dtic.mil/dpmo/news/news_releases/.



Thanks to all our National Legislative Committee Members for a successful September meeting and for signing up over 725 new advocates to join our Action Corps team! Great job and keep up the good work!

Additional information on Points of Interest from the VFW perspective can be found at:


http://www.vfw.org/News-and-Events/


And


from VFW Department of Nevada at:


http://www.vfwnevada.org/news/default.html


*All post members should take note of these items. It does our community and our post commrades good to see pictures of and to read stories from all the various places the post is doing it's good works. Thank you for your efforts one and all.

VFW TALKING PAPER ON SEQUESTRATION


October 25, 2012


BACKGROUND: The Budget Control Act of 2011 raised the federal debt ceiling on an agreement to offset the increase with a corresponding decrease in discretionary spending over a 10-year period.  A bipartisan Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction was created o identify what federal accounts to reduce.  As an added incentive, an automatic 10 percent across-the-board sequester—or seizure of property (money)—would kick in at the beginning of the next Congress should the Super Committee fail to act, which it did.  Barring an unforeseen development in the remaining 112th Congress, mandatory sequestration will occur in January 2013.  


WHAT SEQUESTRATION IMPACTS: All discretionary spending accounts.   


OUR CONCERN: The discretionary spending accounts of the Departments of Veterans Affairs and Defense.  The President and VA Secretary have assured us that sequestration will not impact any VA account.  We appreciate this, but VFW will continue to monitor how the effects of sequestration might impact future VA budgets, especially in medical and prosthetics research, maintenance and construction, administration, and those programs identified in the “10 for 10” Plan below.  


The VFW is very concerned how sequestration will impact DOD.  The Pentagon agreed to cut its discretionary budget by $487 billion over 10 years, but the total amount due is $1.2 trillion, and some in Congress want DOD to absorb the entire amount.  Defense is 20 percent of the federal budget, but it amounts to half of all discretionary spending (the other half includes NASA, Homeland Security, etc.).  Absorbing a $1.2 trillion cut would be a game changer that would not only eliminate Quality of Life programs for military personnel and their families, it could potentially jeopardize our military’s ability to respond when and where needed.  


VFW’s focus last year was on the “10 for 10” Plan, which are 10 DOD and VA programs and services that we continue to believe are in jeopardy of increased fees or being eliminated or curtailed to help pay for 10 years of war.  Sequestration keeps all 10 on the radarscope.  They are:  


Change the 20-year military retirement plan to resemble civilian plans.  


Increase healthcare premiums for military families and retirees on TRICARE.  


Increase pharmaceutical fees for military families and retirees.  


Reduce cost-of-living allowance increases.  


End government subsidies to military commissaries.  


Eliminate DOD elementary schools stateside.  


Eliminate DOD tuition reimbursement programs for service members.  


Eliminate presumptive service-connected conditions for disabled and ill veterans.  


Lock out or increase fees for VA Priority Group 7 and 8 veterans.  


And freeze military pay like federal civilian pay, which will now see a third consecutive year without a raise.  



WHAT YOU CAN DO: Address our concerns with your elected officials at every opportunity.  Current budget realities are forcing very hard choices in Congress and in agencies and departments across the executive branch.  The VFW recognizes this, but we also recognize that balancing the budget on the backs of disabled veterans, those in uniform, their families, and military retirees is not a solution, and could potentially jeopardize the continued success and viability of the all-volunteer force.  One loud unified voice will ensure all in Washington know that the VFW will not tolerate any plan that requires those who serve and sacrifice the most to do even more.



VFW Carries DOD Budget Fight to Congress


World’s best military can’t fight Capitol Hill


September 20, 2013


 WASHINGTON — The national legislative committee of America’s oldest and largest major war veterans’ organization concluded its fall meeting here Wednesday with a direct message to all 535 members of Congress: “Finish Strong for Veterans.”


"It’s a message to Congress that the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States is watching, and so is the entire nation,” said VFW National Commander William A. Thien, a Vietnam veteran from Georgetown, Ind.


“The federal government’s new fiscal year begins in 11 days, but the Defense Department still doesn’t know what their FY 2014 budget will be, or if they will have to operate under the strict rules of another continuing resolution and for how long,” he explained. “DOD also faces the mandatory sequester, which more than doubles the $487 billion in savings that the department is already required to produce over the next decade. 


“This is having a perilous impact on military personnel, readiness and training, and on family Quality of Life issues,” said Thien. “And the continuing call for a one percent military pay raise, higher healthcare fees for military retirees, and changing the overall military retirement system is bringing additional stress to a military force in transition while it’s still fighting a war.”


The VFW national commander said finding a workable solution to the budget sequestration topped the list of five critical issues that VFW legislative committee members took to their congressional delegations. “We know it has to be done now,” he said, “because 2014 is an election year, which means the attention of the entire House and a third of the Senate will be divided between doing the people’s work and getting reelected.”


The other four critical issues are protecting victims of sexual assault in the military, offering in-state tuition rates to GI Bill-eligible veterans at public colleges, keeping faith with all Tricare Prime retirees, and passing advance appropriations for all Department of Veterans Affairs programs.


As the 70 legislative committee members were meeting with their members of Congress and their staffs, the VFW national commander met privately with VA Secretary Eric Shinseki, as well as with Secretary of the Army John McHugh, Vice Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. John Campbell and Sgt. Major of the Army Raymond Chandler; from the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Vice Chairman Adm. Sandy Winnefeld, and the senior enlisted advisor to the chairman, Marine Corps Sgt. Maj. Bryan Battaglia; from the Navy, Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy Michael Stevens; and from the Air Force, the assistant vice chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Steven Hoog. 


Joining Thien Wednesday afternoon at a Defense POW/MIA Office update briefing by Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense “Q” Winfield were VFW Senior Vice Commander-in-Chief John Stroud of Nevada, and Junior Vice Commander-in-Chief John Biedrzycki from Pennsylvania.


“Every military and civilian leader expressed the same concerns about the lack of a FY 2014 defense budget and the impact the continuing sequester is causing to readiness, morale, and to overall mission accomplishment,” said Thien. “We have the world’s best military, but they can’t fight Capitol Hill, which I said was one of the primary reasons the VFW exists. We are their voice in Congress, and we will continue to let legislators know that their failure to pass a budget is having a perilous effect on a military that, despite appearances, is very worried about its ability to respond to a new contingency tasking elsewhere in our troubled world.”


The VFW national commander is now calling on all VFW members and their families to contact their local congressional offices to press their respective senators and representatives to solve the budget issues for the Department of Defense.


“Our fighting force and their families do not need or deserve these congressionally-imposed problems, not while they continue to shoulder 100 percent of a 12-year of war that has not yet ended,” he said. “Congress has a lot of work to do in a very short amount of time, and it all starts with getting rid of sequestration and passing a defense budget now.”


Additional information on Points of Interest from the VFW perspective can be found at:


http://www.vfw.org/News-and-Events/


And


from VFW Department of Nevada at:


http://www.vfwnevada.org/news/default.html


*All post members should take note of these items. It does our community and our post commrades good to see pictures of and to read stories from all the various places the post is doing it's good works. Thank you for your efforts one and all.