Oct 04

VFW Applauds Disability Benefits Commission Report

WASHINGTON, Oct. 4, 2007–The national commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. is applauding the 13 members of the Veterans' Disability Benefits Commission for keeping a promise to make the system better for disabled veterans, servicemembers and their families. The commission unveiled their 562-page report yesterday after more than two years of research and interviews.

VFW Commander-in-Chief George Lisicki, a Vietnam veteran from Carteret, N.J., said that some in the veterans' community were initially skeptical because they thought the commission was formed to cut programs and benefits. "But there is no doubt from the report that the skeptics were wrong," he said. "The commission kept its promise to care for those who have borne the battle."

The commission report includes 113 recommendations, 14 of which were considered to be priorities. These recommendations would require the Department of Veterans Affairs to create a permanent committee to regularly update the rating schedule that guides the VA's evaluation of service-connected disabilities, especially where it concerns traumatic brain injuries, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorders, and other mental or neurological injuries or diseases. The commission said the rating schedule revision is needed to include compensation for the impact a service-connected disability has on an individual's quality of life, something current law provides only to the most seriously disabled.

Also recommended was the elimination of the ban on concurrent receipt for all military retirees and those who are medically-separated before reaching the 20-year retirement point, as well as ending the offset that currently prevents survivors of veterans who die on active duty or as the result of service-connected disabilities from collecting both their Defense Department Survivor Benefit Plan payment and VA Dependency and Indemnity Compensation.

Read more

Permanent link to this article: http://myvfw.org/fl/post8696/general/vfw-applauds-disability-benefits-commission-report/

Sep 29

Happy Birthday VFW

The Veterans of Foreign Wars organization is celebrating it's 108 birthday today, September 29, 2007.

From VFW.org:

The VFW traces its roots back to 1899 when veterans of the Spanish-American War (1898) and the Philippine Insurrection (1899-1902) founded local organizations to secure rights and benefits for their service: Many arrived home wounded or sick. There was no medical care or veterans' pension for them,and they were left to care for themselves.

In their misery, some of these veterans banded together and formed organizations with what would become known as the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States. After chapters were formed in Ohio, Colorado and Pennsylvania, the movement quickly gained momentum. By 1915, membership grew to 5,000; by 1936, membership was almost 200,000.

Since then, the VFW's voice had been instrumental in establishing the Veterans Administration, creating a GI bill for the 20th century, the development of the national cemetery system and the fight for compensation for Vietnam vets exposed to Agent Orange and for veterans diagnosed with Gulf War Syndrome. The VFW also has fought for improving VA medical centers services for women veterans.

Besides helping fund the creation of the Vietnam, Korean War, World War II and Women in Military Service memorials, the VFW in 2005 became the first veterans' organization to contribute to building the new Disabled Veterans for Life Memorial, which is being constructed in Washington, D.C., and is expected to open in 2010.

Read more

Permanent link to this article: http://myvfw.org/fl/post8696/general/happy-birthday-vfw/

Sep 28

VFW WASHINGTON WEEKLY – Sept. 28, 2007

In This Issue:

1. Congress Fails to Pass On-Time VA Budget
2. House VA Committee Hearings
3. Senate Holds Hearing on Gulf War Illness
4. Iraq
5. House Passes Family Leave Act


1. Congress Fails To Pass On-Time VA Budget

As they have for the better part of a decade, Congress has failed to pass an on-time budget for VA. The government’s new fiscal year begins on October 1, and instead of pressing forward on the VA Appropriations bill, each chamber has passed a stopgap funding measure while will fund VA and the rest of the government through November 16th. This means that, in the short term, VA will be funded on last year’s level – a level that does not account for the growing numbers of veterans seeking care. The stopgap budget they have approved is roughly $6.7 billion less than what Congress itself has decided what VA needs, and will hamper VA’s efforts to recruit and retain the highest quality doctors, nurses and health care professionals. It will also delay VA’s ability to hire and train disability compensation claims processors, impairing VA’s ability to manage the ever-growing backlog.
This past week, VFW let Congress know that we expect them to approve the budget on-time. The differences between the House and Senate versions are negligible, and the bipartisan support for the bill would ensure its success if it had come up for a vote. Congressional leaders, however, decided to use the broad support for it to attach less politically popular provisions, turning it into a large omnibus bill and delaying its passage.
The VFW calls on Congress to end the political games and do what is right for this nation’s veterans, especially those wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan. We urge all VFW members, and any concerned veterans’ advocates you know to call your Congressman and Senators, to tell them to immediately pass the VA budget. This nation’s 24 million veterans are looking to them to do the right thing.

2. House VA Committee Hearings

The House Veterans’ Affairs Committee had another busy week of hearings.
On Tuesday, the VFW testified before the Subcommittee on Veterans’ Disability and Memorial Affairs regarding the Board of Veterans Appeals and the Appeal Management Center (AMC). The oversight hearing examined what efforts are being made by VA to manage the backlog of claims and reduce the length and time of appeals. VFW testified that VA needs on–time funding to be able to hire and retain adjudicators and enlist a training system that emphasizes quality not quantity to avoid high error rates. We also believe that the AMC would better serve veterans if moved outside the DC area.
To read our testimony go to: http://www.vfw.org/index.cfm?fa=caphill.leveld&did=3702

The Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations also held a hearing on Tuesday, examining the VA’s Polytrauma Rehabilitation Centers (PRC). The hearing focused on three specific PRC located in Richmond, Virginia, Minneapolis, Minnesota, and Palo Alto, California and the level of care wounded servicemembers are receiving at the centers. The PRC offers a continuum of acute rehabilitative services including inpatient wards, outpatient clinics and residential transitional settings. Committee members visiting these centers found that staffing and resources were insufficient and often hindered the transition process. VA witnesses agreed that staffing and resources are an issue but that they are doing their best to make sure that veterans get the best care possible.

On Thursday, The Subcommittee on Health held a hearing on VA’s Grant and Per Diem Program. The hearing primarily focused on homeless veterans, concentrating on the VA’s Homeless Providers Grant and Per Diem Program (GPD). This program provides competitive grants to community-based, faith-based and public organizations to offer transitional housing or services for homeless veterans. The Grant and Per Diem program is essential to VA’s continuum of care for homeless veterans, assuring the availability of social services, employment support, and direct treatment or referral to medical treatment.

For more information on the any of the hearings visit the House VA website at:
http://veterans.house.gov/hearings/

3. Senate Holds Hearing on Gulf War Illness

The Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee held an oversight hearing on Gulf War illness and current research being done. According to witnesses the government has spent over $300 million researching the possible causes and symptoms’ surrounding what is known as “Gulf War Illness.”
The committee hopes to get answers on what is being done to diagnose and treat the variety of illness including chronic fatigue, muscle and joint pain, rashes, mental disorders like depression and others reported by soldiers serving in the Gulf War regions.
For more on the hearing visit the Senate VA website at: http://veterans.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?pageid=16

4. Iraq

Iraq's largest Sunni party, the Iraqi Islamic Party, unveiled a new set of political principles aimed at ending Iraq's political gridlock. Iraqi Vice President and party leader Tariq al-Hashimi said the platform, called "The Iraqi National Compact," is made up of 25 broad principles aimed at ending the deep mistrust among Iraqi politicians. The principles cover such issues as ending sectarianism and ensuring the state has sole possession of weapons, guaranteeing the peaceful and democratic transfer of power and promoting human rights, among others. The VFW is hopeful that the Iraqi political divide will close and progress in this area will evolve.

5. House Passes Family Leave Act

The U.S. House of Representatives approved an expansion of the Family and Medical Leave Act to include the family members of wounded veterans. Under this expansion, family members would be able to take up to six months of unpaid leave from their jobs to care for injured veterans, no longer having to choose between keeping their job and caring for a loved one.

Permanent link to this article: http://myvfw.org/fl/post8696/general/vfw-washington-weekly-sept-28-2007/

Sep 27

VFW Statement on MoveOn.org Attack on Gen. Petraeus

VFW Statement on MoveOn.org attack on Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, and subsequent attempts to use the issue for partisan politics:

"It was absolutely unacceptable for MoveOn.org to ridicule and question the motives and allegiances of America's senior military commander in Iraq. Army Gen. David H. Petraeus is trying to win a war as quickly and with as few casualties as possible. He and the men and women under his command must remain focused on the enemy at their front and not the naysayers at home.

"Equally disgusting are those who would use the personal attack on General Petraeus for political gain. Americans may have become desensitized to dirty politics in Washington, but we can still recognize when innocents are being used. Our brave servicemen and women are not political pawns. They serve selflessly to protect our nation and every freedom we enjoy. The right to free speech is not permission to exploit."

George J. Lisicki
Commander-in-Chief
Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S.
Washington, D.C.

Permanent link to this article: http://myvfw.org/fl/post8696/general/vfw-statement-on-moveon-org-attack-on-gen-petraeus/

Sep 24

Purple Heart Veterans: Win a Free Trip to Vietnam

If you received a Purple Heart for being wounded in Vietnam, you could be one of nine veterans to win VFW’s “Return to Vietnam” trip.

The in-country tour March 19-29, 2008, includes visits to Saigon, the Mekong Delta, Cu Chi, Hue, the DMZ, Hoi An, Marble Mountain and China Beach.

Airfare, accommodations and meals are included. Entries must be received before the Dec. 1, 2007, drawing.

For more details and entry form, click on the VFW Purple Heart Vietnam Trip entry form.

Permanent link to this article: http://myvfw.org/fl/post8696/general/purple-heart-veterans-win-a-free-trip-to-vietnam/

Sep 21

VFW Washington Weekly – September 21, 2007

In This Issue:
1. House VA Committee Hearings
2 .Senate Holds Hearing on VA IT
3. Vietnam Veterans Memorial 25th Anniversary

1. House VA Committee Hearings
The House Veterans Affairs Committee had a busy week of hearings beginning with some final words from VA Secretary Jim Nicholson (slated to depart Oct. 1) on the state of VA. Nicholson talked about the department's success in mental health and their innovative electronic medical records database, but cautioned that the war in Iraq has strained the VA's disability claims system. He said the claims issue has bedeviled him and many others because so many are being filed by current and previous war veterans.

– On Wednesday, the committee heard from former Sen. Bob Dole and former Health & Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala, co-chairs of the President’s Commission on the Care for America’s Returning Wounded Warriors. Their report was released in July and made recommendations on modifying the current VA and DOD systems with regard to personnel. The VFW supports 5 of the 6 recommendations.

To read the full Dole/Shalala report, go to: http://www.pccww.gov/.

To read the VFW Press Release, go to: http://www.vfw.org/index.cfm?fa=news.newsDtl&did=4147

– On Thursday, VFW testified before the House VA Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity on current licensure and credentialing as it applies to returning servicemembers. The VFW testified that many gaps still exist between requirements for civilian occupational credentials and what is provided by the military, which makes it difficult for transitioning military to re-enter appropriate civilian sector employment. Changes need to be made quickly as an aging workforce retires, leaving highly demanding occupations open.

For the VFW testimony and more information on the hearing, visit the HVAC website at: http://veterans.house.gov/hearings/.

2. Senate Holds Hearing on VA IT
The Senate VA Committee held an oversight hearing to discuss a recent GAO report on VA’s Information Technology system. Last year Congress passed legislation to reorganize the entire IT department under the direction of an Assistant Secretary. The reorganization was accelerated after the 2006 data theft and several other reports of stolen or missing personal data records across the country. The committee hopes to get answers on the effects of changes to VA's IT management structure on the department's ability to deliver health care, benefits and services to veterans, as well as the status of the development of a DOD-VA joint electronic health record system.

3. Vietnam Veterans Memorial 25th Anniversary
The House passed a resolution (H Res 326) commemorating the 25th anniversary of the construction and dedication of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. The Wall is the most visited site in Washington, with more than 3 million people visiting annually to honor those who served and died in the Vietnam War.

To read the resolutuion go to the Thomas website at:http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d110:h.res.00326:

Permanent link to this article: http://myvfw.org/fl/post8696/general/vfw-washington-weekly-september-21-2007/

Sep 18

"Honor a Veteran" Online Video Contest

Just in time for Veterans Day (November 11th), the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States (VFW) has unveiled a new online contest to honor Veterans. All members of the public are invited to participate by creating a video honoring any U.S. military Veteran. Prizes in the contest include a trip for two to Orlando, FL, courtesy of Southwest Airlines Vacations, two Nintendo Wii systems, and gift cards to national retailers.

Kansas City, MO (PRWEB) September 18, 2007 — Just in time for Veterans Day (November 11th), the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States (VFW) has unveiled a new online contest to honor Veterans.

All members of the public are invited to participate by creating a video honoring any U.S. military Veteran. Prizes in the contest include a trip for two to Orlando, FL, courtesy of Southwest Airlines Vacations, two Nintendo Wii systems, and gift cards to national retailers.

"Millions of Americans have a friend, family member, or loved one who is a Veteran. With the Honor a Veteran contest, they can now share that respect and love with the world." said George Lisicki, National Commander for the VFW. "Regardless of a person's stance on politics or the war, our veterans deserve to be honored for their sacrifice and bravery. This contest gives everyone the chance to do just that."

The deadline for the contest is November 3, 2007, and winners will be announced on Veterans Day, November 11th. Videos will be judged on creativity, originality, and how well they honor our nation's veterans.

For more information or to enter the contest, please visit the official contest website at http://www.HonorAVet.org

Click here to read the full press release.

Permanent link to this article: http://myvfw.org/fl/post8696/general/quothonor-a-veteranquot-online-video-contest/

Sep 14

VFW WASHINGTON WEEKLY – Sept. 14, 2007

In This Issue

1. VFW Legislative Committee Storms Capitol Hill
2. New GI Bill on the Move
3. Senate VA Chairman Explains "By Request" Bill
4. SVAC Names New Ranking Member
5. Iraq Progress Report
6. Military Recruiting
7. VA IG Says Waits Are Too Long

1. VFW Legislative Committee Storms Capitol Hill: The new VFW National Legislative Committee stormed Capitol Hill this week to push two key VFW-supported issues – an on-time VA Budget and a GI Bill for the 21st Century. The word on the hill is that the VA Funding Bill may have other priorities attached to it, which would hinder its chance of passage before the federal government begins its new fiscal year on Oct. 1. Contact your legislators today and urge them to a pass an on-time funding bill for VA. Tell them that VA has not had an on-time budget for eight years, and our veterans, especially those returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, are counting on them. To contact your legislators, visit our alert call center at: http://capwiz.com/vfw/callalert/index.tt?alertid=10305196

2. New GI Bill on the Move:  Our legislative committee was instrumental in increasing support on Capitol Hill for S. 22 and H.R. 2702, Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2007. We have long advocated for this change to the GI Bill, which would make it much like that of the original World War II GI Bill. Our efforts are gaining momentum, but we need your help. Please contact your elected officials and let them know that you and the VFW support our troops’ education. This bill would increase military recruitment, ease the transition of departing troops, and better finance their education. Call your senators and representatives today!

3. Senate VA Chairman Explains "By Request" Bill:  Senate Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Daniel Akaka (D-HI) recently introduced a bill (S. 2026) by request of the Administration. It has been the long-standing tradition of the Senate VA Committee to introduce legislation at the request of VA as a professional courtesy. It does not indicate the committee or the senator supports the legislation, nor does it mean the bill will receive favorable treatment once it is heard in committee. S. 2026 would take away the presumption of service connection for Agent Orange-related disabilities for veterans who served only in offshore waters. The VFW strongly opposes this legislation and has let the Senate VA Committee know our position. We will continue to monitor it, and stand ready to defeat it.

4. SVAC Names New Ranking Member:  Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) has been selected as the temporary Ranking Member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. He replaces Sen. Larry Craig (R-ID), who is expected to resign at the end of September. Senator Burr was elected in 2004, and has placed special focus on homeless veterans, traumatic brain injuries, VA/DOD electronic medical records sharing, and the efficiency of the VA health system, especially for veterans in rural areas. The VFW looks forward to working with him and the other members of the committee on behalf of America’s veterans and active duty, Guard and Reserve members.

5. Iraq Progress Report:  Based on the Iraq Progress Report recommendations made earlier this week by his senior ground commander and ambassador in Iraq, President Bush announced last night to withdraw a 2,200-man Marine Expeditionary Unit by the end of this month and a 3,500-man Army brigade by the end of the year. He said as progress continues, he would further reduce U.S. forces in Iraq back to pre-surge levels, which could mean the return of up to 30,000 troops by next summer.

6. Military Recruiting: All four active-duty service components met or exceeded their August recruiting goals. The Army led with 106% of goal for 10,126 accessions; Marine Corps followed at 105% with 4,700 accessions, and the Navy and Air Force each met goal with 4,194 and 3,128 accessions, respectively. All Reserve components met or exceeded their August recruiting goals, as well, with the Marine Corps Reserve leading with 118% of goal, followed by the Navy Reserve at 113%, Army Reserve at 107%, and Air Force Reserve at 100%. Both Guard components failed to meet their August goal, with the Army National Guard struggling at 87% and the Air National Guard at 96%.


7. VA IG Says Waits Are Too Long:  Many veterans still face unacceptably long waits between the time they schedule an outpatient appointment and the actual appointment date, concluded an audit released Sept. 10 by the VA's Inspector General. The IG found that wait periods were longer than that reported by the agency and that data was incomplete. The audit, a follow-up to a 2005 audit, examined 700 veterans' appointments scheduled at 10 medical facilities. Although VA reported that 96 percent had wait times of 30 days or less, the IG audit found that 25 percent had wait times exceeding a month, and VA has failed to implement five of eight recommendations from the earlier audit. Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-HI), chairman of the Senate VA Committee, called the situation "simply not acceptable." He said, "I am concerned that VA's underreporting of waiting times and backlog volumes makes it harder to identify problem facilities and allocate resources effectively." He wants VA to use "reliable data."

Permanent link to this article: http://myvfw.org/fl/post8696/general/vfw-washington-weekly-sept-14-2007/

Sep 12

Iraq Progress Report Shows Signs of Hope

WASHINGTON, Sept. 11, 2007–The highly anticipated Iraq Progress Report was presented to the nation yesterday and today by U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker and the senior American military commander on the ground, Army Gen. David Petraeus.

After two days of testimony in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate, Ambassador Crocker said a secure Iraq is attainable but not guaranteed, because success will require substantial resolve from both America and Iraq. General Petraeus said the military objectives of the surge were being met, but he added, "The situation in Iraq remains complex, difficult, and sometimes downright frustrating."

Both expressed hope that the U.S. can achieve its objectives in Iraq, and that was the sign the national commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. was seeking.

“The war in Iraq has divided the American people,” said George Lisicki, a Vietnam veteran from Carteret, N.J., who leads the country’s largest organization of combat veterans, “but the bottom line is our nation does not go to war to lose. That is a message that must be communicated to our troops, reinforced in our allies, and sent with deadly accuracy to our enemies,” he said.

Read more

Permanent link to this article: http://myvfw.org/fl/post8696/general/iraq-progress-report-shows-signs-of-hope/

Sep 10

Heroes Next Door

As September 11th draws near, the Veterans of Foreign Wars would like to remind you that our troops need your support.  Please watch the video below, share it with your friends and visit the Heroes Next Door Campaign site to find out how you can help.

Permanent link to this article: http://myvfw.org/fl/post8696/general/heroes-next-door/

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