VFW Action Corps Weekly – August 11, 2017 In This Issue: 1. SECDEF on North Korea 2. Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization 3. California National Guard Bonus Update 4. Take the Arlington National Cemetery Survey 5. Flu Shots Start Tuesday 6. MIA Update Download a PDF version of this week’s Action Corps Weekly. 1. SECDEF on North Korea: Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis released a statement Wednesday in response to growing threats emanating from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK): “The United States and our allies have the demonstrated capabilities and unquestionable commitment to defend ourselves from an attack. Kim Jong Un should take heed of the United Nations Security Council’s unified voice, and statements from governments the world over, who agree the DPRK poses a threat to global security and stability. The DPRK must choose to stop isolating itself and stand down its pursuit of nuclear weapons. The DPRK should cease any consideration of actions that would lead to the end of its regime and the destruction of its people. President Trump was informed of the growing threat last December and on taking office his first orders to me emphasized the readiness of our ballistic missile defense and nuclear deterrent forces. While our State Department is making every effort to resolve this global threat through diplomatic means, it must be noted that the combined allied militaries now possess the most precise, rehearsed and robust defensive and offensive capabilities on Earth. The DPRK regime’s actions will continue to be grossly overmatched by ours and would lose any arms race or conflict it initiates.” 2. Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization: This morning, the House passed the Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act of 2017 during a pro forma legislative session. It will now be sent to the president for his signature. This bill would create three separate paths for veterans to choose from when seeking redress from a decision by the Veterans Benefits Administration on their claims for VA benefits. The measure allows certain veterans already going through the appeals process to opt in to the new system and gives the VA secretary the authority to test facets of the new system prior to full implementation. The bill also requires VA to provide a comprehensive plan for both implementing the new system and processing the existing appeals. Currently, over a half million veterans are awaiting a response to their existing appeals. 3. California National Guard Bonus Update: A 2010 audit revealed that from 2004-2010, bonuses and student loan repayments were paid to numerous California Army National Guard soldiers as a result of errors and, in some cases, criminal behavior by members of the California National Guard. As a result, the Department of Defense (DOD) initiated the recoupment of the erroneous payments; however, it did so in a manner which left many former soldiers in financial distress. As a result, then Secretary of Defense Ash Carter ordered a full suspension of recoupment efforts. Over the past year, 17,485 cases have been investigated –– 17,092 of which have been resolved favorably, either by DOD waiving the remainder of the existing debt or by not initiating debt recoupment. 4. Take the Arlington National Cemetery Survey: Every cemetery has a lifespan, and the hallowed ground that is Arlington National Cemetery is no exception. Based on current projections, Arlington will run out of burial space in about 25 years unless changes are made to restrict eligibility, expand the geographical footprint of the cemetery, or some combination of the above. Via Public Law 114-58, Congress directed the Secretary of the Army to examine ways to extend the life expectancy of the cemetery well into the future, and the report released earlier this year identified a number of options ranging from continuing the status quo to restricting interments to Medal of Honor recipients only. The Army has not yet taken a position regarding the recommendations. Instead, the Army is opening a national dialogue to help ensure all military personnel and veterans are aware of the challenges facing Arlington National Cemetery. Read the report and take the survey. 5. Flu Shots Start Tuesday: Beginning Aug. 15, all VA-enrolled veterans can begin receiving annual flu shots at their local Walgreens or Duane Reade pharmacies. While this immunization program is limited to just VA patients, Walgreens can provide flu shots to most VFW members and their families through other coverage programs, such as TRICARE, Medicare and most insurances. Locate your closest Walgreen’s or Duane Reade. 6. MIA Update: The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency has announced burial updates and identifications of remains of seven American servicemen who had been missing in action from World War II and the Korean War. Returning home for burial with full military honors are: — Army Cpl. Sgt. Stafford L. Morris, 24, of Allentown, Pa., was buried Aug. 5 in Atlanta. In late November 1950, Morris was a member of Battery A, 503rd Field Artillery Battalion, 2nd Infantry Division, which was fighting north of the town of Kujang-dong, North Korea. On December 1, his battalion began to withdraw under continuous enemy fire. It would be later learned that Morris had been captured but died in captivity on Jan. 21, 1951. Read about Morris. — Navy Fireman 1st Class Lawrence H. Fecho, whose remains were identified earlier, will be buried Aug. 13 in Bottineau, N.D. Fecho, 20, of Willow City, N.D., was stationed aboard the USS Oklahoma, which was moored at Ford Island, Pearl Harbor, when the ship was attacked by Japanese aircraft on Dec. 7, 1941. The battleship sustained multiple torpedo hits, which caused it to quickly capsize. The attack on the ship resulted in the deaths of 429 crewmen. Read about Fecho. — Navy Radioman 2nd Class Walter H. Backman, 22, of Walton, N.D., was stationed aboard the USS Oklahoma, which was moored at Ford Island, Pearl Harbor, when the ship was attacked by Japanese aircraft on Dec. 7, 1941. The battleship sustained multiple torpedo hits, which caused it to quickly capsize. The attack on the ship resulted in the deaths of 429 crewmen. Interment services are pending. Read about Backman. — Navy Radioman 2nd Class Quentin J Gifford, 22, of Mankato, Minn., was stationed aboard the USS Oklahoma, which was moored at Ford Island, Pearl Harbor, when the ship was attacked by Japanese aircraft on Dec. 7, 1941. The battleship sustained multiple torpedo hits, which caused it to quickly capsize. The attack on the ship resulted in the deaths of 429 crewmen. Interment services are pending. Read about Gifford. — Army Cpl. Roy J. Hopper was assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion 19th Infantry Regiment. He was reported killed in action on July 31, 1950, when his battalion was engaged in a fighting withdrawal against North Korean forces in Chinju, South Korea. Interment services are pending. Read about Hopper. — Army Sgt. 1st Class Alfred G. Bensinger, of Oklahoma, was a member of Company D, 2nd Engineer Combat Battalion, 2nd Infantry Division, when his unit was heavily engaged fighting Chinese forces in the Ch’ongch’on River area in northwestern North Korea, in late November 1950. Bensinger was reported missing in action as of Dec. 1, 1950. It would later be learned he had been captured but died in captivity. Interment services are pending. Read about Bensinger. — Army Pfc. Walter C. Hackenberg, of Beavertown, Pa., was a member of Company F, 2nd Battalion, 35th Infantry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division, when Chinese and North Korean forces attacked his unit west of Chorw’on, South Korea, in April 1951. The American troops were able to hold the line, but Hackenberg could not be accounted for at the end of the battle. He was declared missing in action as of April 25, 1951. Interment services are pending. Read about Hackenberg. Do you know someone who wants to help us fight for veterans? Sign up new veterans’ advocates today. As always, we want to hear your advocacy stories. Email the VFW to share your stories or photos with us. Missed last week’s issue? Read it here.