VFW Washington Weekly, March 21, 2014

In This Issue:
1. VFW to Testify on Veterans Bills
2. Armed Services Committees to Discuss Personnel Issues
3. Compensation Commission to Meet in California
4. Veterans’ Unemployment Drops in 2013
5. ALS Housing Grant Update
6. Seeking Purple Heart Recipients
7. Memorial Day Concert Seeks WWII Vets
8. Two Korean War MIA Recovered

1. VFW to Testify on Veterans Bills: The VFW will be testifying next week before all four House Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittees on an array of pending bills spanning issues like civilian/military licensing and credentialing gaps, vocational rehabilitation, education and employment, PTSD treatments, improvements in MST care and legislation on construction procedures and enhanced leasing at VA medical centers. To watch any of the hearings live, visit the House VA Committee website and click on the specific hearing for the webcast at: http://veterans.house.gov/. Check back next week for complete coverage of all four hearings on the VFW blog at http://thevfw.blogspot.com/.

2. Armed Services Committees to Discuss Personnel Issues: Both Senate and House Armed Services Committees are scheduled to discuss military personnel issues within the proposed FY 2015 Defense Budget. Subcommittee members will hear from witnesses from DOD and the military service organization community. Sequestration and the ongoing devastating effect it continues to have on DOD looks to be one of the key items discussed. Other personnel issues include pay, commissary benefits, housing allowances, TRICARE, and the military retirement system. Check back here for our Action Alert on Sequestration and more on both Armed Services personnel hearings next week.

3. Compensation Commission to Meet in California: The Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission will be holding two town hall meetings in Southern California next week. All service personnel, veterans, military retirees and their families are encouraged to attend because the Commission is charged with examining how the troops are compensated while in uniform, in retirement, and as veterans, and their reach includes those programs operated by the VA and Department of Labor. The meeting dates and locations are:
* March 25, from 7-9 p.m. at the Sheraton Carlsbad Resort & Spa Conference Center, 5480 Grand Pacific Drive, Carlsbad, CA 92008
* March 26, from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Hilton San Diego, Harbor Island, 1960 Harbor Island Drive, San Diego, CA 92101
Among the compensation and Quality of Life programs under review are the 20-year retirement system; military pay and the tax-exempt status of allowances; concurrent receipt of retiree and disability pay; the GI Bills; military healthcare costs and eligibility; military exchanges, commissaries and schools; and transition and employment assistance programs, among many others. The VFW has met several times with the Commission and testified before them in November. We remain wary of their overall intent, but are appreciative of the continued two-way conversation. The Commission is required to issue their report to the White House in February 2015. More information on the two town hall meetings is on the Commission website at http://www.mcrmc.gov/.

4. Veterans’ Unemployment Drops in 2013: This week the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released its employment report of veterans for 2013. According to BLS, unemployment among all veterans in 2013 was 6.6 percent — nearly one percentage point lower than the national average. Unemployment among Post-9/11 era veterans also dropped to 9 percent, but remains significantly higher than civilian unemployment. To the VFW, this means that employment initiatives like the VOW to Hire Heroes Act have produced results, but gaps remain in services for younger Post-9/11 era veterans and female veterans. For VFW’s full analysis of the BLS report, click here: http://thevfw.blogspot.com/2014/03/new-employment-figures-for-veterans.html

5. ALS Housing Grant Update: The VA has announced that veterans and active duty military personnel with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, will now be automatically eligible for almost $68,000 in VA Specially Adapted Housing grants to help pay for the costs of building, buying or adapting a home to accommodate service-connected disabilities. Studies have shown that veterans and military members are nearly twice as likely to develop ALS as those who haven’t served. Learn more at http://www.va.gov/opa/pressrel/pressrelease.cfm?id=2530.

6. Seeking Purple Heart Recipients: Close to 2 million Purple Hearts have been awarded to since the medal was created in 1932, but the National Purple Heart Hall of Honor only has the names of 193,000 recipients in its database. If you or a loved one received a Purple Heart, make sure to add your names to the Hall of Honor, along with photos and narratives of when, where and how the medal was earned. For more information or to submit, go to http://thepurpleheart.com/.

7. Memorial Day Concert Seeks WWII Vets: On May 25, 2014, Gary Sinese and Joe Mantegna will return to host the Memorial Day Concert on the Mall, along with Gen. Colin Powell. This year Capital Concerts, the producer of the event, is seeking World War II veterans to help commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Normandy Invasion, and the 10th anniversary of the National WWII Memorial. Some veterans could be interviewed on videotape and then honored on stage. Interested WWII veterans should contact Celia Straus, writer of the concert, at Celia.straus@gmail.com. More information about the Memorial Day Concert is at www.pbs.org/memorialdayconcert/features/.

8. Two Korean War MIA Recovered: The Defense POW/MIA Office announced the identification of two soldiers who had been missing in action since the Korean War. Identified are:
* Pfc. James R. Holmes, Company K, 3rd Battalion, 24th Infantry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division, was lost Dec. 1, 1950, in North Korea. He was accounted for on Jan. 14 and will be buried with full military honors in Arlington National Cemetery in May.
* Cpl. Cristobal Romo, Company L, 3rd Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment, 7th Infantry Division, was lost Dec. 12, 1950, in North Korea. He was accounted for on Jan. 13 and is scheduled to be buried tomorrow with full military honors in Riverside, Calif.

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