VFW Action Corps Weekly – April 1, 2016
In This Issue:
- VFW, VA Host Successful Women Veterans Facebook Q&A
- Pentagon VSO/MSO Roundtable
- Army Surgeon General Roundtable
- 125,000 Post-9/11 Veterans Wrongly Denied VA Benefits
- Vietnam Veterans Day
- New Campaign Medal Approved
- MIA Update
- VFW, VA Host Successful Women Veterans Facebook Q&A: The VFW teamed with VA on March 22 for a live Facebook chat with women veterans. The chat provided the opportunity to ask VA subject matter experts direct questions regarding veterans’ health care and benefits. Veterans asked about current benefits, programs, and health care options and questioned VA on what it is doing to improve benefits and services for the fastest growing veterans population––women veterans. Over 100 questions were asked and VA responded to all of them. The VFW hopes to provide more opportunities for Facebook chats in the future. Read the #ExploreVA chat at: https://www.facebook.com/VFWFans/posts/10153328043837136:0. For a summary of the Q&A, visit: http://www.blogs.va.gov/VAntage/26646/icymi-exploreva-women-veterans-facebook-chat/.
- Pentagon VSO/MSO Roundtable: The VFW participated in a veteran and military service organization roundtable last Thursday with Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, who was joined by Deputy Secretary Bob Work, the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Air Force Gen. Paul Selva, as well as senior officials from the Operations, Comptroller, Health and Reserve Affairs directorates. Carter repeated his Top 5 concerns as being Russia, China, North Korea, Iran, and the continuing spread of the Islamic State. He said an equally big concern is the unraveling of the Bipartisan Budget Agreement, which would be a return to 2011 Budget Control Act caps. He was very appreciative of the VFW’s leading role in continuing to push Congress to end sequestration.
- Army Surgeon General Roundtable: The VFW participated in a veteran and military family organization roundtable last Friday with the new Army Surgeon General, Lt. Gen. Nadja West, who took over in December. High interest topics were suicide awareness and mental health counseling for soldiers and families, access to care, extending appointment bookings several months out, and maintaining medical readiness. Also discussed was the widespread concern that Other-Than-Honorable discharges were being used as an easy out, instead of delving deeper into why super troops all of a sudden weren’t anymore, and the need to create a truly interoperable Electronic Health Record in unison with the Department of Veterans Affairs.
- 125,000 Post-9/11 Veterans Wrongly Denied VA Benefits:A recent study by the National Veterans Legal Service Program (NVLSP), Swords to Plowshares and Harvard Law School’s Veterans Legal Clinic found that 125,000 veterans with bad paper discharges have been wrongfully denied access to VA health care and benefits due to VA’s strict interpretation of character of discharge eligibility. Under current law, veterans who have been discharged under conditions other than dishonorable are eligible for VA benefits. While the law only requires VA to evaluate whether the service of veterans with a punitive discharge (bad conduct and dishonorable) meets the legal threshold of dishonorable, VA regulations also require claims adjudicators to conduct a character of discharge analysis for veterans who received an Other- Than-Honorable discharge. The report finds that 90 percent of character of discharge reviews result in the denial of benefits. To read the study, visit: https://www.swords-to-plowshares.org/2016/03/30/Underserved.
- Vietnam Veterans Day: The VFW was present to witness Defense Secretary Ash Carter and Veterans Affairs Secretary Bob McDonald lay a wreath at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday. By Presidential Proclamation, March 29 is set aside as Vietnam Veterans Day to commemorate the 1973 departure of America’s last combat troops from Vietnam. Read more about the day, including how to receive a commemorative lapel pin, at: http://www.stripes.com/news/veterans/carter-mcdonald-pay-tribute-to-vets-on-vietnam-veterans-day-1.401635.
- New Campaign Medal Approved: On Wednesday, Defense Secretary Ash Carter signed into creation the Inherent Resolve Campaign Medal (IRCM) to American service members battling terrorist groups in Iraq and Syria. To qualify, a member must have been present in Iraq, Syria, or the contiguous waters or airspace of either country, on or after June 15, 2014, for a period of 30 consecutive or 60 non-consecutive days. Service members who were killed or were medically evacuated due to wounds or injuries immediately qualify for the award, as do members who engaged in combat. The IRCM’s placement in the hierarchy of medals and ribbons will be after the Iraq Campaign Medal and before the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal. Learn more at: http://www.defense.gov/News-Article-View/Article/708382/carter-announces-operation-inherent-resolve-campaign-medal?source=GovDelivery.
- MIA Update: The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency announced burial updates of three servicemen, and the identification of remains of two others who died during World War II and Korea. Returned home are:
— Navy Chief Petty Officer Duff Gordon, 52, was buried Wednesday with full military honors in his hometown of Hudson, Wis. On Dec. 7, 1941, he was assigned to the battleship USS Oklahoma, which suffered multiple torpedo hits as it was moored off Ford Island in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The attack capsized the ship, resulting in 429 casualties, including Gordon. Thirty-five sailors would be subsequently recovered and identified; the rest would eventually be buried as unknowns in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, better known as the Punchbowl. Learn more at: http://www.dpaa.mil/NewsStories/NewsReleases/tabid/10159/Article/705928/uss-oklahoma-sailor-from-world-war-ii-accounted-for-gordon.aspx.
— Marine Corps Sgt. John C. Holladay, 31, will be buried April 4 with full military honors in his hometown of Florence, S.C. He was assigned to Company B, 1st Marine Raider Battalion, 1st Marine Raider Regiment, when lost fighting in July 1943 as part of a joint U.S. Army-U.S. Marine Corps battle against Japanese positions in the invasion of New Georgia Island, British Solomon Islands. Learn more at: http://www.dpaa.mil/NewsStories/NewsReleases/tabid/10159/Article/706495/marine-from-world-war-ii-accounted-for-holladay.aspx.
— Army Sgt. Wilson Meckley Jr., 22, of Lancaster, Pa., will be buried with full military honors in Arlington National Cemetery on April 4. In November 1950, he was assigned to Company A, 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment, 7th Infantry Division, and was assembled with other soldiers into the 31st Regimental Combat Team, historically known as Task Force Faith. During a fighting withdrawal from the Chosin Reservoir, he would be reported missing on Dec. 2. Learn more at: http://www.dpaa.mil/NewsStories/NewsReleases/tabid/10159/Article/706484/soldier-missing-from-korean-war-accounted-for-meckley.aspx.
— Navy Fireman 3rd Class John H. Lindsley, of Illinois, was lost on Dec. 7, 1941, while assigned aboard the battleship USS Oklahoma in Pearl Harbor. He will be buried with full military honors on a date and location to be announced.
— Army Cpl. Dennis D. Buckley, of Wayne, Mich., was lost fighting in South Korea on Feb. 13, 1951. He was assigned to A Battery, 15th Field Artillery Battalion, 2nd Infantry Division, and will be buried with full military honors on a date and location to be announced.