Jan 21

Unanimous vote confirms Shinseki as VA chief

Image via Associated Press

(via Honolulu Star Bulletin)

Retired Gen. Eric Shinseki of Kauai has been confirmed by the U.S. Senate as secretary of veterans affairs.

The unanimous vote confirming Shinseki, the first Asian-American to lead the agency, and five other members of President Barack Obama's Cabinet came yesterday, a little more than three hours after Obama took office.

"General Shinseki has risen from humble beginnings to become the secretary of the second-largest Cabinet-level department in the federal government," Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii, said in a news release issued in Washington.

"Twice wounded in Vietnam, Shinseki fought to stay in military service so he could continue to serve his country. I believe he will bring that same commitment and patriotism to his new role," Akaka said.

The senator, who chairs the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, said he looked forward to working with Shinseki and Obama to help the VA fulfill its "sacred obligation to veterans and their families."

Read full story

Permanent link to this article: http://myvfw.org/fl/post8696/general/unanimous-vote-confirms-shinseki-as-va-chief/

Jan 17

VFW Washington Weekly – January 16, 2009


1. Inauguration
2. Senate Holds Hearing for New VA Secretary


1. DOD Announces Purple Heart Decision
2. Counter-Piracy Task Force Established
3. Korean War MIAs Identified
4. Reserve Component Mobilization

1. Inauguration:
President-elect Barack Obama will be sworn in as the 44th President of the United States on the Capitol steps on Tuesday. VFW will join other veteran and military groups at inaugural activities throughout the week, to include hosting a reception for more than 40 Medal of Honor recipients who are here for the inauguration. For a guide to events, go to: http://dc.about.com/od/specialevents/a/Inauguration.htm.

Read more Washington Weekly

Permanent link to this article: http://myvfw.org/fl/post8696/general/vfw-washington-weekly-january-16-2009/

Jan 12

VA News Briefs 1-12-09

VA To Offer Health Care to Previously Ineligible Veterans

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced [Thursday] plans to re-open enrollment in its health care system by July 2009 to about 265,000 veterans whose incomes exceed current limits. 

"We're pleased to be able to offer what has been called 'the best care anywhere' to many more new veterans," said Dr. James B. Peake, Secretary of Veterans Affairs.  "We'll be able to provide these newly enrolled veterans with the kind of timely, high quality health care veterans who already use our system are accustomed to."

The change affects veterans whose incomes exceed the current VA means test and geographic means test income thresholds by 10 percent or less.  Congress provided funds in VA's fiscal year 2009 budget to support the new enrollment.

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VA Announces $22 Million for Rural Veterans

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has provided $21.7 million to its regional health care systems to improve services specifically designed for veterans in rural areas.

"This special allocation is the latest down payment on VA's commitment to meet the needs of veterans living in rural areas," said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Dr. James B. Peake. "VA will take to our rural veterans the health care services they have earned."

Within the last year, VA has launched a major rural health initiative.  The Department has already created a 13-member committee to advise the VA secretary on issues affecting rural veterans, opened three rural health resource centers to better understand rural health issues, rolled out four new mobile health clinics to serve 24 predominately rural counties, announced the opening of 10 new rural outreach clinics in 2009 and launched a fleet of 50 new mobile counseling centers.

Read more

Permanent link to this article: http://myvfw.org/fl/post8696/general/va-news-briefs-1-12-09/

Jan 10

VFW Washington Weekly – January 9, 2009

In This Issue:
1. Senate Hearing on New VA Secretary Nominee
2. VA to Begin Enrolling Category 8 Veterans
3. Reserve Retirement Bill Introduced
1. Senate Hearing on New VA Secretary Nominee: The Senate VA Committee will hold a confirmation hearing next week on the nomination of retired Gen. Eric Shinseki to be Secretary of Veterans Affairs.  Shinseki, the former Army Chief of Staff, was nominated for the position in December by President-elect Obama.  If confirmed, Shinseki has stated he will work to reduce the six-month disability benefits claims processing time by updating VA's paper application to an integrated electronic claims processing system, and he will initiate an independent review of the new GI Bill benefits program to ensure VA meets the August implementation deadline.  The confirmation hearing will be held on Wednesday, Jan. 14, at 10 a.m.  To view it live, use the link to the Senate VA Committee website at: http://veterans.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?pageid=16&release_id=11821.

Read more Washington Weekly

Permanent link to this article: http://myvfw.org/fl/post8696/general/vfw-washington-weekly-january-9-2009/

Jan 10

VA Assisting Veterans with Health Care Costs

WASHINGTON (Jan. 6, 2009) — For veterans struggling financially due to a job loss or decreased income, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) offers an assortment of programs that can relieve the costs of health care or provide care at no cost.

"With the downturn in the economy, VA recognizes that many veterans will feel the effects," said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Dr. James B. Peake. "Therefore, it is important that eligible veterans learn of the many ways VA has to help them afford the health care they have earned."

Veterans whose previous income was ruled too high for VA health care may be able to enter the VA system based upon a hardship if their current year's income is projected to fall below federal income thresholds due to a job loss, separation from service or some other financial setback.  Veterans determined eligible due to hardship can avoid copays applied to higher-income veterans.  Qualifying veterans may be eligible for enrollment and receive health care at no cost.

Also eligible for no-cost VA care are most veterans who recently returned from a combat zone.  They are entitled to five years of free VA care.  The five-year "clock" begins with their discharge from the military, not their departure from the combat zone.  Each VA medical center across the country has an enrollment coordinator available to provide veterans information about these programs. Veterans may also contact VA's Health Benefits Service Center at 1-877-222 VETS (8387) or visit the VA health eligibility website at

Permanent link to this article: http://myvfw.org/fl/post8696/general/va-assisting-veterans-with-health-care-costs/

Jan 01

VA News Briefs

VA Ramps Up Job Search for Injured Vets

WASHINGTON – Thirty percent of employees of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) are veterans – the second highest ranking among cabinet departments after the Department of Defense — and nearly 8 percent of VA employees are service-connected disabled veterans.  But the VA intends to increase the number of disabled veterans who obtain employment in its workforce.

"I am proud of this effort," said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Dr. James B. Peake.  "VA knows the true quality of our men and women, and we should be a leader in employing them."

Peake said all severely injured veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will be contacted by VA's Veterans Employment Coordination Service to determine their interest in — and qualifications for — VA jobs.  So far, that office has identified 2,300 severely injured veterans of those wars, of whom 600 expressed interest in VA employment.

Click here to read more

Some Veterans to See Another Travel Reimbursement Increase

WASHINGTON – Service-disabled and low-income veterans who are reimbursed for travel expenses while receiving care at Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) facilities will see an increase in their payments beginning January 9. 

A recently passed law allows VA to cut the amount it must withhold from their mileage reimbursement.  The deductible amount will be $3 for each one-way trip and $6 for each round trip — with a cap per calendar-month of $18, or six one-way trips or three round trips, whichever comes first.  The previous deductible was $7.77 for a one-way trip, and $15.54 for a round trip, with a calendar-month cap of $46.62.

Permanent link to this article: http://myvfw.org/fl/post8696/general/va-news-briefs/

Jan 01

January Grassroots Survey

Last month, we asked, "With the election over, do you think our citizens will become more united?"

A majority of respondents—more than 65% percent—believe that the division of American citizens will continue in the years to come. Many noted, however, that people really need to put their differences aside for the health of the country.

  • "America is strong as a people, and it's the people who will bring us back as the guiding light of the world, not the government."
  • "These are tough times. We've used times like this to re-unite and get stronger. We're Americans first, as that we're all one."
  • "We have to, and leaders in all organizations would best serve the goals of the organization and the country by encouraging everyone to do so."

Click here to see more results

Permanent link to this article: http://myvfw.org/fl/post8696/general/january-grassroots-survey/

Dec 29

Vets Visits on TV – December 2008

Permanent link to this article: http://myvfw.org/fl/post8696/general/vets-visits-on-tv-december-2008/

Dec 29

VA Reaches 11,000 Survivors for Retroactive Benefit

WASHINGTON (Dec. 24, 2008) — The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has identified nearly 11,000 surviving spouses of deceased veterans who will receive a lump-sum payment before the New Year to correct an error in their VA benefits.  Also documented were more than 73,000 who had been previously paid.  VA officials are still tracking down eligible survivors.

"I am pleased that our task force working to correct this problem has been able to identify this first group this week," said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Dr. James B. Peake. "We understand the difference these funds can make for these surviving spouses, especially during the holiday season."

Payments will be released to these survivors on Dec. 29.  The total value of the payments is about $24 million.

At issue is a 1996 federal law that makes a surviving spouse eligible to receive the veteran's VA compensation or pension benefit for the month of the veteran's death.  VA failed to properly implement that law in all cases.

Most likely to have been affected by this problem are surviving spouses who never applied for VA survivors' benefits following the death of a veteran.  Eligible for the payment are surviving spouses of veterans who died after Dec. 31, 1996.  The Department doesn't have current addresses for many of them, which makes the process of contacting them difficult.

VA has established a special Survivor Call Center (1-800-749-8387) for spouses who believe they may be eligible for this retroactive benefit. The Call Center is open Monday through Friday from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., Central Standard Time.  Inquiries may also be submitted through the Internet at http://www.vba.va.gov/survivorsbenefit.htm.

Permanent link to this article: http://myvfw.org/fl/post8696/general/va-reaches-11000-survivors-for-retroactive-benefit/

Dec 24

A Christmas Message from VFW National Commander

Anyone who has worn a uniform overseas knows this is the most difficult time of year to be separated from family and friends.

"It is easy to say 'let us remember our troops' during the Christmas season, but how many of us really understand the painful nobility of this sacrifice?" Bruce Kluger asked in USA Today last Christmas. "For those on active duty in the Middle East, the business of battle knows no holiday."

I could not have possibly said it better. But this writer did not stop there. "Equally heartbreaking—and incomprehensible—is the wrenching vacuum that war inflicts on families on the home front," he wrote.

Christmas celebrations in Afghanistan and Iraq are, by necessity, subdued. More quality food, special church services and private thoughts of loved ones usually constitute this most beloved of holidays in the war zone. Yet these gestures never seem to be enough.

On Dec. 25, 2007, McClatchy News Service was one of the few media outlets to report on the troops directly from the field. At Patrol Base Warrior Keep in southwest Baghdad, two of its reporters interviewed soldiers of the 1st Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, to sample their sentiments.

"If I didn't feel like this is where I needed to be, I think it'd be horrible," Chaplain Eric Light told them. "Our holidays are so tied to our families, it's nearly impossible to re-create them here."

What we can do as veterans is to remind those around us of the emotional importance of this time of year to the troops thousands of miles from home. After all, they are "honoring our nation with their service while fighting wars whose consequences have nothing and everything to do with the humanity at the heart of the holiday," Kluger aptly pointed out.

While we are keeping them in our thoughts, let's not forget the other GIs on far-flung fronts that never make newspaper headlines. From Kosovo in the Balkans to South Korea in Northeast Asia, tens of thousands of Americans maintain lonely vigils. Still others prowl the seas, protecting our shores from afar. Their missions should never be taken for granted or forgotten.

The debt of gratitude we owe the tiny percentage—less than 1%—of Americans who bear the burden of our freedom can probably never be adequately paid. But the least we can do is to give them more than a passing thought. As we enjoy Christmas revelry, keep in mind that someone in uniform is making that possible. Chances are that it might even be a family member. If so, you need not be reminded of the sacrifices being made.

As the mother of one Afghanistan soldier said, "Each American should remember during this season that our soldiers are fighting the battle over there so we can be safe here at home."

In that spirit, let my wife, Jean, and me wish all veterans a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah and a great New Year.

Glen Gardner
VFW Commander-in-Chief

Permanent link to this article: http://myvfw.org/fl/post8696/general/a-christmas-message-from-vfw-national-commander/

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