John E. Hamilton, a resident of St. Augustine, Fla., was elected VFW Commander-in-Chief on July 25, 2012, during the 113th VFW National Convention, held July 21 – July 25, in Reno, Nev.
In his acceptance speech, Hamilton, who served in the Marine Corps from 1968-1970, reminded the mostly Vietnam-era audience that VFW must remain vigilant in its efforts to care for war veterans, especially in these tough economic times as our country’s wars wind down.
“What we have accomplished over the past 113 years on Capitol Hill and in cities and towns everywhere is legendary, but our future existence is 100 percent dependent on what we do tomorrow … the reason our voice needs to be heard is because all wars end … Iraq last year and Afghanistan by 2014. That means veterans’ issues could once again take a back seat to whatever new national priority becomes the flavor of the day,” stated Hamilton.
Former Massachusetts Governor and Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney spoke at the 113 National VFW Convention on Tuesday. Video below begins around the 10:00 mark. A text copy of Romney’s remarks can be found here.
President Barack Obama addressed about 3,500 attendees at today’s Joint Opening Session in the Reno-Sparks Convention Center. He discussed various issues of importance to veterans, including: new employment and transition assistance for returning vets, VA health care, the Post-9/11 GI Bill, the Afghanistan War and creation of a medals database.
Obama announced that earlier in the morning he had signed into law the Veteran Skills to Jobs Act (H.R. 4155), sponsored by Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Calif.). The law will make it easier for veterans to find jobs using skills acquired in the military by streamlining the certification process. “Veterans need to be licensed and credentialed when they get home,” he said. Obama also told attendees that he hopes that Congress will pass the Veterans Job Corps Act (H.R. 5683), which would offer unemployed veterans or their widows or widowers jobs in forestry, for example, on public lands.
In order to prepare veterans for civilian life, Obama introduced a major interagency overhaul of the military’s transition assistance program called Transition GPS. “We’re going to set up a reverse boot camp” to enhance “career readiness,” he said. It would extend sessions up to seven days, to include financial planning, an employment workshop and a planning session in which troops can explore career options and talk to experts. The redesigned program should be complete by the end of 2013.
Obama covered several matters regarding VA health care, including the idea of vouchers. “Some have argued for [vouchers], but I could not disagree more,” Obama said to applause. “You don’t need vouchers, you need the VA care you have earned.” He vowed to continue to make veterans health care a priority.
The presumptive Republican candidate for this fall’s presidential election has accepted an invitation to speak before the 113th National Convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S., which begins July 21 at the Reno-Sparks Convention Center in Reno, Nev. The event is closed to the public.
“We are most appreciative to Governor Mitt Romney for again taking time to address America’s oldest and largest major combat veterans’ organization,” said VFW National Commander Richard L. DeNoyer, a retired Marine and Vietnam combat veteran from Middleton, Mass. The governor spoke at the VFW’s 112th National Convention in San Antonio last August.
Governor Romney is scheduled to speak on July 24, one day after President Obama, which continues a long standing VFW tradition to provide a platform for those seeking the nation’s highest office to address issues of importance directly to veterans, military service members and their families. DeNoyer said this is especially important during a time of war and instability abroad, and economic belt tightening at home.
“We hope to hear how both candidates will take the fight to our enemies and keep America safe through strong national defense and homeland security programs,” he said. “We also want to know how they will create, enhance and protect veteran and military healthcare programs and Quality of Life initiatives, to include educational benefits and military retirement programs, as well as how they will improve veterans’ job training and employment opportunities, and eliminate veterans’ homelessness. We would also greatly appreciate hearing their commitment to returning our fallen from their battlefields.”
Up to 12,000 VFW and Ladies Auxiliary delegates are expected to represent the organization’s total membership of 2 million at the weeklong convention. Their mission is to approve new national priorities to guide the VFW as it lobbies Congress on issues important to the nation’s veterans, service members and their families. Convention delegates will also elect a new VFW national commander and recognize prominent individuals and organizations for their support of veterans, the military and the nation.
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/opinions/11pdf/11-393c3a2.pdf.
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/opinions/11pdf/11-210d4e9.pdf.
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/2012/06/what-do-you-think-supreme-court.html
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/2012/06/house-moves-series-of-vfw-supported.html
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/2012/06/vfw-applauds-state-attorneys-general.html
(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/.