VFW Action Corps Weekly – July 24, 2015
In This Issue:
1. VFW Elects New National Commander
2. President Obama Speaks at VFW National Convention
3. VA Secretary Addresses VFW National Convention
4. The VFW Visits Pittsburgh VA Health Care System
5. House Passes Veterans’ Health Care Bill
6. House Hearing on VA Budget Shortfalls
7. Senate Markup on Pending Legislation
8. World War II MIA Identified
1. VFW Elects New National Commander: The Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States concluded its 116th National Convention by electing Pittsburgh native John A. Biedrzycki Jr. as its new national commander. For more information about the new national commander and to read his acceptance speech, click here: http://www.vfw.org/News-and-Events/Articles/2015-Articles/VFW-Elects-New-National-Commander/.
2. President Obama Speaks at VFW National Convention: President Obama spoke Tuesday at the VFW’s 116th National Convention in Pittsburgh. It was his third appearance as president and fifth overall. His main topics were of high interest to the estimated 5,000 VFW and Auxiliary delegates in the audience. He spoke of caring for veterans, service members and their families, and that more work still needs to be done at VA. He spoke of the tentative nuclear deal with Iran, as well as the need to continue training and supporting Iraqi forces fighting against ISIL, and especially the need for Congress to end sequestration which is the VFW’s top legislative priority. He gave homage to the four Marines and one sailor who were shot and killed in Chattanooga, Tenn., by a believed radicalized gunman. He would later that day order all U.S. flags to half-staff. Watch the president’s speech at:http://www.vfw.org/ConventionLive/.
3. VA Secretary Addresses VFW National Convention: On Tuesday, VA Secretary Robert McDonald addressed the VFW National Convention in Pittsburgh, delivering a presentation entitled “Caring for Veterans: Progress and Transformation.” In discussing the Veterans Health Administration, Secretary McDonald outlined what he believes are the three pillars of caring for veterans: Research, Education, and Clinical Care. He pointed out that VA conducted 55 million appointments in 2014, serving 6.6 million unique patients, and remarked that VA receives higher satisfaction ratings from veterans than private hospitals receive from their patients, per the American Customer Satisfaction Index. He also described the challenges VA faces in providing the highest quality care. The aging veterans population, increased complexity of conditions, and a higher rate of survivability for the newest generation of veterans after more than a decade of war will all continue to fuel the demand for care. Still, with the proper funding, the Secretary believes that VA can and will continue to provide the highest quality care for all veterans, when they need it and where they need it. Other topics covered by Secretary McDonald included VA infrastructure, the claims backlog, veterans homelessness, and the MyVA initiative, designed to improve the veteran experience at VA facilities. The VFW thanks Secretary McDonald for his participation at the 116th VFW National Convention. To view the slides from his presentation, visit: 2015 07 21-FINAL VFW Annual Convention (16×9).pptx.
4. The VFW Visits Pittsburgh VA Health Care System: On Wednesday, the VFW visited the Pittsburgh VA Health Care System’s University Drive campus to continue its extensive oversight of the VA health care system. VFW staff met with medical center leadership and staff to discuss the care and services the system provides to approximately 360,000 veterans in western Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Ohio. During the visit, we heard from medical center staff and veterans on how changes to the VA scheduling process and use of non-VA health care is impacting facility operations and the health care it provides to veterans.
In our continued effort to better represent the needs of our membership on Capitol Hill, the VFW looks to continue visiting VA medical centers across the country to evaluate the care and services the VA health care system provides to veterans. We also want to hear what you think is important when seeking health care. If you have not already taken our survey on the state of VA health care, please click here: https://www.research.net/r/VACareSummer15.
5. House Passes Veterans’ Health Care Bill: On Tuesday, the House passed a bill to expand homeless benefits to veterans fleeing domestic abuse, evaluate the efficacy of VA mental health care, and require VA to properly track and document biological implants. This bill also includes a provision that would require VA to round down any cost-of- living increases to the Montgomery GI Bill and the Survivors’ and Dependents’ Educational Assistance program, a provision the VFW opposes. Stay tuned to the Action Corps Weekly for updates on this bill.
6. House Hearing on VA Budget Shortfalls: On Wednesday, Secretary Robert McDonald testified before the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs on the nearly $3 billion dollar shortfall VA faces in its fiscal year (FY) 2015 budget, which may force the Department to reduce operations at its medical facilities by mid-September. Secretary McDonald testified that the shortfalls were due to higher than expected demand for health care at VA medical facilities and through non-VA community providers. Committee members expressed intent to pass a bill by next week to authorize VA to use Choice Program funding to address FY 2015 budget shortfalls. The VFW will work to ensure this bill does not hinder veterans’ access to non-VA care and the Veterans Choice Program. To view a video of the hearing, visit: http://veterans.house.gov/hearing/to-receive-the-secretary-s-testimony-regarding-the-pending-va-health-care-budget-shortfall. To read the Secretary’s testimony, visit: http://www.va.gov/opa/publications/docs/HVAC-BUDGET-TESTIMONY-7-23-2015.pdf.
7. Senate Markup on Pending Legislation: On Wednesday, the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs held a markup to report on a number of important bills which should receive consideration by the full Senate in the near future. Among others, the Committee voted to advance S. 1082, a bill to authorize the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to hold underperforming employees accountable for wrongdoing; S. 1203, to improve the appeals process for VA compensation benefits; and S. 1493, to provide a cost-of-living increase for VA benefits equal to Social Security benefits. During the markup, Chairman Isakson committed to holding another markup in the fall to consider other bills that are important to VFW members, such as expansion of caregiver benefits, toxic exposure research, and legislation to address overmedication and use of high-dose opioids. To view the markup, please visit:http://www.veterans.senate.gov/hearings/business-meeting-markup-of-pending-legislation07222015.
8. World War II MIA Identified: The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency announced the identification of remains of Army Pvt. Arthur H. Kelder, 26, of McHenry, Ill., who was buried July 18 in Chicago. On Dec. 8, 1941, Kelder was assigned to the Philippine Department, U.S. Army Forces in the Far East, when Japanese forces invaded the Philippine Islands. Thousands of U.S. and Filipino service members were taken prisoner and forced to endure the Bataan Death March en route to Japanese POW camps. Kelder was among those reported captured after the surrender of Corregidor. On Nov. 19, 1942, 14 Americans, including Kelder, were reported to have died. They were buried by their fellow prisoners in a common grave in a local camp cemetery in Cabanatuan. Read more at: http://www.dpaa.mil/NewsStories/NewsReleases/tabid/10159/Article/608594/soldier-missing-from-wwii- accounted-for-kelder.aspx