VFW National Commander Testifies Before Congress

During today’s [Wednesday's] testimony before a joint hearing of the Senate and House Veterans Affairs Committees, the national commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. (VFW) expressed the organization’s deep concern over America’s disregard for veterans.

“What concerns the VFW and patriots everywhere is that America has forgotten that OUR NATION IS STILL AT WAR,” explained William A. Thien, commander-in-chief of the VFW. “We have 38,000 men and women stationed inside Afghanistan fighting to ensure the country doesn’t become a terrorist training ground again. We have another 30,000 stationed in South Korea helping to preserve a 61-year-old ceasefire that is looking more and more tenuous.  We have tens of thousands more service members stationed abroad helping to bring peace and stability, and humanitarian assistance when and where it’s needed.”

Thien went on to address the war now being waged on American soil as well, reminding lawmakers of the ongoing veterans’ fight to retain their promised benefits and Quality of Life programs. He noted the passage of the recent COLA penalty, an initiative that VFW was adamantly against since its introduction late last year. “Some believe the cost of war ends when the last troops leave Afghanistan. We know this is not true, and that is why we need a fully funded state-of-the-art VA health care system, benefits programs and cemetery system.”

He pledged that the more than 1.9 million members of the VFW and its Auxiliaries will fight to preserve the safety and security of America and the viability of its All-Volunteer Military. He also vowed to fight attempts to force veterans, service members and their families to shoulder an unfair share of the nation’s debt, and promised to continue the fight for adequate funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs, as well as for advance appropriations for its programs.

Thien explained to Congress that the VFW’s mission is to ensure that a nation that creates veterans fulfills its sacred duty to care for them when they return home. “The VFW exists to serve veterans, and that includes representing them in Washington where the voice of one veteran is often overlooked and the voice of servicemen and women is prohibited.

“Everything the VFW wants costs money, but everything the VFW wants is for someone else—someone from every city and town in every congressional district, and in every state and territory who swore an oath of allegiance to protect and defend our great country and its Constitution,” Thien stated.

Read the entire testimony.

Click here to see full testimony plus Q&A

VFW Announces 2013-2014 National Youth Scholarship Contest Winners

The winners of the VFW and Ladies Auxiliary sponsored Voice of Democracy audio-essay competition and the Patriot’s Pen essay competition were announced yesterday[Monday] during the 2014 VFW Legislative Conference in Washington, D.C.

The Voice of Democracy program celebrated its 67th year with this year’s theme, “Why I’m Optimistic About Our Nation’s Future.” The first-place winner, Madison Haley, sponsored by VFW Post 777 and Ladies Auxiliary in Mount Pulaski, Ill., received an all-expense-paid trip to Washington, D.C., where she was presented with the T.C. Selman Memorial Scholarship Award in the amount of $30,000. The second-place winner, Grace Speas, sponsored by VFW Post 10097 and Ladies Auxiliary in Fort Myers Beach, Fla., received the $16,000 Charles Kuralt Memorial Scholarship Award. The third-place winner, Luke Ball, sponsored by VFW Post 2573 and Ladies Auxiliary in Wilmington, N.C., received the $10,000 VFW Scholarship Award. All other state winners received at least a $1,000 college scholarship. More than 40,000 students participated in this year’s competition.

Read Madison Haley’s award-winning essay.

See the complete list of all winners.

The Patriot’s Pen program is designed to foster patriotism by allowing students the opportunity to express their opinions on democracy based on an annual theme, this year’s being, “What Patriotism Means to Me.” The first-place winner, Alexis Canen, sponsored by VFW Post 1125 and Ladies Auxiliary in Glendive, Mont., received an all-expense-paid trip to Washington, D.C., where she received a $5,000 award. The second-place winner, Noelle Nakaoka, sponsored by VFW Post 2875 in Ewa Beach, Hawaii, will receive a $4,000 award. The third-place winner, Olivia Leising, sponsored by VFW Post 9357 in Cambridge, Neb., will receive a $3,500 award. More than 111,000 students participated in this year’s competition.

Read Alexis Canen’s award-winning essay.

See list of all winners.

2014: A Message from the VFW Commander-in-Chief

This year promises to be a momentous one for America’s veterans and its warriors. Issues affecting those in and out of uniform will be on the front burner on Capitol Hill.

Two events in 2014 will no doubt put veterans and the armed forces in the national limelight: congressional elections and withdrawal of U.S. combat troops from Afghanistan. The ending of a war is always a watershed in history, and this one should be no exception.

Achieving such a milestone will attract publicity that should be maximized to the benefit of the Afghanistan War’s veterans and their families. While the media is focused on the political ramifications of the combat disengagement, we should draw attention to the needs of the youngest generation of war vets.

Recently, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told the 47,000 GIs remaining in Afghanistan: “I know more than occasionally you wonder if anybody’s paying attention, or if anybody cares, but we do.”

Hagel may have been speaking on behalf of the American people in general, but his words could have been our own. This is all part of our commitment to “fully support U.S. troops and their mission to prosecute the war on terrorism.”

VFW’s Priority Goals include a host of issues—health care, housing, education, employment, transition assistance and military quality-of-life as a whole—that are perfectly relevant to those on active duty today. Each and every one of these goals is being pursued with vigor by our Washington Office staff.

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Thanksgiving Thank You from the Veterans of Foreign Wars

The National Office of the Veterans of Foreign Wars has created a special Thanksgiving “Thank You” message for all VFW Service Officers, Members and supporters.

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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2013 Year in Review

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