Mental Wellness Campaign: Day to Change Direction

Greetings, VFW Family:

First, we want to thank each of you for your continued dedication and support to the mission of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S and the VFW Auxiliary. We look forward to working with all of you in our time serving as Commander-in-Chief and National President of our two great organizations. With this in mind, we wanted to officially inform you of our campaign for 2016-2017: The VFW Mental Wellness Campaign. You may have heard us discuss this at our National Conventions, but allow us to explain in more detail, as we are hitting the ground running to support our service members, veterans, and families coping with invisible wounds.

A report published just last week by the Department of Veterans Affairs indicates that as many as 20 veterans choose to end their own lives every day. This is a national tragedy that cannot continue. Thankfully, our physical presence in communities from coast to coast and around the globe, as well as our years of advocacy expertise, mean that the VFW and the VFW Auxiliary are uniquely poised to  address this critical issue. We have already partnered with two outstanding organizations, Give an Hour and the One Mind Foundation, to help raise awareness, foster community engagement, improve research, and provide intervention for those affected by invisible injuries and emotional stress.

So today, we are asking for your support and the support of the VFW Posts and Auxiliary Units in your Department to help us kick off the VFW Mental Wellness Campaign in your communities through what we’re calling “A Day to Change Direction.”

On October 8, 2016, the VFW and Give an Hour will be hosting the first annual “Day to Change Direction,” which will be a day to share resources with your Post and Department members to “Know the Five Signs” of emotional distress, then join together to complete a community service project of your choosing.

Our generous partners at Give an Hour have already commissioned a web page for “A Day to Change Direction,” where you can pledge your support to this event: Simply scroll to the bottom and fill in “Partner Pledge.” We also have VFW staff standing by to help you coordinate events in your area. Please contact VFW National Programs Director Lynn Rolf,, with any questions you may have about this initiative.
To learn more about Give an Hour, the national campaign to Change Direction, and the Five Signs of Emotional Suffering, visit: and

To learn more about One Mind and their efforts to support research efforts and innovation in treatment for invisible injuries, visit:
As we draw closer to October 8, you will hear from Lynn and his team with more details about the week, as well as ideas on how to make your “Day to Change Direction” a success. In the meantime, please visit and make your pledge to support this critical effort, and please share with Lynn any unique service project ideas you may have that could help make “A Day to Change Direction” a success.




Brian Duffy


Veterans of Foreign Wars


No One Does More For Veterans


Colette Bishop

National President

VFW Auxiliary


Unwavering Support for Uncommon Heroes

VFW Action Corps Weekly, July 8, 2016


                                           July 8, 2016


In This Issue:

  1. Bridging the Divide
  2. Commission on Care Releases Final Report
  3. VA Releases Results From Largest Veteran Suicide Study
  4. House Votes to Protect Veterans Preference
  5. Online Health Care Application
  6. Arlington National Cemetery’s Future
  7. MIA Update


  1. Bridging the Divide: VFW Senior Vice Commander-in-Chief Brian Duffy joined a panel of mental health experts at the National Press Club this week to discuss the public’s perception—and employer perceptions—of military veterans transitioning back into their communities and workforce. The panel focused on the results of two surveys conducted recently by the George W. Bush Institute and the global public relations and marketing firm, Edelman. Survey results indicated 40 percent of Americans believe half of all veterans are experiencing mental health challenges, where in fact it’s one in five veterans, which matches the civilian sector. Also troubling was 92 percent of employers believe veterans need access to mental health care programs, and that the great majority of Americans and employers perceive veterans as heroes, but not as strategic assets, which is a disconnect between the civilian population and those who serve, according to Duffy. “We understand that in times of war there are heroes, but just because you went to war doesn’t mean that you came back a hero,” he said. “By calling everybody a hero, it devalues the term, plus it puts everyone on a pedestal when you’re just trying to successfully transition back into the community.” Read both surveys at: and


  1. Commission on Care Releases Final Report: On Wednesday, the Commission on Care, created by Congress to recommend ways to improve the VA health care system, issued its final report which includes 18 recommendations on how VA delivers care to veterans, the governance and workforce of the VA health care system and which veterans are eligible for VA health care. VFW National Commander John A. Biedrzycki Jr. thanked the commission for their hard work and offered the VFW’s support for most of their recommendations and expressed the VFW’s concerns with one recommendation that would create another layer of bureaucracy to manage the day-to-day operations of the VA health care system. To read the VFW’s press release, visit: To read the commission’s final report, visit:


  1. VA Releases Results From Largest Veteran Suicide Study: On Thursday, VA released preliminary findings from the country’s largest study on veteran suicide. Over the past year, VA has worked with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Department of Defense to gather and analyze mortality records for 55 million veterans from every state and U.S. territory, dating from 1979-2014. A study in 2010, which used data from 20 states, estimated the number of veteran deaths by suicide averaged 22 per day. The latest study estimates the number of veteran deaths by suicide averaged 20 per day in 2014. The report validates previous findings that veterans who use VA health care are at lower risk of suicide compared to veterans who do not use VA care. VA plans to release the entire study by the end of this month. The VFW is alarmed by this report’s findings and will do what is necessary to ensure veterans who contemplate taking their own lives have the care and support they need to cope with their mental health care issues. To read the preliminary findings, visit:


  1. House Votes to Protect Veterans Preference: On Thursday, the House of Representatives approved language which would ban the use of federal funds to change hiring preference for veterans. The amendment, part of a larger appropriations bill for several federal agencies, now goes to the Senate for consideration. This ban would protect veterans from a Senate proposal that the VFW adamantly opposes which would allow veterans preference to be used only one time.  To read the VFW’s statement opposing the Senate bill, go to  To see how your member of Congress voted on this amendment, go to: Continue to follow the VFW Action Corps for more updates on this issue.


  1. Online Health Care Application: Last week, VA launched a new and easier way for veterans to enroll in VA health care through the website. The new application was developed in response to concerns with the current Veterans Online Application––a fillable PDF that can only be opened with devices that can read Adobe documents. The new application is an HTML form that can be viewed with any web browser, including mobile devices. If you would like to enroll in VA health care using the new application, visit: To learn about other ways to enroll in VA health care, visit:


  1. Arlington National Cemetery’s Future: The VFW attended a discussion this week about the future of Arlington National Cemetery. Currently, only one percent of those eligible choose to be buried or inured at Arlington, with the rest being interred at the VA’s 134 national cemeteries or in state veterans cemeteries or elsewhere. Even so, based on its current pace, Arlington will run out of space sometime between the years 2050 and 2070, a timeframe that takes into consideration the 90,000 current available spaces, the 27,000 additional spaces from its millennium project, and the 45,000 to 50,000 spaces to be gained from a southern expansion into where the Navy Annex once stood. The question the Arlington advisory committee is pondering is whether changes could or should be made to eligibility requirements to extend the cemetery’s lifespan. Right now, all active-duty deaths are eligible, as well as military retirees, those with qualifying medals, and those with honorable discharges. The VFW will report more as this discussion continues.


  1. MIA Update: The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency announced the identification of remains of Marine Corps Pvt. Robert J. Carter, 19, of Oklahoma City, who will be buried July 13 in Arlington National Cemetery. In November 1943, Carter was assigned to Company G, 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, which landed against stiff Japanese resistance on the small island of Betio in the Tarawa Atoll of the Gilbert Islands. Over several days of intense fighting at Tarawa, approximately 1,000 Marines and sailors were killed, and more than 2,000 were wounded, but the Japanese were virtually annihilated. Carter died on Nov. 20, 1943. Learn more at:




To sign up new veterans’ advocates, click here:


As always, we want to hear your advocacy stories. To share your stories or photos with us, simply email them directly to

Big 6 VSOs Unite Behind Veterans First Act


Big 6 VSOs Unite Behind Veterans First Act


WASHINGTON, (July 7, 2016) — The Veterans Service Organizations who are most often called before Congress for testimony on the state of Veterans Affairs, known in D.C. as “The Big 6,” are joining together to call on the Senate to vote on the Veterans First Act. While each has been engaged separately in traditional methods of calling for votes — such as letter-writing and email campaigns — they are now maximizing the power of social media to expand their outreach to get more veterans engaged.


“The Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States strongly supports passage of the Veterans First Act because it rightfully eliminates arbitrary eligibility requirements to ensure family caregivers of veterans from all eras receive the recognition and support they deserve. It requires the VA to research the association between toxic exposures and adverse health effects among the descendants of exposed veterans, and it makes urgently needed improvements to the choice program, which would ensure veterans who receive care from private sector doctors are not erroneously billed for that care.” – Robert E. Wallace, VFW Executive Director


“The American Legion stands with our sister Veteran Service Organizations to support the Veterans First Act. This bipartisan legislation has one third of the senate as cosponsors and will ensure that veterans have access to a Department of Veterans Affairs that maintains accountability, organized leadership, and parity of services for all generations of caregivers.” – Verna Jones, Executive Director, The American Legion


“DAV strongly supports Senate passage of the Veterans First Act, which would extend comprehensive caregiver support to veterans of all eras. The legislation would also increase veterans’ options for long-term care through medical foster homes; enhance VA’s efforts to recruit and retain the best and brightest medical professionals; reform claims and appeals processing by creating a fully developed appeals pilot program; and make dozens of other positive changes to improve the lives of the men and women who served. DAV looks forward to working together with leaders in both chambers of Congress, the VA, and other key stakeholders to enact comprehensive legislation to help keep the promise to all eras of America’s veterans.” – Garry J. Augustine, Executive Director, Disabled American Veterans


“The AMVETS family is in full support of the Veterans First Act. Eliminating arbitrary eligibility requirements is crucial to ensuring family caregivers of veterans from all eras receive the support they deserve and need. We support the mandate on VA to research the association between toxic exposures and health effects among exposed veterans’ offspring.” – Joe Chenelly, Executive Director, AMVETS


“The provision within the Veterans First Act that allows for the expansion of the Family Caregiver Program is a top priority for Paralyzed Veterans of America members. Caregivers are life-sustaining for veterans with a spinal cord or disease. They are the most critical component of our rehabilitation and eventual recovery, and their well-being directly impacts the quality of care provided to veterans. Caregivers for veterans of all wartimes should be provided with adequate benefits and resources, yet caregivers of pre-9/11 are made to bear the responsibility—and the toll it takes on their own personal and professional lives—alone. We urge the prompt passage of this legislation so that this inequity will finally be addressed.” – Sherman Gillums Jr., Executive Director, Paralyzed Veterans of America


“We’ve recognized that Congress is starting to respond to pressure from social media, so we are doing the best we can to optimize the impact each of our members has by enlisting them to assist in less traditional ways. While Twitter may not be used by most Vietnam veterans on a regular basis, our kids and our grandkids use it. Our families will be helped most by the Toxic Exposure Research provisions within the Veterans First Act, and we are glad to bring them into the fold so they can help us let the Senate know that we all deserve a vote.” – John Rowan, National President, Vietnam Veterans of America


The Big 6 VSOs are asking their members, families, and supporters to join them during this campaign by using the hashtag #Vote4Vets1st in our Twitter Storm. The Veterans First Act is a bipartisan effort to improve accountability at the Department of Veterans Affairs, provide critical benefits to veterans in need, and improve existing programs. The veterans’ community deserves a vote on the Senate floor before Congress is dismissed for summer recess. In order for the Department of Veterans Affairs to fulfill Lincoln’s promise “to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow, and his orphan,” they must prioritize veterans over politics and pass the Veterans First Act.




ABOUT THE VFW: The Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. is the nation’s largest and oldest major war veterans organization. Founded in 1899 and chartered by Congress in 1936, the VFW is comprised entirely of eligible veterans and military service members from the active, Guard and Reserve forces. With nearly 1.7 million VFW and Auxiliary members located in more than 6,600 Posts worldwide, the nonprofit veterans service organization is proud to proclaim “NO ONE DOES MORE FOR VETERANS” than the VFW, which is dedicated to veterans’ service, legislative advocacy, and military and community service programs. For more information or to join, visit our website at


Contact: VFW Public Affairs Director Joe Davis, 202-608-8357,



1st Annual Rev It Up For Heroes Car Show



Get ready to start your engines!
Manchester VA Medical Center is proud to announce the date for the 1st Annual Rev It Up For Heroes Car Show. It may seem distant, but get those calendars out and save the date for Saturday, September 17, 2016 for when Manchester VA will host the first ever car show!! The car show will feature 100 cars, music, food, kid’s activities and more!! Make plans now to check out this car show event!!  Show off YOUR ride and hard work! Register your car early for a chance to win one of the awards!
Please share widely to make this event a successful one!!

For information contact

Veterans Appreciation Day

Story from the Hudson Litchfield News 5/6/2016

Staff photo by Jay Hobson Some “Cooties” pose in front of their “Cootiemobile.” From left: Mike Dustin, Pete Rodonis, Richard Tripp, Dave Oullette, Jorg Dreusicke, and Jack Cantara.

Staff photo by Jay Hobson Some “Cooties” pose in front of their “Cootiemobile.” From left: Mike Dustin, Pete Rodonis, Richard Tripp, Dave Oullette, Jorg Dreusicke, and Jack Cantara.


Staff photo by Jay Hobson: Ken Ives of the VFW and Fish and Game Club slaves over a hot grill.

Staff photo by Jay Hobson: Ken Ives of the VFW and Fish and Game Club slaves over a hot grill.

Staff photo by Jay Hobson: Senator Kelly Ayotte has a word with event organizer Glenn Della-Monica.

Staff photo by Jay Hobson: Senator Kelly Ayotte has a word with event organizer Glenn Della-Monica.

Staff photo by Jay Hobson: Addison Poliquin, 7, front, and her dad, Paul Poliquin, display the two rainbow trout they caught.

Staff photo by Jay Hobson: Addison Poliquin, 7, front, and her dad, Paul Poliquin, display the two rainbow trout they caught.

Staff photo by Jay Hobson: Evan Poliquin, 10, and his sister Addison Poliquin, 7, get ready to catch some fish.

Staff photo by Jay Hobson: Evan Poliquin, 10, and his sister Addison Poliquin, 7, get ready to catch some fish.

Staff photo by Jay Hobson: Fish and Game shooting instructor Bill Dutton, left, Jordan Hein, 4, center, and Jordan’s “Papa” Ralph Fairbanks, right, help Jordan line up a shot.

Staff photo by Jay Hobson: Fish and Game shooting instructor Bill Dutton, left, Jordan Hein, 4, center, and Jordan’s “Papa” Ralph Fairbanks, right, help Jordan line up a shot.

by Jay Hobson

The Hudson Fish and Game Club was the scene of a VFW-sponsored Veterans Appreciation Day last Saturday from noon to 4 p.m.

Event organizer Glenn Della-Monica of the VFW said that although the picnic and activities were to show appreciation to vets, it was also an opportunity to let newer veterans know that the VFW was a place and an organization that they might want to join.

Hudson VFW Post 5791 Commander Mike Dustin said that some newer veterans have the wrong impression of the VFW.

“Some of the younger guys think that the VFW is just a place for older guys to have drinks and share war stories.  In reality, the VFW is here for veterans who have fought on foreign soil and is here to help with information and, in some respects, aid veterans in what they may need whether it is helping in a charitable way or giving vets an outlet or yes, have a social time in the canteen,” Dustin said.

“Cootie” Richard Tripp said that his group, the Military Order of the Cootie, is a fund raising and Honor Degree organization of the VFW.

“We wear a little bug pin somewhere on our clothing and if someone touches it, say trying to brush the ‘bug’ off, then it is a dollar donation,” Tripp says with a laugh.

Tripp said that the Cooties visit veterans in the hospital, have blood drives and other charitable activities for vets.

Senator Kelly Ayotte dropped by the picnic and spoke to many of the estimated 150 people in attendance.

“This is a great appreciation day for the VFW and American Legion and I’m honored to support these organizations, our veterans and their families for all that they’ve done for our nation,” Ayotte said.

Ayotte said that she comes from a military family and that her husband is an Iraq War veteran and member of the VFW.

“This morning I was at Manchester talking to the enlisted Guard Association and Officers Association, they’re having a conference there,” Ayotte said.

She said that, “without our veterans we wouldn’t have freedom.”

“We need to continue to fight for them (veterans) when it comes to healthcare and ensuring that they have our support for what they’ve done in defending this nation.  That is very important to me, that’s why I’m always fighting to get the VA [Veteran’s Administration] to get the healthcare right and to make sure that we don’t cut benefits,” Ayotte said.

Behind the Fish and Game building at a little pond, children and dads were fishing and catching rainbow trout.

Inside the club house, at an indoor shooting range, kids and adults were having a go at targets at a distance of 50 feet.

One shooter, 4-year-old Jordan Hein, was being taught by his grandfather, Ralph Fairbanks, known to Jordan as “Papa,” and instructor Bill Dutton, on the finer points of shooting a rifle.

“He actually hit the target!”  Fairbanks said later.

The picnic included hot dogs, hamburgers, macaroni salad and potato salad.

Della-Monica said that about 150 people came to the event and more than 10 applications to join the VFW were handed out.

“That was double our expectations,” Della-Monica said.

He also said that 40 people used the shooting range from age 4 to 65, 10 people caught fish and there were 11 winners of the $700 in door prizes.

“We want to give a big thanks to all the vets and to those vets that made this event a success,” Della-Monica said.