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VVA Committee Reports, May/June 2024 -   -  

VINJUS Committee Report


One of the Vietnam Veterans of America’s most significant achievements is our formidable legislative influence at the state and federal levels. Our organization has championed veterans’ causes more effectively than any other VSO, thanks to our expertise in legislative advocacy.

Our presence in the corridors and offices of Congress, where we engage members of both houses of Congress and their staffs, is not just about persuasion. It’s a professional endeavor to educate lawmakers on veterans’ unique needs, to advocate for new legislation, and to amend existing laws.

This year, the Veterans Incarcerated and in The Justice System Committee is focusing on a critical issue: the regulation of incarcerated disabled veterans’ pensions by the Department of Veterans Affairs. Currently these pensions are capped at 10 percent during incarceration, regardless of the awarded percentage.

Our stance is clear: We believe the full awarded pension should not be disbursed during incarceration but held in escrow until a veterans’ release. This approach ensures that upon reintegration into society, veterans have the financial support they were granted—often for service-connected disabilities incurred while serving in overseas wars.


This August, the VVA is hosting our biennial National Leadership & Education Conference in Reno. This event is more than a gathering; it’s an educational opportunity open to all VVA members.

Why attend? You’ll gain insights into how VVA champions veterans’ rights and welfare, with presentations on benefits from the VA, as well as sessions by virtually all of VVA’s national committees. This is your chance to understand benefit qualifications and application processes—and much more.

VVA has made unparalleled contributions to the welfare of veterans and their families. Come to Reno in August and see how and why.

Agent Orange & Toxic Exposures Committee Report


I am writing with an update on the progress made attaining our goals on toxic exposure and the ways this exposure may cause or worsen health problems. We have been pursuing research on the impact of toxic exposures on the children and grandchildren of Vietnam War veterans for many years.

Veterans have reported health problems among their offspring, and while our interactions with government leaders ended with their request for us to provide evidence of causation, we are not satisfied with waiting while fathers and grandfathers question why their family members are sick and disabled.

We again have requested the government to perform medical research on our offspring. While we have conducted educational sessions and elicited feedback at many town hall meetings, we have continued to work with friendly members of Congress and their staff to get a law passed providing for the research, treatment, and remuneration of our disabled offspring’s health issues.

One of the last laws signed by President Obama gave some hope for progress in this arena, though the National Academy of Sciences found that more research was needed before acting. Unfortunately, the implementation of the law was ignored by the Trump Administration.

With the beginning of the Biden Administration and a new VA Secretary, we again had some hope for progress. However, in response to VVA President Jack McManus’ letter to Secretary Denis McDonough asking about potential progress, the VA reported that they were not going to implement the research because it was not feasible and there was no federal birth defects registry.

When Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) held a hearing on a Children’s Toxic Exposure Research law in November 2023, the VA sent a representative who testified that if a connection was made between illnesses and a parent’s toxic exposure, the VA feared they could be responsible for health care and compensation, which would greatly increase their budget. Sens. Tester and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) have introduced the Molly R. Loomis Research for Descendants of Toxic Exposed Veterans Act of 2024, which calls for research on toxic effects on children to be performed under the aegis of the Department of Health and Human Services.

At the same time, another congressional group proposed a change to the PACT Act that would reduce its budget. This seems to be another instance of forgetting the need for veterans’ compensation once a war is over.

Election campaigns are underway, and candidates are stumping locally and nationally. VVA is a 501 (c) (19), and under IRS rules, we cannot endorse a candidate. We do, however, have the responsibility to lobby the current and any future Congresses and presidential administrations to remember their commitments to veterans and their offspring.

Please get to know your potential decision-makers, and try to get them to promise what is right for veterans and their families. After all, our government classes taught us that we are an entity by the people and for the people. Our elected leaders must include the needs of veterans in those needs of “the people.”

Women Veterans Committee Report


On April 10, Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) headed up a congressional hearing on women veterans’ healthcare. Women veterans continue to be the fastest-growing segment of VA healthcare. Some 625,000 women veterans use the VA healthcare and benefits systems. The hearing helped to enlighten Congress on ensuring equity for women veterans at the VA.

Testimony came from those advocating for more preventive healthcare, including more access to mammograms and reproductive care. Access to care continues to be a priority and is limited by the length of time it can take to get appointments. Although there are three primary care providers trained in women’s health at each facility, it is not enough.

Issues for spinal cord injury patients and those in wheelchairs include basic physical challenges with small doorways and accessible restrooms. Aging veterans and those in rural areas find it challenging to get services.

Women veterans are racially and ethnically diverse. More than 40 percent of the women who used VHA health services in FY20 belonged to a racial or ethnic minority group. Three of four women veterans who used VA health services in FY19 lived in urban areas, but the number of rural women is increasing.

Each facility has a form that patients can fill out to forward complaints or suggestions for better access to care in VA clinics and hospitals. These are supposed to be reviewed by the hospital directors monthly.

Sen. Tester also mentioned his bill, S.1028, the Servicemembers and Veterans Empowerment and Support Act of 2023. This bill would modify and implement policies and procedures related to VA health care and benefits for veterans who have experienced military sexual trauma, which is generally defined as physical assault of a sexual nature, battery of a sexual nature, or sexual harassment that occurred while serving in the military. The bill is still in committee. You can see the committee hearing at: https://youtube/--EBIKyEs1E

April is Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention month. The DoD has programs to highlight this with help guidelines at: https://safehelpline.org/"

With the PACT Act in place, the VA Healthcare website has much more on toxic exposure and health consequences for men and women veterans, as well as the areas around the world and in the U.S. that are included in exposure-related criteria.

Go to https://www.publichealth.va.gov/exposures/burnpits/index.asp#presumptive You will be surprised at the diagnoses that many of us have that we didn’t know were related to burn pit exposures and airborne PCBs. Please take a look. We will be discussing this at the Leadership Conference.

Until next time, be good to yourself and others.

Public Affairs Committee


I hope everyone is well and looking forward to the warmer weather. There’s much to be done, and together, we have the potential to accomplish a great deal for VVA and all veterans.

I’m constantly moved by the hundreds of ceremonies held on March 29th, a day dedicated to honoring all those who served during the Vietnam War. National Vietnam War Veterans Day belongs to each of you; it was earned through your service and is a legacy that cannot be taken away. With the recent elections of chapter and state council presidents, it’s crucial for outgoing officers to encourage newcomers to familiarize themselves with our website, vva.org The site is a treasure trove of information on our programs and legislative priorities. The Info for Members section is particularly valuable.

State council presidents act as vital communication links between VVA National and their chapter presidents, extending to their members. An informed member is a boon to any Public Affairs Program, aiding in community understanding of Vietnam War veterans and fostering team spirit. A robust Public Affairs Program enhances each member’s sense of belonging to the organization.

When representing VVA in public programs and information booths, it’s essential to be well-informed and ready to answer questions about who we are and what we do. Chapter and state council presidents should challenge their members with these questions and gauge their knowledge on our priority legislation and the programs we offer. Providing accurate information is crucial for effective Public Affairs, showcasing our commitment as a VSO dedicated to helping all veterans. It also signals to other VSOs that we are still a force to be reckoned with.

The importance of disseminating information comes from personal experiences with the VVA website’s Contact page, which routinely fields questions and requests for interviews. On occasion, I’ve facilitated information requests about the Eagle and JROTC Medals by contacting the state council president of the requester’s state, who then directs me to the appropriate chapter. This process is vital, especially when SCPs are indisposed, ensuring that requests are fulfilled effectively. However, it’s disheartening when chapters are unaware of programs, despite their existence for years and their potential to enhance VVA’s efforts and legacy.

So, it’s imperative that outgoing officers provide comprehensive briefings to their successors about the VVA website and the plethora of resources it offers. This ensures that public engagements are informed and might even draw new members. Visibility is crucial now for our legacy. Let’s maintain our momentum. We are not gone yet.

Finance Committee


Achieving a balanced budget is a hallmark of fiscal responsibility, a goal that becomes particularly commendable when managing carryover revenue. For FY 2024, which ended on February 29, we accomplished an 88.42 percent expenditure of our budget alongside a consistent revenue flow. This achievement highlights the diligent efforts of the Finance Department and the cost center managers in meticulously reviewing monthly reports to ensure our organization’s financial health.

As we progress with our Strategic Plan for Dissolution, the Board and Finance Committee face critical decisions to align with the Convention-approved plan and its timeline. This process requires a comprehensive examination of historical practices and budgets, leveraging our leadership’s expertise to shepherd our mission forward as a lasting legacy.

Looking ahead to FY 2025, we are optimistic about financial oversight. The refinement of our processes is expected to yield a clearer picture of our financial standing, closely adhering to our budget. Our commitment extends to ensuring the sustainability of key programs, demanding collective awareness and effort toward our future goals.

The Finance Committee is dedicated to continuous internal training, keeping us abreast of best practices and ready for the FY 2026 Budget preparation in December. Our recent high-level budget training session, led by Treasurer Wayne Reynolds in April, is a testament to our team’s commitment. I am continually impressed by the Finance Committee’s collaborative spirit, rigorous budget scrutiny, and attention to detail in our monthly financial assessments.

Mission Statement: My highest priority and commitment is to ensure that the veterans who served for us will be served by us.

Thank you for your support. If you have any comments, questions, or concerns, feel free to contact me at drbarickman@hotmail.com; dottiebvva.org; or 712-314-1808 (cell/text).

Membership Affairs Committee


Can we increase the membership numbers to 92,000 in this fiscal year? Yes, we can.

Here are some statistics on Vietnam War veterans:

  • Some 6.6 million men and women living in America and abroad served on active duty in the military from November 1, 1955, to May 7, 1975, at duty stations around the world.
  • About 16 percent of the U.S. population is 65 and older.
  • Of that group, some 44 percent are male.
  • Based on the 2020 Census, one in every three males over 64 is a Vietnam War veteran—just over two percent of the entire population.

That’s a lot of prospective members waiting for you to invite them to join Vietnam Veterans of America as Life members. Here’s a hint: Look for ball caps.

The Membership Affairs Committee will be presenting Growth in Membership Awards at the Leadership & Education Conference in August at the Silver Legacy Resort in Reno. The competition is based on the number of members gained in a chapter from July 2023 to June 2024 among chapters with similar numbers of members. Chapters that have 1-99 members and those with 100 -199 members make up the categories. Keep recruiting.

The committee continues to be available to help you find ways to recruit members. We are a membership organization that helps veterans and their families to have a better life as we work with them to get legislation passed to assure benefits for their military service. Our members also provide their communities with charity work and volunteer time.

VVA began in 1978. Our end date is To Be Determined.

POW/MIA Committee


It’s crucial to remember the 1,577 Americans still missing and unaccounted for from the Vietnam War as of April 8. The breakdown of these figures is as follows: Vietnam - 1,237; Laos - 285; Cambodia - 48; and territorial waters of the People’s Republic of China - 7. These numbers are subject to change as ongoing investigations may alter the presumed locations of loss.

April 7 commemorates the 23rd anniversary of the tragic Mi-17 helicopter crash in Vietnam, which resulted in the loss of seven U.S. servicemen and nine Vietnamese government officials and crew members serving as an advance party for a Missing-in-Action joint field activity. This incident occurred in Quang Binh Province when the helicopter collided with a cloud-shrouded mountain. We remember and honor these men for their role in fostering a legacy of post-war cooperation between the United States and Vietnam, particularly concerning the POW/MIA issue.

VVA’s Veterans Initiative Program continues to seek your support. Artifacts from the Vietnam War—ranging from battlefield objects to personal items such as maps, stories, after-action reports, pictures, and military gear—hold more than sentimental value. They potentially contain clues that could lead to the final resting places of those who are still missing. Your contributions and information can make a significant difference in bringing closure to families awaiting answers.

Contact the Veterans Initiative at:
Veterans Initiative Program
Vietnam Veterans of America
8719 Colesville Rd., Suite 100
Silver Spring, MD 20910

Minority Affairs Committee


Greetings from the VVA Minority Affairs Committee. We celebrated National Vietnam War Veterans Day in Massachusetts with a significant event on March 26. As president of the state council, I collaborated with another local VSO to organize a bus trip to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial replica in Fall River. The memorial is an 80 percent replica of The Wall in Washington, D.C., the first and only within Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

More than 70 veterans and their spouses joined us for the ceremony. We were warmly welcomed by the Secretary of the Massachusetts Executive Office of Veterans Services Jan Santiago, as well as VVA Region 1 Director Justin Latini and members of Chapter 207 in Fall River. The event was especially meaningful for those who had not yet seen the memorial.

On another note, on April 13th we commemorated National Borinqueneers Day, honoring the all-Puerto Rican 65th Infantry Regiment. That Army unit was named after Borinquen, the name given to Puerto Rico by its pre-Columbian inhabitants. Activated in January 1950, the regiment arrived in South Korea equipped only with summer gear, facing winter temperatures well below zero at night. Their winter gear didn’t arrive till the spring.

This regiment, which also served in World Wars I and II, is among the most decorated units in the Korean War. Borinqueneers received nine Distinguished Service Crosses, 256 Silver Stars, 606 Bronze Stars, and 2,700 Purple Hearts, and Master Sgt. Juan E. Negron received the Medal of Honor. Additionally, the unit was awarded the Presidential and Meritorious Unit Commendations, two Korean Presidential Unit Citations, and the Greek Gold Medal for Bravery. The regiment received the Congressional Gold Medal in April 2016.

Gen. Douglas MacArthur, commander of the American-led forces in Korea, said of the Borinqueneers: “The Puerto Ricans forming the ranks of the gallant 65th Infantry on the battlefields of Korea by valor, determination, and a resolute will to victory give daily testament to their invincible loyalty to the United States and the fervor of their devotion to those immutable standards of human relations to which the Americans and Puerto Ricans are in common dedicated. They are writing a brilliant record of achievement in battle, and I am proud indeed to have them in this command. I wish that we might have many more like them.”

On April 13, 2021, Congress enacted legislation creating National Borinqueneers Recognition Day. This acknowledgment of Puerto Rico’s military history underscores the significant sacrifices made by the Puerto Rican people in service to the U.S.A.

If you have any minority issues, don’t hesitate to contact me at 413-883-4508 or email at Sgtgomez@aol.com

Veterans Benefits


Although the window of opportunity to file a Camp Lejeune Justice Act claim is soon closing, litigation is finally moving more quickly. Track 1 discovery depositions – which include actions involving individuals who allege they contracted bladder cancer, kidney cancer, leukemia, Parkinson’s disease, or non-Hodgkin’s lymphomas – have begun. The first trial concerning Track 1 issues could begin as early as May. To date, more than 175,000 administrative claims have been filed, and some 1,600 lawsuits have been filed in federal court. In a surprise February 6 ruling, the court sided with the Department of Justice and determined that victims may not have their cases heard by a jury. Instead, all trials will be heard by a federal judge.

Separately from this issue, attorneys for victims and their families are advocating for bundled trials in which cases involving individuals with the same disease would be heard in groups, as this would be a more efficient way for the court to hear all the cases.

The Camp Lejeune Justice Act does not list specific diseases that are covered. As long as plaintiffs can show they suffered harm as a result of their exposure to the water, anyone can sue if they resided, worked, or were otherwise exposed (including in utero) to water at Camp Lejeune for at least 30 days between 1953 and 1987. That said, some law firms are drawing the line on what claims they will file, and a federal government agency study has concluded that certain diseases are more closely associated with exposure to the toxic water at Camp Lejeune than others.

One of the most common questions veterans ask is whether filing a claim under the CLJA will put VA benefits at risk. The VA has plainly stated in its official guidance that “if you are awarded relief from a CLJA lawsuit, your VA benefits will not be reduced, and your eligibility for other VA benefits will not be affected.” So, veterans should not worry about their VA benefits being reduced or stopped. If a veteran is already receiving VA benefits or other compensation for injuries caused by the water at Camp Lejeune, the Act still gives them the right to sue.

With the August 10, 2024, deadline approaching, potential claimants only have a few months remaining to file an administrative claim. VVA members and their family members who suffered from toxic water exposure at Camp Lejeune are encouraged to file a claim before the deadline. Vietnam Veterans of America has selected Bergmann & Moore to help members in filing CLJA claims. Claimants who believe they were exposed to toxic water at Camp Lejeune may speak to someone by calling 877-838-2889 or by going to this page on Bergmann & Moore’s website: https://www.vetlawyers.com/the-camp-lejeune-justice-act-of-2022/" Members may also reach out to me, VVA’s liaison to Bergmann & Moore, by calling 727-742-3188.

Volunteer Service


Across the country, VVA members can make significant contributions at VA Medical Centers.

Red Coat Ambassadors, stationed at main entrances and desks across VA campuses, play a pivotal role. Often the first point of contact for veterans arriving for appointments, the ambassadors provide a friendly greeting and guidance through the often-hectic environment of a VAMC. Veterans and their family members are met with a smile and the help they need to navigate the system efficiently.

Another critical service is the Compassionate Contact Program, which supports veterans who are homebound, living alone, or simply in need of a conversation. Telephone calls, scheduled at times that suit the veterans’ needs, have proven to be invaluable, sometimes even lifesaving. They allow the opportunity for volunteers to identify and respond to any issues a veteran is facing.

Potential volunteers have raised concerns about the VA’s onboarding process. Some VVA members interested in the VA Voluntary Service programs have reported issues, mainly about the requirement to become a Regular Scheduled Volunteer. This role requires compliance with the same regulations that apply to federal employees, including background checks, having up-to-date vaccinations, and signing confidentiality and compliance documents. These requirements have sometimes been mishandled, leading to confusion and concern among volunteers.

We have addressed these concerns with VAVS chiefs nationwide and they have acknowledged the need for clearer communication. It’s crucial for all volunteers to understand that adherence to HIPAA laws and other regulations is essential in maintaining the confidentiality and safety of patient information.

For members eager to volunteer but hindered by distance or health limitations, we encourage looking into other local community services. There are many ways to make a contribution outside of a VAMC.

Lastly, if you encounter any issues with VA staff or management, please report them promptly. The volunteer offices are incredibly supportive, and by participating in VAVS committees or the Veteran Advisory Committee, you can help foster positive changes and ensure that veterans receive the care and respect they deserve.

Questions or problems? Contact me at 215-527-3494, or e-mail: krose@vva.org

PTSD/SA Committee Report


As a family of veterans and war survivors, we are constantly preparing for the wonderful world of aging. Age does not make us immune to the impact of PTSD, substance abuse, or suicide, and we and our families continue to need to be vigilant and to fight back.

Managing the symptoms of PTSD and continued recovery from substance abuse or suicidal thoughts is especially important as we and our families age. The committee continues to support initiatives that show promise in these areas. We have been on the front line of advocating for aggressive suicide prevention, outreach, and delivery of services by the VA.

We applaud innovative VA initiatives like Together With Veterans, a community-based program designed to lower the suicide rates among rural veterans. There is still much room for improvement, especially when it comes to developing innovative programs to understand the impact of age on the invisible wounds of war.

Focusing on innovation also has the capacity to expand programs that develop family understanding and support to manage PTSD as we grow older. Helping the family help homebound veterans by developing and supporting behavioral-health-based Geriatric Patient Aligned Care Teams would go a long way in preventing suicide, substance abuse, and other behavioral health challenges that develop as we age.

Research has found that older veterans living with PTSD receive fewer mental health services, wait longer before their first appointment, have low rates of obtaining adequate treatment, receive fewer therapy sessions, and are less likely to receive adequate dosage, antidepressants, and combination treatments. This research demonstrates the need for all veterans to keep fighting for high-quality treatment for all veterans and their families. The National Center for PTSD lists some of the ways aging can affect veterans:

  • Self-reflection: Unwanted memories may return.
  • Retirement: Extra free time may leave time for unpleasant memories.
  • Loss: The death of a spouse, partner, or friend can make you feel alone and unsupported.
  • Physical abilities: Loss of fitness or strength can make you feel vulnerable.
  • Environment changes: Moving to a new home can make you feel unsafe.
  • Increased screen time: Some social and news media can trigger trauma or flashbacks.
  • Medical problems: Hospitalization or chronic illness can make you feel weaker and more fearful.
  • Family connection is crucial in preventing future suicide attempts and related relapses. Nothing happens in a vacuum, and without family involvement, the veteran may return from treatment or counseling to a family feeling scared, guilty, or angry.

    In my own experience, some years ago when my spouse of 41 years heard me incredulously report how I had been diagnosed with active PTSD, she and our son responded with a resounding, “Duh.” They knew.

    But families often don’t know how to support a veteran with PTSD. Mine was no exception, yet I was never encouraged to have my spouse or son attend any counseling session or meeting, nor was I offered services for them.

    The support of your family has a direct impact on psychological well-being and physical health and must be integrated into the aging process. But families do not always know how to support the veteran and need guidance and understanding as they navigate their lives together. Without such help, the family invariably can end up walking on eggshells, which has a negative impact on the entire family and the veteran’s recovery. Families may also be unprepared for changes in symptoms they have helped the veteran manage. Families are aging, too, and may be confused and even anxious about the changes. Involvement takes more than a single class or session.

    We believe the VA is supportive of veterans and their families. But we must work with the VA to institute the kind of services that will help aging brother and sister veterans to come all the way home—and to stay as close as possible as we age.




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