|Vietnam Veterans of America|
|VVA Committee Reports, September/October 2021|
If you haven’t filed for the recent three added Agent Orange presumptives, do that soon. They are bladder cancer, hypothyroidism, and Parkinson-like symptoms.
The committee has been having regular meetings to keep on top of this issue. We will have an Agent Orange booth at the National Convention. The committee can use help manning the booth. At the Convention we also will hold a committee meeting. We have a resolution that has been brought forward on hypertension being added as one of the presumptives. If the Resolutions Committee agrees, it will move to the Convention floor for the delegates’ consideration.
We feel that P.L.114-315, the Jeff Miller and Richard Blumenthal Veterans Health Care and Benefits Act, is being derailed by the VA Secretary, as indicated by two letters recently sent to Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kans.) and VVA President John Rowan. The letters say that more research is not needed. We will deal with this.
The toxic exposure issue on military facilities is on fire. Many active and inactive military bases are very polluted. We will work with federal agencies to have them cleaned up.
We look forward to seeing many veterans and families at the Convention. As always, I want to thank the grassroots (where much work is accomplished), the AO Committee, the staff at VVA National, the Officers, and the BOD.
Small businesses and startups have to contend with the complexities of payroll preparation. Wouldn’t it be great if there were a guide to help business owners with payroll processing in a language that they can understand?
Charles J. Read has written such a guide, The Payroll Book: A Guide For Small Businesses and Startups. It is the summation of 40-plus years of payroll experience, mostly with small businesses. Read, a Certified Public Accountant, is also a U.S. Tax Court Practitioner and a former member of the IRS’s Service Advisory Council.
The book is broken into three parts: Part 1 covers setting up a company’s payroll. Part 2 describes how to run and calculate a payroll, along with deposits and reporting requirements. Part 3 includes information on many additional essential components. Some, such as record retention, PEO, and employee handbooks, are things business owners need to know to keep themselves out of hot water.
The book explains such elements of payroll as which business entity to choose, how to classify employees and nonemployees, who earns a salary and who is paid hourly, deductions, taxes and penalties, workweeks, pay periods, and paydays.
The glossary is worth the price of the book alone, but you don’t have to buy this book. Charles J. Read, a former Marine, is offering this book free to all veterans.
To receive your free copy, go to https://thepayrollbook.com The discount code is “VIP.”
Your Economic Opportunities Committee will continue to report on resources that can contribute to the success of veteran-owned and disabled-veteran-owned businesses.
According to the Defense Prisoner of War/Missing in Action Accounting Agency, as of August 10 there are 1,584 still missing from the Vietnam War. There have been no U.S. personnel accounted for from the Vietnam War since September 21, 2020.
The countries and number of missing are Vietnam-1,244 (North Vietnam-442, South Vietnam-802), Laos-285, Cambodia-48, and the Peoples Republic of China-7.
The total accounted for since the end of the Vietnam War in 1975 is 998 Americans. Since the April 30, 1975, end of the Vietnam War, recoveries were made in the following countries: Vietnam, 673; Laos, 280; Cambodia, 42; and the PRC, 3. In addition, 63 U.S. personnel were accounted for between 1973 and 1975, and recovered in the following countries: 9 were from Laos, 53 from Vietnam, and 1 from Cambodia, equating to a grand total of 1,061.
As of August 10 DPAA has identified 340 of the 394 Sailors and Marines missing from the U.S.S. Oklahoma, sunk in Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Nearly 86 percent of unknowns from the U.S.S. Oklahoma have been individually identified, and it is expected that 90 percent will be identified by the end of the project, surpassing the original estimate of 80 percent.
The Veterans Initiative program needs your help. Objects taken from the battlefields of Vietnam are more than souvenirs or war trophies. Maps, stories, after-action reports, pictures, and other military items may have a story that could result in finding the location of missing war dead. Contact the Veterans Initiative at:
Public Affairs Committee
With the reopening of schools with face-to-face instruction and community activities I encourage everyone to increase the activity of local VVA programs. Vets in Classrooms and the VVA JROTC Medal and Eagle Scout programs have hung on surprisingly well considering the obstacles we’ve faced during the pandemic.
The top three winners of the National JROTC Cadet competition have been selected by the Awards Committee. First place goes to Rhode Island Cadet Christopher Sebastiao ($2.500); second place to Iowa Cadet Alena Litzel ($1,500); and third to Utah Cadet Meg Harris. Congratulations to all.
I appreciate everyone who has been involved with the chapters and state councils in presenting medals, and those who have participated in the nationwide competition. We are still trying to work with the Air Force and Army JROTC to gain approval for the cadets to wear our ribbons on their uniforms. Apparently, both branches are reviewing their medals and ribbons lists and eliminating those that aren’t active. The Navy JROTC reported that the determination is left to the individual JROTC units.
JROTC and Eagle Scout Medals are available through the VVA Communications Department. Proposed Public Affairs Resolutions for the National Convention were reviewed and discussed by the committee members who responded to my emails. We determined that no changes would be made to our resolutions at the Convention. All Public Affairs Resolutions will remain active and intact.
Communications Director Mokie Porter and I recently participated in a Zoom Meeting with Phil Waite, the Chief of Strategic Engagement at the 50th Anniversary Vietnam War Commemoration Committee. He presented a proposal for a new approach to accelerate and broaden the Commemoration Committee’s effort to get all Vietnam War veterans pinned. The Commemoration expires on Veterans Day in 2025.
The plan is to enlist local chapters of community and patriotic organizations such as the Daughters of American Revolution and Patriot Quilts to pin and honor Vietnam War veterans in conjunction with local VVA chapters.
According to Waite, “Our hope is having one of our Commemorative Partners near each of your VVA chapters recognize each chapter as an ‘Honorary Partner’ of this national Commemoration (i.e., receive a commemorative flag and the nation’s deep gratitude). In addition, our partners would present each VVA chapter member a Vietnam Veteran Lapel Pin. We understand this would involve recognizing some 85,000 members. However, we are committed to this recognition for your service and sacrifice. It is the very least we do for what you all endured on behalf of the nation.”
We followed that with a Zoom meeting with President John Rowan for his input. As of January 2020, nearly 2.5 million pins had been issued by the Commemoration Committee to some 11,000 partners. About 300 VVA chapters have signed on as partners.
We would appreciate your input regarding Waite’s plan before we present a motion to develop our side of the program and to work with the Commemoration Committee. Email your views to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
VA Voluntary Service
It seemed like we had survived the pandemic. Restrictions were relaxed, and many people were preparing to travel and get together with friends. But now the variants have been spreading across the country. The VAMCs, which were moving toward more normal operations, will likely re-impose some restrictions and prevent opening some wards to volunteers.
Some of our Representatives and Deputies—and other VVA volunteers—continued their work through the pandemic with limited roles at the VAMCs. As things began to open up, they stepped up to help at local hospitals and clinics.
Attendance at VAVS meetings (mostly virtual, but sometimes in person) had dropped off, and our numbers for donations and hours were down. This is understandable in light of what happened last year. The latest reports from VA Central Office indicate that our numbers have started to pick up. We have a long way to go to get back to our old numbers, but it can be done.
We have been through a rough time, but if we do our part, get vaccinated, wear masks, and be careful about our contacts with large groups of people, we can get back to helping hospitalized veterans.
Local VAs have been putting out good information about their status and restrictions. You can keep other members informed by attending VAVS meetings and reporting back to your chapters and state councils. The VA doesn’t need donations they can’t use, so check their needs lists.
Veterans Week in November may be different, but VAMCs continue to adjust their programs to the local situations. Planning is going ahead for events next year. Get involved.
Representatives and Deputies who have been affected by the pandemic and are unable to carry on their duties should contact me so I can replace them. VVA’s involvement at local VAMCs remains an important part of care for veterans at the hospitals and clinics. Large chapters should have someone on the VAVS Committee and their local VA’s Veterans Advisory Committee. It’s time to get up and get busy.
As always, you can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
The Veterans Benefits Committee met July 12. Vice Chair John Margowski chaired the meeting due to my recovery from heart surgery. The proposed resolution submitted by South Carolina State Council President Samuel Brick was rejected by the committee. A proposed MOU between VVA and the Iowa Association of County Commissioners & Veteran Service Officers was approved.
An MOU between VVA and Veterans Voices of America was discussed. Director Felicia Mullaney will prepare a revised MOU proposal to be brought to the committee and then to the National Board. The MOU will also go through the Finance Committee, the VVA Treasurer, and our attorney. A line of communication between our membership and Veterans Voices of America needs to be established to explain how our VSO program will go forward in the future. It was suggested that Veterans Voices of America attend the Regional Conferences before the National Convention in Greensboro.
Greg Nembhard spoke to the committee about predatory actions that some groups and individuals are taking against veterans regarding their claims. The predators are taking as much as 30 percent of a veteran’s retro pay and sometimes try to poach pension benefits.
Even during this pandemic the VVA Veterans Benefits Program has continued to produce quality results for the veterans it represents. Our VSOs and staff are dedicated, hardworking men and women who work to improve the quality of life for veterans.
A meeting was held August 3 to discuss and vote on the resolutions that were sent back from the Government Affairs Committee:
VB-5: Civil Liberties of Active-Duty Military Personnel
VB-6: Just Compensation for Injuries Sustained by Active-Duty Personnel
VB-28: Removal of 5 Percent Annual Deductible for VA Pension Eligibility
VB-30: U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Spina Bifida and Birth Defects
The committee had a Zoom meeting in September. We have been doing individual communications by email for this last quarter. Our Women Veterans Honor Coins have sold out, and we thank the VVA members who helped support this project. We still have Women Veteran Honor Lapel pins for sale, 10 for $30. We will bring them to the Convention.
I was part of a group meeting with a DOD committee working on the 2021 military sexual assault report. The DOD SAPRO office 2020 report has shown that new policies and programs will not be effective unless every military member and leader complies with them. Secretary of Defense Gen. Lloyd Austin has spearheaded immediate actions to counter these corrosive behaviors and to provide better visibility on the ground to ensure that all members are doing their part to eliminate these behaviors.
The adjudication for these offenses must be removed from the chain of command. The Fiscal Year 2020 Annual Report on Sexual Assault in the Military and an accompanying factsheet can be found at www.sapr.mil. The oversight reports for the VA Office of Inspector General have identified challenges for MST Coordinators. Sexual trauma experienced while serving in the military affects both women and men. It has potentially serious and long-term consequences. Psychological trauma, such as MST, also increases the risk of physical health conditions such as cardiovascular disease, stroke, and diabetes.
The Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee has moved several bills forward that affect women veterans’ health care and benefits. VVA has sent a letter to the committee’s chair, Sen. John Tester (D-Mont.), supporting the Servicemembers and Veterans Empowerment and Support Act of 2021. This is a hugely important bill that will amend Title 38 of the U.S. Code to expand VA benefits and health care for military sexual trauma and other purposes.
We are pleased that both DOD and VA seem now to be taking this seriously, finally acknowledging sexual trauma as a crime. In 2003 the VHA accepted the term “Military Sexual Trauma.” Public Law 108-422 made the VA’s provision of sexual trauma services a permanent benefit.
Cyber harassment is a new addition to the 2021 bill. There are major changes in the Disability Claims processing with the expansion of standards of proof and of the MST mental health conditions eligible for VBA disability compensation.
Another bill is the Making Advances in Mammography and Medical Options (MAMMO) for Veterans Act sponsored by Sens. Tester and Boozman (R-Ark.). This has been a long time coming. Women veterans have had a difficult time receiving timely and consistent standards of care in imaging, telemammography, BRCA testing for those diagnoses with breast cancer, and accessible mammography for paralyzed and disabled veterans. Title II directs the VA to work with the National Cancer Institute for research and access to care for clinical trials in outlying areas. It will require reports to be submitted every three years so that advancements made can be incorporated into opportunities for further innovation.
Travel pay has undergone some big changes throughout the VA system. Most veterans can now receive payments after clinic and hospital visits via direct deposit to a previously designated bank account. No more long waits in line. However, many veterans are choosing to continue submitting paper claims rather than deal with the computerized system. The House and Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committees are urging the VA to make critical improvements to this travel reimbursement program.
The Community Care program is continuing to work on supplying health care for veterans in their local towns, rather than have them wait and then travel long distances to a VA facility. There have been some kinks in this system, especially with timely mental health care. If you have any issues, contact your local Community Care office.
I hope to see many of you in North Carolina at the Convention. Until then, stay safe and mask up!
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