February 15, 2013
 

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VFW WASHINGTON WEEKLY

February 15, 2013





1. VFW Wants New Medal Ranking Lowered: The Pentagon on Wednesday announced a new medal to recognize the direct wartime contributions of service members not physically located in a warzone, like drone pilots. The VFW supports the Distinguished Warfare Medal, but wants it lowered in status below the Bronze Star and Purple Heart in the order of precedence. Said VFW National Command John Hamilton, "The VFW fully concurs that those far from the fight are having an immediate impact on the battlefield in real-time, but medals that can only be earned in direct combat must mean more than medals awarded in the rear. Read more at http://www.vfw.org/News-and-Events/Articles/2013-Articles/VFW-WANTS-NEW-MEDAL-RANKING-LOWERED/.
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2. Wounded VFW Member Testifies: The Senate Budget Committee hosted a hearing this week to discuss the impact federal budget decisions are having on wounded veterans as they attempt to reintegrate with their communities. Sharing his experience with military and VA benefit programs was retired Marine Cpl. Patrick Murray, a member of VFW Post 3150 in Arlington, Va., who lost a leg to an IED explosion in Iraq. Learn more about his personal story at http://thevfw.blogspot.com/2013/02/senate-hears-vfw-testimony-on-investing.html.
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3. House VA Committee Discusses Mental Health: This week, the House Veterans Affairs Committee held a hearing on barriers to VA mental health care. Recent reports from both the VA Inspector General and the GAO have identified a number of issues impact care, specifically, wait times for appointments, inadequate staffing, and others where veterans were not receiving timely, quality mental health care from the VA. Committees members voiced their frustration and suggested VA begin looking to partner with outside entities in local communities to expand critical mental health care to veterans. Panelists explored the need for a non-traditional approach, especially in rural and remote areas where drive times to the VA is an issue. For more about the hearing or to view the recorded webcast, go to http://veterans.house.gov/hearing/honoring-the-commitment-overcoming-barriers-to-quality-mental-health-care-for-veterans.
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4. VFW Joins MST Press Conference: Your VFW joined Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-ME) and Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) at a press conference this week when they introduced legislation to require the VA to fix its disability claims system for Military Sexual Trauma (MST) survivors. The VFW-supported Ruth Moore Act of 2013 relaxes evidentiary standards for tying mental health conditions to an assault, which would make it easier for MST survivors to receive VA benefits. It also requires VA to report MST claim-related information annually to Congress. The House bill, H.R. 671, parallels what the VFW and our three other partners called for in the FY 2014 Independent Budget. For more about the bill click here: http://pingree.house.gov/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=951:reintroducing-bill-to-make-it-easier-for-survivors-of-military-sexual-assault-to-get-benefits&catid=8:breaking-news&Itemid=94. For the FY 2014 Independent Budget, http://www.independentbudget.org/.
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5. VA Panel Debates Post 9/11 GI Bill Claims: House VA Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity held a hearing on Thursday to review the implementation of VA's computer system used to process Post-9/11 GI Bill claims. Prior to the passage of the Post 9/11 GI Bill, Congress authorized $100 million to develop a new system, called the Long Term Solution or LTS, to fully automate education claims. Witnesses discussed the IT system and the problems that student-veterans face as they try to get real-time information on the status of their benefits. Since the Post-9/11 GI Bill became law, the subcommittee has held about seven hearings on the program. Subcommittee Chairman Bill Flores (R-TX) said "Congress expects the system and the information provided to veterans and schools to be more accessible so that everyone involved can make better-informed decisions on education and training benefits in the future." Student Veterans of America testified on potential improvements to the system and echoed the concerns of the VFW, which works closely with SVA on education issues. For more on the hearing and to view the webcast, go to http://veterans.house.gov/hearing/increasing-the-functionality-of-the-post-911-gi-bill-claims-processing-to-reduce-delays.
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6. VFW Joins Student-Veteran Panels: Your VFW participated in two panel discussions this week on issues facing student-veterans in higher education. The panels were hosted by the National Association of State Approving Agencies (NASAA) and the National Association of Veterans Program Administrators (NAVPA), both of which were in Washington for their annual legislative conferences. The VFW discussed recent legislative victories designed to improve information for college-bound veterans, and highlighted in-state tuition problems for veterans who cannot qualify because of their military service. NASAA discussed concerns about how state approving agencies are used to police higher education, and NAVPA called attention to debt collection issues facing students and schools who receive GI Bill overpayments. To learn more about the panels and the issues discussed, click here: http://thevfw.blogspot.com/2013/02/vfw-joins-panel-discussions-on-student.html.
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7. Two Korean War MIAs Identified: The Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office has announced the identification of remains belonging to two soldiers who have been unaccounted-for since the Korean War. Identified are:
     Pfc. Bobby L. Byars, 18, of Griffin, Ga. In late November 1950, Byars and elements of the 31st Regimental Combat Team were deployed along the eastern banks of the Chosin Reservoir in North Korea. On Nov. 29, 1950, remnants of the 31st RCT, also known as Task Force Faith, began a fighting withdrawal to a more defensible position south of the reservoir. Byars would be reported missing on Dec. 12, 1950.
     Cpl. James R. Hare, 19, of Cumberland, Md. In February 1951, Hare and elements of the 2nd Infantry Division were supporting South Korea forces when Chinese forces launched a massive counter attack that them to retreat south. Hare was reported as missing in action on Feb. 13, 1951. It was later learned he had been captured but died of malnutrition in April 1951. Read more at http://www.dtic.mil/dpmo/news/news_releases/.
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