MIA Update

The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Office announced the identification of remains of one Marine, one sailor and three soldiers who had been missing in action since World War II and Korea. Returning home for burial with full military honors are: — Marine Pfc. Charles E. Oetjen, 18, of Blue Island, Ill., will be buried July 30 in Alsip, Ill. In November 1943, Oetjen was assigned to Company E, 2nd Battalion, 8th Marines, 2nd Marine Division, which landed against stiff Japanese resistance on the small island of Betio in the Tarawa Atoll of the Gilbert Islands. Oetjen died sometime on the first day of battle, Nov. 20, 1943. Read more at: http://www.dpaa.mil/News-Stories/News-Releases/Article/853564/marine-from-world-war-ii-accounted-for-oetjen/. — Army Cpl. Charles A. White, 20, is being buried today in his hometown of New Lexington, Ohio. On December 3, 1950, White was a member of Company G, 2nd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division, when his company’s position was overrun by the Chinese Communist Forces near Huksu-ri, North Korea. It would be later learned he was captured but died in captivity on May 12, 1951. Read more … Continue reading

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Opioid Addiction, Recovery Addressed in Approved Legislation

Legislation to address opioid addiction and recovery was signed into law by the president on July 22. This bill is aimed at addressing the overuse of opioids and ways to overcome addiction to them. The VFW applauds this legislation and its answer to improving patient advocacy within the Department of Veterans Affairs. Under this new law, an Office of Patient Advocacy will be established, which will remove patient advocates within VA from their facility’s direct chain of command. The bill will also guarantee the Department of Defense and VA jointly update their Clinical Practice Guidelines to comply with those from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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President Signs COLA Act of 2016

President Obama signed into law the Veterans’ Compensation COLA Act of 2016 on July 22. The act, H.R. 5588, proposed by Congressman Ralph Abraham (R-LA), provides veterans with an increased rate of disability benefits. The new law will go into effect Dec. 1, 2016. The Department of Veterans Affairs will also be required to increase additional compensation for dependents, clothing allowance for certain disabled veterans, and dependency and indemnity compensation for surviving spouses and children.    

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VFW Panel Discusses Student Veteran Engagement:

Ways to engage with student veterans was a topic of discussion for a packed room during the National Programs workshop at the 117th VFW National Convention. Leaders and delegates from nearly every state listened as VFW staffers from both the Kansas City and Washington, D.C., offices highlighted lessons learned and best practices on ways the VFW can interact with chapters of the Student Veterans of America (SVA). With a focus on building relationships, improving communication, and telling the VFW story to those veterans attending college, attendees learned that many of the things we already use for success in our organization are ways that we can help SVA chapters be successful on their own campuses and highlight that the VFW is a great organization to join. For further information on how you can work with your local SVA chapter, contact your Department’s student veteran liaison.  

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NLS Holds Convention Workshop

On Sunday, the National Legislative Service staff held a workshop to update members on VFW’s legislative priorities as we end the year. Also discussed was how to become and stay involved in our Action Corps campaign, LESS=MORE. This campaign focuses on why sequestration and arbitrary budget caps are causing less funding to be provided for benefits and services, and putting more burden on veterans, service members and their families. To learn more about LESS=MORE, click here: http://www.vfw.org/uploadedFiles/VFW.org/VFW_in_DC/Less=More%20packet.pdf. To learn more about engaging your members of Congress, contact Ken Wiseman at vfwac@vfw.org.

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VA Applauds VFW Convention Panel on Women Veterans

The VFW Advisory Committee for Women Veterans, along with Department of Veteran Affairs, hosted a panel discussion for women veterans’ benefits and health care last Saturday at the VFW National Convention. The discussion began with two presentations from VA about what they are doing to improve quality of care and resources for female veterans. In attendance from VA was Kayla Williams, the director of the Center for Women Veterans, and Dr. Sally Haskell, the deputy chief consultant for Women’s Health Services. Afterward, Williams and Haskell posted a blog reviewing the discussion as well as their experience. The VFW and VA look forward to working together to make the panel discussion an annual event. To read the VA blog post, visit: http://www.blogs.va.gov/VAntage/29401/focusing-on-women-veterans-at-vfw-national-convention/.

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Presidential Candidates Address VFW Convention

Both presidential candidates made time to address the 117th VFW National Convention in Charlotte, N.C. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke Monday and Donald Trump spoke Tuesday, to a packed house of VFW and Auxiliary delegates. The VFW does not endorse any candidates for any office, but their appearance does continue a longstanding VFW tradition to provide an opportunity for those seeking the nation’s highest office to address the nation’s largest and oldest major war veterans’ organization. Several individuals and organizations were also recognized at the annual convention with national VFW awards, to include: — VFW Armed Forces Award to U.S. Army Special Forces Command (Airborne); — VFW Americanism Award to artist Scott LoBaido; — VFW Hall of Fame Award to comedian, actor and retired Marine Corps Lt. Col. Rob Riggle, a VFW Life Member of Post 15005 in California; — VFW National Teacher Awards to Jessica Mosley, Park Intermediate School, Weiser, Idaho; Donna Kregelka, Chippewa Middle School, Okemos, Mich.; and William Ellery, Carmel High School, Carmel, Ind.; — VFW Voice of Democracy $30,000 scholarship winner Grayson Campbell; — … Continue reading

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VFW National HQ Gets New Leadership

Along with the election of the VFW’s first Desert Storm veteran as national commander came the appointment of a new adjutant general and the election of the VFW’s first woman as quartermaster general. Debra Anderson, who is also a Desert Storm veteran, held previous positions as assistant quartermaster general and director of Human Resources and Investment Coordinator prior to her election to quartermaster general. Bob Wallace is the VFW’s new adjutant general, as well as the executive director of the VFW Washington Office. He served in the Marine Corps in Vietnam and is the recipient of three Purple Hearts. He was also the VFW national commander from 1991 to 1992. Learn more at: http://www.vfw.org/News-and-Events/Articles/2016-Articles/New-Adjutant-and-Quartermaster-Generals-Named-at-VFW-National-Convention/.

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VFW Elects First Desert Storm Vet as National Commander

Air Force veteran Brian Duffy of Louisville, Ky., was elected Wednesday as the Commander-in-Chief of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States at its 117th National Convention in Charlotte, N.C. He also becomes the first veteran of Operation Desert Storm to lead the nation’s oldest and largest major war veterans’ organization. Duffy served in the Air Force as a jet engine mechanic on F-4 Phantom fighter aircraft, and later as a flight engineer aboard C-141 Starlifter transport aircraft in support of several campaigns to include Grenada, Panama, and Operations Desert Shield and Storm in Southwest Asia. In his acceptance speech, the retired UPS pilot called on everyone in the VFW to brag more about the accomplishments and public service that everyone inside the VFW knows is going on, but very few on the outside do. Among his primary objectives for the ensuing year is heightening the focus of mental health awareness and changing the veteran’s narrative—the veteran’s brand—which right now has 40 percent of Americans believing half of all veterans are experiencing mental health challenges, and an astounding … Continue reading

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VFW Life Member Receives Medal of Honor

President Obama presented the Medal of Honor on Monday to Army Lt. Col. Charles Kettles in a ceremony at the White House. Lt. Col. Kettles is credited with saving some 44 lives on May 15, 1967, while serving as a UH-1 Huey helicopter commander. Kettles, of Ypsilanti, Mich., is a Life Member of the VFW. Early that morning, his platoon had dropped about 80 soldiers into a river valley, but the troops were ambushed and surrounded. Kettles and his fellow pilots made several trips back and forth, bringing in reinforcements and evacuating the wounded, but by afternoon, it was clear that the situation was hopeless. Only 44 troops remained, facing what Kettles estimated was a battalion-sized force. During the emergency extraction, Kettles learned eight men had been left behind. He immediately turned around and headed back to the landing zone. “The bottom line is those soldiers went home to their families,” said Kettles. “Their names aren’t carved in stone on a wall in D.C. No medal can compare with that.” Read more at: https://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2016/07/18/president-obama-awards-medal-honor-lt-col-charles-kettles.  

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