|Vietnam Veterans of America|
|VVA Committee Reports, March/April 2023|
Agent Orange/Dioxin Committee Report
It is the time to reflect upon our progress on Convention resolutions in which delegates set out the committee’s mission and goals. We hope VVA members will consider our progress and discuss the situation before the upcoming Convention.
The PACT Act expanded the toxic exposure problem to include families of veterans of the Persian Gulf and Iraq and Afghanistan wars. An additional 41 or more toxins were used in those environments. That expands the products of concern and requires VVA’s involvement with newer veterans.
The committee has several resolutions related to research on the health effects from the forever toxins (chemical warfare) in Vietnam. In addition, other substances used in the more-recent wars have not been adequately researched. The VA and Congress keep replying to our concerns with, “more research is needed.”
The National Academies of Science, Environment and Medicine and the VA have had their budgets for medical research increased. Some additional medical research is being conducted from non-governmental funds.
A law to provide for research on the offspring of Vietnam War and more-recent wars was signed by President Obama. During the Trump Administration, efforts to implement this research were ignored, as were requests by congressional sponsors of the legislation. The current VA secretary claims the research cannot be done because methods are not advanced enough and there is no national birth defects registry.
The Department of Defense has provided less than $1 million to researchers at Boston College to study Gulf War veterans and their families. This amounts to 731 families and includes a blood sample. More years of deployment may be studied as research funds become available. The war lasted 20 years. My math says the final report will be available in 2045.
The latest privately funded medical research concluded that Gulf War syndrome was the result of sarin gas becoming airborne when Iraqi chemical warfare storage facilities were bombed. Sarin gas effects the central nervous system and is passed down for twelve generations (240 years). Those results have not been duplicated or confirmed, however.
VVA has been trying to get honest, appropriate medical research done on the effects of toxic exposure since 1989. A working group of the committee has been meeting with the AV and the Air Force about Operation Ranch Hand data for the past two years. After 33 years, a final report is being written. We thought the law that required medical toxic effects research for veterans’ children and grandchildren would be a step toward providing healthcare for those effected. The committee has been trying to get the VA to implement the law for eight years.
Here is a rundown on the state of AO Committee resolutions:
AO-2 calls for support of the Agent Orange/Dioxin Registry. The purpose of this registry has expanded to include more than these toxins and the children of Vietnam War veterans. The registry now includes children of veterans who served in Vietnam and elsewhere during the war, as well as those who served in the Gulf wars, and the general public with birth defects. The registry can supply the data for the quickest and most economical human research. The questions designed by scientists provide a comparison of diseases and exposures by people effected. The registry is a private, nonprofit organization supported by donations.
AO-7 is supported by AO-2. The goal is to provide health care and support for children effected by their parents’ exposure to toxic substance during military service.
AO-9 and AO-10 refer to the manufacture, sale, or use of some toxic substances. Our efforts to succeed in these areas have not been successful. Economic concerns have by far exceeded the desire to relieve the pain and suffering of the effects. Three years ago, the Environmental Protection Agency gave Dow Chemical a five-year permit to make and sell herbicides containing 2,4 D and glyphosate (Round-up).
AO-17, which limits the service connection to one year for a range of health problems, remains an unsolved issue.
AO-12 involves support for the U.S. Institute of Environmental Health Sciences to provide funding for research in Vietnam. Vietnamese families with children whose health problems are believed to be related exposure to toxins are being compensated although research has not been done.
AO-8, the Agent Orange/Dioxin Network, is alive and well. The Agent Orange/Dioxin seminar at the Leadership Conference continues and has been expanded to include other military toxic exposures.
AO-13 Along with other groups, we continue to be involved in Agent Orange Awareness Month and Agent Orange Recognition Day in August. With pandemic restrictions eased, we can now schedule in-person Town Hall meetings. New guidelines are on the VVA website. Two new employees in the National office are reviewing our publications.
AO-4, The Agent Orange/Dioxin Guide, along with other publications, continues to be updated and available.
The Agent Orange/Dioxin Committee: Sandie Wilson, Chair; Mike Demske, Vice Chair. Members: John Hargens, Ken Holybee, Roland Mayhew, Joe McIntire, Rossie Nance, and Gerry Wright. Advisers: Frank Arminio, Ron Brown, Bob Cummings, Jim Doyle, Maynard Kaderlik, Mike Jared, Jack McManus, John Rossie, Paul Sutton, Tom Owen, Linda Schwartz, and Steve House. AVVA Advisers: Nancy Switzer and Kathy Andras. Staff Support: Mokie Porter.
Finance Committee Report
The VVA Finance Committee’s work on the annual budget, is an important task that is facilitated in tandem with the VVA Finance Department. The process starts with the Finance Department preparing a proposed budget, and then sending notices to the Cost Center Managers to calculate and project their expenses for the upcoming fiscal year. That information is sent to the Finance Committee to review and make recommendations to the VVA Board of Directors.
It may sound simple, but it is not. The Finance Department and the Finance Committee must make difficult decisions and weigh in on all justifications. There are steps and layers in between the start-to-finish process that can be rewarding and challenging at the same time. Often there are back-and-forth discussions with the Cost Center Managers to ensure that our decisions are sound, reasonable, and not draconian. The final step is to send a proposed budget to the officers, and thereafter to the Board of Directors for approval.
Following the Board’s final approval, the Finance Committee, at its next regularly scheduled meeting, adds a Fiscal Year budget “biopsy.” The purpose of the biopsy is twofold: to update Finance Committee Budget Training documents, and to pare down and discuss how the process went and what, if any, changes should be made. As we move forward, changes are sure to happen that will have an impact on the process and the committee will need to make the budget experience understandable.
The Finance Committee will continue to review and update our policies, keeping in mind that the just because we always have done something may not fit the times. It is critical to keep an open mind, to listen to the VVA Officers, and be thankful that we have National Treasurer Linda Schwartz as our adviser. She brings a plethora of knowledge about VVA’s history and experiences from her long career outside VVA to the table to keep us focused and balanced.
It is refreshing to watch the committee members as we vote on internal matters and the respect, they have for each other.
We do not agree on everything, but the focus is on a much larger scale when we balance the budget.
Mission Statement: My highest priority and commitment is to ensure that the veterans who served for us will be served by us.
The Finance Committee: Dottie Barickman, Chair. Alan Cook, Francisco Ivarra, Sandy Miller, Barry Rice, and Daniel Stenvold.
Homeless Veterans Committee Report
BY SANDY MILLER, CHAIR
At the 2019 VVA Convention, the Homeless Veterans Committee combined and rewrote two of our resolutions. The committee now has just four Resolutions to report on.
HVC-1 Homeless Veterans as a Special Needs Population. Though the VA has taken many steps, the committee continues to feel that all agencies providing funding for housing of any kind should focus on homeless veterans. We continue to urge to the VA and the Interagency on Homeless to require that all nonprofit organizations provide a veteran-specific accounting of all homeless veterans receiving veteran-specific services. This includes a review of all funding for the applicable organizations and agencies.
HVC-10 Continued Funding for Special Needs Grants under the Department of Veterans Affairs Homeless Grants and Per Diem Funding Program. We recommended that VA special needs grants not have a sunset date, but are funded on a continual basis, the same as the grant and per diem programs are funded. Renewing special needs grants very year puts stress on the applying organizations. Operating special needs grants the ability on the same level as per diem grants makes more time, effort, and energy available to those receiving the grants.
HVC-13 Support for the Missing in America Project. The committee would like to acknowledge chapters and state councils that support this project, as it ensures that all veterans whose remains or cremains are unclaimed are provided a dignified burial.
HVC-15-VA Homeless Grant and Per Diem Funding. The committee continues to urge the VA to provide funding on an equal and time-sensitive basis for services provided to all eligible homeless veterans. Continued monitoring of these payments must be practiced. The additional need for Per Diem Service Center grants is imperative in achieving the overall goal of eliminating veteran homelessness across the country. Accountability is key.
The Homeless Veterans Committee: Sandy Miller, Chair. Tom Hall, Ph.D., Vice Chair. Members: Liz Cannon, Jerry Blume, and John McGinty. AVVA Members: Sharon Hobbs and Joanne Blume. Staff Support: Sharon Hodge.
Minority Affairs Committee Report
BY GUMERSINDO GOMEZ, CHAIR
Our committee came together on January 20, and we had a great meeting. We had Korean Vietnam War veteran visitors, who have made it their business to visit every meeting we have had in the past year since they became honorary VVA members. They feel that they belong with us as Vietnam War veterans. They are pleased with the work we have done and continue to do for them.
The next National Convention should be a great event. It will be held in Orlando, Florida, from August 8-12, and I hope that you are making plans to join us.
We are continuing to support the Korean American VALOR Act. We were not able to get it into law for the last two years. A new resolution will be presented to the delegates at the Convention in Orlando, and we ask for your support in voting for it. The bill would authorize Koreans who served in the Vietnam War and subsequently became U.S. citizens to receive medical care through the VA. We have reviewed our past resolutions so they can be continuing to stay on the books, be deleted, or changed. So far, we are going to delete one and make changes to another one. All the others will be continued.
If you have a minority affairs resolution do not hesitate to get it to us before April 1. Submit them online or by using the form in this issue of The Veteran.
If you have a minority veterans’ issue that you need our help to resolve, contact me at Sgtgomez@aol.com or 413-883-4508.
The Minority Affairs Committee: Gumersindo Gomez, Chair. Members: William Garcia, Charles Odom, Francisco Ivarra, Jorge Pedroza, Kee J. Kim, Joe Jennings, Pete Peterson, Dave Simmons, and Virgie Hibbler. AVVA Adviser: Nina Schloffel. Staff Support: Mokie Porter.
Membership Affairs Committee Report
BY DICK SOUTHERN, CHAIR
The future continues to look bright as we work to increase our numbers to 90,000 with continued outreach to Vietnam War veterans who have recently retired and are looking to connect with fellow veterans who share the same experiences of their military service and want to enjoy the camaraderie from days past.
Life membership in VVA is a bargain and the lowest of any veterans service organization anywhere in the world. See that guy with the Vietnam veteran ball cap? Recruit him.
The committee continues to try to find ways to recruit members. We are a membership organization that helps veterans and their families have a better life as we work for them to get legislation enacted to increase benefits for their military service. At the local level, our chapters provide their communities with services with charity works and volunteer time.
A thought about membership numbers from a committee member. We have, an untapped resource. We should be recruiting Vietnam War Era veterans to join VVA. Veterans who served in the military during the Vietnam War but not in Vietnam are eligible to join VVA. Many are not aware of their entitlements, especially eligibility for VA medical care. Let’s reach out to our fellow veterans who served during the war and recruit them.
Membership Affairs Committee VVA Resolutions
M-2 Communication Between VVA‘s Organizational Levels. Realizing that communication is the key, this resolution is designed to assure that communication up and down the line are done within certain time framess to keep an open dialogue to continue at all levels of the organization. We support continuing this resolution.
M-3 Korean War Veterans Membership. This resolution starts the discussion about having our Korean allies who served in the Vietnam War join VVA as members. There is a great amount of work that needs to be done to accomplish this resolution.
The Membership Affairs Committee: Dick Southern, Chair. Members: Bill Beecher, Sam Brick, Jerry Corrigan, James Fleming, Richard Lindbeck, John Margowski, Charlie Montgomery, Bob Pace, Wayne Reynolds, Carlton Rhodes, John Riling, Ken Rogge, Randy Schriver, John Weiss, and Ted Wilkinson. VVA Adviser: Bill Meeks. AVVA Adviser: Teresa Rangel. Membership Affairs Manager: Nicole Kennedy. Staff Support: Priscilla Wiley and Brenae Jones.
POW/MIA Affairs Committee Report
BY GRANT T. COATES, CHAIR
As of February 12, the number of Americans missing and unaccounted-for from the Vietnam War was 1,581. The countries are: Vietnam - 1,241; Laos – 285; Cambodia - 48; Peoples Republic of China territorial waters – 7.
From February 12 to April 4, 1973, 54 C-141 missions flew out of Hanoi, bringing former POWs home. The missions were a result of the Paris Peace Accords that brought U.S. combat troops home from the Vietnam War. During the early part of missions Operation Homecoming released groups of POWs based on the length of time they were held prisoner. The first group had spent six-to eight-years as prisoners of war. The last POWs were turned over on March 29, 1973, bringing the total number of Americans returned to 591.
In accordance with Resolution P-7, amended at the 19th National Convention, on July 18, 2019, what follows is the annual report of the POW/MIA Affairs Committee:
PM-3 Declassification of Information and Diligent Effort. The POW/MIA Committee monitors the actions of the National Declassification Center created on December 29, 2009. The NDC houses the military and secret correspondence that has been through declassification processing.
PM-4 Americans Missing in Laos and Cambodia. Efforts continue for better relations between Laos and Cambodia to further recovery missions in the respective countries.
PM-7 Possibility of Live POW/MIAs, and Facilitating the Return of Those who Remain in Southeast Asia. The resolution states: “VVA has formally acknowledged the possibility of live Americans being left in Southeast Asia at the end of the Vietnam War, and elsewhere worldwide, as a result of later military operations and war.” Until all known MIAs from the Vietnam War are accounted for and returned, no change to the resolution is foreseen.
PM-8 Fullest Possible of Accounting of POW/MIAs in Vietnam. The Committee continues to receive timely information from Defense Prisoner of War-Missing in Action Accounting Agency and other organizations regarding accountability of the missing in action from the Vietnam War. All identified MIA names are immediately announced through the media. For various reasons, including wishes of the families, Department of Defense announcements are often delayed beyond identification dates.
PM-11 Honoring all Returned POWs and Giving Recognition of Americans Civilians Held as POW/Interned during the War. VVA urges all chapters and state councils to seek opportunities to honor local former POWs and their families. VVA has asked that Congress enact legislation to formally recognize the sacrifices of these individuals. VVA commends the extraordinary service rendered public servants, military personnel, and citizens who have devoted their time and personal resources to resolving the issue of prisoners and missing from the Vietnam War and other conflicts.
PM-13 Public Awareness and Education on the POW/MIA Flag
Vietnam Veterans of America encourages and supports compliance with Public Law 116-67, The National POW/MIA Flag Act, enacted on November 7, 2019. The bill changed the days on which the POW/MIA flag is required to be displayed at specified locations to all days on which the U.S. flag is displayed.
VVA resolves to continue efforts to educate public officials and others on the history and meaning of the POW/MIA flag and its proper display.
Vietnam Veterans of America recognizes that Any official VVA function where the national colors are displayed should include the POW/MIA flag. The POW/MIA flag shall be posted or flown to the immediate left of the national colors. All other flags used in the display shall be flown to the left of the POW/MIA flag.
PM-14Forever POW/MIA Stamp.
As of February 4, no member of Congress has introduced legislation regarding the Perpetual POW/MIA Stamp Act.
VI-1 The Veterans Initiative, a National VVA Effort on Vietnam’s Missing in Action. In an effort to receive more information regarding Vietnamese missing in action from the Vietnam War, the Veterans Initiative Program launched a new informational request advertisement in 2016 in The VVA Veteran magazine and in 2015 on the VVA website. Several eyewitness reports have been submitted to the committee for investigation. The goal is that veteran-to-veteran collaboration between VVA and Vietnamese veterans’ organizations will result in the fullest possible accounting of American MIAs.
VI-2 Scope of the Veterans Initiative. Vietnam Veterans of America reaffirms the primary mission of the Veterans Initiative is to achieve the fullest possible accounting of all repatriated POW/MIAs in Vietnam and supports expanding the mission to include other areas in Southeast Asia.
The POW-MIA Affairs Committee: Grant T. Coates, Chair. Members: Terry Courville, Leslie DeLong, Patti Dumin, Skip Hochreich, Dennis Howland, Chuck Nenevier, Phil Pesano, a d Ted Wilkinson. VVA Staff Support: Sharon Hodge. AVVA: Kaye Gardner. Staff Adviser to VI Program: Mokie Pratt-Porter. Special Adviser: Gary Jones.
PTSD/Substance Abuse Committee Report
During this last year the PTSD/SA Committee worked to continue to help veterans make their way all the way home. Many of the issues we addressed last year will also be carried over to support veterans living with a PTSD or Substance Use Disorder.
Veterans with Long-Term PTSD: There is no doubt that the experiences of veterans from their military service can and often do cause mental health injuries that can be just as debilitating as physical wounds. If left untreated, post-traumatic stress disorder and other psychological traumas can affect veterans to the point that, over time, their daily functions become seriously impaired. This places them at a higher risk for self-medication and abuse with alcohol and drugs, domestic violence, unemployment, homelessness, and suicide.
VVA calls on Congress to restart clinician-led continuing care groups for veterans with PTSD and other mental health issues; to ensure that the Vet Center Improvement Act is implemented; and to take steps to help veterans living with PTSD with the process of consideration for discharge upgrade.
The VA must do everything within its power to improve staffing numbers of mental health professionals including using internships, fellowships, scholarships, and other means to build a pipeline of diverse, capable providers. Additionally, mental health counselors and social workers should receive equal pay, whether they work at VHA or in Vet Centers. Their work is no less important at either facility.
The VA must also find any means possible to speed up their hiring process without sacrificing the scrutiny of credential certification and verification of identity in order to fill vacancies in VA mental health departments and Vet Centers.
Veterans Suicide: Suicide is extremely difficult to discuss. It is a topic that most of us would prefer to avoid. Accurate statistics on deaths by suicide are not readily available because many are not reported or are misreported for insurance reasons, as well as the desire of local officials to avoid the stigma of suicide.
Many of us, as veterans of the Vietnam War and as comrades and caregivers to our brother and sister veterans, have known someone who has taken their own life or who has attempted suicide. VVA calls on The VA to ensure that all suicide prevention specialists regularly reach out to the community to help disrupt suicidal ideation and attempts. We call on Congress to enact a law requiring death certificates to include whether the deceased served in the military. Additionally, the VA must establish a clear path to reimburse community providers when VA refers veterans for mental health care and treatment.
The members of the PTSD/SA committee are committed to finding ways to ensure that all veterans receive the support they have earned serving their country.
The PTSD & Substance Abuse Committee: Thomas C. Hall, Ph.D., Chair. Members: Sandy Miller, Tom Brown, Craig Wade, Ken Rose, John McGinty, Kate O’Hare Palmer, Dan Stenvold, Charlie Stapleton, Ken Halbert, Charlie Montgomery, Fred Gasior, and Rick Weidman. AVVA Advisers: Nina Schloffel, Theresa Rangel, Rosa Fuentes, and Richard Brundage. Staff Support: Mokie Porter.
Public Affairs Committee Report
BY DENNIS HOWLAND, CHAIR
With most of our state legislative bodies in session this time of the year, I urge participation by going to your state capitols to attend hearings and testimony on issues affecting veterans. Get to know your elected officials and let them know your positions on veterans’ issues. Your voice just might be representative of each veteran in your state.
I have received calls regarding the JROTC Medal. The first thing to know is that forms are on vva.org, under “Info for Members,” and “Awards and Nominations Forms.” If you have an outstanding cadet in one of your schools, you can present the medal to that cadet. Or if the cadet’s school would like to honor the student, you can do so throughout the year.
Next, each chapter may submit a nomination for their top cadet to their state council along with the essay on “What my training and participation in JROTC has meant to me.” Each school may submit their top cadet to you. The state council should create a committee to select the one Top Cadet from your state and submit it to the VVA Awards Committee for competition no later than April 1. This is how the first, second, and third place cadets are chosen. The competition at the national level is for the money only. For info, contact me at email@example.com or Mokie Porter at firstname.lastname@example.org
In last issue I wrote about the partnership between the DAR and the 50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War Commemoration. I know several states have planned, held, and completed their projects. This is an outstanding public affairs event.
Keep in mind the enormous May 11-13 event in Washington, D.C., observing the 50th anniversary, and I look forward to seeing each of you in Orlando at the National Convention in August. Here is our annual report on the Progress in Advancing Convention Resolutions.
The committee has chosen to keep all resolutions active.
P-1 Community Service: Vietnam Veterans of America encourages chapters to take the initiative to make a better community for everyone and serve as a focal point to promote the relationship between Vietnam War veterans and their communities. To accomplish this mission, VVA should publish useful materials at the national, state, and local levels, including resolutions, through the media to. The Public Affairs Committee emphasizes through its magazine column the importance of using VVA resource materials in community activities. VVA encourages coordinating with other veterans’ organizations to better serve all veterans. We encourage chapters to share their ideas and programs with the rest of the organization.
P-2 Children’s Welfare: VVA calls upon Vietnam War veterans and their families, through financial and personal contributions, to act responsibly to insure protection and development of infants and children in the United States and throughout the world. The committee continues to encourage participation in organizations such as Boys and Girls Club, adult counseling in Scouting programs, and working to help families understand new legislation regarding care of the descendants of Vietnam War veterans. We recommend participating in the Eagle Scout and JROTC medals programs and endorse the POW/MIA Committee’s Warriors bracelet program.
P-3 Chapter Involvement with Educational Institutions on Teaching the Vietnam War: VVA encourages the balanced, comprehensive teaching of the Vietnam War at all educational levels. Chapters are encouraged to establish ties with local schools and colleges for the purpose of making qualified individuals available to help teach the Vietnam War. State councils and chapters are asked to participate in Vets-In-Classrooms programs.
P-4 Regulation of Certain Activities at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial: VVA recommends that the National Park Service prohibit the use of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., and adjacent areas for press conferences, politically motivated actions, and all conduct not in keeping with its purpose as a place of healing, remembrance, and acknowledgment of the costs of the Vietnam War. Furthermore, VVA urges the National Park Service to continue its vigilance concerning vendors and solicitors in the immediate vicinity of the memorial and ensure an atmosphere of reverence and respect for those honored there.
P-5 Endorsement for Participation in Local Environmental Efforts: VVA encourages chapters and state councils to network with other groups and participate in efforts to minimize the adverse effects of toxic and nuclear waste dumping, collect hazardous home waste, general recycling efforts, and home site energy efficiency. The issue of contaminated water at military installations is especially pressing.
P-7 Requirement to Report Progress on All Currently Approved Convention Resolutions, at Least Annually: The Public Affairs Committee continues to support the requirements of this resolution. The committee continues to update its resolutions and encourages other committees to do the same.
P-8 The Vietnam Veterans Memorial: VVA calls upon its members and associates to support and maintain their commitment to conserve the legacy, respect, and honor that The Wall has come to mean to Vietnam War veterans and their families.
P-12 Public Awareness for Veterans Benefits Campaign: The Public Affairs Committee will do whatever is necessary to include at least $20,000 in the annual budget to advertise to the membership and to publicize the availability of veterans benefits and how to claim them.
P-13 Gold Star Mothers National Monument: VVA applauds Gold Star Mothers and supports the development and construction of an American Gold Star Mothers National Monument in Washington, D.C. Chapters and state councils are encouraged to reach out to Gold Star Mothers in their communities and to help with fundraising for the monument.
The Public Affairs Committee: Dennis Howland, Chair. Members: Ken Rose, Buddy Farina, Roland Mayhew, Thomas Brown, Greg Pauline, Phil Pesano, Margaret Wojciechowicz, Ernest Boisvert, Chuck Revevier, and David Treffinger. Awards Subcommittee: Dan Stenvold, Chair. Members: Grant Coates and Net Foote. Staff support: Mokie Porter, Kathleen Grathwol, Sean Venables, and Wes Guidry.
Veteran Benefits Committee Report
By JOHN H. RILING III, CHAIR
VB-1 Judicial Review. In collaboration with the Government Affairs Department, the VVA Veterans Benefits Department) furthered this resolution by submitting an Amicus Brief in support of a veteran and his wife in the case of Beaudette v. McDonough before the Federal Circuit, in which the VA is attempting to deny judicial review to those denied access to VA’s Caregiver Program.
VB-13 Preservation of VVA Service Representation at the National Level. At the close of the VA’s 2021 fiscal year, VVA represented 54 percent more veterans and family members than we did in 2019. Despite this increase, we now have only 236 accredited Veterans Service Officers), roughly half what we had in 2019. This is a far cry from 2010 when VVA had some 1,000 VSOs. With the closure of the Illinois program in August 2022, the National office will be absorbing 4,454 VVA claimants, bringing VVA National’s total to 16,453.
In furtherance of this resolution, that “[t]he first priority of VVA is as a veteran’s service organization,” the Veterans Benefits Department has expanded its staff to meet the increased demand and is actively seeking additional grant funding to help support our local benefits programs.
VB-29 U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Quality Assurance Program. During a January 2023 meeting with Jaime Ariezaga-Soto, the new chair of the Board of Veterans’ Appeals, National President Jack McManus, Vice President Tom Burke, and Veterans’ Voice of America President Nadhal Eadah, VVA formally requested a review and improvement of the Board’s quality assurance program.
VB-31 Protection of the Right to Representation in Appeals. The Veterans Benefits Department zealously opposed the former Chair Cheryl Mason’s memo, which was ultimately rescinded. The department has dedicated additional resources and reached an agreement with the new BVA chair to substantially reduce VVA’s backlog, without sacrificing quality, by September 2023.
The Committee continues to support the following resolutions:
VB-3 Less than-honorable administrative discharges
VB-5 Civil Liberties of Active-Duty Military Personnel
VB-6 Just Compensation for Injuries Sustained by Active-Duty Military Personnel
VB-12 Department of Veterans Affairs (CVA) Service-Connected Disability Compensation Payments & Military Retirement Pay Offset
VB-27 Reduction of DIC Survivor Waiting Period
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 Program
VB-32 Taxpayer-Funded medical Examinations
VB-33 Improved Quality and Legal Accuracy in VA Decisions
The Veterans Benefits Committee: John H. Riling III, Chair.
Veterans Incarcerated Committee Report
By DOMINICK YEZZO, CHAIR
The Veterans Incarcerated & in the Justice System Committee has two resolutions of pressing importance:
The first issue deals with what the government awards a disabled veteran prior to the commission of a crime that caused their incarceration. It asserts that the disability for veterans suffering from PTSD and TBI caused their inability to reason. Such inability resulted in confused, dangerous, and irrational decisions — that is, a crime.
The continued awarded benefits could be placed in an escrow account for the veteran and given to the veteran upon his or her release Those funds would give the veteran a strong start returning to their community.
As to the Grafton Correctional Facility, I have been denied a visit to Chapter 529. That chapter is a model of VINJUS work. It will soon receive an Ohio State Commendation award for its good works. Chapter 529 is an example of how well veterans doing long, hard time can function when housed in a separate ward and allowed to do meaningful work. Under his guidance of President Modesto Garcia, the chapter creating the Officers Dining Room, a short-order table service restaurant preparing good food at reasonable prices for correction officers. The ODR trained incarcerated veterans to be chefs, food purveyors, menu planners, waiters, and dishwashers. It donated thousands of dollars in profits to local charities each year.
Without notice, the warden took the ODR away from the chapter and gave it to a substance abuse ward. The warden also has taken ended the all-veteran ward and placed nonveteran inmates in with the veterans of Chapter 529.
The Veterans Incarcerated and in the Justice System Committee: Dominick Yezzo, Chair. Members: Joanne Blum, Larry Frazee, Adolph Gardner, Larry Googins, Tom Haberkorn, Joe Jennings, Don Jones, Allen Manuel, John McGinty, Gary Newman, and Dave Simmons. Special Adviser and Staff Support: Logan Lecates.
Womens Veterans Committee Report
By KATIE O'HARE-PALMER, CHAIR
We have entered the new cycle for the 118th Congress. Two bills have been submitted that are important to women veterans:
S.106, Commitment to Veteran Support and Outreach Act, sponsored by Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.) was introduced on January 26. It authorizes the Department of Veterans Affair to provide grants to states to implement programs that improve outreach and assistance to veterans and their families to ensure that they are fully informed about veterans’ benefits and programs. A plan will be included to address how grants will be used to meet the needs of American Indian veterans, Alaska Native veterans, and Native Hawaiian veterans, as well as elderly veterans, women veterans, and veterans from other underserved communities.
H.R. 239, Equal Access to Contraception for Veterans Act was reintroduced February 9, sponsored by Rep. Julia Brownley (D-Calif.). Women veterans using VA healthcare are currently denied access to contraception. The benefits of contraception are widely recognized and eliminating cost-sharing barriers can greatly improve access to the full-range of contraception and related counseling to improve women’s health.
This bill passed the House several times but has been blocked by the Senate. It was also attached as an amendment to the FY 2023 National Defense Authorization Act. I know that many of you thought that this was completed, but it hasn’t been.
The Service Women’s Action Network website has an important letter that can be forwarded to your members of Congress regarding a congressional proposal to move 2023-2024 spending and funding on Veterans Healthcare and VA benefits back to 2022 levels. That would prevent recent significant advances such as the implementation of PACT Act provisions on toxic exposure and the funding for the women’s health care initiative. These issues were already approved with bipartisan support. Please forward this letter to your representatives. Go to https://www.servicewomensactionnetwork.org March is Women’s History Month. I hope that you all will be able to attend events in your communities to support this. We continue to encourage everyone to tell their military service stores through the Library of Congress’ Veterans History Project.
April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. The VA Veterans Health Administration’s White Ribbon program brings greater awareness to eliminate sexual harassment, sexual assault, and domestic violence in the VA. The VA also has a new training opportunity, Bystander Intervention Training for Veterans, a a free, online program to help the VA maintain a safe and welcoming environment for veterans, their caregivers, and VA staff members. There’s more info about the program in the VA’s online publication, Vantage Point at https://blogs.va.gov/VAntage/94962/free-online-bystander-intervention-training-fore-veterans/
The Welcome Home! event for Vietnam War veterans and their families sponsored by the 50th Anniversary Vietnam War Commemoration will take place May 11-13 in Washington D.C. For more information, go to www.vietnamwar50th.com/
I have been receiving disturbing calls from women veterans about denials of home care and healthcare related to their age. These are examples of healthcare ageism that seems to be more pronounced in the last few years. It is a topic for the next Women Veterans Committee column.
The Women Veterans Committee: Kate O’Hare-Palmer, Chair
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