1. Senate Confirms Shulkin: By a vote of 100-0, the Senate Monday evening confirmed Dr. David Shulkin as the new Secretary of Veterans Affairs. “Veterans are very fortunate to have Dr. Shulkin voluntarily stay in what has evolved into the most scrutinized and criticized position in the country — and it should be,” said VFW National Commander Brian Duffy. “What he brings to the job is a love for veterans, for doing what’s right, and for knowing what needs to be done to fix what’s broken, to hold employees accountable, and to restore the faith of veterans in their VA. The VFW looks forward to working with him and his staff.”
2. Hearing on VA Disability Claims Process: On Tuesday, the House Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs held a hearing to discuss how new processes and IT systems, specifically the National Query System, are impacting VA’s ability to process timely decisions for disability claims. VA reported the system is helping to alleviate backlog issues, but it is still a work in progress. VFW National Veterans Service Deputy Director Ryan Gallucci informed the committee about several issues with the new claims system, including one which severely limits the ability of VFW Service Officers to serve their clients. The VFW recommended some logistical fixes, many of which the committee members agreed with and will look to implement changes as soon as possible. View the hearing webcast.
3. Army VSO/MSO Roundtable: The VFW participated in a veteran and military service organization roundtable last Friday with Chief of Staff of the Army General Mark A. Milley, who was joined by senior officials from the Budget, Operations, and Legislative Liaison Directorates. Discussions focused on the impacts of budget instability, force disposition, and the Army’s FY18 congressional objectives.
4. DOD Military Family Readiness Council: The VFW participated in the latest meeting of the Military Family Readiness Council, which was established to assess and make recommendations to the secretary of defense on the policy, plans, and programs impacting military family readiness. This meeting focused on: aspects of the Exceptional Family Member Program, including for transitioning service members and their families; Top Ten Initiatives of the Defense Liaison Office; and Pediatric Focused Activities of the Military Health System. The next meeting, which is open to the public, will be held April 27. Topics to be discussed are Community Partnerships, Education Benefits Transfer, and Military OneSource. Read more about the MFRC.
5. GI Bill Panel at NASAA Conference: The VFW, alongside the American Legion, Student Veterans of America and the Department of Veterans Affairs, partook in a panel discussion with the National Association of State Approving Agencies (NASAA) to talk about veterans using their GI Bill benefits and the role of state approving agencies. The most frequent topic of discussion focused on SAA’s being on the forefront of approving schools for accreditation, and the standards necessary for accreditation for institutions of higher learning to be eligible for GI Bill funding, as well as how to assure student veterans are informed consumers about the institutions they choose to attend. Learn more about NASSA.
6. Online Exchange Shopping to Open to Veterans: All honorably discharged veterans will soon be able to shop online on the websites offered by the Army and Air Force Exchange Service, the Navy Exchange, the Marine Corps Exchange and the Coast Guard Exchange. The VFW has backed this proposal since it was first proposed in 2014, because it is a huge win for honorably discharged veterans and the MWR programs the exchange services support. According to an article published this week in Military Times, the new online shopping privilege will exclude from sale, however, all uniforms, alcohol and tobacco products. The exchanges will use existing Defense Department data to determine eligibility. Veterans whose records are incomplete or do not appear in the VA’s database will need to register through VA, according to a letter provided to congressional oversight committees. Read the Military Times article.
7. Legislation Clears the House: This week the House of Representatives passed H.R. 512, legislation which will grant congressional offices greater access to records held by VA when a veteran asks their member of Congress for help. The House also passed H.R. 974, which the VFW supports, and would allow the VA secretary to grant preference to companies who employ veterans in full-time positions. Both of these bills now go to the Senate for consideration. Continue to follow the Action Corps Weekly for more updates.
8. MIA Update: The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency announced the identification of remains of one American who had been missing in action from World War II. Returning home for burial with full military honors is:
— Navy Fire Controlman 3rd Class Robert L. Pribble was assigned to the USS Oklahoma, which was moored off Ford Island in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, when Japanese aircraft attacked his ship on Dec. 7, 1941. Pribble was one of 429 crewmen killed in the attack. Interment services are pending. Read more about Pribble.