August 2, 2013
 

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VFW WASHINGTON WEEKLY

August 2, 2013





1. VFW Demands Congress Pass Budget Agreement: New VFW National Commander Bill Thien is asking the more than 1.9 million VFW and Auxiliary members to demand that their members of Congress get to work and pass a budget agreement. Congress is on recess in their home offices through Labor Day, which means an agreement must come by September 30 in order to avoid drastic budget cuts within DOD that hurt military readiness and personnel. Defense Secretary Hagel unveiled the findings of a DOD Strategic Choices and Management Review that was built around three potential budget scenarios to reduce defense spending by up to $500 billion over the next 10 years, which is in addition to $487 billion in spending cuts already mandated by the Budget Control Act of 2011. VFW is asking all veterans' advocates to contact their legislators today and demand action: Failing to reach a budget agreement is not an option. Click here to Take Action: http://capwiz.com/vfw/issues/alert/?alertid=62796221. Click here for the VFW Press Release: http://www.vfw.org/News-and-Events/Articles/2013-Articles/FAILED-BUDGET-AGREEMENT-WEAKENS-NATIONAL-DEFENSE/.
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2. House Clears Veterans' Bills: On Thursday, the House VA Committee cleared an array of VFW-supported legislation, including a bill that requires VA discretionary programs to be funded a full year in advance. Currently only medical care is provided an advance appropriation. Ranking Member Mike Michaud (D-ME) said the bill would remove VA programs from the threat of funding gaps often caused by the government being run by continuing resolutions. VFW testified in support of the bill (HR 813) earlier in the year as an assurance that veterans continue to receive access to timely care and benefits, and are insulated from the current fiscal uncertainty. The committee also advanced seven other bills with amendments that included provisions from around 34 other bills designed to improve programs for veterans and their families. We are awaiting confirmation on all the amendments enacted and will provide details next week.
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3. Congressional POW/MIA Hearings: The VFW attended two congressional hearings this week in the wake of the release of an official GAO report and an unofficial internal assessment that was critical of the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command. At issue is the "Road to 200," which refers to a requirement levied by Congress in 2010 for JPAC to begin identifying 200 or more MIAs by the year 2015, which is more than double their current annual totals. The process, coordination and duplications of effort between the two largest components of the Full Accounting Community---JPAC and the Defense POW/MIA Office---were common to both House and Senate hearings. The author of the unofficial assessment, which was produced by a JPAC ORISE Fellow and sensationalized by some news media, testified in the House subcommittee hearing, but his work received little attention in the Senate. More hearings are planned and the VFW will be attending them.
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4. VFW Joins VA for Health Technology Demo: On Tuesday, your VFW was on hand at the National Press Club for VA's demonstration of the new technologies transforming the way VA hospitals deliver health care to veterans. Recent innovations in information sharing, communication and treatment are helping to ensure that veterans are receiving quality, cost-effective care when and where they need it. To learn more about the demonstration, which included a live telehealth link with a veteran in Portland, Ore., click here: http://thevfw.blogspot.com/2013/08/vfw-joins-va-for-health-technology-demo.html
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5. Senate Discusses Military Financial Protections: The Senate VA Committee held a hearing this week to discuss financial protections for those serving in the military. Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-VT) spoke about his concerns regarding violations against service members protected by the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, or SCRA. He noted his disappointment with the mortgage lending industry that is still failing service members by not properly reducing their mortgage interest rates while allowing improper foreclosures. VFW has testified on these improper practices and has encouraged the committee to increase consumer education within the veteran's community. For witness statements or to view the recorded webcast, visit the Senate VA website at: http://www.veterans.senate.gov/hearings.cfm?action=release.display&release_id=958ada82-ba62-4cf9-a51b-e0b6ff54b4c4
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6. Field Report: ND VFW Joins Veterans' Roundtable: Leaders from the North Dakota VFW recently joined Sen. Heidi Heilkamp for a roundtable discussion on veterans' issues in Grand Forks, N.D. For highlights of the roundtable, click here: http://thevfw.blogspot.com/2013/08/field-report-north-dakota-vfw-joins.html
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7. Congress in Recess -- Time to Mobilize Advocates: This weekend, legislators are traveling back home for the August district work period to meet face-to-face with their constituents. This means that now is the perfect time for VFW advocates to reach out to their members of Congress and Senators to discuss critical issues facing the military and veterans' communities. If you seize the opportunity to advocate over the next five weeks on behalf of our nation's veterans, and you want to share your story, we can help spread the word through the VFW Capitol Hill blog. This fall, once Congress returns, your VFW will make a full-court press to advance veterans' initiatives in Congress like securing critical funding for the U.S. military, passing in-state tuition for student-veterans, securing advance appropriations for all VA funding, improving sexual assault prevention policies within the military and access to treatment for victims, protecting military quality-of-life programs in the National Defense Authorization Act, and working to expand veterans' caregiver benefits. To learn how you can become involved during the recess, click here: http://thevfw.blogspot.com/2013/08/congress-in-recess-time-to-mobilize-our.html
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8. Korean War MIA Identified: The Defense POW/MIA Office announced the identification of remains belonging to Army Sgt. 1st Class Joseph D. Steinberg, 31, of San Francisco. In February 1951, Steinberg and Battery C, 15th Field Artillery Battalion, were part of the Support Force 21 in a major offensive near Hoengsong, South Korea, when they were overrun. Steinberg and over 100 men were taken as prisoners, and his fate would not be learned till long after the war. Read more at http://www.dtic.mil/dpmo/news/news_releases/


As always, we want to share your advocacy stories on the VFW Capitol Hill blog. To share your stories, either fill out our online form by clicking here, http://www.vfw.org/Forms/Capitol-Hill-Blog-Submissions/, or simply email photos and stories directly to vfwac@vfw.org.

 

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