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:

Motorcyclists offered chance to help Milton police officer Marc Cilley

MILTON — About 500 area residents and police officers are planning to ride motorcycles Sept. 16 to help the family of a local officer who was recently diagnosed with testicular cancer.

The fundraiser will benefit Officer Marc Cilley and it is open to “anyone who can ride,” according to Lee Police Sgt. Tom Dronsfield.

Cilley, who was born in New Hampshire, previously served as a sergeant in the U.S. Marine Corps and deployed to Iraq, before returning to become a police officer. He began working for Milton police in December 2009.

“He has a four-year-old (son) with a baby on the way,” Dronsfield said, adding Cilley learned he had cancer just after buying a home in Wakefield.

While Cilley already underwent surgery to remove some of the cancer, he must go through nine weeks of chemotherapy before doctors will know more.

Much of the strain on the family and friends comes from worrying and waiting.

“He spent most of his life helping other people through the military, the fire department and the police,” Dronsfield said, adding it’s time for others to try and return the favor.

“Marc may not be able to participate, but he’ll try to watch as the line of supporters drives by,” Dronsfield said, adding Cilley is expecting to undergo another round of chemotherapy the week before, which is physically draining.

“It looks like it’s going to be huge,” Dronsfield said, adding he was hoping for 250 bikes to participate in the run, but “it’s easily closer to 500.”

They won’t know until people start registering, which is scheduled from 8 to 9:30 a.m. at the Public Dronsfield said, adding it’s time for others to try and return the favor.

At 10 a.m., the bikes are scheduled to ride north on Route 125 — complete with an escort of area police, New Hampshire State Police troopers and a rescue vehicle — all the way to Milton, Dronsfield said.

Dronsfield said participants will then return for a barbecue at noon at the Lee Police Station via Routes 75, 11, 16 and 125.

Once everyone returns, Dronsfield said participants can take part in a silent auction for many items, including two $100 tickets for an upcoming race at N.H. Motor Speedway in Loudon “We have a ton of stuff for raffles,” Dronsfield said.

The event was organized by the Lee Police Association in cooperation with the Milton and Durham Police Departments.

The cost is $20 for riders and $10 for passengers.

Dronsfield said an account to help the Cilley family was established at the Northeast Credit Union. He added donations can be made out to the “Lee Police Association” with “Cilley” in the memo line.

For more information, contact Sgt. Tom Dronsfield at tdronsfield@leenhpolice.org.

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.