VFW Action Corps Weekly, September 5, 2014

In This Issue:
1. VFW Hosts USAFE Commander
2. SECDEF Talks About Sequestration
3. VFW Applauds New Discharge Upgrade Decision
4. Congress Returns to Busy Fall Schedule
5. Upcoming VA Committee Hearings
6. September is Suicide Prevention Month
7. VA Rural Community Pilot Program Participants
8. Seven WWII Servicemen Identified

1. VFW Hosts USAFE Commander: The VFW Washington Office hosted the commander of U.S. Air Forces in Europe to a VSO/MSO roundtable yesterday. Gen. Frank Gorenc said his greatest challenge is the uncertainty that reduced budgets and the looming sequester in FY 2016 is having on his ability to properly train, provide and assist his European NATO partners and the U.S. Combatant Commands. His concerns echo those of other American commanders that VFW Junior Vice Commander-in-Chief Brian Duffy met on a fact-finding trip to Europe last month. Ending sequestration — which Congress created and only Congress can eliminate — will top the VFW’s Fall Legislative Conference agenda in Washington, Sept. 15-17. The sequester began in the second half of FY 2013, and in order to meet the mandatory reductions without impacting combat operations in Afghanistan, the military was forced to slash flying, sailing and troop training hours, plus to furlough their civilian workforce. Regarding Air Force training, the general said it took three months to recover for every one month of sequestration.

2. SECDEF Talks About Sequestration: On Wednesday at the Naval War College in Newport, R.I., Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said sequestration will continue to negatively affect our national security unless it is reversed. He said training, maintenance and contracts are key to national security, but under sequestration, mandatory cuts in these areas critically limit our nation’s ability to maintain its technological edge, as well as impacts weapons systems development, and more. Watch a video excerpt of his remarks at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=91-jmgFo0QQ.

3. VFW Applauds New Discharge Upgrade Decision: The Defense Department announced a new decision this week that will enable Vietnam veterans and others to request upgrades to their less-than-honorable military discharges due to an extenuating factor not known or recognized at the time of their separation: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. “This decision will not be a blanket approval for every upgrade request, but it does open an avenue for those veterans who may have been diagnosed with PTSD years after separation to submit new evidence and hopefully correct an injustice from the past,” said VFW National Commander John Stroud in a release. Read DOD’s supplemental guidance at http://www.defense.gov/news/OSD009883-14.pdf.

4. Congress Returns to Busy Fall Schedule: Congress returns to Washington next week with very little time to get important legislation and appropriations passed. With Oct. 1 signaling the beginning of a new fiscal year, and November elections just weeks afterwards, your VFW will be closely monitoring a number of critical issues, to include the National Defense Authorization Act, and the Military Construction and VA Appropriations bill. Other items on the agenda that must get completed are the COLA increase for VA disability and pension, improvements to caregiver benefits and extending existing programs set to expire on Sept. 30. For a list of current bills and votes, visit our grassroots advocacy website at http://capwiz.com/vfw/issues/bills/.

5. Upcoming VA Committee Hearings: The House and Senate VA Committees are gearing up for a packed two weeks of hearings and mark-ups to close out FY 2014.
* As reported last week, the Senate VA Committee will hold a hearing to discuss the recent VA IG report regarding allegations of patient deaths at the Phoenix VA Medical Center. New VA Secretary Robert McDonald is scheduled to testify at the hearing, which will begin at 10 a.m. (EST)., Sept. 9. Watch the live webcast at http://www.veterans.senate.gov/hearings/the-state-of-va-health-care09092014.
* The House Veterans’ Affairs Committee will mark up pending legislation on Wednesday, September 10, at 9:30 a.m. (EST) and hold an Oversight and Investigation hearing regarding the Board of Veterans Appeals at 1:00 p.m. (EST) the same day. For more on those hearings, or to watch the live webcast, click here: http://veterans.house.gov/
Check back here for updates and details on all the hearings next week.

6. September is Suicide Prevention Month: Yesterday, VA announced a new suicide prevention month campaign. “The Power of 1” is a joint VA/DOD effort to reinforce the impact that just one person, one conversation or one act can have on the life of a veteran or service member in crisis. To learn more about the campaign, the Veterans Crisis Line or to find a local VA suicide prevention coordinator, visit VeteransCrisisLine.net. For more information about VA mental health resources, visit http://www.mentalhealth.va.gov/

7. VA Rural Community Pilot Program Participants: The VA announced its selection of locations for a pilot program to assist veterans and their families transitioning from military service to civilian life in rural or underserved communities. The Rural Veterans Coordination Pilot is a two-year program designed to aid in the adjustment to civilian life in one or more of the following areas: increasing coordination of health care and benefits; increasing availability of high quality medical and mental health services; and providing assistance and outreach to families of transitioning service members and veterans. The awards grant up to $2 million to five locations in rural areas across the U.S. For more information and the five selected sites, got to http://www.va.gov/opa/pressrel/pressrelease.cfm?id=2617.

8. Seven WWII Servicemen Identified: The Defense POW/MIA Office recently announced the identification of remains belonging to seven American servicemen who had been missing in action since World War II. Identified are:
* Army Air Forces 1st Lts. William D. Bernier, Bryant E. Poulsen and Herbert V. Young Jr., Tech. Sgt. Charles L. Johnston and Sgt. Charles A. Gardner, were lost April 10, 1944, in Papua New Guinea. They were assigned to the 321st Bombardment Squadron, 90th Bombardment Group, 5th Army Air Forces. They will be buried with full military honors on a date yet to be determined.
* Army Pfc. Bernard Gavrin, was lost fighting on Saipan on June 15, 1944. He was assigned to Company D, 1st Battalion, 105th Infantry Regiment, 27th Infantry Division. He will be buried with full military honors on Sept. 12 at Arlington National Cemetery. Read more at http://www.defense.gov/releases/release.aspx?releaseid=16914&source=GovDelivery.
* Marine Corps Pvt. Robert J. McConachie, was lost fighting on Okinawa on June 15, 1945. He was assigned to Company G, 2nd Battalion, 1st Marines Division. He will be buried with full military honors on a date yet to be determined.