1. VFW Legislative Conference to Begin: More than 500 VFW members are converging in the nation’s capital this weekend to urge their members of Congress to continue transforming the Department of Veterans Affairs, so that it can more efficiently and effectively serve America’s veterans. Said VFW National Commander Brian Duffy, “The VFW is fully committed to working with Congress and the VA to change the way the department delivers health care, to include finding the best way to leverage what the VA provides with what public or private practitioners out in the community can offer, with the end goal being the delivery of the highest quality integrated care so that no veterans are ever stranded in line again.” The Chief will present the VFW’s legislative positions at 2 p.m., Wednesday, in testimony before a joint hearing of the Senate and House Veterans’ Affairs Committees in room G-50 of the Dirksen Senate Office Building. Along with fixing VA, Duffy will also demand that this Congress—the 115th Congress—finally eliminates sequestration. “When the 112th Congress created sequestration in 2011, Russia was not in the Ukraine, China was not building islands out of rocks, Iran and North Korea were not as emboldened as they are today, and the Islamic State did not exist,” he explained. “Yet here we are six years later, American forces are still in Afghanistan, in Iraq, and now in Syria, and our brave men and women in uniform must still operate under a budget ax called sequestration that is still the law of the land. Once again, the VFW demands that this Congress eliminate sequestration!” Read more here.
2. Military Health System Working Group: The VFW participated in a veterans and military service organization working group on Tuesday with Acting Deputy Director of the Defense Health Agency RADM Colin Chinn, who was joined by representatives of three service Surgeons General. Discussions focused on health care for military children, specifically hospice care and programs for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder; implementation of National Defense Authorization Act TRICARE changes; and the May 1 transition of the TRICARE dental program from MetLife to United Concordia. Read more about the dental transition.
3. Meeting the Needs of Female Veterans: On Tuesday, the VFW, alongside the Department of Veterans Affairs Center for Women Veterans and Department of Labor Veterans’ Employment and Training Service (DOL) met with Forward Assist, a veterans group from the United Kingdom. The focus of the meeting was to discuss the successes in gender specific health care, transition from military to civilian life and other needs of female veterans in the United States. Since there is still more work that must be done for female veterans, leadership at Forward Assist traveled to research and discuss ways to begin addressing the needs of female veterans in the U.K. Learn more about Forward Assist and what the VFW is doing for women veterans.
4. General Dunford Talks Security: The VFW attended a Brookings Institute event yesterday to hear Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joe Dunford talk security, threats, challenges and opportunities. He said as a nation that thinks and acts globally, our military must also be balanced and fully capable of winning in all spectrums of warfare in a transregional environment. He discussed the Big 5 threats—Russia, China, Iran, North Korea and ISIS—and added a sixth, solvency, which he said extends beyond just budget stability, because it is the economic strength of a nation that allows for a strong military. Regarding a military plus-up, he said it’s important to get the strategy in place before resizing the force begins. Watch the hour-long program.
5. VA to Host Summit for Women Veterans: The Department of Veterans Affairs Center for Women Veterans is slated to host the Summit for Women Veterans in Dallas from April 19-20, with original dates pushed back for the intent of catering to as many people interested as possible. The summit will be the first national-level event for women veterans since 2011. Topics will include training, information and guidance particular to female veterans, regardless of VA enrollment. There will be lectures, panel discussions, exhibits and open forums promoting forward-thinking dialogue, collaboration with industry best practices and research. The target audience includes women veterans, public sector partners, academics and community partners. “Attendees will have an opportunity to hear from VA leadership, and participate in breakout sessions focused on employment, mental health, entrepreneurship, military sexual trauma, reproductive health, culture change and more. Additionally, plenary sessions will focus on VA care and benefits, partner organizations, and a special “Voice of the Veteran” panel,” said Kayla Williams, the director of VA’s Center for Women Veterans. Learn more about the summit.
6. Women’s History Month Art Exhibits: The Department of Veterans Affairs Center for Women Veterans has announced 10 VA Medical Centers that will display female veteran artists’ work throughout the month of March to celebrate Women’s History Month. The Center for Women Veterans partnered with Veteran Artist Program to select the 10 artists who will be featured. Find the location nearest to you and read more about the exhibits.
7. MIA Update: The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency announced the identification of remains of two Americans who had been missing in action from WWII and Vietnam. Returning home for burial with full military honors are:
— Navy Fireman 1st Class Charles W. Thompson 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. Thompson was one of 429 crewmen killed in the attack. Interment services are pending. Read more about Thompson.
— Air Force Capt. Robert R. Barnett was a B-57B pilot with the 8th Bomb Squadron. While on a strike mission over Laos, Barnett’s aircraft reportedly crashed with no parachutes seen. The hostile threat in the area prevented a search and rescue mission and Barnett was declared killed in action on April 7, 1966. Read more about Barnett.