Jul 25

Panel calls for better veterans care

WASHINGTON – A presidential commission on Wednesday urged broad changes to veterans' care that would boost benefits for family members helping the wounded, establish an easy-to-use Web site for medical records and overhaul the way disability pay is awarded.

The nine-member panel, led by former Sen. Bob Dole, R-Kan., and Donna Shalala, health and human services secretary during the Clinton administration, also recommended stronger partnerships between the Pentagon and the private sector to boost treatment for traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder.

A 29-page draft report was presented to President Bush in the Oval Office, just after the Senate addressed some of the issues Wednesday morning by passing sweeping legislation to expand brain screenings, reduce red tape and boost military pay.

The commission formally approved the recommendations later in the day.

Read more

Download the report here (.doc format)

Permanent link to this article: http://myvfw.org/fl/post8696/general/panel-calls-for-better-veterans-care/

Jul 23

Court: VA Must Pay Agent Orange Victims

SAN FRANCISCO Jul 19, 2007 (AP) via ABC News

An appeals court chastised the Department of Veterans Affairs on Thursday and ordered the agency to pay retroactive benefits to Vietnam War veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange and contracted a form of leukemia.

"The performance of the United States Department of Veterans Affairs has contributed substantially to our sense of national shame," the opinion from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals read.

It was not immediately known how much the department would have to pay under the order or how many veterans would be affected.

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Permanent link to this article: http://myvfw.org/fl/post8696/general/court-va-must-pay-agent-orange-victims/

Jul 23

VFW WASHINGTON WEEKLY – July 23, 2007

In this issue:

1. House VA Committee Approves 4 Bills
2. VFW Testifies on VA Vet Centers
3. Traumatic Brain Injury Hearing Held


1. House VA Committee Approves 4 Bills
The House Veterans Affairs Committee approved four bills to improve benefits and health care for veterans. VFW supported bills include:
– HR 2874 – Increases care for homeless and low-income veterans, authorizes a new grant program for re-adjustment counseling for vets who served after 1991, and provides grants for transportation for rural veterans to state veterans’ offices, VSOs and other nonprofit groups.
– HR 2623 – Bans VA from collecting co-payments for hospice care.
– HR 1315 – Increases adaptive housing grants to $14,000 for family members who have a disabled veteran living in their home. It also extended mortgage foreclosure protection for returning veterans from 90 to 180 days.
– One bill (HR 23), which grants a $1,000 monthly benefit for life to merchant mariners and/or their surviving spouses, passed the House committee. The VFW does not support this legislation.
All of the bills now move to the full House for a vote.

 For more information on any of the bills, type the bill number into the box at: http://thomas.loc.gov/

2 .VFW Testifies on VA Vet Centers
VFW testified before the House VA Subcommittee on Health on the VA’s Vet Centers. Vet Centers provide readjustment counseling for veterans thru a vet-helping-vet motto. They remain an integral part of VA services that are provided to veterans, and have earned high praise from veterans on the quality and variety of services provided. VFW and others testified that they are concerned about access and future demands as veterans from OIF /OEF return from service.

For more on the hearing and VFW testimony, go to: http://veterans.house.gov/hearings/index.html

3. Traumatic Brain Injury Hearing Held
The House VA Committee invited several experts to discuss Traumatic Brain Injury issues facing veterans. Considered the “signature” wound of the war in Iraq, TBI has been reported in 65% of veterans treated at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Participants discussed the need for a coordinated effort for case management for TBI patients, not just during the initial injury phase, but throughout the life of the patient. Also noted was the importance of educating and training family members on what to expect from their TBI patient. For more information on the hearing, go to the House VA website at: http://veterans.house.gov/

Permanent link to this article: http://myvfw.org/fl/post8696/general/vfw-washington-weekly-july-23-2007/

Jul 21

Tricare Records at Risk

via WashingtonTechnology.com

SAIC acknowledges risk to military records

By David Hubler

The personal information of more than a half million uniformed service members and their families “was placed at risk for potential compromise” when military health care data was being processed by Science Applications International Corp., the company said today.

SAIC did not indicate when the incident took place, but said it fixed the security lapses as soon as it learned of them and began working with customers to mitigate any negative effects.

SAIC said the Army, Navy, Air Force and Homeland Security Department contracts were in connection with Tricare, the online health benefits program for the uniformed services, retirees and their families.

The company said forensic analysis so far has not uncovered any compromise of the personal information — which could include combinations of names, addresses, Social Security numbers, birth dates, and limited health information in the form of codes.

“However, the possibility cannot be ruled out. SAIC is notifying about 580,000 households, some with more than one affected person,” the company said.

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Permanent link to this article: http://myvfw.org/fl/post8696/general/tricare-records-at-risk/

Jul 19

Operation Uplink Needs Your Help

VFW Faces Significant Challenge in Troop-Support Effort; Demand for Operation Uplink Phone Cards Surpasses Supply

KANSAS CITY, Mo., July 19, 2007–The VFW and its Ladies Auxiliary are challenging its members to raise money for Operation Uplink, the VFW’s premier military-support program that provides free phone cards to deployed servicemembers and hospitalized veterans.

Responding to an immediate large-scale need for phone cards to our deployed troops in Iraq, the Ladies Auxiliary is promising matching funds—up to $125,000—for every dollar VFW members raise for the Operation Uplink campaign.

Mike Penney, director for the VFW’s Military Assistance Program, reiterated the importance of the popular phone-card program and its link to enhancing the morale and well-being of America’s servicemen and women.

“That’s what the VFW is all about,” Penny said. “Taking care of the troops. Without a doubt, Operation Uplink is a huge part of that mission, which is why the VFW’s immediate challenge is to replenish our phone-card supply.” [Click to donate]

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Permanent link to this article: http://myvfw.org/fl/post8696/general/operation-uplink-needs-your-help/

Jul 17

VA Secretary Tenders Resignation

VA.GOV Press Release

Nicholson to Leave VA and Return to the Private Sector

WASHINGTON — Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Jim Nicholson announced today he has tendered his resignation to President George W. Bush, effective no later than October 1, 2007. 

Under Nicholson’s leadership, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) continued its evolution as a leader in health care innovations, medical research, education services, home loan and other benefits to veterans.  He transformed the VA health care system to meet the unique medical requirements of the returning combatants from Iraq and Afghanistan.

In his letter of resignation, Nicholson praised and thanked the President for the honor of serving him and our Nation’s veterans in this key post at such a “critical time in our nation’s global war on terror.” 

“The VA is a dynamic organization dedicated to serving our nation’s finest citizens – our veterans,” Nicholson said.  “It has been an honor and privilege to lead the VA during this historic time for our men and women who have worn the uniform.  We have accomplished so much and the VA is always striving to improve our services to veterans.”

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Permanent link to this article: http://myvfw.org/fl/post8696/general/va-secretary-tenders-resignation/

Jul 13

VFW Urges Patience Until September Report

WASHINGTON, July 13, 2007–In response to yesterday’s House of Representatives vote to bring the majority of the troops home from Iraq by April 1, the national commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. is urging Congress to be patient as the ongoing strategy of military, diplomatic and economic initiatives continues to unfold in Iraq.

“The September assessment report by Army Gen. David Patraeus and U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker is the key, not yesterday’s interim report card,” said VFW Commander-in-Chief Gary Kurpius, a Vietnam veteran from Anchorage, Alaska

The House vote was prompted by yesterday morning’s White House release of an Initial Benchmark Assessment Report that indicated that only eight of 18 security, political and economic benchmarks were being met. Congress had added the 18 benchmarks to the 2007 emergency war funding package as a condition of passage.

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Permanent link to this article: http://myvfw.org/fl/post8696/general/vfw-urges-patience-until-september-report/

Jul 13

VFW Washington Weekly – July 13, 2007

In This Issue:
1. Wounded Warriors Legislation Approved
2. VFW Testifies on Contracting and Veteran-owned Businesses
3. House Holds Hearing on Women/Minority Veterans
4. Health Bill Passes Subcommittee
5. Senate VA Committee Clears 5 Bills

1. Wounded Warriors Legislation Approved
VFW-supported legislation that would provide improvements in the care and services to servicemembers as they transition from DOD to VA was approved by the Senate (94-0) as a part of their defense authorization bill late last night. The amendment incorporates several bills introduced by the Veterans Affairs and Armed Services Committees. The bill addresses care for veterans with traumatic brain injuries, as well as expands VA health care access for separated servicemembers from two years to five years after discharge. It also orders a review of all recent disability discharges where a service member received a lump-sum severance payment instead of the lifetime disability retired pay that would come from being rated with a disability of 30 percent or more, and calls for a review of DOD’s entire disability ratings system, to include the use of VA standards to make disability determinations.

2. VFW Testifies on Contracting and Veteran-Owned Businesses
Yesterday, VFW testified before the House VA Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity, with respect to federal procurement and the 3-percent set aside for Service Disabled Veteran Owned Small Businesses. The current law, PL 106-50, established a 3-percent goal for all contract and subcontract awards for each fiscal year. Most federal agencies have not complied. The subcommittee heard testimony on how to encourage agencies to comply and what can be done to enforce the contracting regulations. To read the VFW testimony, go to:

http://veterans.house.gov/hearings/index.html

3. House Holds Hearing on Women/Minority Veterans
The House VA Subcommittees on Health and Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs held a joint hearing on issues facing women and minority veterans. The subcommittees heard from several panels on areas that need improvement regarding VA treatment and care to that population of veterans. The effects of traumatic brain injuries and psychological wounds facing OIF/OEF veterans were one of the highlights of the hearing. For more on the hearing, go to the HVAC website at: http://veterans.house.gov/hearings/index.htm

4. Health Bill Passes Subcommittee
The House VA Subcommittee on Health approved HR 2874 by voice vote after amending the bill. Included are VFW-backed provisions that would provide $25 million in homeless housing grants, $2 million for therapy for returning service members, and $3 million annually for transportation assistance for rural veterans seeking VA care. The bill now moves to the full House VA Committee.

5. Senate VA Committee Clears 5 Bills
The Senate Veterans Affairs Committee cleared five VFW-supported bills during a Senate mark-up.  The bills now move to the full Senate for a vote.  Three of them should clear easily within a week, while the other two may require some debate.

– One of the controversial bills (S. 1233) would open enrollment to new Category 8 veterans who have been prevented from enrolling since January 2003.  Opponents of the measure argue that there is not sufficient funding to pay for the numbers of veterans who would have access to the VA.  The VFW supports opening the system up, but we do have concerns about funding.  VFW, as part of the Independent Budget, has asked for an additional $1.3 billion to fund their care. 

– The other controversial bill (S. 1315) is a large omnibus benefits bill that would improve and expand VA insurance programs, adaptive housing grants and automobile assistance, among other enhancements.  Critics, however, expressed concern that the benefits awarded to Filipino veterans would be too generous with respect to the lower cost-of-living in the Philippines.

– The three other VFW-supported bills should pass easily.  S. 423 would provide an annual cost-of-living adjustment for veterans’ benefits; S. 1163 would provide benefits to veterans with partial sight in their second eye; and S. 479 would expand programs to deal with suicide prevention and other mental health problems among veterans.

Permanent link to this article: http://myvfw.org/fl/post8696/general/vfw-washington-weekly-july-13-2007/

Jul 12

4000 Sacrifices

As the number of casualties from Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom tops 4000, MilitaryTimes.com is taking an in-depth look at those who have fallen.

The site has also developed a searchable database of all those fallen soldiers and their stories.

The Veterans of Foreign Wars is also honoring America's veterans with their online Veterans Memorial Wall.  Visit the site and add your loved ones today.

Permanent link to this article: http://myvfw.org/fl/post8696/general/4000-sacrifices/

Jul 09

VFW Washington Weekly – July 6, 2007

NATIONAL LEGISLATIVE SERVICE
1. Congress on Recess

NATIONAL SECURITY & FOREIGN AFFAIRS
1. Bush-Putin Summit
2. Soldiers Status Changed
3. Reserve Component Mobilization


NATIONAL LEGISLATIVE SERVICE

1. Congress on Recess: Congress is on recess for the July 4th holiday,
but is expected to reconvene early next week. Items that still remain
on the schedule to finish before the August break include the national
defense authorization act, Military Construction/VA Appropriations, and
several veterans' healthcare and benefit enhancements bills.



NATIONAL SECURITY & FOREIGN AFFAIRS

1. Bush-Putin Summit: Two days of talks at the Bush family compound in
Maine brought President Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin
together physically, but politically the two appear far from restoring
the pragmatic U.S.-Russia relationship that took shape after the 9/11
attacks. Talks included an expanded offer from Putin to tackle the
controversial question of European missile defense, and a pledge to
continue pursuing limits on Iran's nuclear ambitions through the UN
Security Council. White House and Russian officials worked hard to
dampen any anticipation that the meetings might produce a major
breakthrough on Iran, missile defense, or the status of Kosovo, another
area of bilateral disagreement. The closest thing to progress came on
missile defense. The United States wants to stage facilities in Poland
and the Czech Republic to protect Europe and U.S. troops based in the
region from missiles launched from Iran or another rogue nation. Russia
views such a plan as a threat to its own missile deterrent and has
broadened an earlier offer to tackle the issue jointly. Some American
officials worry such a system could prove unworkable for political
reasons, or that Putin may simply be hoping to delay work on the
proposed U.S. system until a new administration takes office.

2. Soldiers Status Changed: The Department of Defense has changed the
status of two soldiers serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom from duty
status whereabouts unknown (DUSTWUN) to missing-captured. Private Byron
W. Fouty, 19, of Waterford, MI, and Specialist Alex R. Jimenez, 25, of
Lawrence, MA, were declared missing-captured June 27. On May 12, Fouty
and Jimenez were categorized as DUSTWUN when their patrol was attacked
by enemy forces. They are assigned to the 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry
Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light
Infantry), Fort Drum, N.Y. Efforts continue for their successful and
safe return.

3. Reserve Component Mobilization: The total number currently on active
duty in support of the partial mobilization for the Army National Guard
and Army Reserve is 76,757; Navy Reserve, 5,093; Air National Guard and
Air Force Reserve, 5,942; Marine Corps Reserve, 5,933; and the Coast
Guard Reserve, 358. This brings the total number of mobilized Guard and
Reserve personnel to 94,083, an increase of 367 from last week.

Permanent link to this article: http://myvfw.org/fl/post8696/general/vfw-washington-weekly-july-6-2007/

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