In This Issue:
1. Mattis Picked as New Defense Secretary
2. Pentagon VSO/MSO Roundtable
3. Jason Simcakoski Memorial and Promise Act Roundtable
4. Defense Bill Update
5. Congress Advances Veterans Bills
6. House Passes Gold Medal Bill for Filipino WWII Veterans
7. CVS Out, Walgreens In
8. Remembering Pearl Harbor
9. MIA Update
1. Mattis Picked as New Defense Secretary: In a speech in Ohio last night, President-elect Donald Trump said he will nominate retired Marine Corps Gen. James N. Mattis to lead the Department of Defense. The general, who received the VFW’s top Dwight D. Eisenhower Award in 2015, served more than four decades before retiring in 2013 as the commander of U.S. Central Command. Of his selection, VFW National Commander Brian Duffy said “Our nation has been at war for more than 15 years with no end in sight. It makes perfect sense to put a warfighter in charge of the war fighting. The Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States looks forward to working with General Mattis.”
2. Pentagon VSO/MSO Roundtable: The VFW participated in a veteran and military service organization roundtable on Wednesday with Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, who was joined by Deputy Secretary Robert O. Work, Under Secretary of Defense Comptroller Mike McCord, Acting Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness Peter Levine, as well as senior officials from the Operations and Force Structure directorates. Discussions focused on the potential impact of the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act on force readiness and modernization, the need for budget stabilization, and ensuring a smooth transition into the new administration.
3. Jason Simcakoski Memorial and Promise Act Roundtable: On Wednesday, VFW Deputy Director Carlos Fuentes joined the family of Jason Simcakoski, Senator Tammy Baldwin, Congressman Gus Bilirakis, VA and other stakeholders to discuss VA’s progress in reducing the overmedication of veterans who suffer from chronic pain, which cost Marine combat veteran Jason Simcakoski his life. Fuentes urged VA not to overcorrect by abruptly taking veterans off medications they need and have received for years. He suggested that VA work with veterans to create personalized pain management plans to wean veterans off high dose medications and toward equally or more effective pain management treatment options. To view a video of the roundtable discussion, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F30-fu9RvLk.
4. Defense Bill Update: House and Senate conferees negotiated a $618.7 billion defense policy bill this week that would increase military pay raises from the administration’s proposed 1.6 percent to 2.1 percent, which would equal the anticipated rise in the Employment Cost Index (ECI), and mark the first time in four years that military pay kept pace with the ECI. Other significant provisions would halt planned reductions in active duty Army and Marine Corps forces, keeping end strengths instead at 476,000 and 185,000, respectively; flag officer ranks would be cut by about 12 percent, the majority of them in joint billets; and stripped from the bill are plans to require women, age 18 to 26, to register for the draft. A review of the Selective Service System’s continued viability will instead be initiated. The 2017 National Defense Authorization Act is expected to go to floor votes in the House today and in the Senate early next week.
5. Congress Advances Veterans Bills: This week, the Senate passed several veterans bills to honor veterans who were injured or became ill while in service and fund construction projects for VA facilities in Nevada and California. These bills will now go to the House for further consideration. The House also advanced several bills to require the Department of Labor to better recognize efforts made by employers to recruit and retain veterans. The house also passed bills to require VA to provide headstones, markers, or medallions for Medal of Honor recipients who are buried in private cemeteries and send a Presidential Memorial Certificate to the families of deceased veterans; authorize congressional staffers greater access to the records of veterans who ask for help from their member of Congress; and a bill to rename the VA Medical Center in Long Beach, California after Medal of Honor recipient Tibor Rubin. These bills await Senate consideration. Another bill passed by the House to improve VA’s Automobile Adaptive Equipment Program now heads to the president’s desk for his signature. Stay tuned to the Action Corps Weekly for updates on these and other important veterans bills being considered by Congress.
6. House Passes Gold Medal Bill for Filipino WWII Veterans: This week, the House approved a bill that would honor Filipino and Filipino-American veterans of World War II. The VFW adopted Resolution 305 at the 116th National Convention in 2015 supporting the Filipino veterans who served and fought to help defeat the Japanese and liberate the Philippines. Of the estimated 300,000 Filipino veterans of World War II, more than 57,000 would be killed in action during the four year battle to defend, then free, their homeland which was then sovereign U.S. territory. Filipino veterans were also present at the Bataan Death March which resulted in the loss of between 6,000 to 10,000 Filipino’s alongside 700 members of the United States Armed Forces during the 70 mile march. The bill previously passed the Senate in July and now heads to the president’s desk for his signature.
7. CVS Out, Walgreens In: As of yesterday, CVS and CVS pharmacies in Target stores are no longer part of the TRICARE pharmacy network; but Walgreens now is, so beneficiaries need to transfer all prescription fills or refills from CVS pharmacy to another TRICARE pharmacy to avoid paying the full retail prices. Read more here: https://www.express-scripts.com/TRICARE/news/walgreens.shtml.
8. Remembering Pearl Harbor: VFW National Commander Brian Duffy and Auxiliary National President Colette Bishop will be among thousands of patriots in Hawaii on Wednesday to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the attack. Visitors to Washington can join in the commemoration in a “Reading of the Names Candlelight Vigil” at the National World War II Memorial beginning at 5 p.m. EST, Tuesday, followed by a 75th Anniversary Commemoration at 12:53 p.m., Wednesday. For more information, click here: http://www.wwiimemorialfriends.org/.
9. MIA Update: The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency announced the identification of remains of three Americans who had been missing in action from World War II and Korea. Returning home for burial with full military honors are:
— Navy Fireman 1st Class Jim H. Johnston, 23, will be buried in his hometown of Wesson, Miss., on Dec. 7. Johnston was assigned to the USS Oklahoma, which was moored off Ford Island, Pearl Harbor, when Japanese aircraft attacked his ship on Dec. 7, 1941. Johnston was one of 429 crewmen to be killed in the attack. Read more at: http://www.dpaa.mil/News-Stories/Recent-News-Stories/Article/1010134/airman-missing-from-world-war-ii-identified-moessner/.
— Army Master Sgt. Joseph Durakovich was a member of Company G, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division. His unit was attacked by the Chinese forces while establishing a defensive position in Pongmyong-ni east of Kuni-ri, North Korea, on Nov. 28, 1950. After the battle, Durakovich could not be accounted for and was reported missing in action. Interment services are pending. Read more at: http://www.dpaa.mil/News-Stories/Recent-News-Stories/Article/1011976/soldier-missing-from-korean-war-identified-durakovich/.
— Army Cpl. Louis A. Damewood was a member of Headquarters Company, 3rd Battalion, 38th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division, operating near Hoengsong, South Korea. He was declared missing after his unit attacked an opposition road block on Feb. 13, 1951. Interment services are pending. Read more at: http://www.dpaa.mil/News-Stories/Recent-News-Stories/Article/1011982/soldier-missing-from-korean-war-identified-damewood/.