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May/June 2023 -   -  

The Big Issue at the Convention   


The VVA Board of Directors held a Special Meeting on Thursday, April 20, in Silver Spring to address its recommendations on the future of VVA prior to the 2023 biennial National Convention in Orlando. This was an intense, working-type meeting, wherein I surrendered the chair to Michael Swift, VVA’s parliamentarian, so he could keep us on point. He and the Board did an amazing job.

The result of the Special Meeting is a series of actions that the Board will recommend to the Convention delegates when they address the future of VVA. This action was taken in accordance with GA-23, the “Last Man Standing” resolution, passed at the 2021 National Convention.

It is important to note that nothing accomplished in the BOD Special Meeting will come into effect until the VVA membership—speaking through their Convention delegates—discusses and votes on the BOD recommendations. Additionally, the recommended actions are subject to amendment or may be voted down, in accordance with Convention rules.

I have been directed by the BOD to give a presentation at the Convention, in lay terms, on the future of VVA, our chapters, and our state councils. This will likely be a sort of roadmap for how VVA can address our programs and initiatives and how our staff would carry out the downsizing of VVA. The presentation will be made available on the VVA website for all members to digest and comment on.

Our chapters and state councils will need significant and ongoing support, resources, and advice as they determine their own direction. VVA National must be prepared to address these concerns. The delegates to the 2025 and 2027 Conventions will be able to address specific actions, as determined by the membership through the delegates, and make specific changes as necessary at the time.


In the next issue, you will read about how a VVA team took on the Veterans Benefits Administration and was able to get tens of millions of dollars in benefits for several thousand veterans because of a faulty algorithm. Imagine: Vietnam veterans fighting for an algorithm.

We also are putting pressure on the VA for failing to follow the law regarding sending bilingual letters to Vietnam veterans in Puerto Rico. Absent some immediate remedy, it looks like we will have to haul them into court. More to come on that. Thanks to Marc McCabe for advocating for these issues.

On May 15, Veterans’ Voice of America received its accreditation to represent benefit claimants at the Veterans Benefits Administration. That allows VVA-VetsVOA to proceed with the long and complex MOU process of assuring that VVA claims clients (about 110,000) are represented, regardless of VVA’s status. Congratulations to the newest advocacy group associated with VVA.


There has been a long effort to save from destruction and preserve for science the massive collection of data and biological specimens of the 20-plus-year Air Force Health Study (aka, the Ranch Hand Study), as originally agreed on with the study participants. On May 19, a formal panel from the Air Force, the National Academy of Sciences, the VA; and significantly, Vietnam Veterans of America, met to fashion a consensus about the permanent disposition of the data and specimens into the VA Shield Program.

Subject to regulatory and departmental approvals, the intent is for the data and biomaterials to be made available to public research bodies under oversight by a group with VVA participation. Salute to Linda Schwartz, Paul Sutton, Marsha Four, Mokie Porter, and Sharon Hodge for years of hard work guiding this process. More to come on that.

VVA hosted a roundtable for VSOs and MSOs interested in reinvigorating the POW-MIA issue’s public awareness at VVA headquarters on April 19. The meeting was well attended, and advocates expressed an interest in pursuing new activities to reignite interest among veterans and the public about this critical issue. Thanks to Grant Coates and Mokie Porter for expressing VVA’s continued high interest and planning a long-overdue event.




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Geoffrey Clifford Mark F. Erickson Chuck Forsman