In This Issue:
1. Third-Party Collection Proposal Withdrawn
2. VFW Commander-in-Chief Testifies
3. Akaka Receives VFW Congressional Award
4. House VA Committee Hearings
5. VFW Chief Meets with Secretary of State
6. Colorado to Get New VA Hospital
7. DOD to End Stop Loss
1. Third-Party Collection Proposal Withdrawn: The Obama Administration announced Wednesday that it had withdrawn consideration of a proposal to bill veterans with private insurance for their service-connected disability treatments. In a Monday White House meeting, VFW National Commander Glen Gardner said the president told a group of 11 military and veterans' organizations that he would listen if they objected to the proposal. "The president kept to his word and made the right decision," said Gardner. "Now we can move forward and work with his administration and Congress to ensure that the rest of the Department of Veterans Affairs budget recommendation is signed into law." The VFW thanks everyone for the e-mails and phone calls you made to the White House and your congressional offices on this critical issue. Your advocacy helped to defeat this proposal and reaffirms that when we all work together we can make a difference and help wounded and service-connected disabled veterans from every generation.
Read the VFW press release at: www.vfw.org
2. VFW Commander-in-Chief Testifies: VFW National Commander Glen Gardner testified before a joint hearing of the Senate and House VA committees on Tuesday. He made the VFW's opposition to the administration's proposal to charge veterans with private insurance clearly known, and he spoke strongly about the claims process and the loss of trust veterans are having in the Veterans Benefits Administration. He called on VBA to strengthen its leadership and accountability at every level, and to find innovative solutions that actually work, not just look to quick fixes for the latest problem or controversy. Other issues addressed were the need for advanced funding for VA, increased traumatic brain injury research and treatment, suicide awareness and prevention, women veterans' healthcare needs, seamless transition, and timely implementation of the new GI Bill benefit.
His congressional testimony is linked to the VFW press release at: http://www.vfw.org/index.cfm?fa=news.newsDtl&did=4963
3. Akaka Receives VFW Congressional Award: The VFW presented its 2009 Congressional Award to Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii) for his outstanding service to national defense, homeland security, and to veterans, servicemembers and their families. A World War II veteran of the Army Corps of Engineers, Akaka has been a staunch supporter of veterans, servicemembers and their families throughout his seven terms in the U.S. House of Representatives and now four terms in the U.S. Senate, where he chairs the Veterans Affairs Committee, and is a senior member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, and the Armed Services Subcommittee on Readiness and Management. "Our military, our veterans, and our families of past and present have no better friend in Congress than Senator Akaka," said VFW National Commander Glen Gardner, who presented the award in the senator's office Wednesday.
Read the VFW press release at: http://www.vfw.org/index.cfm?fa=news.newsDtl&did=4965
4. House VA Committee Hearings:
Tuesday -- The Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations held a hearing on the progress VA and DOD has made regarding the Vision Center of Excellence. Mandated by the Defense Authorization Act of 2008 (PL 110-181), the center was given funding in FY 2009, but delays and difficulties have been reported. Members of the subcommittee questioned both agencies about their commitment, and reiterated the need for this very important project as the number of TBI patients who are reporting vision problems has increased with the current conflicts.
Thursday -- The Subcommittee on Health heard testimony regarding VA's rural health funding, spending and resource coordination. Subcommittee Chairman Michael Michaud (D-ME) asked witnesses to speak specifically about how VA's resources are being used, and if all efficiencies are being taken to narrow the health disparities of veterans living in rural areas. VFW believes that Congress must provide continued oversight, and VA must be given sufficient resources to meet the needs of those veterans living in remote and rural areas.
For more on the hearings, visit the House VA Committee website at: http://veterans.house.gov/
Thursday -- The Economic Opportunity and Health Subcommittees marked up several VFW-supported bills, that include:
* HR 1377: To expand veteran eligibility for VA reimbursement for emergency treatment furnished by non-VA facilities.
* HR 1171: To reauthorize the Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program for FY 2010 through 2014.
* HR 1088: To require all Disabled Veterans' Outreach Program specialists (DVOPs), and Local Veterans' Employment Representatives (LVERs) to attend the National Veterans' Employment and Training Services Institute within one year of being employed; and
* HR 466: The Wounded Veteran Job Security Act, which would extend the prohibition against discrimination and acts of reprisal against armed service members, to include persons who receive treatment for illnesses, injuries and disabilities incurred in or aggravated by their military service.
All of the bills now move to the full committee for consideration.
For more on information on any of the bills, visit the Thomas website and type the bill number
5. VFW Chief Meets with Secretary of State: VFW Commander-in-Chief Glen Gardner met this week with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to discuss several issues, and to thank the secretary for the State Department's support for the VFW when national officers travel to foreign nations. Gardner also met with the Director of the Army Staff, Lt. Gen. David Huntoon, where he raised the VFW's concern over the reported increase in disciplinary action being taken against soldiers assigned to Wounded Warrior Units. Accompanying the Chief to these meetings were VFW Washington Office Executive Director Bob Wallace and National Security & Foreign Affairs Director Mike Wysong.
6. Colorado to Get New VA Hospital: VA Secretary Eric Shinseki announced Wednesday that a new VA hospital will be built on the grounds of the former Fitzsimons Army hospital in Aurora. It is being built as a replacement hospital to the one in Denver. The estimated opening date is 2013. The new medical center will provide Denver-area veterans with a full range of medical, laboratory, research and counseling services, as well as services for veterans with spinal cord injuries and other disabilities.
Read the VA press release at: http://www1.va.gov/opa/pressrel/pressrelease.cfm?id=1659
7. DOD to End Stop Loss: The Department of Defense announced this week a comprehensive plan to eliminate the current use of Stop Loss. Stop Loss is a policy that retains some service members in uniform beyond their contractual commitment because of military necessity. The Army Reserve and Army National Guard will mobilize units without employing Stop Loss beginning in August and September 2009, respectively. The Regular (active duty) Army will deploy its first unit without Stop Loss by January 2010. For those service members affected by Stop Loss during fiscal 2009, DOD will provide a special monthly payment of $500 that will take effect for those impacted on or after Oct. 1, 2008.
Read the DOD press release at: http://www.defenselink.mil/releases/release.aspx?releaseid=12564