In This Issue:
1. New GI Bill Needs Our Help
2. House VA Committee Hearings
3. Women Veterans' Bill
4. VA Home Loan Fix
5. VA Names Acting Benefits Chief
6. Soldier Missing in Iraq Identified
1. New GI Bill Needs Our Help: Now is the time to push for a GI Bill for the 21st Century, one that will cover all education costs, to include tuition, fees, books and a subsistence stipend. Two bills introduced last year would provide these benefits: S. 22 and HR 2702, "The Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2007." Yet only half the Senate and a quarter of the House have signed on as co-sponsors. Please call or visit your Congressional offices at home or on Capitol Hill and urge your legislators to sponsor this VFW priority goal. Both bills would:
• Increase education benefits for members of the military serving on active duty since September 11, 2001. Qualifying veterans must have served at least two years on active duty. Members of the Reserve and National Guard need a total of two years of active duty service.
• Provide a powerful transition assistance program by allowing veterans to readjust to civilian life and improve their ability to care for themselves and their families. The subsistence stipend will also help ease a tough decision new veterans with families have to make: school or food and rent.
• Create additional tax revenue generated by better-educated veterans, which will likely pay for the program, as it did with the WWII GI Bill.
• Increase military recruitment efforts, broadening the socio-economic makeup of the military, and strengthening our national security.
A new GI Bill for the 21st century is the right thing to do for those who are now serving in harm's way. To view our Alert and contact your elected officials, go to: http://capwiz.com/vfw/issues/alert/?alertid=11232976
To read a joint opinion editorial by VFW National Commander George Lisicki, and Paul Rieckhoff, the founder and executive director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, go to: http://www.vfw.org/index.cfm?fa=news.newsDtl&did=4526
2. House VA Committee Hearings:
On Tuesday, the Subcommittee on Health held a hearing on PTSD treatment and research options. PTSD has been diagnosed in more than 60,000 veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan, yet a recent Institute of Medicine report showed that there are not enough studies on PTSD identification and treatment options. VFW submitted written testimony that called for more research into PTSD causes, identification and treatment. VA must ensure that current and previous generations of veterans have full access to a wide range of treatments. VFW also testified for improved services and outreach to women veterans and their families, who are a critical support base for recovery.
On Wednesday, the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations heard testimony from veterans and VA about Traumatic Brain Injury and vision issues facing wounded service members. TBI is considered one of the signature injuries of the current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Witnesses said research being conducted by physicians; psychologists and blind rehabilitation specialists at VA have found that TBI causes vision issues in many veterans with 20/20 vision who show no signs of injury to the eye. Companies working with VA to provide innovative treatment for TBI-related vision deficits, and physicians from DOD and VA were also on hand to talk about what they are doing to identify and help patients suffering with this type of injury.
For more on the hearings or to view the live webcast, visit the House VA website at: http://veterans.house.gov/
3. Women Veterans' Bill: Legislation to improve care, services and outreach to women veterans was introduced at a press conference Wednesday held by Sens. Patty Murray (D-WA), Kay Bailey Hutchinson (R-TX), Blanche Lincoln (D-AR), and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK). VFW strongly supports the bill, as it will address the unique needs of female veterans by authorizing programs to improve care for Military Sexual Trauma, expand women veteran coordinator positions at VA, and increase research on barriers to care. Women currently make up 14% of the total force, and it is estimated that the number of female veterans entering the VA system will double in the next five years.
4. VA Home Loan Fix: The Economic Stimulus Package signed by the President last month also increased loan limits for federal home loan programs, including Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and FHA. VA Home Loans, however, were not included. Congress has introduced legislation to fix the problem. H.R. 5561 and S. 2768 would extend the home loan guarantee to 125% of metropolitan medium home prices (about $730,000 in the highest cost areas) through December 31, 2011. The fix would enable veterans to utilize their VA benefit to purchase homes of higher value while the housing market remains unpredictable. For more information on the legislation, type the bill number in the search box at: http://thomas.loc.gov/
5. VA Names Acting Benefits Chief: The VA announced this week that Patrick W. Dunne, a retired Navy rear admiral and a senior official within VA, would be named acting Under Secretary of Benefits. He replaces retired Vice Adm. Daniel L. Cooper, who resigned effective April 1. Admiral Dunne will be responsible for a $52 billion budget that provides compensation and pensions to nearly 4 million veterans and survivors, along with administering the Montgomery GI Bill educational program, VA home loan guaranties, among other programs.
6. Soldier Missing in Iraq Identified: The Department of Defense announced the change in status of a soldier supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom from missing-captured to deceased. The armed forces medical examiner confirmed March 29 that human remains recovered in Iraq were those of Staff Sgt. Keith M. Maupin, 24, of Batavia, OH. Maupin had been listed as missing-captured since April 16, 2004. His convoy came under attack by rocket-propelled grenades and small arms fire on April 9, 2004. He was assigned to the 724th Transportation Company, Bartonville, IL. Maupin's loss incident remains under investigation, as well as those associated with the three other American soldiers currently listed as missing-captured.