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Posted at 05:08 PM on Friday, September 14, 2007 by dist8
In This Issue
1. VFW Legislative Committee Storms Capitol Hill
2. New GI Bill on the Move
3. Senate VA Chairman Explains "By Request" Bill
4. SVAC Names New Ranking Member
5. Iraq Progress Report
6. Military Recruiting
7. VA IG Says Waits Are Too Long
1. VFW Legislative Committee Storms Capitol Hill: The new VFW National Legislative Committee stormed Capitol Hill this week to push two key VFW-supported issues – an on-time VA Budget and a GI Bill for the 21st Century. The word on the hill is that the VA Funding Bill may have other priorities attached to it, which would hinder its chance of passage before the federal government begins its new fiscal year on Oct. 1. Contact your legislators today and urge them to a pass an on-time funding bill for VA. Tell them that VA has not had an on-time budget for eight years, and our veterans, especially those returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, are counting on them. To contact your legislators, visit our alert call center at: http://capwiz.com/vfw/callalert
2. New GI Bill on the Move: Our legislative committee was instrumental in increasing support on Capitol Hill for S. 22 and H.R. 2702, Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2007. We have long advocated for this change to the GI Bill, which would make it much like that of the original World War II GI Bill. Our efforts are gaining momentum, but we need your help. Please contact your elected officials and let them know that you and the VFW support our troops’ education. This bill would increase military recruitment, ease the transition of departing troops, and better finance their education. Call your senators and representatives today!
3. Senate VA Chairman Explains "By Request" Bill: Senate Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Daniel Akaka (D-HI) recently introduced a bill (S. 2026) by request of the Administration. It has been the long-standing tradition of the Senate VA Committee to introduce legislation at the request of VA as a professional courtesy. It does not indicate the committee or the senator supports the legislation, nor does it mean the bill will receive favorable treatment once it is heard in committee. S. 2026 would take away the presumption of service connection for Agent Orange-related disabilities for veterans who served only in offshore waters. The VFW strongly opposes this legislation and has let the Senate VA Committee know our position. We will continue to monitor it, and stand ready to defeat it.
4. SVAC Names New Ranking Member: Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) has been selected as the temporary Ranking Member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. He replaces Sen. Larry Craig (R-ID), who is expected to resign at the end of September. Senator Burr was elected in 2004, and has placed special focus on homeless veterans, traumatic brain injuries, VA/DOD electronic medical records sharing, and the efficiency of the VA health system, especially for veterans in rural areas. The VFW looks forward to working with him and the other members of the committee on behalf of America’s veterans and active duty, Guard and Reserve members.
5. Iraq Progress Report: Based on the Iraq Progress Report recommendations made earlier this week by his senior ground commander and ambassador in Iraq, President Bush announced last night to withdraw a 2,200-man Marine Expeditionary Unit by the end of this month and a 3,500-man Army brigade by the end of the year. He said as progress continues, he would further reduce U.S. forces in Iraq back to pre-surge levels, which could mean the return of up to 30,000 troops by next summer.
6. Military Recruiting: All four active-duty service components met or exceeded their August recruiting goals. The Army led with 106% of goal for 10,126 accessions; Marine Corps followed at 105% with 4,700 accessions, and the Navy and Air Force each met goal with 4,194 and 3,128 accessions, respectively. All Reserve components met or exceeded their August recruiting goals, as well, with the Marine Corps Reserve leading with 118% of goal, followed by the Navy Reserve at 113%, Army Reserve at 107%, and Air Force Reserve at 100%. Both Guard components failed to meet their August goal, with the Army National Guard struggling at 87% and the Air National Guard at 96%.
7. VA IG Says Waits Are Too Long: Many veterans still face unacceptably long waits between the time they schedule an outpatient appointment and the actual appointment date, concluded an audit released Sept. 10 by the VA's Inspector General. The IG found that wait periods were longer than that reported by the agency and that data was incomplete. The audit, a follow-up to a 2005 audit, examined 700 veterans' appointments scheduled at 10 medical facilities. Although VA reported that 96 percent had wait times of 30 days or less, the IG audit found that 25 percent had wait times exceeding a month, and VA has failed to implement five of eight recommendations from the earlier audit. Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-HI), chairman of the Senate VA Committee, called the situation "simply not acceptable." He said, "I am concerned that VA's underreporting of waiting times and backlog volumes makes it harder to identify problem facilities and allocate resources effectively." He wants VA to use "reliable data."