VFW Action Corps Weekly – December 8, 2017
In This Issue:
1. National Pearl Harbor Day
2. VFW Supports Bipartisan Community Care Bill
3. VFW Delivers Petition Urging Congress to Expand VA Caregiver Program
4. VFW Visits Offutt AFB
5. Applications for New Veterans ID Delayed
6. House Passes Accountability Bill
7. TRICARE Webinar
8. Education Information
9. MIA Update
Download a PDF version of this week’s Action Corps Weekly.
1. National Pearl Harbor Day: VFW National Commander Keith Harman and VFW Auxiliary National President Dee Guillory joined thousands of veterans, active-duty military, and their families and supporters at the Pearl Harbor Visitors Center in Hawaii to commemorate the 76th anniversary of the attack. They would then lay a VFW wreath aboard the USS Arizona Memorial in salute of this year’s commemorative theme, “Rising to the Challenge,” which recognizes the massive military buildup and civilian support that would lead to total victory over the Japanese less than four years later. Learn more.
2. VFW Supports Bipartisan Community Care Bill: The VFW and 25 other veterans and military service organizations sent a letter to Senators Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) this week, urging both parties to swiftly pass the Caring for Our Veterans Act of 2017. This bipartisan legislation, which passed 14-1 through the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs last week, would bring much needed improvements to the VA health care system and its community care programs. It would consolidate VA’s various community care programs into one improved and permanent program, remove arbitrary barriers for eligibility to use community care, provide the ability for veterans to use private clinics for walk-in appointments at no cost, twice a year, and expand VA’s current caregiver program to all eras of service. The legislation would also maintain VA primary care providers as the coordinator of care for veterans whether they seek treatment within VA or need to go into the community. Read the letter.
3. VFW Delivers Petition Urging Congress to Expand VA Caregiver Program: This week the VFW, Disabled American Veterans, The American Legion and Paralyzed Veterans of America joined forces in support of pre-9/11 caregivers who are unjustly denied access to the comprehensive caregiver services VA provides the caregivers of post-9/11 veterans. Together, they delivered a petition with more than 182,000 signatures calling on Congress to expand VA comprehensive caregiver assistance benefits to disabled veterans of all eras. They were joined by Senate and House members also calling on their colleagues to pass caregiver extension legislation. “Caregivers of military veterans, the overwhelming majority of whom are family members, put their lives and careers on hold, often accepting great emotional and financial burdens to ensure their veterans have a meaningful quality of life and stay in their homes instead of having to receive institutional nursing home care,” said Bob Wallace, VFW’s assistant adjutant general and executive director, Washington Office. Read the press release.
4. VFW Visits Offutt AFB: This week, VFW Sr. Vice Commander Vincent “B.J.” Lawrence, Jr. Vice Commander William “Doc” Schmitz and Director, National Security and Foreign Affairs, Sarah Maples, visited Offutt Air Force Base near Omaha, Neb. They toured the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency’s Offutt-Lab, where they learned details on how forensic techniques have been used to identify over 100 unknown sailors and Marines from the USS Oklahoma. They also received a mission and quality of life briefing from the U.S. Strategic Command’s senior enlisted advisor and visited the 55th Wing’s Office of the Warrior Advocate –– a pilot program whose mission is to coordinate warrior care among base agencies and provide their leadership awareness of their invisible wounds community. During lunch with several airmen, they listened to their concerns and provided information on the services, programs and advocacy the VFW offers to service members, veterans and their families. Read more about DPAA’s USS Oklahoma project.
5. Applications for New Veterans ID Delayed: The high volume of applications for the new veterans ID card has caused VA to delay new applications. VA has established an email reminder system for veterans who have not been able to apply. Visit the Vets.gov Veterans ID Card application website if you are interested in applying. VA has not indicated how long veterans will wait before being able to submit new applications or how soon those who have already applied will receive their ID cards. Stay tuned to the Action Corps Weekly for updates.
6. House Passes Accountability Bill: On Wednesday, the House of Representatives unanimously passed S. 1266, the Enhancing Veteran Care Act, which would allow VA to contract with nonprofit organizations that accredit health care organizations to conduct investigations into alleged wrongdoing. As part of ongoing efforts to ensure accountability and transparency, this bill would allow the director of a Veterans Integrated Service Network (VISN) to begin investigations while still requiring the VISN director to notify the Office of Inspector General that an investigation has begun under this new authority. Having also cleared the Senate, the bill now heads to the president. Read the bill.
7. TRICARE Webinar: The Defense Health Agency will conduct a TRICARE Asked & Answered Webinar on Wednesday, Dec. 13, from 1-2:00 p.m. EST. The webinar will include a panel of experts with representatives from TRICARE offices and programs, including TRICARE Dental Program, TRICARE Pharmacy Program, TRICARE Overseas Program, TRICARE For Life, Reserve Component, and TRICARE Policy and Benefits. Beneficiaries may register for the webinar. If the webinar fills up, beneficiaries may still participate by dialing (914) 614-3221 and entering access code 351-706-425.
8. Education Information: All service members and veterans who want to use their GI Bill benefits to pursue their education goals should make use of VA’s GI Bill Comparison Tool, which allows you to compare different programs and institutions that accept the GI Bill. The GI Bill Comparison Tool provides information on the schools such as accreditation, student outcomes and whether the institution participates in veterans-specific programs. It also allows you to view up-to-date complaints from current and past students and provides an estimate of the benefits you would receive. Using this VA-provided tool helps you to make informed decisions about where to attend school, and hopefully avoid programs that offer little to no value.
9. MIA Update: The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency has announced identification of remains and burial updates of seven American servicemen who had been missing in action from World War II. Returning home for burial with full military honors are:
— Marine Corps Pvt. Archie W. Newell, 22, of Aberdeen, S.D., whose identification was previously announced, will be buried Dec. 8, in Arlington National Cemetery, near Washington, D.C. Newell was assigned to Company C, 2nd Tank Battalion, 2nd Marine Division. Newell’s unit landed on the small island of Betio in the Tarawa Atoll on Nov. 20, 1943, against stiff Japanese resistance. Newell was killed on the first day of the battle and his remains were buried in a battlefield cemetery on the island. Read about Newell.
— Marine Corps Reserve Pfc. Sam J. Kourkos, 20, of Independence, Kan., whose identification was previously announced, will be buried Dec. 9 in his hometown. Kourkos was assigned to Company M, 3rd Battalion, 8th Marines, 2nd Marine Division. On Nov. 20, 1943, Kourkos’s unit landed on the small island of Betio in the Tarawa Atoll against stiff Japanese resistance. Kourkos was killed on the second day of the battle, one of approximately 1,000 Marines and sailors killed in the intense fighting. Read about Kourkos.
— Navy Fireman 1st Class Samuel W. Crowder, 35, of Louisville, Ky., whose identification was previously announced, will be buried Dec. 9 in his hometown. Crowder was assigned to the USS Oklahoma, which was moored off Ford Island, Pearl Harbor, when Japanese aircraft attacked his ship on Dec. 7, 1941. Crowder was one of 429 crewmen killed in the attack. Read about Crowder.
— Navy Reserve Aviation Radioman 2nd Class Albert P. Rybarczyk, 21, of St. Joseph, Mich., whose identification was previously announced, will be buried Dec. 11 in his hometown. Rybarczyk was a member of the Navy Torpedo Squadron Eighteen (VT-18), USS Intrepid. On Sept. 8, 1944, during a bombing mission against Japanese positions on Babelthuap Island, Palau, their 2,000-pound bomb hit an ammunition dump. The resulting explosion tore the tail from the aircraft, causing it to crash offshore. Rybarczyk was reported missing in action. Read about Rybarczyk.
— Marine Corps Reserve Pfc. Albert Strange, 18, of Mammoth Cave, Ky., whose identification was previously announced, will be buried Dec. 13, in Cave City, Ky. Strange was assigned to Company E, 2nd Battalion, 8th Marines, 2nd Marine Division. On Nov. 20, 1943, Strange’s unit landed on the small island of Betio in the Tarawa Atoll against stiff Japanese resistance. Strange was killed on the first day of the battle, one of approximately 1,000 Marines and sailors killed in the intense fighting. He was buried in a battlefield cemetery. Read about Strange.
— Marine Corps Pfc. Lyle E. Charpilloz was assigned to Company F, 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division. On Nov. 20, 1943, Charpilloz’s unit landed on the small island of Betio in the Tarawa Atoll against stiff Japanese resistance. Charpilloz was killed on the first day of the battle, one of approximately 1,000 Marines and sailors killed in the intense fighting. His remains were buried in a battlefield cemetery on the island. Interment services are pending. Read about Charpilloz.
— Marine Corps Pvt. Emil F. Ragucci was assigned to Company E, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division. On Nov. 20, 1943, Ragucci’s unit landed on the small island of Betio in the Tarawa Atoll against stiff Japanese resistance. Ragucci died on the first day of the battle, one of approximately 1,000 Marines and sailors killed in the intense fighting. His remains were buried in a battlefield cemetery on the island. Interment services are pending. Read about Ragucci.
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.