VFW Washington Weekly, July 3, 2013

In This Issue:
1. VFW Testifying at Several Hearings Next Week
2. VA Reviewing MST Claims
3. Opening Ground Combat MOSs to Women
4. VFW Intervenes in Prudential Insurance Lawsuit
5. VFW to Join Twitter Town Hall with Labor Department
6. Help Commemorate Korean War 60th
7. Remembrance Week

1. VFW Testifying at Several Hearings Next Week: The VFW is scheduled to testify at several hearings next week when Congress returns from the July 4th recess. On Tuesday, we will be presenting our views on several healthcare-related bills before the House VA Subcommittee on Health and on Wednesday we will testify before the House and Senate Joint Economic Committee on the employment situation for veterans. We will bring you video and highlights from each hearing on the VFW Capitol Hill blog next week.
To learn more about the House VA Health Subcommittee hearing, click here: http://veterans.house.gov/hearing/%E2%80%9Clegislative-hearing-on-%E2%80%98draft-legislation-the-long-term-care-veterans-choice-act-hr-1443-hr
To learn more about the Joint Economic Committee hearing, click here: http://www.jec.senate.gov/republicans/public/index.cfm?p=CommitteeNews&ContentRecord_id=d58abda0-7503-404a-8953-cc4349f6392d

2. VA Reviewing MST Claims: Recently, the VFW participated in a discussion with VA and several other Veterans’ Service Organizations regarding ongoing reviews of previously denied disability claims involving Military Sexual Trauma (MST) tied to PTSD. Representative Chellie Pingree (D-ME), has also been asking VA to reopen cases in which victims of sexual assault suffered from PTSD and have applied for benefits but were denied. VA had begun reviewing cases last summer but just recently began notifying veterans (by letter) who had their claims denied that they can ask for their file to be reopened or reconsidered for benefits. VFW has been heavily involved in current legislation, HR 671 (sponsored by Rep. Pingree) that would relax evidentiary standards to make it easier for MST survivors to receive VA benefits and is disappointed that VA hasn’t made this a priority for the some 2500 cases that were denied. A substantial change in policy for survivors of sexual assault is laid out in the Independent Budget and contained in HR 671, the Ruth Moore Act which passed the House and is awaiting action in the Senate. We will continue to keep our eye on this issue and will provide updates in the Washington Weekly throughout the year. As always a VFW service officer can help assist you with your claim, click here for the list of service officers by State. http://www.vfw.org/NVS/
For the VA letter and information on how to get a claim reviewed, visit Representative Pingree’s website at: http://pingree.house.gov/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=1042%3Amst-denied-claim-review-process&catid=3%3Aissues&Itemid=1
For more on the MST bills in Congress, visit our website at: http://capwiz.com/vfw/issues/bills/
For the FY 2014 Independent Budget click here: http://www.independentbudget.org/

3. Opening Ground Combat MOSs to Women: The Defense Department last month released the U.S. military services’ and U.S. Special Operations Command plans for implementing women into previously closed positions. The decision to rescind the 1994 Direct Ground Combat Definition and Assignment Rule for women was originally announced Jan. 24, 2013, by former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey. VFW National Commander John Hamilton said that same day that the VFW “fully recognize that not everyone volunteers for the combat arms career fields, but the VFW wishes all who apply much success in meeting the arduous physical and demanding performance standards. Societal norms may have changed, but the mission and environment in which our ground forces operate have not.” Full or limited implementation is expected to occur by Jan. 1, 2016; however, the services can at any time request “exceptions” to admitting women into specific combat categories. Defense officials also reiterate that strenuous physical standards will not be lowered for anyone. Read more at:
* The Defense Secretary’s memo at http://www.defense.gov/news/SecDefWISRMemo.pdf
* The Army plan at http://www.defense.gov/news/ArmyWISRImplementationPlan.pdf
* The Marine Corps plan at http://www.defense.gov/news/MarineCorpsWISRImplementationPlan.pdf
* The Navy plan at http://www.defense.gov/news/NavyWISRImplementationPlan.pdf
* The Air Force plan at http://www.defense.gov/news/Air_ForceWISRImplementationPlan.pdf
* And SOCOM’s plan at http://www.defense.gov/news/SOCOMWISRImplementationPlan.pdf

4. VFW Intervenes in Prudential Insurance Lawsuit: The VFW filed papers to intervene in an ongoing class action lawsuit against Prudential Insurance Company concerning its handling of life insurance benefits for service members and veterans. The lawsuit, filed in 2010, alleges that Prudential failed to pay death benefits in a manner required by federal law, and instead profited from money belonging to families of deceased service members. Prudential administers the Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance or SGLI program for VA and has denied any wrongdoing. Most of the records filed have been sealed. VFW wants them unsealed and filed a motion to make the records public so that families and general public can fully understand what Prudential has done with a federally subsidized insurance program meant to help service members and their families in a time of need.
For more information, visit our website at: http://www.vfw.org/News-and-Events/Articles/2013-Articles/VFW-WANTS-PRUDENTIAL%E2%80%99S-RECORDS-MADE-PUBLIC/

5. VFW to Join Twitter Town Hall with Labor Department: On Wednesday, July 10, your VFW (@VFWHQ) will once again join the Department of Labor (@USDOL) for a Twitter town hall to answer questions about veterans’ employment, this time specifically focusing on resources for disabled veterans in the workforce. VFW will join Acting Labor Secretary Seth Harris (@ActingSecHarris), officials from Labor’s Veterans Employment and Training Service (VETS), Labor’s Office of Disability Policy, other veterans’ organizations, American Jobs Center representatives, employers, and military experts to ensure veterans and employers have the information they need to find the programs or services that meet their needs. To participate in Wednesday‘s Twitter chat, log onto to Twitter from 2-3pm Eastern and use the hashtag #VetsJobsChat to submit your questions for the live hour-long conversation. You can also email your questions in advance to Contact.VETS@dol.gov

6. Help Commemorate Korean War 60th: Most Korean War veterans will unable to attend the 60th anniversary ceremony of the armistice signing in Washington on July 27, but VFW Posts nationwide can still help commemorate their day by hosting a “Pancakes for Patriots”-type event to honor and educate local communities about the service and sacrifices made by so many of our VFW members and their families. The 10 a.m. (Eastern) ceremony at the Korean War Veterans Memorial will be carried live on the national networks, with coverage of pre-ceremony events beginning as early as 8 or 9 a.m. on the Pentagon Channel, as well as stream live on their website at http://www.pentagonchannel.mil/. The Korean War Commemoration Committee is especially interested in VFW Posts hosting the breakfast events in Washington, D.C.; Virginia’s Hampton Roads area; La Crosse, Wis.; and in Austin, Birmingham, Louisville, Minneapolis, Nashville, San Antonio and Tucson. For a “Pancakes for Patriots” planning guide, e-mail VFW Public Affairs Director Joe Davis at jdavis@vfw.org. More information about the 60th anniversary is on the commemoration committee’s website at http://www.koreanwar60.com/

7. Remembrance Week: On Sunday, we remembered the fourth year of captivity of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, 27, of Hailey, Idaho, who disappeared from his base in southeastern Afghanistan on June 30, 2009, and is the only known American soldier held captive from the Afghan war. Monday was the 40th anniversary of America’s All-Volunteer Force; Wednesday the 150th anniversary of the end of the three-day Battle of Gettysburg; and Thursday we celebrate the nation’s 237th year of independence.