1. VFW Continues Opposition to Proposed Cuts to IU: With the recent release of President Trump’s budget plan including proposed cuts to several benefits that disabled veterans count on, the VFW has been working with members of Congress to ensure a responsible budget that protects benefits. The proposed cuts include eliminating Individual Unemployability for veterans who become eligible for Social Security, rounding down the monthly amount received by disabled veterans and surviving spouses, and a massive expansion of the Choice Program without fixing its existing major issues. The sum of the proposed cuts would be tens of thousands of dollars annually for average veterans with service-connected disabilities that prevent them from working. The VFW will never support balancing budgets on the backs of veterans. The Choice Program, which allows veterans to find care in the community that their local VA facility cannot provide, has VFW support, but is in need of administrative fixes before a large expansion can occur and should never be used to fully replace VA. The VFW needs all veterans and their supporters to call their members of Congress and state your opposition to these dangerous proposals. Read the VFW’s statement on the budget.
2. VA in Critical Condition but Improving: On Wednesday, his 100th day in office, VA Secretary Dr. David Shulkin gave the White House press corps an open and very frank top-to-bottom review of the successes, problems and challenges his department faces. He listed 13 key focus areas that include changes that require congressional approval and some that he has the authority to make in-house. His focus areas include: access to care, paying providers, community care, improving the quality of care, disability claims and appeals, information technology, capital assets, employee accountability, staffing, bureaucracy, veteran suicides, and fraud, waste and abuse. Shulkin said VA is still in critical condition, but that it is improving. Watch video of the 41-minute briefing or read the transcript.
3. White House Hotline Opens: During his White House press conference, VA Secretary Dr. David Shulkin also announced the “soft launch” of President Trump’s promised White House hotline for veterans’ complaints. The hotline opened yesterday and is expected to be fully operational by Aug. 15. The hotline’s phone number is 855-948-2311. An automated greeting welcomes callers to the “White House-VA veteran complaint hotline.” It is currently only operational weekdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. EDT, and is closed on federal holidays, but is expected to be manned 24/7 by mid-August.
4. VFW Discusses Veteran Homelessness: On Wednesday, the VFW, alongside the American Legion and Student Veterans of America, participated in a panel discussion on veteran homelessness at the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans annual conference. The conference was kicked off by Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin. Each organization was given the opportunity to highlight what benefits and assistance they have for homeless veterans, as well as explain where they see their organization headed in tackling this important topic. The VFW discussed its Unmet Needs program, the efforts of its department homeless veterans chairmen and the focus on legislative advocacy. Learn more about the National Coalition of Homeless Veterans and the VFW’s Unmet Needs program.
5. NRAEF, VFW to Host Virtual Career Fair: The VFW and the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation are teaming up once again to help service members, veterans and their spouses explore career opportunities with some of the nation’s top restaurant and hospitality industry companies. The Hospitality Career Connection virtual career fair takes place June 21 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. EDT, and includes businesses such as Aramark, BJ’s Restaurants, Ecolab, Sodexo and Sysco. Participants are strongly encouraged to preregister for the Hospitality Career Connection and upload their resume by visiting www.nraefcareerfair.org. Registration is also permitted during the event. Read more here.
6. Defense Health Agency Working Group: The VFW participated in a veterans and military service organization working group at the Defense Health Agency on Wednesday. The meeting was run by Mr. Guy Kiyokawa and Brigadier General Ron Place, co-leads for the Military Health System (MHS) Program Management Office for the implementation of the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act changes. The discussions focused on implementation of the Jan. 1, 2018, transition from TRICARE Standard and Extra to TRICARE Select; the MHS plan for communicating the changes to TRICARE beneficiaries; improvements to MHS direct care appointment procedures; extending hours at military treatment facilities; and the development of value-based incentive programs.
7. Battle of Midway Commemoration: Visitors to Washington, D.C., are invited to the National World War II Memorial tomorrow at 11:30 a.m. to mark the 75th Anniversary of the Battle of Midway. Just six months after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the United States Navy defeated an attacking fleet of the Imperial Japanese Navy near Midway Atoll in one of the most decisive naval battles in history. Often called “the turning point in the Pacific,” the Battle of Midway allowed the United States and her allies to move into an offensive position in the Pacific campaign. Learn more about this and other events at Friends of the National WWII Memorial.
8. Reading of Names at The Wall: The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund is hosting the Reading of the Names of the 58,315 servicemen and women inscribed on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., as part of the special activities planned this November to commemorate the 35th anniversary of The Wall. The Reading of the Names will take place for 65 hours over a four-day period beginning after an opening ceremony on Tuesday, Nov. 7, at 3 p.m. Learn more or volunteer to read a name.
9. MIA Update: The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency announced the identification of remains of two Americans who had been missing in action from Korea. Returning home for burial with full military honors are:
— Army Pfc. Robert E. Mitchell, 19, of Searcy, Ark., will be buried June 3 in Beebe, Ark. Mitchell was a member of Company F, 2nd Battalion, 38th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division. On Sept. 6, 1950, North Korean forces penetrated the Naktong Bulg portion of the Pusan Perimeter near Am-sin, South Korea, and engaged with Mitchell’s unit. Mitchell could not be accounted for after the battle and was declared missing in action. Read about Mitchell.
— Army Sgt. Edward Saunders, 27, of Baltimore, Md., will be buried June 7 in Arlington National Cemetery, near Washington, D.C. Saunders was assigned to Company K, 3rd Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division. On the night of Feb. 11, 1951, Saunders’ company was supporting a planned offensive with the Republic of Korea’s 16th Regiment when they were attacked by Chinese forces. After heavy fighting, the unit was forced to withdraw to Hoensong, South Korea. Saunders could not be accounted for after the battle. Read about Saunders.