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

VA Makes Strides on Reducing Claims Backlog

Washington – The federal initiative to provide timely decisions on disability payments to Veterans has crossed a major milestone in its final sprint to eliminate the backlog of Veterans’ benefits claims.

The major transformation effort to apply new technology and process solutions has paid off at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). It reduced its inventory of backlogged claims from a high of 611,000 claims in March of 2013 to fewer than 200,000 this week, while at the same time improving decision quality.

“Make no mistake, we’re not slowing down short of the finish line,” said Under Secretary for Benefits Allison Hickey. “Our goal is to eliminate the claims backlog by the end of 2015 – meaning all Veterans will receive timely and accurate decisions on their disability claims.”

Hickey credited a combination of factors for the 67-percent drop in backlog: first, the extra hours of work put in by dedicated benefits claims processors across the nation, who have worked evenings, Saturdays and Sundays to drive the backlog down; as well as procedural efficiencies backed by powerful automation tools and paperless claims processing. In addition, she cited the transformation of Veterans Benefits Administration’s training and quality assurance programs resulting in steady increases in the accuracy of decisions.

Just a few years ago, claims processors handled 5,000 tons of paper annually, an amount equivalent to 200 Empire State Buildings. In less than two years, VA converted claims processing to a 21st Century digital environment where claims for VA benefits and services can be submitted and processed, and benefits delivered, online.

Veterans increasingly are filing claims electronically from the start at https://www.ebenefits.va.gov. Veterans can submit their applications online, upload their supporting documentation, and check the status of their claim through a multi-channel Web portal boasting nearly 60 self-service features.

(via VA Press Release)

Veterans may also visit their local VFW Post for assistance with their claims process.

Memorial Day Weekend Activities

Ridgeland’s VFW Post #6809 and the MS Wing of the Commemorative Air Force will be honoring veterans by placing flags on Veteran’s graves at the Natchez Trace Memorial Park Cemetery on Friday May 23, 2014 at 8:00 a.m.  

The VFW will also be distributing Buddy Poppies at the Kroger on Lake Harbour Drive in Ridgeland from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. on Saturday May 24, 2014.  Buddy Poppies are handmade flowers, assembled by disabled veterans, which are worn to honor veterans.  The post hands out the flowers for free, but accepts donations for Veterans and Community projects.

Fundraising and Recruiting News

Trace Reservoir (Ridgeland) VFW Post 6809 conducted a Fundraiser at the Walmart in Madison, Mississippi on April 5, 2014.  Our Post handed out Buddy Poppies to be worn to honor and remember veterans.  VFW Buddy Poppies are assembled by disabled and needy veterans in VA Hospitals.  The minimal assessment (cost of Buddy Poppies) to VFW units provides compensation to the veterans who assemble the poppies, provides financial assistance in maintaining state and national veterans’ rehabilitation and service programs and partially supports the VFW National Home for orphans and widows of our nation’s veterans.  The post was also taking donations for veterans assistance and community programs. $1,325 was raised.  Post #6809 would like to sincerely thank the Madison community for their generous donations and support.

FOTB977Post # 6809 also organized a VFW recruiting event at the MS National Guard NCO Association Conference.  Representatives from Posts # 9832 (Jackson) and 9122 (Mendenhall) along with out Post manned a table at the event to provide information about the VFW to the attending Veterans.

For information about joining the post, please call T.C. Rollins, 601-955-2195. The Post’s next meeting will be on April 10, 2014 at 5:45 p.m.

 

April 2014 Meeting

Our next meeting is at the Little House at Strawberry Patch Park on April 10, 2014 at 1745 hours.  Dinner will not be provided at this meeting.   We will be holding our meeting at 1800 hours and directly thereafter the group will meet at a local restaurant where we will eat together, but pay Dutch.   

– We currently have a Buddy Poppy distribution scheduled for April 5, 2014 at Walmart in Madison.  
 
– Please remember to bring VFW Ladies Auxiliary Applications to the meeting with you.  We need 15 applications to start an auxiliary.
 
– As always, please invite a prospective member to come to the meeting with you.

March Post 6809 Meeting

VFW
Our next meeting is at the Little House at Strawberry Patch Park on March 13, 2014 at 1745 hours.  Dinner will not be provided at this meeting.   We will be holding our meeting at 1800 hours and directly thereafter the group will meet at a local restaurant where we will eat together, but pay Dutch.  Spouses and children are welcome and will attend a ladies auxiliary organizational meeting during the Post meeting.  Please remember to bring VFW Ladies Auxiliary Applications to the meeting with you.  We need 15 applications to start an auxiliary.

Thanks to everyone who came out to support the post at the Raising Canes fundraiser.  Canes donated $282.00 to our post operating fund.

 

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.

See more from the VFW

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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