VFW Carries DOD Budget Fight to Congress

WASHINGTON — The national legislative committee of America’s oldest and largest major war veterans’ organization concluded its fall meeting here Wednesday with a direct message to all 535 members of Congress: “Finish Strong for Veterans.”

“It’s a message to Congress that the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States is watching, and so is the entire nation,” said VFW National Commander William A. Thien, a Vietnam veteran from Georgetown, Ind.

“The federal government’s new fiscal year begins in 11 days, but the Defense Department still doesn’t know what their FY 2014 budget will be, or if they will have to operate under the strict rules of another continuing resolution and for how long,” he explained. “DOD also faces the mandatory sequester, which more than doubles the $487 billion in savings that the department is already required to produce over the next decade.

“This is having a perilous impact on military personnel, readiness and training, and on family Quality of Life issues,” said Thien. “And the continuing call for a one percent military pay raise, higher healthcare fees for military retirees, and changing the overall military retirement system is bringing additional stress to a military force in transition while it’s still fighting a war.”

The VFW national commander said finding a workable solution to the budget sequestration topped the list of five critical issues that VFW legislative committee members took to their congressional delegations. “We know it has to be done now,” he said, “because 2014 is an election year, which means the attention of the entire House and a third of the Senate will be divided between doing the people’s work and getting reelected.”

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2013 Year in Review

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Navy Veteran Elected to Lead the VFW

Members of the nation’s largest organization of combat veterans have elected U.S. Navy and Vietnam veteran, William A. “Bill” Thien to lead the 1.6 million member organization.

thien stroudWilliam A. “Bill” Thien, a resident of Georgetown, Ind., was elected VFW National Commander on July 24, 2013, in Louisville, Ky., during the 114th VFW National Convention.

Thien served in the U.S. Navy from 1969-1974 and served five years in the Indiana National Guard. His decorations include the Vietnam Service Medal with 3 stars, Vietnam Campaign Medal with 1960 Bar, Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal (Korea), National Defense Service Medal and several from the National Guard.

During his acceptance speech, he praised the hard work of VFW members and encouraged them not to be overly modest in spreading the word about the organization’s accomplishments.

“We have far too many military people and veterans who believe that it’s the Pentagon or the President or the Congress who are responsible for their military and disability pay increases or other Quality of Life improvements. We have to tell our story. You tell them that every new program, pay or benefit that they now enjoy is due to the lobbying we do to create them.

“What makes the Veterans of Foreign Wars great is the quality of our people who unselfishly dare to make a personal difference in the lives of fellow comrades, communities and nation. Caring for others, comrades, is what makes the VFW so great … and I hope you continue to spread the word to everyone,” he explained.

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114TH VFW National Convention Rolls into Louisville

More than 10,000 members of the nation’s oldest and largest major combat veterans’ organization are rolling into the Blue Grass State this weekend to elect new leadership and to approve national resolutions that will guide its advocacy efforts on Capitol Hill and its veteran and military support programs across the country.

“Our organization is governed by its members and elected delegates to our annual convention,” said John E. Hamilton, the national commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States and its Auxiliaries.

“We expect a great deal from every delegate, because the decisions they make help to guide our lobbying efforts that directly benefit veterans, service members and their families, as well as all the wonderful support programs we provide at no charge, such as our service officers, who last year helped 125,000 veterans to recoup an organizational record $3.7 billion in earned disability compensation and pension from the Department of Veterans Affairs.”

A number of national awards will also be presented at the VFW’s 114th National Convention, to include:

·         The VFW Dwight D. Eisenhower Award to Adm. Robert J. Papp Jr., the commandant of the Coast Guard.

·         The VFW Americanism Award to retired Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli, the former Army deputy chief of staff and now CEO of One Mind for Research.

·         The VFW Armed Services Award to the Naval Special Warfare Command (the SEALs).

·         VFW Aeronautic and Aerospace Awards to NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory and to Pioneer Aerospace.

·         The VFW Citizenship Award to Gordon Logan, founder and CEO of SportsClips.

·         VFW Teacher of the Year Awards to Matt Maddox, Columbus Elementary School, Edwardsville, Ill.; Hunter Jones, Will James Junior High School, Billings, Mont.; and Matthew Susin, Eau Gallie High School, Melbourne, Fla.

·         And the VFW-supported VetJobs Outstanding Veteran Employer Award to Humana.

Guest speakers include elected politicians, such as Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer, U.S. Sen. Rand Paul and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell; foreign guests from Taiwan, Russia and Vietnam; Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki; Chief of the Army Reserve Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Talley; Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for POW/MIA Affairs W. Montague Winfield; the commander of the Joint POW//MIA Accounting Command, Maj. Gen. Kelly McKeague; the Adjutant General of Kentucky, Maj. Gen. Edward Tonini; Student Veterans of America Executive Director Michael Dakduk; and $30,000 VFW Voice of Democracy scholarship winner Danielle Hayes, of Mercy High School in San Francisco, VFW Buddy Poppy Child Unity Heim, from the VFW National Home for Children in Eaton Rapids, Mich., and more.

The VFW National Convention is not open to the public, but a video link to the general session will stream live at www.vfw.org beginning at 8 a.m. (EDT), July 22-24. Only registered and credentialed media from bona fide news organizations will be approved to cover convention activities.  Onsite registration begins July 20 in room 201 of the Kentucky International Convention Center, phones (502) 815-6833, 6834 or 6835.  The attached Media Daybook contains additional registration information and convention agenda details.

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VFW to Host First Twitter Chat: Your Questions Wanted!

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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VFW Statement on Boston Bombing

“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

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