March 14, 2014




1. House/Senate Discuss VA 2015 Budget: This week, the House and Senate VA Committees held hearings on VA's proposed FY 2015 budget. During the Senate hearing, Secretary Shinseki testified that the budget VA asked for was what they felt was needed, but acknowledged that the request was put together before DOD announced its plan to reduce troop size. With the possibility of a sizable increase in returning veterans enrolling in VA, Senate committee members commented that an increase may be needed. Other items discussed included implementation of VBMS and the disability claims backlog goal, access to mental health care providers, long term care programs and major construction funding. The VFW provided written testimony regarding the woefully underfunded construction programs as a part of the Independent Budget. For complete hearing information, to include the recorded webcasts from both hearings -- visit the committee websites.
For the House VA Committee website, click here:
To check out the Senate VA Committee website, click here:
For more about the Independent Budget and our funding recommendations for VA, click here:

2. MST Bill Clears Senate: On Monday, the Senate passed (97-0) legislation to expand protections for victims of sexual assault in the military. S. 1917, the Victims Protection Act of 2014 would eliminate the "good soldier" defense and expand the role of special counsels for victims of sexual assault and rape by providing advice on the advantages of prosecution by court-martial or in civilian court. In cases of dual jurisdiction, the victim gets a say between having the case heard by a civilian or military court. It would also extend protections to students in service academies, and require that in every decision regarding promotions in the military that a commander's record on the handling of sexual-assault cases would be taken into account.

3. Military Family Survey Ends this Weekend: With announced Pentagon recommendations to change military pay and allowances, retirement, healthcare programs and commissaries, it is now more important than ever for active-duty, Guard, Reserve and veteran families to complete the Blue Star Families' 2014 Military Family Lifestyle Survey, which ends this weekend. More than 1,200 VFW and family members already have. The survey is available online at The data collected provides real-time feedback from military families on issues ranging from operations tempo to pay and benefits, stress, caregiving and employment.

4. Two MIA Soldiers Identified: The Defense POW/MIA Office recently announced the identification of remains belonging to two soldiers who had been unaccounted-for since the Korean and Vietnam Wars. Identified are:
     * Army Pfc. Donald C. Durfee, 19, of Painesville, Ohio. In November 1950, Durfee was assigned to Company M, 31st Infantry Regiment, 31st Regimental Combat Team, when his unit was attacked and forced into a fighting withdrawal south of the Chosin Reservoir, North Korea. He was reported killed-in-action on Dec. 2, 1950.
     * Army Staff Sgt. Lawrence Woods, 39, of Clarksville, Tenn., will be buried as part of a group on March 21 at Arlington National Cemetery in a ceremony honoring the servicemen who were lost in an aircraft crash on Oct. 24, 1964. Woods and seven other servicemen were aboard a C-123 Provider aircraft that was shot down after resupplying the U.S. Special Forces camp at Bu Prang, Vietnam. Seven remains were recovered, but they could not locate Woods.
Read more about their individual stories at

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