VFW Action Corps Weekly – March 4, 2016
In This Issue:
- VFW National Commander Testifies before Congress
- VFW-SVA Legislative Fellows “Storm the Hill”
- Help with Choice Program Billing Issues
- DOD Improves Discharge Upgrade Process for Veterans with PTSD
- Senator Joins VFW in Fight for Korean DMZ Veterans
- Navy SEAL Receives Medal of Honor
- MIA Update
- VFW National Commander Testifies before Congress: On Wednesday, VFW National Commander John Biedrzycki testified before a joint session of the House and Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committees. He spent nearly two hours presenting VFW’s priorities and positions and answering questions directly from lawmakers. He covered issues that range from access to health care to the disability claims appeals process, and from women veterans’ issues to toxic exposure. To view the hearing or read the testimony, click here: http://www.veterans.senate.gov/hearings/legislative-presentation-of-the-veterans-of-foreign-wars030216.
On Wednesday evening, Biedrzycki presented the VFW Congressional Award to House VA Committee Chairman Jeff Miller (R-FL), and the VFW News Media Award to Fox News national security correspondent Jennifer Griffin.
- VFW-SVA Legislative Fellows “Storm the Hill”: During the 2016 Legislative Conference this week, 10 student veterans were a major part of the effort on Capitol Hill to advance the VFW’s agenda. Promoting policies that the VFW considers vital to our mission, the fellows learned about the process of legislative activism and had direct roles in our events. Each fellow will return home to continue working on major policy areas, which will likely result in numerous pieces of legislation that the VFW will work to pass. For further details on this year’s fellows, see the VFW’s press release at: http://www.vfw.org/News-and-Events/Articles/2016-Articles/SVA,-VFW-Host-Student-Veterans-at-the-White-House-and-on-Capitol-Hill/.
- Help with Choice Program Billing Issues: VA has established a phone number, 877-881-7618, for veterans to call if their credit has been adversely impacted by private sector health care providers improperly billing them for care VA is required to pay. The VFW urges any veteran being pursued by collection agencies to seek VA’s assistance. However, veterans who were sent a bill from a Choice Program provider should contact the Choice Program call center, 866-606-8198, to determine if VA is liable for the cost of the care.
- DOD Improves Discharge Upgrade Process for Veterans with PTSD: On September 3, 2014, then Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel issued a memo instructing Boards for Correction of Military/Naval Records (BCM/NR) to grant “liberal consideration” to requests for discharge upgrades from veterans who may have been suffering from PTSD before it was a recognized diagnosis. Previously, those upgrade requests would have been denied, because veterans had no way of proving they had PTSD while still in service. The policy change was especially helpful for Vietnam veterans, whose post-service PTSD diagnoses had not been recognized by the BCM/NR up to that point. Unfortunately, the memo did not explicitly allow veterans who had been denied under the old rules to reapply under the new rules. To correct this error, DOD issued a memo on February 24, 2016, clarifying that those veterans may reapply under the new policy. It also waives the statute of limitations in those cases. If you or someone you know wishes to apply for a discharge upgrade under this policy, visit: http://arba.army.pentagon.mil/adrb-ptsd.cfm. To read the February 24 DOD memo, click here: http://www.defense.gov/Portals/1/Documents/pubs/Consideration_on_Discharge_Upgrade_Requests.pdf.
- Senator Joins VFW in Fight for Korean DMZ Veterans: On Thursday, Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) asked VA to expand the dates it uses to determine whether a veteran who served along the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) is presumed to be exposed to Agent Orange. This is in response to VFW National Commander John Biedrzycki’s testimony before a joint hearing of the House and Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committees that also called for VA to realign its presumptive dates to ensure veterans who served along the Korean DMZ between September 1, 1967, and April 1, 1968, and suffer from diseases and illnesses linked to Agent Orange exposure are afforded the opportunity to receive the health care and benefits they deserve. To read the press release, visit: http://www.blumenthal.senate.gov/newsroom/press/release/blumenthal-calls-on-va-to-extend-presumption-of-agent-orange-exposure-to-more-veterans-who-served-in-korean-dmz.
- Navy SEAL Receives Medal of Honor: On Monday, the president awarded the Medal of Honor to Navy Senior Chief Petty Officer Edward C. Byers Jr., making him the sixth Navy SEAL in the force’s history to receive the military’s highest honor. Byers, a life member of VFW Post 2313 in Hawthorne, Nevada, received the medal for actions taken during a rescue operation in Afghanistan in December 2012. A Toledo, Ohio, native and Navy corpsman, Byers has nine combat tours, two Purple Hearts, and is a five-time recipient of the Bronze Star with valor. Read more at: http://www.defense.gov/News-Article-View/Article/682410/president-awards-medal-of-honor-to-navy-seal-for-hostage-rescue-heroism?source=GovDelivery.
- MIA Update: The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency announced the identification of remains and burial dates of six servicemen who had been previously listed as missing in action from World War II and Korea. They are:
— Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Vernon T. Luke, 43, of Green Bay, Wisconsin, will be buried with full military honors on March 9 in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu. On Dec. 7, 1941, Luke was assigned to the USS Oklahoma when it was attacked and capsized after suffering multiple torpedo hits.
— Marine Corps Sgt. John C. Holladay, of Georgia, was lost fighting in the Solomon Islands on July 20, 1943. He was assigned to Company B, 1st Marine Raider Battalion, 1st Marine Raider Regiment, and will be buried with full military honors on a date and location yet to be announced.
— Army Air Forces Flight Officer Dewey L. Gossett, of South Carolina, was lost over Italy on Sept. 27, 1943. He was assigned to the 527th Fighter Squadron, 86th Fighter Group, 12th Air Force, and will be buried with full military honors on a date and location yet to be announced.
— Army Cpl. Davey H. Bart was lost fighting in North Korea on Nov. 2, 1950. It would be later confirmed he died in captivity. He was assigned to Company K, 3rd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division, and will be buried with full military honors on a date and location yet to be announced.
— In a burial update, Army Pfc. James M. Smith, 19, of Abbeville, Georgia, will be buried with full military honors on March 9 in Arlington National Cemetery. In February 1951, Smith was assigned to Company K, 38th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division, and was supporting the South Korean Army in attacks against the Chinese People’s Volunteer Forces. On February 12, the Chinese counterattacked. Smith was reported missing in action after the battle. Learn more at: http://www.dpaa.mil/NewsStories/NewsReleases/tabid/10159/Article/684448/soldier-missing-from-korean-war-accounted-for-smith.aspx.
— Army Sgt. 1st Class Raymond K. McMillian, of Henry, Virginia, was lost fighting in South Korea on Feb. 12, 1951. It would be later confirmed he died in captivity. He was assigned to Medical Company, 3rd Battalion, 38th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division, and will be buried with full military honors on a date and location yet to be announced.
— Army Pfc. Aubrey D. Vaughn, of Union, South Carolina, was lost fighting in North Korea on April 23, 1951. It would be later confirmed he died in captivity. He was assigned to Company C, 1st Battalion, 5th Infantry Regiment, 5th Regimental Combat Team, and will be buried with full military honors on a date and location yet to be announced.