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November/December 2018

Economic Opportunities


@Michael KeatingThe committee monitors veteran employment on a continual basis. Though veteran unemployment is at its lowest level in years, that does not mean we should be complacent. There are still veterans who need jobs. At our last committee meeting, the EOC reaffirmed its commitment to advocate for and develop programs that improve the economic well-being of all veterans and their families in the government and private sector.

Apprenticeships are a way to increase employment opportunities for veterans. There is current funding available for apprenticeships in high-demand occupations and trades. The committee is looking for ways to promote these apprenticeships. One idea is to develop a resource guide. By distributing a guide to Vet Centers, it is possible to reach veterans around the country and let them know what is available and how to go about applying for those apprenticeships. On the Job Training is another opportunity for veterans to earn while they learn on the job.

As far as veteran businesses are concerned, it is important to increase contracting opportunities by promoting procurement readiness so that veterans know the processes and have the knowledge about state labor laws, teaching them how to win business, and training them to execute contracts once they are awarded.

The rules and regulations dealing with business ownership are changing. The committee will continue to remain current and pass information on to veteran-owned and service-disabled, veteran-owned businesses.

The committee will continue to be vigilant about employment and business opportunities that help veterans. We will be true to VVA’s Founding Principle: Never again will one generation of veterans abandon another.

Membership Affairs


@Michael KeatingDuring the October Board of Directors meeting, the Membership Affairs Committee submitted a motion to the Board to have only one paid class of membership: $50 Life. 

The motion reads: As of October 20, there will be one paid class of membership.

1. Life Membership: $50

2. All three-year members who have paid $50 will automatically become life members.

3. All one-year members will continue as individual one-year members until their membership expires; one-year members will then be required to pay $50 to remain a member of VVA.

Due to this permanent reduction in dues and this one class of paid membership, new application brochures will be printed. The state councils and chapters will be notified when they are available. 

The Fifth Annual Membership Growth Award challenge will come to a close on February 28, 2019. The recipients will be announced at the 2019 National Convention in Spokane.

On behalf of the MAC Team, we wish everyone a safe and blessed holiday.

Minority Affairs


@Michael KeatingThe Minority Affairs Committee seminar at the Leadership & Education Conference in Palm Springs was a great success. We hope to present information from it in future issues of The Veteran so that members can make themselves familiar with the material and put it into practice to recruit minority veterans. The beauty of this material is that it was developed by VVA members.

The situation in Puerto Rico is critical for veterans. Even a year after Hurricane Maria, veterans continue to have difficulties getting medical services from the VA. Three clinics—in Arecibo, Mayaguez, and Ponce—are still working out of tents and trailers.

On November 8 there was a roundtable discussion at Fort Buchanan with representatives from the Veterans Health Administration, National Cemetery Administration, the Department of Defense, Department of Agriculture, Small Business Administration, and Housing and Urban Development, local government officials, veterans service organizations, and other organizations to discuss veterans’ economic well-being in Puerto Rico.

At this roundtable for military service members, veterans, and their families, officials discussed programs related to housing, educational and career development, financial literacy, estate planning, and health. President John Rowan directed me to travel to Puerto Rico to represent VVA and to discuss the issues surrounding this critical situation. I will report on that meeting in my next column.

I would like to thank VVA minority veterans who have contacted me with their issues and encouraged me to continue to represent them. Please send your comments to Sgtgomez@aol.com or ggomez@vva.org We value your opinion.

POW/MIA Affairs


@Michael KeatingSince April the Defense Prisoner of War/Missing in Action Agency (DPAA) has announced identifications of U.S. personnel missing from the Vietnam War listed below:

Lt. Cmdr. Larry R. Kilpatrick Navy 06/18/1972 N. Vietnam
Col. Frederick M. Mellor Air Force 08/13/1965 N. Vietnam
Col. Richard A. Kibbey Air Force 02/06/1967 N. Vietnam
Cmdr. James B. Mills Navy 09/21/1966 N. Vietnam
George L. Ritter Air America 12/27/1971 Laos
Lt. Richard C. Lannom Navy 03/01/1968 N. Vietnam

The total accounted for since the end of the Vietnam War in 1975 is 991. The recovery countries are: Vietnam-671, Laos-273, Cambodia-42, and China-3.  In addition, 63 U.S. personnel were accounted for between 1973 and 1975, the formal end of the Vietnam War, for a grand total of 1,054. 

The DPAA Fiscal Year 2018 Report stated that the agency had accounted for 203 formerly missing persons from past conflicts. The number was the highest yearly total by DPAA or its predecessors. The remains of three additional personnel were identified from previously accounted-for personnel who had been buried as part of group burials. The report gave the following breakdown of personnel by conflict: Vietnam War-10, Korean War-37, and World War II-56.

DPAA is focused on the research, investigation, recovery, and identification of approximately 34,000 out of some 83,000 missing DoD personnel believed to be recoverable who were lost in conflicts from World War II to the first Persian Gulf War.

On September 27 DPAA announced the identification of Army Master Sgt. Charles H. McDaniel of Vernon, Ind., listed as MIA 11/02/1950 and Army Pfc. William H. Jones of Nash County, N.C., listed as MIA 11/26/50. Both were recovered from the fifty-five sets of remains released by North Korea earlier this year. 

The Veterans Initiative Needs Your Help. Objects taken from the battlefields of Vietnam are more than souvenirs or war trophies. Maps, stories, after-action reports, pictures, and military items may have a story that could result in locating missing war dead. Can you help? To submit information or documents, or for more information, contact the Veterans Initiative program at vi@vva.org or write to:

Veterans Initiative
Vietnam Veterans of America
8719 Colesville Rd., Suite 100
Silver Spring, MD 20910

PTSD & Substance Abuse


@Michael KeatingDuring the October Board of Directors meeting, several issues came to the PTSD/SA committee’s attention regarding frustrations that veterans are reporting about behavioral health. All of these need to be addressed. They are:

  • The growing reliance on peer-led groups by the Behavioral Health Services of the VA’s Veterans Health Administration
  • Multi-page questionnaires given to veterans seeking suicide prevention assistance from the VA
  • Women veterans continue to feel unsafe or uncomfortable accessing services from the VA, including mental health.
  • Veterans report long wait times at some Vet Centers.

Consider the problems with VA peer-led groups. Apparently, there are not enough professional staff to address the need. A veteran goes to the VA expecting a professional to at least be involved in his or her treatment. Crisis does occur in a peer-led group. The committee insists that someone be trained to address the crisis and knowledgeable about how to reach out for backup in a crisis situation. It is assumed when professionals lead support groups they have a functional knowledge of the resources available and how to quickly access them.

To the second point: the perception that the VA is more focused on research than being with a veteran. Overly complex and question-driven assessments can give the impression that an appointment is more an interrogation than a way to get to know veterans to better help them find their way out of suicidal thinking.

The committee heard from women and men who reported that they have been told that many women are afraid to use services in the VA. When they do, they find the women-oriented services are in short supply. The committee has been concerned for some time about the lack of accessible day care for parents to use during their appointments.

Finally, the last point: Since all Vet Centers have been fully funded, the committee has developed a Survey of Veteran Satisfaction to be distributed by state council presidents and filled out by veterans who have used a Vet Center in the last year or so. The VVA Board of Directors, the Conference of State Council Presidents, and members of the PTSD/SA Committee who have used a Vet Center already have completed the survey. This will help find strengths of local Vet Centers, as well as areas in which they need more support. Upon completion, please return them to VVA National in care of Kathy Wiblemo or Tom Hall.

Feel free to contact me with your information and concerns so we can develop a better picture of veterans’ needs. Because we know the importance of the VA to all veterans, we strive to be a friend of the department. A real friend will tell the VA when projects and programs drift off the mission of serving veterans and recognize successes.

Contact your representatives and ask what is being done to address these concerns. Then make an appointment to meet the hospital administrator. Only in this way can we begin to address these issues from the ground up.

Public Affairs


@Michael KeatingOur October Public Affairs Committee meeting absorbed a whole grundle of input and information. One development that affects public affairs and our messages to the veterans’ community—in fact, affects every committee and every part of Vietnam Veterans of America—is this headline that gives us a new recruiting tool to work with: “Board Passes Reduced Membership Dues.”

The Board of Directors approved a Membership Affairs Committee motion to have only one paid class of membership: $50 for life. VVA is moving to Life Membership only. It is important that your chapters and state councils include this information in their recruitment efforts. This policy change will benefit VVA and other Vietnam War veterans who deserve our support.

JROTC Medal and Ribbon: The Public Affairs Committee fine-tuned the program by establishing VVA awards to go to the three top cadets chosen from those submitted to the National Awards Committee. Top Cadet: $2,500; Second Place: $1,500; Third Place: $1,000. 

Chapters are working with JROTC units in their area schools to set the program in motion. Chapters will present the only National VVA officially recognized JROTC medal and ribbon to the top cadet selected by the individual unit advisers or instructors. Medals with ribbons are $15 each and may be purchased from Mokie Porter at National VVA. Contact her at mporter@vva.org or 301-585-4000, ext.146.

Get your orders to her early enough to have them for the school year. If the unit awards ceremony is later in the school year, you can still have the cadet provide you with the information and present the award later. It is imperative that you get the information and narrative to your state councils no later than the date established by the state council. The SC has a deadline to meet to National: April 1.

State councils select one top state cadet from information submitted by chapters. They forward the cadet’s narrative to the National Awards Committee no later than April 1. The Awards Committee chair is Dan Stenvold, dstenvold@vva.org The Awards Committee determines the top three cadets to be the national award recipients.

Eagle Scout: We’ve begun working on an Eagle Scout Award or Scout Recognition Program. Because Girl Scout programs are very active as well, we are looking at a gender-neutral award. If you have a program in place, please email me at dhowland@vva.org

South Bend Chapter 1027: Bob Eberlein sent me a detailed list of his chapter’s activities. Among its many activities, chapter members present two scholarships, staffed many veterans information booths, and helped set up and dedicate the Garden of Peace Cemetery for homeless veterans. In addition, they assisted in the cleanup and remodel of a building for homeless veterans, set up the first Vietnam Veterans Recognition Day in Mishawaka and South Bend, and participated in the dedication of the new Center for Hospice Care in Mishawaka and the Veterans Memorial at the Center.

They also support the Northern Indiana Food Bank and help the Letter Carriers May national food collection, rebuilt the wheelchair ramp for the Marine Corps League in South Bend, and speak to students at local schools about the Vietnam War. They also re-dedicated the local World War II Memorial, donated bus passes to local veterans, and adopted veterans’ families during the holiday season.

They place flags on veterans’ graves on Memorial Day and participate in the Memorial Day Parade as well as Get-Wet-For-A-Vet, a local fundraiser to send veterans to visit Washington, D.C., and The Wall.

Members of Chapter 1027 also help Potawatomi Native Americans in flag-raising ceremonies, and participate in standdowns at the Mishawaka VA Clinic.

Want to know more? Contact Bob Eberlein at ebb23@att.net

VA Volunteer Services


@Michael KeatingDuring the October National Board of Directors meeting, I reminded the State Council Presidents of the importance of states appointing State VAVS chairs. I also distributed handouts that explained the VAVS program.

I continue to contact VAVS Chiefs at hospitals to get their reports of attendance and hours. I also will focus on compiling contact information on all of our Representative and Deputies. If you are a Rep or Dep, contact me at krose@vva.org I need your home address, phone number, email address, the hospital where you volunteer, and your position (Rep or Dep).

On October 18-19 I attended the VA’s National Advisory Committee executive meeting in Washington, D.C. This annual meeting enables the NAC to meet with VA and other government officials and alert them to health care and volunteer problems.

One of the important issues discussed was classification. The VA has downgraded some VAVS Chiefs to GS-11s. The people who set the pay grades don’t understand the responsibilities of the VAVS Chiefs. Each location is different, but a VAVS Chief  has responsibilities equal to a Colonel. But a VAVS Chief is often rated at GS-11, with only one or two assistants. But while Chiefs have their livelihoods cut so the VA can cut costs, some hospital directors pile on more responsibilities without adding staff or funding

A VAVS Chief at the VA is responsible for managing multiple financial accounts for donations and interviewing, training, and placing hundreds of volunteers in the hospital. They also put on special events and much more.

Veterans Benefits


@Michael KeatingPresident John Rowan announced at the October Board Meeting that Kelsey Yoon will be returning from maternity leave on November 17. However, she will not be returning as Director of the Veterans Benefits Program. Instead, she has accepted the newly created position of Senior Attorney and Adviser to the Corporation. She will be looking after legal matters that need long-term research and study. She will continue to consult with Veterans Benefits.

Felicia Mullaney, currently Deputy Director, has been named the Interim Director. She has performed a yeoman’s job, filling in while Yoon was away. Congratulations to them both.

Appeals Modernization Act Update: The VBP has recently submitted comments on the proposed regulations. During the upcoming months as changes are being implemented, we will continue advocating for veterans by pointing out AMA inadequacies and areas that could be improved. The law becomes fully functional next February. Be prepared.

Service Officer Training: Do not forget about the Service Office Training taking place in January immediately following the National Board Meeting. This training will be vital to understanding the new Appeals Modernization Act. We encourage all SCPs to contact the National office to let us know who you will send to the training. We encourage all state councils to send service officers to this training.

Finally, here’s a brief report by Heather Olson, one of VVA’s new appellate attorneys. It’s good information.

Permanent and Total Designation: 100 Percent Disability Rating

The “Permanent and Total” designation may enable you, your spouse, and your children to receive more benefits than you could with only a 100 percent disability rating. You can be considered permanently and totally disabled if you have a 100 percent rating and your rated disabilities are reasonably certain to continue for the rest of your life.

With permanent and total designation you and your family may be entitled to many additional benefits.

  1. You could be protected from rating reductions
  2. Your dependents could be entitled to health care
  3. Your dependents could be entitled to educational assistance
  4. Your dependents could more easily receive Dependency and Indemnity Compensation after your death
  5. Your federal student loans could be discharged
  6. You could be entitled to additional state and local benefits, such as waived property tax, discounted vehicle registration, and discounted hunting and fishing licenses.

If you have already been awarded a 100 percent rating for a service-connected disability or are unable to find substantial gainful employment, you may wish to contact your local service officer about an increased rating or obtaining a finding of “Permanent and Total.”

Veterans Incarcerated & in the Justice System


@Michael KeatingI spoke at the Returning Veteran Issues Symposium in Johnstown, Pa., and I attended the unveiling of a monument honoring the achievements of women veterans at the National Cemetery in Calverton on Long Island. I also attended the BOD meeting in Silver Spring and chaired the Veterans Incarcerated and in the Justice System Committee meeting.

Our focus remains: We serve veterans in treatment courts, veterans incarcerated, and veterans returning to the community. Our platform is PTSD and TBI.

We send best wishes to Raymond Pawlicki, the committee’s secretary, who is ill.

As we celebrate forty years as Vietnam Veterans of America, I thank all of you for your service to America and to each other.

Women Veterans


@Michael KeatingThe 25th anniversary celebration of the Vietnam Women’s Memorial on the Mall and the VVA Women’s Committee Reception at the DAR building in downtown D.C. are now memories. I hope that many of you were able to attend. Thanks to all the VVA state councils and chapters that helped with donations for the event.

It is amazing to receive emails from women members in Alabama, California, Texas, Arizona, and many other states with information on how they make Veterans Day special in their areas. That includes special education seminars with military women histories, scavenger hunts, luncheons, dinners, and parades. You need to tell your stories for your community and for your family. No one else can give your unique perspective. I urge you to get your oral history recorded. Go to the Veterans Oral History Project at www.loc.gov/vets/ to see how it is done.

The committee has produced a Women Veterans Honor Coin to honor all women who serve. There’s ordering information on the VVA website. It was made with eight daisies around the base of a helmet to represent the eight women’s names on The Wall. It is meant to be shared with other women vets as another way to “Welcome Home.” We also have a new polo shirt with that logo on it and new patches.

The Leadership Conference seminar, “New Rules of Engagement,” put on by the committee, was well reviewed by Maureen Elias in the last issue of The Veteran. She and Tom Berger did a role play using various common harassments in the workplace that will be remembered for a long time.

In July, Sandy Miller, Marsha Four, and I were interviewed by Vets Helping Vets TV. The website is: http://vhvtv.org/vva-women-veterans-interview/ It is a history of our work in Vietnam and our work with VVA, as well as Miller’s work with the homeless. Sheryl Shaffer, the director, is a member in California.

Service Women Action Network held its first women veterans coalition in Atlanta in September. VVA was well represented. I will post a report on the committee webpage. There are some amazing programs out there started by women veterans that fell through the cracks when services didn’t help them. I have been working in Northern California with a more local level of combining those services for veterans.

What we have found is that many do not cross over or talk with each other. It is important to get together at least twice a year to exchange information. Our county supervisors have enthusiastically helped. It gives them much more information about their veteran constituents and the work being accomplished.





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