September 24, 2014
New Process Will Reduce Processing Times and Improve Quality
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) today announced that it is introducing a uniformed disability claims form to better serve Veterans, families and survivors. Standardizing the process by which Veterans file claims and initiate appeals will make it easier for Veterans and their survivors to clearly state what benefits they are seeking from VA and provide information that is necessary to process their claims and appeals. The new forms eliminate applicant guesswork, which often leads to delays in decisions and ultimately delays in receiving benefits. The new regulations go into effect in late March 2015.
“We must do everything that we can to make it as fast and easy as possible for Veterans and their survivors to file for and receive an accurate decision on their claim,” said VA Secretary Robert McDonald. “Our Veterans and survivors will know, at the outset of the claims process, what is needed, which removes subjective interpretation from the process. We want to eliminate any barriers that make it difficult for our Veterans or survivors to receive benefits to which they are entitled.”
In the past, a Veteran or survivor did not have to use a certain form to seek compensation or other benefits from VA. Claims or appeals (Notice of Disagreement) could be submitted on any piece of paper which caused delays due to missing information.
By using standard forms for all disability claims, VA can more quickly and accurately identify what the Veteran is claiming or appealing. This will allow VA to immediately move on to next steps in the evidence-gathering and decision-making process, which saves administrative processing time and speeds the delivery of earned benefits. The existing process is also inconsistent with most, if not all, other government and non-government application processes, such as applying for social security, applying for a driver’s license, applying for a job or filing for an income tax refund.
“These days, government agencies and private businesses rely on standard forms to deliver faster and more accurate customer service,” said Under Secretary for Benefits Allison A. Hickey. “VA’s ability to deliver better customer service requires the use of standard forms as well. That is why we worked extensively with our partners in the Veterans community to streamline the way we process claims while preserving the effective date rules concerning informal claims through the creation of a new intent to file a claim process.”
The updated process also includes standardizing the traditional informal claims process by employing a new “Intent to File a Claim” process which affords the Veteran or survivor one year to compile the necessary documentation or evidence to support the claim while preserving an effective date of claim.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (July 24, 2014) — The Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States concluded its 115th national convention yesterday with the election of the new VFW National Commander, John W. Stroud.
Stroud served in the U.S. Air Force from 1976-1997, including a tour in Korea in 1992-1993 with the 51st Fighter Wing at Osan Air Base as a Flight Operations Superintendent. His decorations include four Meritorious Service Medals, three Air Force Commendation Medals, three Air Force Achievement Medals, the Korea Defense Service Medal and the National Defense Service Medal.
He is a resident of Hawthorne, Nev., and a Gold Legacy Life Member of Post 2313, and has served the VFW in a number of leadership positions including Nevada Department Commander and Chairman of the National Veterans Service Committee.
During his acceptance speech, Stroud addressed the recent VA crisis stating, “the VA is a health care system worth saving that right now must identify and fix what’s broken … that needs to hold people appropriately accountable to the fullest extent of the law … and a system that must restore the faith of veterans in their VA. He added that he is confident Acting VA Secretary Sloan Gibson and nominee Bob McDonald—if confirmed—will not make the same mistake as the previous VA Secretary who simply trusted his employees to the point of his demise.
Stroud recounted his first experience with the VFW, stopping in Post 10047 in Las Vegas, Nev., after seeing a sign that read ‘Active Duty Military Welcome.’ Dressed in fatigues, he entered the Post and was immediately welcomed. Surrounded by his comrades, he learned of the organization’s many programs and services, and he knew he wanted in.
“Comrades, I share my story to encourage you to tell your own stories to others. A great part of the VFW story involves the relevance between different generations, and the ability to educate others about who we are, what we do, and who we do it for,” he said.
Stroud had high praise for members’ work and VFW programs, citing several outstanding instances of disaster relief, troop support and veterans resource efforts. He commended those who worked with the U.S. European Command to operate a Visitor’s Center for hundreds of American D-Day veterans and thousands of visitors who were in Normandy for the 70th anniversary of the landing, and praised the Ladies Auxiliary for its donations to cancer research which now total $30 million.
“One of the best things about being a National Officer is I get to brag about the VFW wherever I go … to the troops, to veterans, their families, nonveterans and politicians, too,” he said.
GENERAL ORDER NO. 1
- Having been duly elected at the 79th State Convention on June 8, 2014 and properly installed as Commander, Department of Alabama, Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States, I Calvin Underwood hereby assume command.
- The following officers having been duly elected and installed will be accorded the proper recognition:
Sr. Vice Commander – Johnny Waller, Post 4572, Wetumpka, AL
Jr. Vice Commander – Walter Dempster, Post 6226, Arab, AL
Quartermaster – Charles Stephens, Post 3128, Ft Payne, AL
Judge Advocate – Wayne Dial, Post 924 Anniston, AL
Surgeon – Max Hyatt, Post 6226, Arab, AL
Chaplain – Valentin “Val” Obregon, Post 3568, Bay Minette, AL
Immediate Past Commander – Greg Usrey, Post 2702, Huntsville, AL
District 1 Commander – John Schmitz, Post 5162, S Huntsville, AL
District 2 Commander – George Jones, Post 6073, Scottsboro, AL
District 3 Commander – Martin Kiewel, Post 1762, Bessemer, AL
District 4 Commander – Alvin Morrow, Post 4758, Pell City, AL
District 5 Commander – James “J W” Vaught, Post 5180, Ft. Mitchell, AL
District 6 Commander – Luther Parden, Post 5106, Thomasville, AL
District 7 Commander – Michael Naro, Post 3073, Dothan, AL
District 8 Commander – Ronnie Doege, Post 5658, Elberta, AL
3 The following appointments are hereby announced:
Adjutant – Johnny Waller, Post 4572, Wetumpka, AL
Chief of Staff – Jerry Anger, Post 6173, Brookside, AL
Inspector – Stephen Connolly, Post 6837, Boaz, AL
Sgt.-at-Arms – Don Collum, Post 10774, Falkville, AL
Department Service Officer – Lorenzo Landrum, Post 10366, Montgomery, AL
Convention Committee Chairman – Charles Stephens, Post 3128, Fort Payne, AL
- All previous appointments are hereby null and void.
- All other appointments are posted on the website at www.alvfw.org. These comrades will be accorded the proper recognition.
- GENERAL ORDERS: All material in State General Orders are directive in nature and will be read to the membership at the Post regular membership meetings each month.
- ATTENTION COMMANDERS: all levels are directed to Section 703 of the National By-Laws which requires that each accountable employee and officer(s) be bonded with an Indemnity Company in the sum at least equal to the amount of liquid assets for which he/she may be accountable.
- The next Business Session of the 2014-2015 Council of Administration will be July 11, 2014 at 4:00 PM at the Birmingham Marriott. Any member having any item(s) to come before the Council should contact their representative and provide them with the information.
- ENFORCEMENT AGENCIES VISITS: All Commanders are required to notify the Department as soon as possible and no later than 72 hours after any contact by phone, letter or visit by Federal, State or Local Enforcement Officers of the ABC Board, IRS Office, local Sheriff, Police Departments or any other agencies of their visit and any violation, request noted or any information requested.
- CONTROL OF UNITS: National By-Laws Section 709 states, “No Post, County Council, District or Department and no activity, clubroom or holding company or unit sponsored, conducted or operated by, for or on behalf of any Post, County Council, District or Department may own any property jointly or in common with any individual, firm, partnership, association, corporation or other business or charitable entity, including veterans organizations nor may they participate in any arrangement whereby the funds of such Post, County Councils, District or Department or activity clubroom, holding company or unit sponsored, conducted or operated by, for or in its behalf are expended on property held by another entity for the joint used of such Post, County Council, District and Department and other individuals, firms, partnership, associations, corporation or other business or charitable entities, including veterans organizations.”
- Any VFW Post loaning, renting, leasing or allowing use of in anyway their VFW Post facilities or property to any civic, military or other Veteran’s organization will have a signed rental or lease agreement if for one (1) time or for a year with a hold harmless agreement included in the signed document. A copy of the agreement must be submitted to the State Commander at Headquarters at least seventy two (72) hours prior to the use of the facilities by the other party to insure proper compliance.
- WEARING OF HATS: Attention of Commanders, at all levels, are directed to action of the National Council of Administration prohibiting the wearing of VFW sport caps and/or western style caps at VFW meetings in place of the regulation cap of the VFW official uniform as set forth in Section 803 of the National By-Laws and Manual of Procedure. This prohibition is in accordance with previous directive of Commanders-in-Chief that it is held to be objectionable and contrary to accepted rules of order and proper decorum implicit in the ritual of the Veterans of Foreign Wars to permit the wearing of other than the official VFW caps at VFW meetings. This also applies to informal meetings.
- POST DUES RESERVE: Attention is directed to Section 218, Manual of Procedure, which mandates Post Quartermasters to maintain a dues reserve fund to which shall be credited no less than one/half of the Post’s part of the current year’s dues paid by each member prior to July 1, except dues remitted by the post. No post Quartermaster shall disburse, nor shall an obligation be incurred against this fund until after July 1, at which time it shall be transferred to the Post General Fund and be available for expenditure.
- ATTENTION OF POST COMMANDERS: are directed to Section 218, Manual of Procedure, Duty of Trustees, which states that Post Trustees shall prepare and submit quarterly, through their Post Commander, a Post Trustees Report of Audit (Supply Department Stock No. 4212) to the Department Quartermaster. The first report is due at the close of the Quarter June 2014. Post must have audit to Department Headquarters no later than 31 July 2014. Do not mail these reports to National Headquarters.
- BUDDY POPPY: 2014-2015 Buddy Poppies will cost $65.00 for 500 and $130.00 for 1,000. This includes postage. Minimum order is 500. Order early for Veterans Day. Support the disabled veterans in the VA Hospitals that make Buddy Poppies by having a great program for 2014-2015.
- A House Committee is elected to act as management for the business affairs at the club. State VFW Club Regulations for Alabama Organizations and By-Laws explains in detail their overall responsibilities.
- NOTICE: National By-Laws Article II Section 213 requires that the office of Quartermaster be bonded, that the Post be properly insured and that all trustee audits be submitted on time. Failure to comply will subject your Post Charter to suspension.
- MANDATORY: National By-Laws and Manual of Procedures Article II Section 218 (a) (1) K requires the Commander, and in his absence the Sr. Vice and in the absence of both of the them the Jr. Vice Commander to attend all properly called District meetings. There will be no exceptions to this requirement.
- The Congressional charter “An Act” Section 5 and the National By-Laws Article 1 Section 101 describe in detail the requirements for membership in the VFW and it does not allow for any type of Honorary or Associate membership, PERIOD.
- All members are required to follow the proper chain of command prior to calling or writing National Headquarters. A copy of the letter written to National must be sent to State Headquarters.
- All Posts must participate in the core programs listed in the Roster and Program book. Programs, especially membership, are the VFW and not the canteen. Without doing the programs it is not the VFW and there will be no canteen.
- National Special Order No. 324, dated June 19, 2014 ordered that Cynthia J Watson, Life member no. 9371286, Wiregrass Post No. 3073, Dothan, Alabama ordered Cynthia J Watson not be allowed to hold a Post or District office for two (2) years, a State office for three (3) years or the Office of State Quartermaster or State Adjutant for ten (10) years in the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States.
BY ORDER OF:
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.
The winners of the VFW and Ladies Auxiliary sponsored Voice of Democracy audio-essay competition and the Patriot’s Pen essay competition were announced yesterday[Monday] during the 2014 VFW Legislative Conference in Washington, D.C.
The Voice of Democracy program celebrated its 67th year with this year’s theme, “Why I’m Optimistic About Our Nation’s Future.” The first-place winner, Madison Haley, sponsored by VFW Post 777 and Ladies Auxiliary in Mount Pulaski, Ill., received an all-expense-paid trip to Washington, D.C., where she was presented with the T.C. Selman Memorial Scholarship Award in the amount of $30,000. The second-place winner, Grace Speas, sponsored by VFW Post 10097 and Ladies Auxiliary in Fort Myers Beach, Fla., received the $16,000 Charles Kuralt Memorial Scholarship Award. The third-place winner, Luke Ball, sponsored by VFW Post 2573 and Ladies Auxiliary in Wilmington, N.C., received the $10,000 VFW Scholarship Award. All other state winners received at least a $1,000 college scholarship. More than 40,000 students participated in this year’s competition.
The Patriot’s Pen program is designed to foster patriotism by allowing students the opportunity to express their opinions on democracy based on an annual theme, this year’s being, “What Patriotism Means to Me.” The first-place winner, Alexis Canen, sponsored by VFW Post 1125 and Ladies Auxiliary in Glendive, Mont., received an all-expense-paid trip to Washington, D.C., where she received a $5,000 award. The second-place winner, Noelle Nakaoka, sponsored by VFW Post 2875 in Ewa Beach, Hawaii, will receive a $4,000 award. The third-place winner, Olivia Leising, sponsored by VFW Post 9357 in Cambridge, Neb., will receive a $3,500 award. More than 111,000 students participated in this year’s competition.
This year promises to be a momentous one for America’s veterans and its warriors. Issues affecting those in and out of uniform will be on the front burner on Capitol Hill.
Two events in 2014 will no doubt put veterans and the armed forces in the national limelight: congressional elections and withdrawal of U.S. combat troops from Afghanistan. The ending of a war is always a watershed in history, and this one should be no exception.
Achieving such a milestone will attract publicity that should be maximized to the benefit of the Afghanistan War’s veterans and their families. While the media is focused on the political ramifications of the combat disengagement, we should draw attention to the needs of the youngest generation of war vets.
Recently, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told the 47,000 GIs remaining in Afghanistan: “I know more than occasionally you wonder if anybody’s paying attention, or if anybody cares, but we do.”
Hagel may have been speaking on behalf of the American people in general, but his words could have been our own. This is all part of our commitment to “fully support U.S. troops and their mission to prosecute the war on terrorism.”
VFW’s Priority Goals include a host of issues—health care, housing, education, employment, transition assistance and military quality-of-life as a whole—that are perfectly relevant to those on active duty today. Each and every one of these goals is being pursued with vigor by our Washington Office staff.
The National Office of the Veterans of Foreign Wars has created a special Thanksgiving “Thank You” message for all VFW Service Officers, Members and supporters.