image003KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States (VFW) has appointed a 13-year Army and Desert Storm veteran as the first female Assistant Quartermaster General for the nation’s largest combat veteran service organization.

Debra Anderson was sworn in on August 23, 2015, before the VFW’s National Council of Administration. The announcement comes just days after a historical change to extend VFW Auxiliary membership eligibility to male spouses and male family members, solidifying the VFW’s commitment to membership equality for all military families.

“Since coming to the VFW in 2006, Debra has been dedicated to furthering the VFW’s mission at Post, District and National levels. I have no doubt that she will continue to ensure the VFW remains the top veterans’ service organization FOR VETERANS,” said John Biedrzycki, VFW national commander.

Prior to her appointment, Anderson served as director of Human Resources and Investment Coordinator where she managed all aspects of human resources for the VFW National Headquarters.

Anderson earned her VFW eligibility for service with the U.S. Army during Desert Storm and left the Army in 1993 as a Major. Among her numerous military decorations, she has been awarded the Bronze Star, Meritorious Service Medal (2), Southwest Asia Service Medal, Kuwait Liberation Medal and Parachutist Badge.

She graduated cum laude with a degree in Economics from the University of Missouri-Columbia and earned a master’s degree in Systems Management from the University of Southern California.

Anderson joined the VFW in 2006 at Post 7356 in Parkville, Mo., where she currently maintains her Gold Legacy Life membership. She has served as Voice of Democracy chair, junior vice commander, senior vice commander, All-American Post Commander, trustee and district adjutant.

(via VFW.org)

Background: Last year, Congress passed and the President signed into law the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act of 2014 (Choice Act) to improve access to health care for veterans and reduce VA appointment wait times. Since its enactment, the VFW has worked to ensure this important law serves the best interest of veterans. In the past year, the VFW has commissioned several surveys; compiled three reports; worked directly with VA officials and health care contractors; and testified before Congress multiple times on the state of the VA health care system and the implementation of the Choice Act, resulting in significant changes in the program to better serve veterans.

Action Needed: Take the VFW’s latest Veterans Choice Program and Access Survey to help the VFW hold VA accountable for delivering veterans timely access to high quality care. To take the survey, click here:

http://capwiz.com/vfw/utr/1/EUTAVCFUQO/LWFSVCFUYW/10968957876.

John A. Biedrzycki Jr., national commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States (VFW) [last week] added his official signature to the new congressional charter of its Auxiliary organization in a historical event solidifying the VFW’s commitment to membership equality for all military families.

The former Ladies Auxiliary VFW, founded in 1914, is the VFW’s highly regarded support organization and is considered its “Partner in Service.”

Under its former name Ladies Auxiliary VFW, membership within the organization was offered exclusively to female spouses and family members of any member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars. The gender-specific eligibility requirement remained for more than 100 years until July 20, 2015, when delegates to the VFW’s 116th National Convention in Pittsburgh voted to amend the dated by-law to extend the same membership opportunity to eligible males.

Appropriately, the Ladies Auxiliary VFW has changed its official name to the VFW Auxiliary.

“It’s an exciting time to be a member of the Auxiliary,” said National President Francisca Guilford. “Women comprise nearly twenty percent of our nation’s military, and this change allows all spouses, fathers, grandfathers, sons, grandsons and brothers to serve others in honor of their veteran.”

Currently, the Auxiliary has more than 465,000 members, a number that is now expected to sharply increase over the next year. Its members represent all 50 states, the District of Columbia, several foreign locations including Germany, Guam and Panama, and have made an impact in local communities around the globe.

Last year alone, its members worked to provide $4.6 million dollars in monetary aid to veterans, active duty military and their families, and volunteered nearly 800,000 hours in VA Medical Centers, hospitals, nursing and veterans’ homes. Auxiliary members also contributed greatly to cancer research, youth activities, civic patriotism and much more.

For more information about the VFW Auxiliary, please visit www.vfwauxiliary.org.

(via VFW.org)

WASHINGTON (July 10, 2015) — There was nothing shocking about Thursday’s force reduction announcement by the Army. The Budget Control Act of 2011 had dictated the terms by which America’s largest military service would incrementally shrink from a wartime high of 570,000 active-duty soldiers to 450,000. Still to come, however, is the return of mandatory sequestration in fiscal year 2016, which would further shrink the active Army to 420,000 soldiers, as well as drastically slash the operating budgets of all four military services.

“Sequestration is the most significant military readiness and national security threat of the 21st century, and despite almost universal congressional opposition to it, no member of the House or Senate has yet introduced any legislation to end it,” said John W. Stroud, national commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States. “Our military can beat any military in the world, but they can’t fight a Congress that is essentially forcing them to operate for a decade on only eight years’ worth of funding.”

Though the Army’s announced two-year plan to reduce its end strength by 40,000 soldiers and 17,000 civilians was preordained four years ago, Stroud said what’s important now is for the new Congress to act.

“We need both political parties to finally say ‘enough,’ not because a continued sequester will hurt civilian economies in certain congressional districts, but because a continued sequester weakens America, worries our allies and emboldens our enemies,” he said. “Our brave men and women in uniform will continue to perform and excel at every mission, but overtasking with inadequate resourcing will cost lives — American lives — which is an impending disaster the VFW will not allow. Sequestration must end!”

(via VFW.org)

The Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United is saluting today’s [last week’s] decision by the Department of Veterans Affairs to begin accepting disability claims from veterans potentially exposed to Agent Orange-contaminated aircraft in the post-Vietnam era. The decision by VA Secretary Bob McDonald could now benefit as many as 1,500 to 2,100 Air Force and Air Force Reserve personnel who might suffer from any of 14 presumptive medical conditions that have been determined to be related to Agent Orange exposure.

The VA secretary made the decision to expand benefits following a 2015 report by the National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine on Post-Vietnam Dioxin Exposure in Agent Orange-Contaminated C-123 Aircraft. The report found evidence that those who served aboard or worked on the C-123 aircraft were exposed to the herbicide, both during and after Vietnam, when many of the aircraft remained in service for aeromedical transportation or in a mosquito abatement role back in the U.S.

“The VFW has been pushing for this decision for years,” said VFW National Commander John W. Stroud, “because something inside these aircraft was making people sick years after the plane last flew a defoliating mission in Vietnam. We thank the Institute of Medicine for determining a contributing link between exposure and the 14 medical conditions, and Secretary McDonald for making a quick call to care for more veterans.”

All airmen who were assigned to flight, ground or medical crew duties at Lockbourne/Rickenbacker Air Force Base in Ohio (the 906th and 907th Tactical Air Groups or 355th and 356th Tactical Airlift Squadrons), at Massachusetts’s Westover AFB (the 731st Tactical Air Squadron and 74th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron), or with the 758th Airlift Squadron in Pittsburgh, during the period 1969 to 1986, and who may have developed an Agent Orange-related disability, are encouraged to file a disability compensation claim through the VA’s eBenefits web portal (https://www.ebenefits.va.gov/), or to seek the free and expert assistance of a national VFW Service Officer at http://www.vfw.org/NVS/.

Read more about the today’s [last week’s] decision at http://www.blogs.va.gov/VAntage/20825/va-expands-disability-benefits-for-air-force-personnel-exposed-to-contaminated-c-123-aircraft/.

(via VFW.org)

WASHINGTON — The national commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States said the U.S. House of Representatives is set to penalize disabled veterans this week if it votes to reduce the Department of Veterans Affairs budget request by more than $1.5 billion.

“The nationwide crisis in care and confidence that erupted in the VA last year was caused in many ways by a lack of adequate resourcing that only Congress is authorized to provide,” said John W. Stroud, who leads the 1.9 million-member VFW and its Auxiliaries. “That’s why the VFW is demanding that the House amend this bill to appropriate a funding level that fully funds VA.”

In its current form, the fiscal year 2016 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Bill makes across-the-board cuts to all VA discretionary accounts, and drastically underfunds medical care, major construction and Information Technology accounts. Stroud said across-the-board cuts to discretionary spending is what Congress created back in 2011, but by another name, sequestration. Now the House wants to impose its own sequester on a federal department whose sole mission is to care for wounded, ill and injured veterans.

“The VA cannot fulfill its mission without proper funding, but the House for whatever reason now wants to ration care, eliminate infrastructure projects, and stop improving upon the programs and services that the VA was created to provide,” said the VFW national commander. “This bill is bad for veterans and any vote for it is unconscionable, which is why we want veterans and advocates everywhere to get involved by urging their elected officials to fully fund the VA.”

Make your voices heard here.

via VFW.org

The winners of the 2014-2015 National Voice of Democracy and Patriot’s Pen scholarship competitions were named earlier this month at the National Legislative Conference in Washington DC.

Adam Densmore from the Department of Colorado was named the first-place winner of the $30,000 Voice of Democracy T.C. Selman Memorial Scholarship Award.  This year’s theme was “Why Veterans are Important to our Nation’s History and Future.”  Densmore was sponsored by VFW Post 3631 and Ladies Auxiliary in Aurora, Colorado.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2gmDnEnYwQI[/youtube]

The second-place winner, Jaycie Schenone, sponsored by VFW Post 6604 and Ladies Auxiliary in Folsom, California, received the $16,000 Charles Kuralt Memorial Scholarship Award. The third-place winner, Mackenzie Leishman, sponsored by VFW Post 2350 and Ladies Auxiliary in Elko, Nevada, received the $10,000 VFW Scholarship Award.

Ethan Schroeder from the Department of Pennsylvania was named first-place winner of a $5,000 award for his submission on this year’s theme “Why I Appreciate America’s Veterans.”  Schroeder was sponsored by VFW Post 92 and Ladies Auxiliary in New Kensington, Pennsylvania.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vQZoq5KEtTU[/youtube]

The second-place winner, Jordyn Mies, sponsored by VFW Post 7824 and Ladies Auxiliary Vancouver, Washington, will receive a $4,000 award. The third-place winner, Tracy Kruse, sponsored by VFW Post 2966 and Ladies Auxiliary in Scotland, South Dakota, will receive a $3,500 award.

During today’s [Wednesday’s] testimony before a joint hearing of the Senate and House Veterans Affairs Committees, the national commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. (VFW) expressed the organization’s deep concern over America’s disregard for veterans.

“What concerns the VFW and patriots everywhere is that America has forgotten that OUR NATION IS STILL AT WAR,” explained William A. Thien, commander-in-chief of the VFW. “We have 38,000 men and women stationed inside Afghanistan fighting to ensure the country doesn’t become a terrorist training ground again. We have another 30,000 stationed in South Korea helping to preserve a 61-year-old ceasefire that is looking more and more tenuous.  We have tens of thousands more service members stationed abroad helping to bring peace and stability, and humanitarian assistance when and where it’s needed.”

Thien went on to address the war now being waged on American soil as well, reminding lawmakers of the ongoing veterans’ fight to retain their promised benefits and Quality of Life programs. He noted the passage of the recent COLA penalty, an initiative that VFW was adamantly against since its introduction late last year. “Some believe the cost of war ends when the last troops leave Afghanistan. We know this is not true, and that is why we need a fully funded state-of-the-art VA health care system, benefits programs and cemetery system.”

He pledged that the more than 1.9 million members of the VFW and its Auxiliaries will fight to preserve the safety and security of America and the viability of its All-Volunteer Military. He also vowed to fight attempts to force veterans, service members and their families to shoulder an unfair share of the nation’s debt, and promised to continue the fight for adequate funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs, as well as for advance appropriations for its programs.

Thien explained to Congress that the VFW’s mission is to ensure that a nation that creates veterans fulfills its sacred duty to care for them when they return home. “The VFW exists to serve veterans, and that includes representing them in Washington where the voice of one veteran is often overlooked and the voice of servicemen and women is prohibited.

“Everything the VFW wants costs money, but everything the VFW wants is for someone else—someone from every city and town in every congressional district, and in every state and territory who swore an oath of allegiance to protect and defend our great country and its Constitution,” Thien stated.

Read the entire testimony.

Click here to see full testimony plus Q&A