VFW: Sequestration Must End!

WASHINGTON (July 10, 2015) — There was nothing shocking about Thursday’s force reduction announcement by the Army. The Budget Control Act of 2011 had dictated the terms by which America’s largest military service would incrementally shrink from a wartime high of 570,000 active-duty soldiers to 450,000. Still to come, however, is the return of mandatory sequestration in fiscal year 2016, which would further shrink the active Army to 420,000 soldiers, as well as drastically slash the operating budgets of all four military services.

“Sequestration is the most significant military readiness and national security threat of the 21st century, and despite almost universal congressional opposition to it, no member of the House or Senate has yet introduced any legislation to end it,” said John W. Stroud, national commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States. “Our military can beat any military in the world, but they can’t fight a Congress that is essentially forcing them to operate for a decade on only eight years’ worth of funding.”

Though the Army’s announced two-year plan to reduce its end strength by 40,000 soldiers and 17,000 civilians was preordained four years ago, Stroud said what’s important now is for the new Congress to act.

“We need both political parties to finally say ‘enough,’ not because a continued sequester will hurt civilian economies in certain congressional districts, but because a continued sequester weakens America, worries our allies and emboldens our enemies,” he said. “Our brave men and women in uniform will continue to perform and excel at every mission, but overtasking with inadequate resourcing will cost lives — American lives — which is an impending disaster the VFW will not allow. Sequestration must end!”

(via VFW.org)

VFW Salutes New Agent Orange Decision

The Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United is saluting today’s [last week’s] decision by the Department of Veterans Affairs to begin accepting disability claims from veterans potentially exposed to Agent Orange-contaminated aircraft in the post-Vietnam era. The decision by VA Secretary Bob McDonald could now benefit as many as 1,500 to 2,100 Air Force and Air Force Reserve personnel who might suffer from any of 14 presumptive medical conditions that have been determined to be related to Agent Orange exposure.

The VA secretary made the decision to expand benefits following a 2015 report by the National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine on Post-Vietnam Dioxin Exposure in Agent Orange-Contaminated C-123 Aircraft. The report found evidence that those who served aboard or worked on the C-123 aircraft were exposed to the herbicide, both during and after Vietnam, when many of the aircraft remained in service for aeromedical transportation or in a mosquito abatement role back in the U.S.

“The VFW has been pushing for this decision for years,” said VFW National Commander John W. Stroud, “because something inside these aircraft was making people sick years after the plane last flew a defoliating mission in Vietnam. We thank the Institute of Medicine for determining a contributing link between exposure and the 14 medical conditions, and Secretary McDonald for making a quick call to care for more veterans.”

All airmen who were assigned to flight, ground or medical crew duties at Lockbourne/Rickenbacker Air Force Base in Ohio (the 906th and 907th Tactical Air Groups or 355th and 356th Tactical Airlift Squadrons), at Massachusetts’s Westover AFB (the 731st Tactical Air Squadron and 74th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron), or with the 758th Airlift Squadron in Pittsburgh, during the period 1969 to 1986, and who may have developed an Agent Orange-related disability, are encouraged to file a disability compensation claim through the VA’s eBenefits web portal (https://www.ebenefits.va.gov/), or to seek the free and expert assistance of a national VFW Service Officer at http://www.vfw.org/NVS/.

Read more about the today’s [last week’s] decision at http://www.blogs.va.gov/VAntage/20825/va-expands-disability-benefits-for-air-force-personnel-exposed-to-contaminated-c-123-aircraft/.

(via VFW.org)

VFW Calls New VA Appropriations Bill ‘Bad for Veterans’

WASHINGTON — The national commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States said the U.S. House of Representatives is set to penalize disabled veterans this week if it votes to reduce the Department of Veterans Affairs budget request by more than $1.5 billion.

“The nationwide crisis in care and confidence that erupted in the VA last year was caused in many ways by a lack of adequate resourcing that only Congress is authorized to provide,” said John W. Stroud, who leads the 1.9 million-member VFW and its Auxiliaries. “That’s why the VFW is demanding that the House amend this bill to appropriate a funding level that fully funds VA.”

In its current form, the fiscal year 2016 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Bill makes across-the-board cuts to all VA discretionary accounts, and drastically underfunds medical care, major construction and Information Technology accounts. Stroud said across-the-board cuts to discretionary spending is what Congress created back in 2011, but by another name, sequestration. Now the House wants to impose its own sequester on a federal department whose sole mission is to care for wounded, ill and injured veterans.

“The VA cannot fulfill its mission without proper funding, but the House for whatever reason now wants to ration care, eliminate infrastructure projects, and stop improving upon the programs and services that the VA was created to provide,” said the VFW national commander. “This bill is bad for veterans and any vote for it is unconscionable, which is why we want veterans and advocates everywhere to get involved by urging their elected officials to fully fund the VA.”

Make your voices heard here.

via VFW.org

VFW Vows to Help the Families of Fallen Heroes

The Veterans of Foreign Wars, America’s largest organization of combat veterans, has announced that its official charity, the VFW Foundation, is taking urgent action to help the families of fallen U.S. service members. Because of the federal government shutdown, the Pentagon is withholding a $100,000 death gratuity payment that is usually given to relatives of the deceased. Such payments stopped effective September 30, 2013 at 11:59 p.m.

William A. Thien, VFW Commander-in-Chief, called the delay “disgusting and shameful” and stated that, “It is absolutely appalling and nothing short of a travesty that elected officials continue to receive paychecks and benefits while not providing for those who deserve it most.” While imploring the Congress and the President to “immediately resolve this issue” he has directed financial resources be made available from the VFW’s Unmet Needs program which is funded through the VFW Foundation to help affected military families.

Established in 2004, Unmet Needs has granted over $4.7 million to military service personnel and their families for expenses due to rent, mortgage, utilities, vehicle repair, medical expenses and food/basic assistance.

Unmet Needs funds would be made directly available to the families of fallen service members to help with their bills, travel and other pressing financial concerns.

Families are encouraged to call the VFW’s Unmet Needs hotline at 1-866-789-6333, option 1 or visit www.unmetneeds.org.

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VFW Demands a Federal Budget Be Passed

VFW National Commander sends President and Congress formal letter

October 03, 2013
Dear Mr. President, Speaker Boehner, Representative Pelosi, Leader Reid and Senator McConnell:

The United States federal government is ending Day Three of a shutdown that both political parties created.  On behalf of 22 million veterans and 2.3 million service members and their families, I urge all of you to start doing what’s best for the country and not your own political interests.  Every American is or will feel the effects of this budget impasse, but I am writing to you concerning the effects on our nation’s veterans, our military personnel and their families.

The lack of a budget prevents countless veterans from taking advantage of transition assistance programs provided by the Departments of Veterans Affairs and Labor.  The lack of a budget will increase the VA claims backlog, and stop VA disability compensation and survivor benefit payments to millions of combat-wounded veterans and widows because Congress won’t extend the department’s authorization into the new fiscal year.  Many of these heroes depend on those payments to pay for their daily living expenses.

Our national security is threatened and at risk because of the lack of a defense budget and the ongoing sequester.  Training is what makes our military the strongest in the world, but without a budget, aircraft are being grounded, ships are staying in port, and our Army and Marine Corps ground forces are not receiving the necessary training they need to successfully accomplish their assigned missions and, more importantly, to survive to do it again.  We are also hearing the intelligence community is affected by the government shutdown, too.  Haven’t we all learned the lessons of 9/11?  National Security and those who defend us cannot be shortchanged.

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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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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.

View the VFW Daybook

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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