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VFW WASHINGTON WEEKLY

June 24, 2011



In This Issue:
1. Afghanistan Troop Withdrawal
2. Senate Defense Bill Includes Tricare Increases
3. More Eligible for TSGLI Payments
4. U.S-Russia Joint Commission Update
5. WWII Airman Identified
6. Five WWII Crewmembers Identified


1. Afghanistan Troop Withdrawal: President Obama announced Wednesday evening his plan to withdraw 10,000 troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2011, and 23,000 more by the end of summer 2012. The majority of the remaining 68,000 troops --- more than double the number when he took office--- could also be home by 2014 depending on conditions on the ground, which is the key factor the VFW will look for the president to follow as he moves forward with withdrawal plans. Afghanistan is America's longest war and has resulted in 1,500 combat deaths and billions of dollars to fight, primarily because it's a landlocked country where the Pentagon says even the cost to transport fuel averages $400 per gallon. Pundits on both sides of the issue agree that any progress made in Afghanistan is fragile at best, that al Qaeda has been mostly defeated, and that America cannot continue to help the country forever. As the president said, "It is time to focus on nation building here at home." Read his announcement at http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2011/06/22/remarks-president-way-forward-afghanistan.


2. Senate Defense Bill Includes Tricare Increases: The Senate Armed Services Committee-passed version of the National Defense Authorization bill would provide $530 billion to the Defense Department to fight the ongoing wars, as well as for force modernization, equipment replacement, and for personnel programs that would include a 1.6-percent across-the-board military pay raise, educational funding, and improved research and treatment of traumatic brain injury and psychological health conditions. To the VFW's great disappointment, the Senate committee agreed to the House-passed proposal to increase Tricare premiums for working age retirees by 13 percent this year, and link future increases to annual cost-of-living adjustments. VFW opposes any increases in TRICARE fees and will continue to urge senators to drop the provision from their package when it comes up for a full Senate vote in the coming weeks. To contact your senators, go to http://capwiz.com/vfw/issues/alert/?alertid=50425506. For full committee coverage, go to http://armed-services.senate.gov/.


3. More Eligible for TSGLI Payments: Servicemembers who suffered traumatic injuries between Oct. 7, 2001, and Nov. 30, 2005, could be eligible for as much as $100,000 under the Servicemembers' Group Life Insurance Traumatic Injury Protection (TSGLI) program, according to the VA. Previously, servicemembers had to have served in Operations Enduring Freedom or Iraqi Freedom between these dates to have been eligible--- those who suffered qualifying injuries from Dec. 1, 2005, forward were already eligible. Now all troops, regardless of where the injury occurred, could qualify for TSGLI if they suffered a qualifying injury, such as loss of limb or sight, brain injury or burns. Payments for the newly eligibility group will not begin until Oct. 1, but eligible individuals may file for the benefit immediately. 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.


4. U.S-Russia Joint Commission Update: The VFW was extremely pleased to learn that Russian President Dmitry Medvedev had appointed Yekaterina Priezzheva as the new cochairman of the U.S.-Russia Joint Commission on POW/MIAs. The June 17 decision came less than three weeks after the VFW led an effort to ask for his personal support of the Joint Commission, which was created in 1992 by Presidents George H.W. Bush and Boris Yeltsin to help determine the fates of missing American and Russian soldiers, but was effectively shut down in 2004. "As we wrote to President Medvedev, recovering our fallen is a humanitarian gesture that honors a soldier's promise on the battlefield," said VFW National Commander Richard Eubank, who last fall became the seventh consecutive VFW national commander to travel to Russia to meet with their veterans, politicians and government officials to urge their support of the Joint Commission. "I am extremely proud of the VFW for the leadership role we played to help bring the Russians back to the table," he said. Read the VFW press release at http://stage.vfw.org/News-and-Events/Articles/Medvedev-Appoints-Russian-Cochairman-to-Joint-POW/MIA-Commission/.


5. WWII Airman Identified: The Defense POW/MIA Office announced the identification of remains belonging to Army Air Forces Staff Sgt. Marvin J. Steinford, of Keystone, Iowa. On March 24, 1945, Steinford was one of 10 crewmembers to bail out of a crippled B-17G Flying Fortress over Hungary. He and another crewmember were struck by small arms fire while parachuting into a firefight between Soviet and German forces. The remains of the other crewmember were found where he was buried by villagers. The other eight crewmembers were captured by the Germans and released at the end of the war. No details on the whereabouts of Steinford would be known until 2003, when a member of the U.S.-Russia Joint Commission on POW/MIAs met with Hungarian officials about missing Americans in former Soviet bloc countries. Read more at http://www.defense.gov/releases/release.aspx?releaseid=14590.


6. Five WWII Crewmembers Identified: DPMO also announced the identification of remains belonging to five Army Air Forces airmen, who had previously been buried as unknowns. They are Capt. Leonard E. Orcutt, of Alameda, Calif.; Tech. Sgt. Louis H. Miller, from Philadelphia; Staff Sgt. George L. Winkler, from Huntington, W.Va.; 2nd Lt. Harry L. Bedard, from Minneapolis; and 2nd Lt. Robert S. Emerson, of Norway, Maine. On April 3, 1945, Orcutt and his crew took off in their B-25J Mitchell bomber from Palawan Field, Philippines. The pilot of another aircraft reported seeing Orcutt's plane stall out and crash in a swampy area. There were no survivors. Read more at http://www.defense.gov/releases/release.aspx?releaseid=14595.

Home    Upcoming Events    Links of Interest    Ladies Auxiliary
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Listen Up!: Commander’s Message    Freedom is NEVER Free!