VFW WASHINGTON WEEKLY
April 27, 2012
In This Issue:
1. VFW Salutes New GI Bill Protections
2. House Advances VETS Bill and Other Legislation
3. VA Failing Veterans on Mental Health Access
4. VA Exempt from Budget Cuts
5. FY 2013 NDAA Update
6. Clark Veterans Cemetery Update
7. Three MIAs Return Home
1. VFW Salutes New GI Bill Protections:
The VFW saluted the President for signing an executive order today to better protect the military and veterans' communities from the predatory recruiting and financial loan practices of some colleges who fail to deliver on their educational promises. The VFW has been a leading voice on improving student-veteran consumer education and played an integral role in drafting some of the provisions in the executive order. To learn more, click here:http://www.vfw.org/News-and-Events/Articles/2012-Articles/VFW-SALUTES-NEW-GI-BILL-PROTECTIONS/
. Early next week we will bring you a comprehensive breakdown of the executive order and how it will help prepare student-veterans to best utilize their earned benefits. Check back on Monday with www.vfwonthehill.org
2. House Advances VETS Bill and Other Legislation:
Earlier today, the House VA Committee voted to move the Department of Labor Veterans' Employment and Training Service, or VETS, under the jurisdiction of VA. The bill, H.R. 4072, would transfer all veterans' job training, counseling and rehabilitation as well as homeless reintegration programs under VA. Other provisions amended into the bill include authorizing a pilot program in five states that allows veterans and their spouses' access to key components of the TAP program and adjusting the cost of living increase -- beginning in FY 2014 - for veterans to the same percentage as social security thus eliminating the need for annual legislation. Other VFW-supported legislation that cleared the committee included:
* H.R. 4114 would provide a cost-of-living adjustment for veterans' benefits in FY 2013.
* H.R. 3670, legislation that closes a long overdue loophole in rehiring compliance within the Transportation Security Administration (TSA)
* H.R. 4482 which improves VA's home loan guaranty programs regarding adjustable rate mortgages and hybrid adjustable rate mortgages.
* H.R. 4201, The Servicemember Family Protection Act, which would protect deployed servicemembers in child custody suits
The VFW was one of the leading voices on Capitol Hill advocating to move VETS under VA. To learn more about VFW's support to this bill and to read our testimony on it, click here: http://www.vfwonthehill.org/2012/03/watch-live-testimony-on-veterans-jobs.html
3. VA Failing Veterans on Mental Health Care:
This week, the VA Inspector General released a critical report that details flaws in the way VA calculates wait times for mental health appointments. This report contradicts VA's claims that 95% of new patients wanting mental health services received full evaluations for care within the required 14 day period. The IG reported that just 49%were seen in that time frame, and that the average wait time was 50 days. The Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee who had requested the report earlier this year, held a hearing on Wednesday to discuss the huge disparity between what VA reported as wait times for veterans and what actually was found at facilities across the country. Senate VA Chairman Parry Murray (D-0WA) called the report deeply disturbing and demanded VA take action to revamp its scheduling system and get serious about hiring mental health professionals. To read our blog posting on this issue click here: http://www.vfwonthehill.org/2012/04/watch-live-senate-hosts-hearing-on-vets.html
4. VA Exempt from Budget Cuts:
After months of inquiries from the VFW, VSO's and Congress, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) finally released a letter stating that VA health care programs would be exempt from mandatory budget cuts should sequestration occur at the end of this year. VFW Commander-in-Chief Richard L. DeNoyer praised the outcome, "Today's decision means the healthcare plans and programs the VA currently provides to millions of disabled veterans will continue unabated, as will claims processing and veterans' burial benefits." He said. Mandatory budget cuts were put in place after Congress failed to reach an agreement on spending cuts and deficit reduction. To read our press release and the official OMB letter click here: http://www.vfw.org/News-and-Events/Articles/2012-Articles/VA-EXEMPT-FROM-SEQUESTRATION/
. To read about the justification behind the VA exemption, click here: http://www.vfwonthehill.org/2012/04/why-va-programs-will-be-exempt-from.html
5. FY 2013 NDAA Update: This week, The House Armed Services Subcommittee on Personnel approved its portion of the FY 2013 NDAA, and the Senate Armed Services Committee held another hearing to discuss matters related to personnel. The House subcommittee voted against increasing fees in the Tricare system and cleared a 1.7 percent across-the-board pay raise for service members. The House proposal also included a VFW-supported provision that would require DOD to provide Congress with frequent briefings on allegations of sexual assault and harassment in the military. The VFW will continue to monitor both Committees' as they move the bill through the process.
6. Clark Veterans Cemetery Update:
The VFW is supporting legislation introduced by Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) to direct the American Battle Monuments Commission to assume responsibility of the veterans cemetery at the former Clark Air Base in the Philippines. The U.S. abandoned the cemetery and air base in 1991 when Mt. Pinatubo erupted. Beginning in 1994, local VFW Post 2485 took on the mission to keep the Clark cemetery up to standards using their own resources. Ayotte's bill, S. 2320, would ensure the responsibility is formally transferred to ABMC. Approximately 8,600 American veterans dating back to the Spanish-American War and Philippine Insurrection, along with dependents, and U.S. Government-authorized civilians and Philippine Scouts are interred there.The companion bill in the House is H.R. 4168, introduced by Rep. Frank Guinta (R-N.H.). Learn more at http://www.cvcra.org/
7. Three MIAs Return Home:
The Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office announced the identification of remains belonging to three soldiers previously missing in action from the Korean and Vietnam Wars. Returned home are:
* Army Sgt. 1st Class Edris A. Viers, 32, of Swan, Iowa. In August 1950, Viers and Battery A, 555th Field Artillery Battalion, would be listed as missing in action fighting against North Koreans in a battle known as the "Bloody Gulch," near Pongam-ni, South Korea.
* Army Pfc. Nelson E. Young, 19, of Suffolk, Mass. In late November 1950, Young and elements of the 31st Regimental Combat Team, known as "Task Force Faith," were attacked advancing along the eastern banks of the Chosin Reservoir in North Korea. It was learned after the war that Young had been captured by the Chinese, but died several months later as the result of malnutrition.
* Army Capt. Charles R. Barnes, 27, of Philadelphia. On March 16, 1969, Barnes and four other service members departed Qui Nhon Airfield in a U-21A Ute aircraft. As they approached Da Nang, they encountered low clouds and poor visibility. Communications with the aircraft were lost. Immediate search efforts found nothing of the aircraft or crew.
Read more about their individual stories at http://www.dtic.mil/dpmo/news/news_releases/