VFW Action Corps Weekly, September 16, 2016

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In This Issue:

  1. VFW Launches Mental Wellness Campaign
  2. VFW Legislative Conference Concludes
  3. VFW Supports GWOT Memorial Legislation
  4. Senate Reviews Commission on Care Report
  5. VA’s Misuse of Employee Settlement Agreements
  6. House Advances Veterans Legislation
  7. VFW Hosts Former Marine Corps Commandant/National Security Advisor
  8. National POW/MIA Recognition Day
  9. MIA Updates
  1. VFW Launches Mental Wellness Campaign: On Tuesday, the VFW, VFW Auxiliary and three partnering organizations launched the new VFW Mental Wellness Campaign at a press event inside the National Press Club in Washington. Joined by leadership from Give an Hour, One Mind and PatientsLikeMe, VFW National Commander Brian Duffy said the overall campaign goal is to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health –– for veterans and non-veterans alike –– and to raise awareness, foster community engagement, improve research and provide intervention for those affected by invisible injuries and emotional stress. Also addressed was the partnership with Give an Hour for “A Day to Change Direction” on Oct. 8 – a day in which VFW Posts can host training sessions or perform community service. A key component of the campaign is to make communities aware of the five signs of emotional suffering: personality change, agitation, withdrawal, poor self-care and hopelessness. Learn more at: https://www.vfw.org/News-and-Events/Articles/2016-Articles/VFW-Introduces-Partners-in-Fight-Against-Mental-Health-Stigma/.
  2. VFW Legislative Conference Concludes: More than 70 members of the VFW’s National Legislative Committee met with their members of Congress this week to urge them to eliminate sequestration and to pass a new budget for the Department of Veterans Affairs, so that a nation that creates veterans can properly take care of them when they return home. Congress, however, would rather complain about the problems instead of fund the necessary reforms to bring permanent change to the VA, said VFW National Commander Brian Duffy. “I cannot tell you how disappointed I am in the 114th Congress,” he said. “Both the VA and the VFW have pointblank told Congress what the department needs to better serve veterans, yet it appears every funding bill is going to be tabled until after the November elections, which means another continuing resolution to temporarily fund the government that does little to strengthen national security or bolster the VA’s programs and services for veterans.” The VFW wants Congress to fix the issues that surfaced after the Veterans Choice Program was implemented two years ago, to expand family caregiver benefits to veterans of all eras, pass meaningful accountability and workforce reform legislation, consolidate and improve the VA’s community care programs, reduce the appeals backlog, and pass the Toxic Exposure Research Act of 2016. “None of this can happen if Congress is in recess,” said Duffy, who said Congress must also remove the forced sequester provision of the Budget Control Act to ensure that the Department of Defense, the VA, and other agencies have the resources needed to defend our nation and to care for those who do the defending. “Federal election year or not, the near 1.7 million members of the VFW and the VFW Auxiliary fully expect those who are elected to represent us do their jobs,” he said.
  3. VFW Supports GWOT Memorial Legislation: Earlier this week, Montana Congressman and former Navy Seal, Ryan Zinke, introduced legislation to authorize the building of a Global War on Terrorism Memorial in Washington, D.C. The VFW passed Resolution 302 in July of this year at our annual convention in Charlotte, N.C. Congressman Zinke and the VFW agree that due to the nature of the War on Terrorism, waiting for 10 years after the conclusion of the war is too long to wait to honor those who gave their lives to defend our freedoms and way of life.
  4. Senate Reviews Commission on Care Report: On Wednesday, the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs held a hearing to discuss the Commission on Care’s recommendations for improving how VA provides health care to veterans. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert A. McDonald discussed how the Commission on Care’s recommendations are closely aligned with a proposal VA has sent Congress and that VA is ready to enact reforms, but congressional inaction is preventing it from moving forward. VFW Deputy Legislative Director Carlos Fuentes testified in support of most of the commission’s recommendations and suggested alternatives to ones the VFW opposes. To view a webcast, visit: http://www.veterans.senate.gov/hearings/commission-on-care-report09142016.
  5. VA’s Misuse of Employee Settlement Agreements: On Wednesday, the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs held a hearing to discuss VA’s use of employment settlement agreements.  Committee members discussed their concerns with VA’s recurring practice of settlement agreements, 72 percent of which include monetary compensation, to resolve disciplinary actions against wrongdoers. VA testified that it weighs the strength of the evidence against an employee, financial implications, plus disruption and divisiveness that litigation will likely create for VA’s workforce when determining whether to settle a case. The Office of Special Counsel testified that settlements help it manage its workload and reach favorable outcomes for whistleblowers who have experienced retaliation. To view the webcast, visit: www.youtube.com/watch?v=1woZ47CTCTM.
  6. House Advances Veterans Legislation: The House passed three veterans bills this week, which include the Veterans Care Agreement and West Los Angeles Leasing Act of 2016, to authorize VA to enter into needed leases in West Los Angeles and improve leasing practices for VA; the Veterans Mobility Safety Act of 2016 to improve the standards and quality of vehicles modified with VA adaptive equipment grants; and H.R. 5937 to authorize the American Battle Monuments Commission  to acquire, operate and maintain the Lafayette Escadrille Memorial in Marnes-la-Coquette, France. These bills now head to the Senate, which has been unable to act on the Veterans First Act that would also authorize VA to move forward with leases in West Los Angeles. Please stay tuned to the Action Corps Weekly for updates on these important bills.

  7. VFW Hosts Former Marine Corps Commandant/National Security Advisor: On Thursday, the VFW hosted a group of VSOs and the former Commandant of the Marine Corps and National Security Advisor, General James L. Jones (USMC, ret.), to discuss the role trade has on our national security. The idea is, if the United States does not develop and maintain strong international trade agreements, countries like Russia and China will fill the void, negatively impacting both our nations’ economy and security. His hope is Congress can find agreement on and pass the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) before the end of the year.
  8. National POW/MIA Recognition Day: Today, the VFW nationwide commemorates National POW/MIA Recognition Day in honor and recognition of the service and sacrifice of almost 140,000 former American prisoners of war and the 83,000 Americans who continue to be listed as missing and unaccounted for from World War II forward. To read the official presidential proclamation for today, click here: https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2016/09/15/proclamation-national-powmia-recognition-day-2016. To view the ceremony at the Pentagon, click here: https://www.dvidshub.net/video/483375/pow-mia-national-recognition-day-ceremony.
  9. MIA Updates: The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency has announced burial updates and the identification and remains belonging to one Marine and six soldiers who had been missing in action since World War II and Korea. Returning home for burial with full military honors are:

— Marine Pvt. Emmett L. Kines, 24, will be buried Sept. 19 in his hometown of Grafton, W. Va. In November 1943, Kines was assigned to Company F, 2nd Battalion, 8th Marines, 2nd Marine Division, which landed against stiff Japanese resistance on the small island of Betio in the Tarawa Atoll of the Gilbert Islands. After several days of intense fighting at Tarawa, approximately 1,000 Marines and sailors were killed and more than 2,000 were wounded, but the Japanese were virtually annihilated. Kines died sometime during the first day of the battle, Nov. 20, 1943. Read more at: http://www.dpaa.mil/News-Stories/News-Releases/Article/939067/marine-missing-from-world-war-ii-accounted-for-kines/.

— Army Cpl. Wayne Minard, of Sedgwick, Kan., was a member of Company C, 1st Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division, fighting a delaying action south to Kunu-ri, North Korea. He would be reported missing in action on Nov. 26, 1950. Interment services are pending. Read more at: http://www.dpaa.mil/News-Stories/Recent-News-Stories/Article/942631/soldier-missing-from-korean-war-accounted-for-minard/.

— Army Cpl. David T. Nordin Jr., of Los Angeles, was a member of Company K, 3rd Battalion, 35th Infantry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division, moving northward toward Unsan, North Korea, when forced to withdraw. Nordin was reported missing in action on Nov. 28, 1950. It would be later learned he had been captured but died in a North Korean POW camp. Interment services are pending. Read more at: http://www.dpaa.mil/News-Stories/Recent-News-Stories/Article/940647/soldier-missing-from-korean-war-accounted-for-nordin/.

— Army Sgt. 1st Class Louis M. Baxter was a member of Headquarters Battery, 57th Field Artillery Battalion, 31st Regimental Combat Team, 7th Infantry Division, on the east side of the Chosin Reservoir in North Korea, when his unit was forced into a fighting withdrawal southward. He would be declare missing in action on Dec. 6, 1950. Interment services are pending. Read more at: http://www.dpaa.mil/News-Stories/Recent-News-Stories/Article/942626/soldier-missing-from-korean-war-accounted-for-baxter/.

— Army Cpl. Joseph Trepasso, 20, of Fulton, N.Y., was a member of Company L, 3rd Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment, 7th Infantry Division, on the east side of the Chosin Reservoir in North Korea, when his unit was forced into a fighting withdrawal southward. He would be declared missing in action on Dec. 12, 1950. Interment services are pending. Read more at: http://www.dpaa.mil/News-Stories/Recent-News-Stories/Article/942633/soldier-missing-from-korean-war-accounted-for-trepasso/.

— Army Pfc. Kenneth Miller was a member of Company K, 3rd Battalion 19th Infantry Regiment, 24th Infantry Division, when his unit was forced to withdraw from their position on April 23, 1951. Interment services are pending. Read more at: http://www.dpaa.mil/News-Stories/Recent-News-Stories/Article/942623/soldier-missing-from-korean-war-accounted-for-miller/.

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