Many questions loom surrounding potential cuts to government programs geared to assist America’s veterans and service members as a result of sequestration. Armed with its 2013 Legislative Priority Goals, the VFW will continue to combat all changes or cuts to programs that could have an adverse effect on our nation’s heroes.

We want you to know exactly where we stand on the issues. So, we are hosting our first VFW Twitter Chat Friday, April 19, 2013, at 10:30 a.m. EDT. The VFW will answer participants’ questions regarding the VFW’s 2013 Legislative Priority Goals for one hour in real-time via the VFW’s National Twitter page, @VFWHQ, using the hashtag #ASKVFW.

This chat will allow participants to gain insight into initiatives the VFW proudly supports and advocates for, and gain a better understanding of how hard we’re working in Washington. All you’ll need is a Twitter account to participate, which you can register for at www.twitter.com.

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“Most folks will never experience the euphoria of crossing a finish line, but we can all share in the grief and anger that yesterday’s tragic terror bombing of the Boston Marathon produced. Our hearts and prayers are with Boston and our friends, families and visitors who came to celebrate Patriots’ Day and tremendous human achievement, but who now leave wounded inside and out, or worse. As a nation, we cannot allow our great ability to heal to also become a liability. Our resiliency must not turn into complacency, because America’s enemies will neither forgive, forget or stop. The Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States fully supports our nation’s law enforcement officials who will bring those responsible for this senseless and cowardly act to justice.”

John E. Hamilton
Commander-in-Chief

The Pentagon announced today [Monday] that Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has cancelled the creation of the Distinguished Warfare Medal, and instead will create a new device to affix to existing medals to properly recognize drone operators, cyber warriors and others who are making a tremendous real-time impact on battlefields far away.

John E. Hamilton, national commander of the 2 million-member Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. and its Auxiliaries, said the right decision was made. “The VFW is appreciative of the Joint Chiefs of Staff for their review, and commends Secretary Hagel for taking this issue on so early in his tenure. This decision will clearly keep medals that can only be earned in combat in their high order of precedence, while providing proper recognition to all who support our warfighters regardless of their distance from the fight.”

The shape of the new device, the medals it can be affixed to, plus award eligibility, are expected to be determined within the next 90 days.

(via VFW.org)

Kansas City, Mo. – VFW announces it is now accepting entries into next year’s Voice of Democracy and Patriot’s Pen scholarship competitions. The announcement comes just two weeks after students from across the globe took home their share of nearly $3 million dollars in scholarships and awards from last year’s competitions.

VFW’s Voice of Democracy and Patriot’s Pen essay competitions are dedicated to promoting patriotism among our nation’s youth. Students are asked to submit an essay in response to a question or statement on a subject which prompts them to consider how democratic ideals and principals apply to their lives.

This year’s Voice of Democracy theme asks students to explain, “Why I’m Optimistic About Our Nation’s Future.” The Voice of Democracy scholarship competition is an audio-essay competition open to students in grades 9-12. Students are asked to record their statement in response to the theme and submit their entry to their local Posts. The national winner will receive the $30,000, T.C. Selman Memorial Scholarship Award. Click here for more information.

The Patriot’s Pen competition is open to students in grades 6-8. This year, students are asked to reflect on the statement, “What Patriotism Means to Me.” The national winner will receive a $5,000 award. Click here for more information.

The deadline for submissions is November 1, 2013.

Hamilton and Obamam smallThe national commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. left the Oval Office this [yesterday] morning knowing that President Obama shares his same concerns for properly caring for military veterans, service members and their families.

“It was a very positive meeting and we’re grateful for the opportunity,” said John E. Hamilton, a combat wounded Vietnam Marine Corps rifleman from St. Augustine, Fla., who is in Washington for the VFW’s annual legislative conference, which includes presenting the organization’s top legislative priorities before a joint hearing of the House and Senate Veterans Affairs Committees on Tuesday.

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In This Issue:

1. Sequestration a Week Away
2. Others Want New Medal Ranked Lower
3. VFW Attends DOL Update
4. IB Lays Out VA Budget Needs
5. Nominate a Woman Veteran
6. VFW Discusses Student-Veterans in Higher Ed

1. Sequestration a Week Away: The Defense Department is pulling no punches in letting Congress and the American public know the serious impact mandatory sequestration will have on the force. With very exceptions, 800,000 DOD civilians will be forced to take a three-week furlough beginning in late April. That roughly means one day a week, per week, through the end of the current fiscal year, which will lower civilian pay by 20 percent. The mandatory sequester will kick in March 1, and barring a last minute agreement by Congress it will force the Pentagon to cut more than $46 billion in current year spending by Sept. 30, just seven months away. The automatic cuts would be in addition to the $487 billion in planned defense spending reductions over the next 10 years, as mandated by the Budget Control Act passed in 2011. As mentioned previously, planned reductions include:
* Slashing noncombat flying, sailing and driving hours.
* A hiring freeze and cut back on installation, facility and contract maintenance.
* Requesting a 1 percent military pay raise for fiscal year 2014 instead of the planned 1.7 percent.
* Requesting another base realignment and closure round.
* And possibly increasing military dependent and retiree Tricare health program fees, and changing the current military retirement system for future generations.
DOD is guaranteeing, however, that deployed forces will be protected, but forces in garrison and not “on deck” to deploy will be impacted. Read more about the potential furlough at http://www.defense.gov/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=119337.

2. Others Want New Medal Ranked Lower: More veteran and military service organizations have joined with VFW in opposing the placement of the new Distinguished Warfare Medal, which if left unchanged will rank it the ninth highest in the order of precedence—higher than the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart. The VFW has been joined in our call to lower the ranking by the Military Order of the Purple Heart, National Association of Uniformed Services, and the Military Officers’ Association of America, among others. The new medal, announced by Defense Secretary Panetta on Feb. 13, would be awarded to drone pilots and cyber warriors who are having a significant impact, but who are not required to be physically present on the battlefield. “The VFW fully concurs that those far from the fight are having an immediate impact,” said VFW National Commander John Hamilton, “but medals that can only be earned in direct combat must mean more than medals awarded in the rear.” The VFW continues to urge the Department of Defense and now the White House to reconsider the new medal’s placement in the military order of precedence.

3. VFW Attends DOL Meeting: This week, VFW attended a Department of Labor Veterans Employment and Training Service (VETS) update for VSO’s on how the agency is working to deliver employment resources to veterans. Newly-confirmed Assistant Secretary of Labor for VETS, Keith Kelly discussed how he wants to improve VETS by soliciting feedback from veterans’ advocates like the VFW to make sure the agency’s programs succeed. The meeting also included briefings from other senior VETS leaders on programs like Jobs for Veterans State Grants, or JVSG, enhanced outreach to separating service members, data-sharing agreements with DOD, unique challenges for female veterans in the workforce, Family Medical Leave Act provisions for veterans, and usage of the Veterans Retraining Assistance Program. VFW will continue to monitor DOL resources for veterans, to stay up to date, click here for the blog posting: http://thevfw.blogspot.com/2013/02/department-of-labor-hosts-veterans.html

4. IB Lays Out VA Budget Needs: The VFW, along with its three Independent Budget (IB) partners- PVA, DAV, and AMVETS – have released what we believe to be the necessary funding for VA to continue to offer consistent high quality health care and services to all eligible veterans, their families and survivors. The comprehensive budget highlights the needs of older veterans and those young men and women returning from active duty to join civilian life. Funding information is provided after careful review of medical and administrative costs within VA which form the foundation of the recommendations. The Administration and Congress are expected to release their FY 2014 budget proposals sometime in March. Will continue to update you here as the budget and appropriations cycle moves along in the 113th Congress. We will continue to ask Congress and the Administration to provide sufficient funding to meet the health care and benefit needs of veterans in a timely and predictable manner.
IB Recommendations for FY 2014 include:
* $58.8 billion total for health care—$1.3 billion more than what the Administration recommended ($57.5 billion) in their advance appropriation last year.
* $2.4 billion for the Veterans Benefits Administration—approximately $226 million more than the expected FY 2013 appropriated level.
* $2.25 billion for all construction programs—approximately $900 million more than the expected FY 2013 appropriated level, and well below the true funding needs of construction projects.
* $611 million for medical and prosthetic research, approximately $28 million more than the expected FY 2013 appropriated level.
For the full FY 2014 Independent Budget recommendations, http://www.independentbudget.org/

5. Nominate a Woman Veteran: The White House Champions of Change program highlights the stories of citizens across the country who are moving their communities forward. This March, they want to highlight the many contributions made by women veterans, especially those who served in Iraq or Afghanistan. Examples of their work within the veterans’ community may include:
* Improving healthcare services available to women and children;
* Helping women veterans transitioning into the workforce;
* Leading programs to improve the well-being of young women;
* Developing a program to support victims of domestic violence or trauma;
* Helping engage and support Wounded Warrior transitioning;
* And providing services and support to eliminate homelessness, among many others.
There is no limit to the number of women veterans you can submit, but all nominations must be received by midnight, February 26. For more information or to nominate, go to http://www.whitehouse.gov/champions.

6. VFW Discusses Student-Veterans in Higher Ed: This week the New York Times published an op-ed by VFW Deputy Legislative Director Ryan Gallucci, highlighting the good work of student-veterans on college campuses across the country, but also explaining why potential student-veterans need to be armed with quality information before choosing a school. To read the full story, click here: http://atwar.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/02/13/how-to-help-veterans-succeed-in-college/. Your VFW has standing invites to contribute these kinds of issue-based narratives to the Times and other major military and general news media outlets. If you would like to share a story of yours, please send it to vfwac@vfw.org.

Each year hundreds of VFW leaders converge on the Hill, taking the voice of America’s veterans directly to congressional dignitaries and lawmakers during the VFW Legislative Conference.

Armed with the VFW’s Legislative Priority Goals for 2013, VFW advocates plan to visit with every congressional office, explaining in detail the VFW’s stance on a variety of veterans’ issues like access to VA benefits, military quality-of-life programs, economic opportunity and health care.

The week culminates with the testimony of VFW Commander-in-Chief John Hamilton before a special joint hearing of the House and Senate Veterans Affairs Committees on March 5, where Hamilton will lay out the VFW’s legislative agenda for the year.

VFW’s live stream of the conference will begin on March 3 at 6:00 p.m. (EST) with the annual Voice of Democracy Parade of Winners, followed by streaming video of VFW Commander-in-Chief John Hamilton’s testimony on the afternoon of March 5.

Visit http://www.vfw.org/vfwconference to access the stream directly.  If you miss the live feed, you can catch the excitement through the “on-demand” feature at your leisure.

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More than 20 wounded warriors will converge on CrossFit Rubicon in Vienna, Va., this Saturday for the first-ever Working Wounded Games. Hosted in conjunction CrossFit Walter Reed and volunteers from other metro area CrossFit affiliates, the Working Wounded Games will allow veterans with combat-related disabilities to compete in an open-style competition that will benefit two new wounded warrior charities. The VFW is proud to serve as an inaugural sponsor for the event, which coincides with the 237th birthday of the Marine Corps and Veterans Day.

“I know first-hand the physical challenges our heroes face when they return home,” said VFW National Commander John E. Hamilton, a triple Purple Heart recipient from Vietnam. “The VFW is proud to support the games and the wounded athletes competing this Saturday, and the new programs that will help wounded warriors discover new ways to stay fit, while reclaiming their independence and a sense of accomplishment.”

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