VFW Washington Weekly, June 22, 2012

In This Issue:
1. VFW Testifies on Changes to Disability Claims Process
2. VFW Testifies on Economic Opportunity Bills
3. House and Senate Say Veterans’ Legislative Package on the Way
4. VFW Joins Defense and VA Officials to Discuss Suicide Prevention
5. DAMA Subcommittee Hosts Bill Hearing
6. Senate Retiree Commission Survey Results
7. Detroit Veterans Hiring Fair:
8. WWII GI Bill Birthday
9. Five MIAs Return Home
1. VFW Testifies on Changes to Disability Claims Process: On Tuesday, the VFW testified before the House VA Committee regarding VBA’s transformation plan to digitize the disability claims process aimed at improving accuracy and wait times for veterans. The hearing centered on the Veterans Benefits Management System (VBMS) which focuses on a paperless IT system that is critical to VA reaching its goal of eliminating the backlog and providing quality decisions. VFW testified that the new program should be fully tested to identify short comings, but that VBA must walk a fine line between rolling out the program too soon and delaying too long while seeking to fix all the problems. Members of the committee stressed their frustration with the process saying that the department has been working on different “transformation” plans for decades with little progress while the claims backlog remains stagnant. To learn more about the hearing or to view the webcast, click here: http://www.vfwonthehill.org/2012/06/watch-live-vfw-to-testify-on-va-claims.html
2. VFW Testifies on Economic Opportunity Bills: On Thursday, the VFW testified before the Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity. Our testimony centered on two bills (H.R.4740 and H.R. 5747) designed to improve protections for military home owners, and another bill (H.R. 4115) that would close licensing gaps for veterans. We also voiced our concerns to the committee regarding a proposal in H.R. 3860 which would exclude large businesses from claiming financial hardship exemptions under USERRA. We cited that poor enforcement of current USERRA policy kept more veterans from keeping their jobs, and that by making changes to the policy, we risk making service members and veterans less attractive to potential employees, as reported in a recent study by the Center for a New American Security. To learn more about VFW’s stance on each of the bills, to view the recorded webcast, or to read the CNAS study, click here: http://www.vfwonthehill.org/2012/06/watch-live-vfw-to-testify-on-veterans_21.html.

3. House and Senate Say Veterans’ Legislative Package on the Way: This week, the House and Senate reported that they have reached a compromise on providing care for military families exposed to contaminated water at Camp Lejeune. As a result, legislators also indicate that a comprehensive veterans’ legislative package is on the way addressing 50 specific provisions passed through the committees over the last year. Your VFW is tracking down details on the legislative package and will bring you full coverage in next week’s Washington Weekly. To learn more about these initial reports, check out Military Times coverage here: http://militarytimes.com/news/2012/06/military-lawmakers-propose-va-care-for-those-exposed-to-lejeune-water-062212w/

4. VFW Joins Defense and VA Officials to Discuss Suicide Prevention: VFW attended the VA-DOD annual Suicide Prevention Conference where Secretary Panetta laid out his goals for combating the rising number of military suicides and mental health issues facing service members. VFW will continue to monitor both VA and DOD mental health programs to ensure improved services and outcomes for all military personnel and veterans. In the meantime, If you are a veteran in crisis, help is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week though the Veterans Crisis Line. Call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) and press “1” to speak to someone now. You can also log on to www.veteranscrisisline.net for confidential chat or text a message to 838255. To learn more about the conference, click here: http://www.vfwonthehill.org/2012/06/vfw-joins-defense-and-va-officials-to.html

5. DAMA Subcommittee Hosts Bill Hearing: Earlier in the week, the House VA Subcommittee on Disability and Memorial Affairs discussed several bills that would enhance protections for veterans. The bills included:

* H.R. 5948, the Veterans Fiduciary Reform Act of 2012 would provide reforms for those veterans requiring a fiduciary.
* H.R. 3730, the Veterans Data Breach Timely Notification Act requires VA to notify veterans within 5 days in the event of a data breach where personal information has been compromised.
* H.R.2985, the Veteran’s I.D. Card Act, l would direct the VA to issue a veteran’s ID card upon request to any veteran who is not entitled to military retired pay or enrolled in the VA system.
To view a full list of witnesses, read their prepared statements, or view a webcast of the hearing, visit the House VA Committee website at: http://veterans.house.gov/hearing/legislative-hearing-on-hr-2985-hr-3730-hr-4481

6. Senate Retiree Commission Survey Results: Last week, we told you that the Senate was looking to form a commission to review the military retirement system, but sought to lock out veterans’ advocates like the VFW from participating in the commission. We asked you what you thought, and wanted to share the results one week later:
* Do you think this Commission would have the best interest of service members and retirees in mind? No: 97% Yes: 3% (448 votes)
* If this Commission drastically changed military retirement benefits, would you continue to serve or encourage others to serve a full career? No: 94% Yes: 6% (316 votes)
* Would your Senator’s stance on this issue weigh into your decision on election day? Yes: 94% No: 6% (331 votes)
Thank you for reading, and thank you for leaving your comments on the blog, Facebook, and the poll website. To view the original posting, click here: http://www.vfwonthehill.org/2012/06/what-do-you-think-senate-seeks.html
7. Detroit Veterans Hiring Fair: More than 16,000 VA, federal, and private-sector jobs across the country will be up for grabs at the free Veteran Hiring Fair, June 26-28, in Detroit. Sign up online and request a customized coaching session to help build a stronger resume and better prepare for interviews. You can also schedule interviews with employers who are looking to fill jobs immediately. And signing up also gets you a pass to the Veteran Open House, which is also free. For more information or to sign up, go to http://www.blogs.va.gov/VAntage/6989/vas-business-conference-and-hiring-fair-putting-vets-back-to-work/

8. WWII GI Bill Birthday: Today marks the 68th anniversary of the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944, more popularly known as the GI Bill of Rights, which the VFW played a leading role to get signed into law by President Roosevelt. The impact of the World War II GI Bill was felt from Wall Street to Main Street as veterans became college graduates, bought homes, and started businesses and families. The new law also transferred a number of Army hospitals to the VA to increase their capacity to care for wounded, ill and injured veterans. VFW’s centennial history book, “Our First Century,” provides excellent detail on how one of the most significant pieces of legislation of the 20th century was created. Copies are available for purchase through the VFW Store at http://www.vfwstore.org/detail.aspx?ID=22679.

9. Five MIAs Return Home: The Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office recently announced the identification of remains belonging to four airmen and one soldier who had been missing in action from World War II and the Korean and Vietnam Wars. Returned are:
* Army Air Forces 2nd Lt. Emil T. Wasilewski, 22, of Chicago. On Sept. 13, 1944, Wasilewski and eight other crew members were aboard a B-17G Flying Fortress that crashed near Neustaedt-on-the-Werra, Germany. Only one of the crewmen is known to have successfully parachuted out of the aircraft before in crashed.
* Army Cpl. Robert I. Wax, 21, of Detroit. In August 1950, Wax and Battery A, 555th Field Artillery Battalion, were fighting against North Korean forces in a battle known as the “Bloody Gulch,” near Pongam-ni, South Korea. Wax would be listed as missing in action on Aug. 11.
* Air Force Lt. Col. Charles M. Walling, 27, of Phoenix, and Maj. Aado Kommendant, 25, of Lakewood, N.J. On Aug. 8, 1966, Walling and Kommendant were flying an F-4C Phantom II that crashed while on a close air support mission over Song Be Province, Vietnam.
* Air Force Capt. Clyde W. Campbell, 24, of Longview, Texas. On March 1, 1969, Campbell was piloting an A-1J Skyraider that crashed while on a close air-support mission over Houaphan Province, Laos.
Read their individual recovery stories at http://www.dtic.mil/dpmo/news/news_releases/.

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