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VFW WASHINGTON WEEKLY

July 15, 2011



In This Issue:
1. Urge President to Restore POW/MIA Mission Funding
2. Army Ranger Receives Medal of Honor
3. VFW Co-sponsors Women's Veterans Summit
4. VFW Supports Veterans Employment Bills
5. Senate Discusses Mental Health Care Gaps
6. VA Adds Additional Disorders to Undiagnosed Illness
7. Afghan Troop Withdrawals Begin
8. Airports Still Vulnerable
9. Vietnam Education Center Needs Photos
10. Two MIAs Identified


1. Urge President to Restore POW/MIA Mission Funding: The VFW is absolutely against a Defense Department plan to pare back POW/MIA mission funding and personnel, which also goes against White House recommendations, too. Please add your voice to ours by writing President Obama today to urge him to direct DOD to restore funding and personnel to the U.S.-Russia Joint Commission on POW/MIAs, and to protect the proposed budgets of the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command. Click here to read a joint Opinion Editorial released Wednesday by the VFW and seven other veterans' and POW/MIA family organizations.


2. Army Ranger Receives Medal of Honor: On Tuesday, the president awarded the country's highest military honor to Sgt. 1st Class Leroy A. Petry, an Army Ranger who was shot in both legs and had his hand blown off while saving his fellow soldiers during a firefight in Afghanistan. Petry became only the second living veteran of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq to receive the Medal of Honor. Read more here.


3. VFW Co-sponsors Women's Veterans Summit: The VFW and the VFW Ladies Auxiliary are major co-sponsors of the 2011 National Training Summit on Women Veterans, which begins tomorrow on Capitol Hill. More than 700 women are signed up for the two-day program, which will focus on VA and DOD women initiatives, health care, outreach to OEF/OIF veterans, mental health, Military Sexual Trauma, caregiver support, and linking Guard and Reserve women veterans to VA care. Representing the VFW on a veterans' service organization panel will be Dawn Jirak, assistant director for veterans' health policy in the Washington Office. Also attending the summit from the VFW are Mary Baker, chairwoman of the VFW National Women Veterans Committee, and three of her vice chairwomen --- Precilla Wilkewitz, Lynn Patterson and Joy Mikyska; VFW Human Resources director Debra Anderson from the National Headquarters; Vera Moore, assistance department service officer from Illinois; and Darlene Stiff, National Veterans Service appeals consultant, and G Cano, executive assistant to the Washington Office executive director. Click here for more women veterans health care programs and initiatives.


4. VFW Supports Veterans Employment Bills: The VFW provided testimony before the House VA Committee today on critical legislation to enhance and expand employment and transition programs for veterans. Of particular interest is H.R. 1941, the companion bill to S. 951, Hiring Heroes Act of 2011, and H.R. 2433, Veterans Opportunity to Work Act of 2011, to help unemployed veterans receive job skills to remain competitive, and include new auditing and reporting requirements for ongoing programs to help ensure their success. The VFW supports both bills and asks that you contact your House members and urge them to support both bills. To read our testimony go to the VFW website http://www.vfw.org/VFW-in-DC/Congressional-Testimony/.


5. Senate Discusses Mental Health Care Gaps: The Senate VA Committee held a hearing this week to examine VA mental health programs. Citing a recent court case by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in California, committee members questioned delays and gaps in care, as well as performance measurements for mental health access across the entire VA system. A key witness, Andrea Sawyer, spouse of Army Sgt. Loyd Sawyer, provided details about her husband's experience in seeking treatment for severe PTSD, and the need for major changes within VA mental health programs. Visit the Senate VA Committee website to watch the recorded hearing or to read submitted testimony.


6. VA Adds Additional Disorders to Undiagnosed Illness: VA finalized a rule today to add additional disabilities to the list of undiagnosed illnesses subject to presumptive service connection for certain veterans with service in Southwest Asia. Specifically, it added "functional gastrointestinal disorders" to 38 CFR 3.317, effective Aug. 15, 2011. Click on the Federal Register for more information.


7. Afghan Troop Withdrawals Begin: The first troops to leave Afghanistan as part of the U.S. drawdown handed over their slice of battlefield Wednesday to a unit less than half their size and started packing for home. The 650 members of the Iowa National Guard's 1st Squadron, 113th Cavalry Regiment, arrived in Afghanistan last November as part of buildup of 33,000 extra troops that commanders said would turn the tide against the Taliban. Nine months later, it's still unclear if that push has succeeded, according to an Associated Press article, but the pullback has begun. Read more here.


8. Airports Still Vulnerable: U.S. airports are still vulnerable to terrorist attacks, despite billions of dollars invested in security enhancements since 9/11, according to Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), who led an inquiry on Wednesday into what he described as Transportation Security Administration security deficiencies. He cited government statistics of more than 25,000 security breaches since November 2001 --- or slightly more than five year at each of the nation's 457 commercial airports. TSA said that the number is misleading and represents a small fraction of 1 percent of the 5.5. billion people screened since the 2001 terror attacks. Read more here.


9. Vietnam Education Center Needs Photos: The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund is seeking photos of all 58,000 men and women whose names are inscribed on The Wall in Washington, D.C. The collection will be used to highlight their service and sacrifice inside the new Vietnam Memorial Education Center, which is scheduled to break ground next year. So far, 18,000 photos have been submitted by families and fellow comrades-in-arms. Please submit photos to Jan Scruggs, Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, 2600 Virginia Ave., NW, Suite 104, Washington, DC 20037. Include the deceased's name, location, unit and approximate month/year the photo was taken. Digitized photos can be e-mailed to jscruggs@vvmf.org.


10. Two MIAs Identified: The Defense POW/MIA Office announced the identification of remains belonging to a Navy pilot missing since the Vietnam War, and an Army soldier missing since World War II.

    * On April 29, 1966, Navy Lt. Cmdr. William P. Egan, 35, of Denton, Texas, was killed after his A-1H Skyraider crashed as a result of enemy ground fire during an attack on targets in Khammouan Province, Laos. His wingman observed the crash and immediately flew over the area but saw no sign of Egan. Site excavations in the 1990s did find crew-related equipment and aircraft wreckage that correlated to his aircraft, but no human remains, until a Laotian farmer turned over bone fragments recovered from his field approximately 10 meters from an excavation site.

    * On Nov. 20, 1944, Army Pfc. Edward L. O'Toole, 23, of San Francisco, as part of the 333rd Infantry Regiment, 84th Infantry Division, went missing near Suggerath during an offensive in Western Germany. After an extensive search, his remains were determined unrecoverable in 1953 by U.S. Army Graves Registration personnel. In 2009, a German citizen digging in a wooded area near Suggerath discovered a grave with remains from two individuals, military-related equipment, and identification tags belonging to O'Toole.

Read more about both recovery and identification efforts here.

Home    Upcoming Events    Links of Interest    Ladies Auxiliary
Webmaster    Newsletters    VFW Documents    VFW NSFA Updates
Agent Orange    Contact Us    Stories    Friends of the Post
Let Them Not Go In Silence    Photo Gallery    Flag Rules and Regulations
Listen Up!: Commander’s Message    Freedom is NEVER Free!