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)

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.

VFW NH Paper Poppy Launches: Raise Awareness of Your Local VFW Post

The Veterans Foundation of NH Inc. raises awareness of the VFW Department of New Hampshire and invites all local communities to express their support for our service men and women by producing the Paper Poppy Project.

Show your support by displaying the Paper Poppy at your location. The Paper Poppy may feature the name of a veteran or a supporter and acknowledges all our local service men & women throughout our community.

The Veterans Foundation of New Hampshire Paper Poppy--We'll Do More For Veterans`The Paper Poppy is produced by the Veterans Foundation of New Hampshire, Inc. to raise awareness of the VFW, inviting family members and veterans to join the organization in building on over a century of service to our nation and to the care of our military families.

This is a grass roots effort to recruit and to assist veterans service through participating VSOs (Veterans Service Organizations) and the Veterans Foundation of New Hampshire, a solvent and self-sustained non-profit 501 (c) 3 organization.

The Veterans Foundation (VFNH) operates at the heart of modern post-war support through its developing programs and projects. VFNH is endorsed by the Veterans of Foreign Wars Department New Hampshire and is the Special Project for VFW NH Commander Gregory Lynch.

The Veterans Foundation of New Hampshire is also the only known foundation with a mission to help not only individuals in need, but to assist all veterans service organizations in New Hampshire. Join the VFW NH. Support the Veterans Foundation. Together, We’ll Do More For Veterans

Special Thanks to the Country Goods of East Wakefield for kicking it off. If you would like to support your local VFW Post with Paper Poppies at your location, let us know below:

VA News Highlights

Several headlines from the Department of Veterans Affairs in recent days.  Click the links to read the full stories.

Statement from Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric K. Shinseki on the American Jobs Act – Shinseki comments on the proposed Act which includes support for veteran jobs.

VA Announces Expansion of Virtual Lifetime Electronic Record – The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced it will expand its pilot for the Virtual Lifetime Electronic Record (VLER), which enables sharing of Veterans’ health records.

VA Streamlines Online Applications for Health Benefits Renewal – Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has automated its online Health Benefits Renewal (10-10EZR) form as part of its ongoing effort to streamline access to benefits.

VA Posts Online List of Ships Associated with Presumptive Agent Orange Exposure – Veterans who served aboard U.S. Navy and Coast Guard ships operating on the waters of Vietnam between January 9, 1962, and May 7, 1975, may be eligible to receive Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) disability compensation for 14 medical conditions associated with presumptive exposure to Agent Orange.

National Convention Wrap Up

America’s largest organization of combat veterans has elected a Vietnam War veteran to head the 1.5 million-member Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States.

Richard L. DeNoyer, a resident of Middleton, Massachusetts, was elected VFW Commander-in-Chief on September 1, 2011, during the 112th VFW National Convention, held August 27 – September 1, in San Antonio, Texas.

Click here to read DeNoyer’s acceptance speech.

Also elected were John Hamilton, Senior Vice Commander-in-Chief, of
St. Augustine, Florida, and William Thien, Junior Vice Commander-in-Chief, of Georgetown, Indiana.

Several major measures affecting the operation of the Veterans of Foreign Wars were also approved during the business sesssion.  Click here to read a summary by North Carolina VFW Member Ken Sellers.  For more information on convention events, visit the VFW.org Summary page.

And finally, watch the slideshow below for some random photos from the convention.

VFW Chides White House, Texas Governor for No-Show

KANSAS CITY, Mo., August 22, 2011 – The White House will not be sending a representative to the Veterans of Foreign Wars 112th National Convention in San Antonio, Texas, drawing harsh criticism and a rebuke from the leadership of the nation's largest combat veteran's organization.

"The VFW has had a long-standing tradition of inviting the sitting president to address our convention.  We want to know where he stands on veterans' affairs, and we want those remarks made in public and on the record," said Richard L. Eubank, the national commander of the nearly 2 million-member Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. and its Auxiliaries. 

"When the President is unable to attend, it has always been customary for the White House to choose a high-level administration official as an alternative speaker," Eubank continued. "It is an insult of the highest magnitude that for the first time in the history of the VFW, the White House has apparently decided that this great and iconic organization of combat veterans and all of its members are not worthy of its notice by not at least offering a first-tier speaker  from the administration."

Eubank, a Marine Corps retiree and Vietnam combat veteran from Eugene, Ore., was also critical of Texas Governor, Rick Perry; "The VFW also has a tradition of inviting the governor of the host state where its annual convention is being held to come and welcome and greet our convention delegates.  Although Governor Perry was similarly sent an invitation 3 months ago, apparently our invitation was deemed not important enough for the governor’s office to at least accept or decline the invitation.  Governor Perry's candidacy for president does not provide him an excuse for bad manners.  The White House and Governor Perry can rest assured that the 2 million members of the VFW and its Auxiliaries will remember this discourteous treatment for a very long time to come."

Annually, the VFW's National Convention plays host to a number of other speakers as well, including prominent members of the Cabinet, military and civic leaders, business leaders and a host of everyday people honored for their exemplary service.

VFW letter: the debt deal's done, now what?

Dear VFW, Ladies Auxiliary and Supporters:

The president this afternoon signed congressional legislation to raise the federal debt limit and reduce government spending. The larger question is now how this all impacts veterans, service members, their families and survivors.

The measure passed by the Senate today and in the House yesterday will raise the $14.3 trillion debt limit by at least $2.1 trillion. An additional $500 billion could come in the fall, provided two-thirds of Congress approves. The final increase, expected early next year, would provide the Treasury enough borrowing power to pay its bills into 2013.

The deal also calls for sharp cuts in agency spending — about $917 billion over the next decade — starting with a $25 billion reduction in fiscal year 2012, which begins Oct. 1, with a second set of reductions coming later this year via a special committee charged with wringing at least $1.2 trillion more over the next decade. If the committee fails to act — or if Congress does not adopt its recommendations by Dec. 23 — government spending would be cut across the board by the same amount, with the reductions split 50:50 between security and non-security programs.

Either way, many DOD and VA programs and services could be negatively impacted, which would counteract everything the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. has worked hard to create over the past 112 years. The VFW and our supporters cannot let this happen.

On the VFW website is a list of 10 services and programs the organization believes are most vulnerable to being cut or curtailed in order to help pay for 10 years of war. The "10 for 10" list will form the basis of VFW's legislative efforts and calls to action to its membership and grassroots supporters. Now is the time to re-engage with your members of Congress.

Yours in Comradeship,

ROBERT E. WALLACE
Executive Director
VFW Washington Office