May 19, 2017
In This Issue:
1. Supreme Court Decision in Military Divorce Settlements
2. Senate Introduces VFW-Supported VA Health Care Bill
3. VFW Testifies before Senate VA Committee
4. GI Bill Education Roundtable
5. VAOIG Evaluates VA Suicide Prevention Programs
6. GAO Releases Report on Misconduct Discharges, PTSD, TBI
7. MIA Update
Download a PDF version of this week’s Action Corps Weekly.
1. Supreme Court Decision in Military Divorce Settlements: On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court presented a unanimous ruling on the case of Howell v. Howell, to reverse an Arizona Supreme Court decision which awarded half of an Air Force veteran’s retirement pay to his former spouse, despite the veteran having to waive a portion of his retirement pay in order to receive VA disability benefits. The ruling declared that state courts may not order a veteran to pay a divorced spouse for the loss in the divorced spouse’s portion of the veteran’s retirement pay caused by the veteran’s waiver of retirement pay to receive service-related disability benefits. “We’re pleased with the Supreme Court’s ruling in this case,” said VFW National Commander Brian Duffy. “This will, hopefully, provide some much needed consistency across the country and ensure some certainty for veterans.” The VFW will continue to monitor the implementation of this decision among the individual states. Read more about the ruling.
2. Senate Introduces VFW-Supported VA Health Care Bill: Senators Tammy Duckworth, Susan Collins and Richard Blumenthal introduced bipartisan legislation to expand cost-free preventive health care and medicine to veterans using VA. The VFW learned last year that while preventive health care and medicines are provided cost-free by law to all other insured Americans –– whether it be with the Department of Defense or private sector insurance –– VA is required by law to charge for these services and prescriptions. “There is no excusable reason why every other American can receive breast cancer prevention medicine cost-free, but veterans must pay. It is unsatisfactory that every other American prone to falls and breaking bones can receive cost-free vitamin D supplements, but our warriors with TBI must pay,” said VFW Adjutant General Robert E. Wallace. The VFW urges its members and supporters to contact their members of Congress and tell them to support S. 1161 and H.R. 1100, the Veterans Preventive Health Coverage Fairness Act. Read more about the legislation and contact your members of Congress.
3. VFW Testifies before Senate VA Committee: On Wednesday, the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs held a hearing to discuss pending health and benefits legislation. The VFW testified in support of 14 of the 15 bills that are being considered. The two most discussed topics were women veterans’ health care and an accountability bill Senator Marco Rubio recently introduced which would give the Secretary of Veterans Affairs more authority to fire wrongdoers and protect whistleblowers. “The VFW has worked tirelessly to prioritize the need to improve gender-specific health care, recognition of women veterans, improved outreach to them and to break down the unique barriers homeless female veterans face,” said VFW Associate Director Kayda Keleher. View the hearing or read the testimony.
4. GI Bill Education Roundtable: On Thursday, the VFW participated in a GI Bill roundtable discussion with our strategic partners, Student Veterans of America and the American Legion, along with congressional staff, representatives from VA, and other VSOs and MSOs. The intent of the meeting was to form a consensus regarding the future improvements needed for the GI Bill. Issues discussed were the reinstatement of educational benefits for National Guardsmen and Reservists activated without benefits, restoring eligibility for student veterans affected by school closures, full GI Bill benefits for Purple Heart recipients, and full Yellow Ribbon Program eligibility for Gunnery Sergeant John David Fry Scholarship recipients. The VFW fully supports these initiatives in order to improve educational benefits for our service members, veterans and their families. The next step is for Congress to approve these measures in a timely manner. This meeting was an excellent example of how the veteran community works together to accomplish common goals and speak with one voice.
5. VAOIG Evaluates VA Suicide Prevention Programs: The Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General (VAOIG) released a report on Thursday on their investigation into the VA suicide prevention programs. The report provides the Veterans Health Administration with six recommendations for improvement. One of the most alarming suggestions is for clinicians to complete suicide risk management training within 90 days of hire. This suggestion is crucial after VAOIG found that 46 percent of new clinicians at the facilities evaluated are not completing this training within 90 days of hire. These clinicians noted they were not allotted the required amount of time to complete the training. Read the report.
6. GAO Releases Report on Misconduct Discharges, PTSD, TBI: The U.S. Government Accountability Office issued a report on Tuesday highlighting action needed to ensure post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury (TBI) are considered in military separations for misconduct. Inconsistencies were found within the Department of Defense with military services and separation policies. The report also found that more than three out of five service members discharged for misconduct from 2011-2015 have been diagnosed with PTSD, TBI, substance abuse or other adjustment related problems. Read the report.
7. MIA Update: The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency announced the identification of remains of six Americans who had been missing in action from WWII and Korea. Returning home for burial with full military honors are:
— Army Pfc. Manuel M. Quintana, 19, of Klondyke, Ariz., will be buried May 19 in Boulder City, Nev. Quintana was a member of Company K, 3rd Battalion, 29th Infantry Regiment. In late July 1950, the regiment unexpectedly encountered enemy forces while moving toward Hadong, in present day South Korea. Following the battle, Quintana could not be accounted for and was declared missing in action as of July 27, 1950. Read about Quintana.
— Army Staff Sgt. Michael Aiello was a member of Company G, 401st Glider Infantry Regiment (GIR). Attached to the 325th GIR for Operation Market Garden in September 1944, Aiello’s unit battled German forces in a dense forest in the Netherlands, known as Kiekberg Woods. During four days of intense battle, the Americans incurred many losses, including Aiello. Interment services are pending. Read about Aiello.
— Army Cpl. John Lane was assigned to Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, 19th Infantry Regiment, 24th Infantry Division. In late July 1950, Lane’s unit set up in defensive positions in Chinju, South Korea, after Chinese forces attacked the city. After his unit was forced to withdraw east to regroup, Lane could not be accounted for and was reported missing in action as of July 31, 1950. Interment services are pending. Read about Lane.
— Army Cpl. Richard Seadore was assigned to Company D, 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division. Seadore’s unit was set up in defensive positions north of Uijong-bu, South Korea, on Dec. 14, 1950, when they were attacked by Chinese forces. Seadore could not be located after the battle. Originally listed as absent without leave, his status was later changed to missing. Interment services are pending. Read about Sedore.
— Army Cpl. Glen E. Kritzwiser was a member of Battery C, 15th Field Artillery Battalion, 2nd Infantry Division. Kritzwiser’s unit, part of Support Force 21, provided artillery fire support for South Korean forces from Changbong-ni. On Feb. 11, 1951, Chinese forces launched a massive counter offensive, forcing the support force to withdraw. Kritzwiser could not be accounted for after the unit reassembled in Wonju on Feb. 13. Interment services are pending. Read about Kritzwiser.
— Army Cpl. Frank L. Sandoval was a member of Battery A, 15th Field Artillery Battalion, 2nd Infantry Division. Sandoval’s unit, part of Support Force 21, provided artillery fire support for South Korean forces from Changbong-ni. On Feb. 11, 1951, Chinese forces launched a massive counter offensive, forcing the support force to withdraw. Sandoval could not be accounted for after the unit reassembled in Wonju on Feb. 13. Interment services are pending. Read about Sandoval.
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