September 20, 2013
 

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VFW WASHINGTON WEEKLY

September 20, 2013





1. VFW Carries DOD Budget Fight to Congress: VFW National Commander Bill Thien discussed veteran and national security issues this week with VA Secretary Eric Shinseki and Army Secretary John McHugh, as well as the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Vice Chief of Staff of the Army, the Assistant Vice Chief of Staff of the Air Force, the senior enlisted advisors to the Joint Staff, Army, Navy and Air Force, plus the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for POW/MIA Affairs. "Every military and civilian leader expressed the same concerns about the lack of a FY 2014 defense budget and the impact the continuing sequester is causing to readiness, morale, and to overall mission accomplishment," said Thien. "We have the world's best military, but they can't fight Capitol Hill, which I said was one of the primary reasons the VFW exists. We are their voice in Congress, and we will continue to let legislators know that their failure to pass a budget is having a perilous effect on a military that, despite appearances, is very worried about its ability to respond to a new contingency tasking elsewhere in our troubled world." In a Call to Action, the VFW National Commander is now urging all members and veterans' and military advocates to call and e-mail their members of Congress today. Congress has a lot of work to do in a very short amount of time, and it all starts with getting rid of sequestration and passing a defense budget now. Add your voice to the fight by contacting your congressional members at: http://capwiz.com/vfw/issues/alert/?alertid=62940921 Read more about the national commander's visit at http://www.vfw.org/News-and-Events/Articles/2013-Articles/VFW-Carries-DOD-Budget-Fight-to-Congress/
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2. VFW Members Storm the Hill for Veterans: Seventy VFW Legislative Committee members representing every state visited all 535 members of Congress to discuss issues important to veterans, service members, military retirees and their families. Asking Congress to Finish Strong for Veterans, the committee members stressed five critical issues including the budget/ sequestration, military sexual assault protections, in-state tuition for GI Bill recipients, grandfathering the Tricare Prime benefit for all retirees, and providing advanced appropriations for all VA programs. As part of the fall VFW Legislative Conference, they urged their elected members to resolve these five critical issues before the end of the current fiscal year. Read the one-page issue paper at http://www.vfw.org/uploadedFiles/VFW.org/VFW_in_DC/Congress%20Finish%20Strong.pdf. For all the coverage from this week's meetings on the hill, visit our blog at http://thevfw.blogspot.com/2013/09/live-updates-vfw-advocates-storm-hill.html
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3. VFW Attends SECDEF Meeting: VFW Washington Office Executive Director Bob Wallace attended a VSO/MSO conference with Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel yesterday, the third such conference with veterans and military service organization leadership since becoming SECDEF in February. The purpose was to update the VSO/MSO communities on DOD programs and policies that impact service members, retirees and their families, plus to listen to our concerns regarding budget impacts on training and readiness, military healthcare and Quality of Life programs, as well as attempts to change military compensation, the current retirement system, and Tricare programs and premiums for all retirees. DOD only has three spending accounts from which to reduce spending by almost $1 billion over the next decade: Operations and Maintenance, Modernization, and Personnel. DOD wants another Base Realignment and Closure Commission and to alter some high-priced weapons program buys, but Congress so far is unwilling to consider eliminating military contracts or installations in their home districts and states. That leaves military personnel accounts, which encompasses all service member and retiree pay and allowances, and their associated Quality of Life programs, such as healthcare. The VFW has taken a firm stand to take care of the people who take care of the mission---past and present---but we do appreciate that Secretary Hagel has taken a personal interest in keeping the VSO/MSO communities fully informed of what his department has to do meet the mandatory budget reductions. As mentioned in item #1 above, the lack of a budget and mandatory sequestration are top DOD and VFW issues, and we will continue to press Congress hard to fix the budget mess they created.
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4. HASC Discusses Sequestration with Service Chiefs: On Wednesday, House Armed Services Chairman Buck McKeon (R-CA) heard from all four service chiefs regarding the impact of looming budget cuts within DOD. The defense spending caps, which all four chiefs spoke at length, are a part of the Pentagon's Strategic Choices and Management Review, which was presented by Secretary Hagel in July. The review is a blueprint for how DOD plans to handle the across-the-board budget cuts known as sequestration over the next decade. The 20-percent budget cuts will be imposed across the military unless Congress reaches a new agreement within days. The VFW weighed in on the subject by sending a memorandum of concern to every member of Congress last week. VFW Washington Office Executive Director Bob Wallace wrote that the troops and civilians in the field are very worried about what's going on in Washington, and that it is directly impacting morale, readiness and training, allied partnerships, and personal career opportunities in a military. "The lack of a budget and sequestration is causing concerns our fighting force and their families do not need or deserve, and Congress must pass a budget for the Department of Defense and do so now." Read the memorandum at https://www.vfw.org/News-and-Events/Articles/2013-Articles/A-Letter-to-Congress-from-VFW-Executive-Director/. Add your voice to the fight by contacting your congressional members at: http://capwiz.com/vfw/issues/alert/?alertid=62940921
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5. Senate Hosts Hearing on Higher Education: On Thursday, your VFW attended a hearing by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee entitled, "The Triad: Promoting a System of Shared Responsibility. Issues for Reauthorization of the Higher Education Act". Committee Chairmen Tom Harkin stressed the importance that of the role states, accreditors and the federal government have in higher education. In particular the stress was focused on an overall view of this "Triad" and how it can be more effective to improve higher education. Thursday's hearing was the first in what Harkin said will be a series of more than a dozen hearings over the next year as the committee considers reauthorizing the Higher Education Act. Your VFW was on hand because one of the key focal points in this iteration of the Higher Education Act will be defining the veterans' population on college campuses and establishing quality outcome measures to determine student-veteran success. To view an archived webcast of the hearing and to learn about each of the witnesses, click here: http://www.help.senate.gov/hearings/hearing/?id=bced8932-5056-a032-5249-e04bdd2eea5b
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6. VA Awards Patient-Centered Community Care Contracts: Yesterday, VA announced contracts awarded under their Patient-Centered Community Care (PCCC / PC3) which is a part of their overall Non-VA Medical Care Program. The program is designed to provide veterans greater access to quality health care in areas where services are limited. Under PCCC, VA medical centers will have the ability to purchase non-VA medical care for veterans through contracted medical providers when they cannot readily provide the needed care due to geographic inaccessibility or limited capacity. Eligible veterans will have access to inpatient specialty care, outpatient specialty care, mental health care, limited emergency care, and limited newborn care for enrolled female veterans. VA has awarded two contracts under PCCC, one to Health Net Federal Services LLC and another to TriWest Healthcare Alliance Corp. These companies will set up networks in six regions covering the entire country. VA expects to have these regional contract networks available to its medical centers by the spring of 2014. For additional information, visit the VA website at https://www.fbo.gov/index?s=opportunity&mode=form&id=3dde670a20dee9c5a6b38d8ca53642e1&tab=core&_cview=0.
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7. National POW/MIA Recognition Day: The VFW Washington Office joined with VFW Posts around the country to commemorate National POW/MIA Recognition Day at ceremonies at the Pentagon and near the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Many of the 140,000 former POWs continue to bear physical and emotional scars from the brutal treatment they received from years of captivity going back to World War II. And since that war, the families of our 83,000 missing and unaccounted-for Americans go to sleep every night reliving that fateful telegram or knock on the door that informed them that their loved one was missing. MIA numbers, as of this morning, are:
     * 73,661 from World War II; * 7, 906 from the Korean War;
     * 1,644 from the Vietnam War; * 126 from the Cold War;
     * 1 from Operation El Dorado Canyon over Libya in 1986; * 2 from Operation Desert Storm;
     * 3 from Operation Iraqi Freedom;
     * and Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl from Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, who is America's only known POW. http://www.dtic.mil/dpmo/.
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8. Two Korean War MIAs Identified: The Defense POW/MIA Office has announced the identification of remains belonging to two Army soldiers who had been missing since the Korean War. Returned home are:
     * Sgt. Melvin E. Wolfe, 18, of San Diego, Calif.. In late November 1950, Wolfe and members of the K Company, 31st Regimental Combat Team, were forced into a fighting withdrawal to a more defensible position south of the Chosin Reservoir. Wolfe was reported missing in action on Dec. 12, 1950.
      * Pfc. Ronald C. Huffman, 18, of Lashmeet, W.Va. On Feb. 12, 1951, Huffman and K Company, 3rd Battalion, 2nd Infantry Regiment, were fighting Chinese forces near Saemal, South Korea. The Chinese reported that Huffman had been captured and taken to a prisoner of war camp in North Korea. After the war, repatriated American POWs reported that Huffman died in the camp in July 1951. 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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© 2013-2015 VFW Post 1037, Waupaca, WI 54981