VFW WASHINGTON WEEKLY
June 10, 2011
In This Issue:
1. Sexual Assaults at VA
2. More Eligible for TSGLI Payments
3. Tricare Update
4. Senate VA Committee Hearing
5. Delta Airlines Update
6. Vietnam MIA Identified
Sexual Assaults at VA: A GAO report released Tuesday said almost 300 sexual assaults --- to include 67 rapes --- were reported to VA law enforcement officials between January 2007 and July 2010, but many went unreported to regional offices or to VA's central office. The report was compiled after visiting only five of VA's 152 medical centers, which led many to wonder how wide spread is the problem. VFW National Commander Richard Eubank called this a "zero tolerance issue," and said it is inexcusable for VA security equipment and incident reporting procedures to be so broken that patients and staff alike may fear for their personal safety. Of particular concern to the VFW is the high number of incidents against women veterans. Representing the VFW in testimony Monday before the House VA Subcommittee on Health will be Marlene Roll, a first Gulf War veteran and a member of VFW's National Women's Veterans Committee. She is also the director of New York's Erie County Veterans' Service Agency and a member of a VA advisory council on patient care. A VFW press release with link to the GAO report is at http://www.vfw.org/News-and-Events/Articles/VFW-OUTRAGED-BY-SEXUAL-ASSAULTS-AT-VA/
2. More Eligible for TSGLI Payments:
Servicemembers who suffered a traumatic injury from Oct. 7, 2001, forward could be retroactively eligible for as much as $100,000, according to the VA. Troops who suffered one of several types of injury, including amputation, brain injury or burns, now qualify for compensation under the Servicemembers' Group Life Insurance Traumatic Injury Protection program, regardless of where they were injured. Previously, servicemembers were eligible only if they suffered the injuries after Dec. 1, 2005. The recent passage of the Veterans Benefits Act of 2010 grandfathered eligibility back to Oct. 7, 2001. The traumatic insurance supplement was a tremendous VFW legislative victory back in April 2005, when the proposal went from bill to law in 27 days. For more information on eligibility or to apply, go to http:// www.insurance.va.gov/sgliSite/TSGLI/TSGLI.htm
3. Tricare Update:
The House-passed version of the FY 2012 National Defense Authorization Act includes a proposal to increase Tricare premiums for working age retirees by 13 percent, and links future increases to annual cost-of-living adjustments. The current Senate defense bill contains no language regarding Tricare fee increases, which could leave the House recommendation still on the table when the two bodies meet to reconcile their differences, or leave open the possibility for DOD to go ahead with their original plan to tie future increases to medical inflation, which can range into double digits. The VFW is urging you to contact your senators before the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Personnel meets on Tuesday. Tell them to insert language into their Senate defense bill to prohibit raising Tricare fees. Contact your senators today at http://capwiz.com/vfw/issues/alert/?alertid=50425506
4. Senate VA Committee Hearing:
The VFW testified Wednesday before the Senate VA Committee on an array of bills to improve and expand existing veterans' programs, as well as to create new programs. Below are four of almost 30 bills under consideration:
* S. 769 would allow medical service dogs access to VA facilities.
* S. 894 would authorize an annual cost-of-living adjustment for veterans' disability compensation and other benefits based on an increase in Social Security for 2011.
* S. 951, The Hiring Heroes Act of 2011, would improve employment and transition programs provided by the Departments of Defense, Labor and Veterans Affairs, and make Transition Assistance Program participation mandatory for all servicemembers. The VFW strongly supports this bill and asks you to contact your senators for their support. Go to http://capwiz.com/vfw/issues/alert/?alertid=48351501
* S. 1148, The Veterans Program Improvement Act of 2011, is a comprehensive bill that would expand many VA programs, to include homeless grants and per diem rates, increased fiduciary oversight, and streamline the claims appeals process.
For more hearing information, go to the Senate VA Committee website at http://veterans.senate.gov/index.cfm
. To read VFW testimony, go to http://www.vfw.org/VFW-in-DC/Congressional-Testimony/
5. Delta Airlines Update: Under intense public pressure, Delta Airlines on Wednesday increased the number of free checked bags for service personnel traveling on orders. The move was in response to a YouTube video posted by two soldiers whose unit had just returned from Afghanistan. After clearing customs in Baltimore, the unit had to recheck their baggage for commercial flights back to Fort Polk, La. That's when almost half of the 34 soldiers were hit with a $200 fee for checking a fourth bag. Military officials point out that all such fees are reimbursable --- provided extra baggage is authorized in an individual's orders --- and that government-issued credit cards and advanced travel pay can alleviate the fee shock. Delta now allows four free checked bags for military flying in coach. United, American and Continental Airlines quickly followed Delta's lead and upped their limits for military travelers, too.
6. Vietnam MIA Identified:
The Defense POW/MIA Office identified the remains of Air Force Capt. Darrell J. Spinler, of Browns Valley, Minn. On June 21, 1967, Spinler was attacking enemy targets along the Xekong River in Laos in his A-1E Skyraider when villagers reported hearing an explosion before the aircraft crashed. His wingman remained in the area for more than two hours but saw no sign of Spinler. Read more about his recovery and identification at http://www.defense.gov/releases/release.aspx?releaseid=14548