Action Corps Weekly – November 20, 2015
In This Issue:
1. VFW Testifies at Senate Bill Hearing
2. Hearing on Pending Health Legislation
3. Hearing on Choice Consolidation
4. House Holds Hearing on VA OJT Program
5. Longtime Advocate Confirmed to Lead DOL VETS
6. Nomination Hearing for VA Inspector General
7. House Passes Several Veterans’ Bills
8. Terrorist Attack a Wakeup Call to America
9. DOD Unveils Initial “Force of Future” Plan
10. New JCS Senior Enlisted Advisor Announced
11. Vietnam War MIA Recovery
1. VFW Testifies at Senate Bill Hearing: On Wednesday, the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee held a hearing to discuss pending legislation. VFW Deputy Legislative Director Aleks Morosky testified at the hearing, offering the VFW’s views and recommendations. The bills cover a wide range of topics including VA whistleblower protection, GI Bill benefits restoration for veterans who attend schools that unexpectedly close, increased access to telemedicine, a training program to allow medics and corpsmen to become VA physician assistants, and improvements to the Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Program. The VFW supports all of the bills discussed at the hearing. To read the testimony and watch a video of the hearing, click here:http://www.veterans.senate.gov/hearings/pending-health-and-benefits-legislation-111815.
2. Hearing on Pending Health Legislation: On Tuesday, the House Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Health held a hearing to consider a number of important bills. Subcommittee members discussed a range of issues, including access to mental health for military sexual trauma victims, surveys used to gauge veteran experiences, and improving the safety of adaptive automobile grants. VFW Senior Legislative Associate Carlos Fuentes testified, offering the VFW’s support for most of the bills and recommendations to strengthen others. In his testimony, Fuentes urged the subcommittee to consider improving VA’s patient advocate program. To view a video of the hearing, visit: http://veterans.house.gov/hearing/legislative-hearing-4.
3. Hearing on Choice Consolidation: On Wednesday, the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee held a hearing to discuss VA’s plan to consolidate non-VA care programs. The co-authors of the Independent Budget (IB) – the VFW, DAV and PVA – submitted testimony commending VA for its plan to integrate private sector providers into the way it delivers care to veterans. The IB urged the committee to reconsider a proposal that would authorize VA to charge veterans for service-connected emergency room and urgent care. The IB also opposed a proposal to give VA the authority to withhold care from veterans who fail to report their private health care insurance information. The IB’s testimony also included our four-pronged vision for veterans’ health care reform. To view a video of the hearing, visit: http://veterans.house.gov/hearing/choice-consolidation-assessing-va-s-plan-to-improve-care-in-the-community. To read the IB’s testimony, visit: http://www.vfw.org/VFW-in-DC/Congressional-Testimony/Choice-Consolidation–Assessing-VA%E2%80%99s-Plan-to-Improve-Care-in-the-Community/.
4. House Holds Hearing on VA OJT Program: On Wednesday, the House Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity held a hearing to examine the VA On-the-Job Training (OJT) and Apprenticeship Program. Under the Post-9/11 GI Bill, veterans can receive benefits while participating in OJT programs and apprenticeships. The subcommittee stated that the OJT program provides an excellent opportunity for those who participate, but focused on specific improvements needed, as outlined by a recent Government Accountability Office report. These included recommendations that VA improve awareness of the program, ease administrative burdens, and develop better outcome measures. VA concurred with the recommendations and has begun implementing them. The VFW strongly supports the OJT program. To learn more about the OJT program, click here:http://www.benefits.va.gov/gibill/onthejob_apprenticeship.asp.
5. Longtime Advocate Confirmed to Lead DOL VETS: On Thursday, the Senate unanimously confirmed former member of Congress, Michael Michaud, to be the next assistant secretary of the Department of Labor-Veterans Employment and Training Service. Michaud has been a longtime veterans’ advocate and was the ranking member of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee before leaving Congress in 2014. Michaud has been a longtime friend of the VFW, and we look forward to working with him again in his new position.
6. Nomination Hearing for VA Inspector General: On Thursday, the president nominated former federal and congressional investigations counsel, Michael J. Missal, to be the next VA Inspector General. The position has been vacant for two years, but the office has played an integral role in exposing system-wide wrongdoing and data manipulation issues that have contributed to the VA health care access crisis. The VFW is hopeful that permanent leadership in this important position will lead to better accountability at VA. To read Mr. Missal’s testimony or view a video of the hearing, visit:http://www.veterans.senate.gov/hearings/pending-nomination-of-michael-j-missal-11172015.
7. House Passes Several Veterans’ Bills: This week, the House of Representatives passed several pieces of veteran-related legislation. These included H.R. 1694, which sets aside federal transportation contracts for veterans; H.R. 3114, which gives funding to the Army Corps of Engineers to hire veterans to assist with historic preservation; and H.R. 1338, which requires VA to study and report on veterans’ unclaimed remains in national cemeteries. Also approved by the House was H.R. 1384, the Honor America’s Guard-Reserve Retirees Act, which extends veterans’ status to reserve component retirees who are never activated. The VFW supports each of these bills. Stay tuned to the Action Corps Weekly for updates as they move through the Senate.
8. Terrorist Attack a Wakeup Call to America: VFW National Commander John Biedrzycki said the VFW stands with America’s first ally as it mourns in the wake of a vicious and cowardly attack, but that “the attack on Paris should also serve as a wakeup call that our own homeland is vulnerable to attack from radical Muslim extremists who are hell-bent on destroying us and our entire way of life,” he said. The Chief called America vulnerable because it has porous borders, a broken immigration system, and elected and appointed officials who refuse to recognize this enemy as a threat to national security, despite their having the great tactical advantage of choosing when and where to attack. He also said America is vulnerable because Congress still refuses to eliminate sequestration, which takes a meat cleaver to the budgets of national defense, intelligence and homeland security. Biedrzycki said America has been caught sleeping twice, on Dec. 7, 1941, and on Sept. 11, 2001. “There must not be a third time,” he said, “and that’s why the VFW will do what we must to force Washington to wake up and destroy this enemy before they strike our homeland. There is no higher nor more immediate national priority.”
9. DOD Unveils Initial “Force of Future” Plan: On Wednesday, Defense Secretary Ash Carter unveiled his department’s initial plans for a military force of the future. The details released were less than anticipated, but the VFW did learn during a teleconference prior to the unveiling that the new plan will expand internship and fellowship opportunities, create new doctorial programs, and bring in new ideas and talent, including entrepreneurs, to keep DOD forward thinking and ready for the future. More plans are expected to be released. Learn more about the initial plan at:http://www.defense.gov/Portals/1/features/2015/0315_force-of-the-future/documents/FotF_Fact_Sheet_-_FINAL_11.18.pdf.
10. New JCS Senior Enlisted Advisor Announced: The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine Corps Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., has selected Army Command Sgt. Maj. John W. Troxell as his new senior enlisted advisor. Troxell is currently stationed in South Korea and wears three hats as the command senior enlisted advisor to United Nations Command, Combined Forces Command and U.S. Forces Korea. He enlisted in the Army in 1982 as an armored reconnaissance specialist, and has five combat tours that include Operations Just Cause and Desert Shield/Storm, two tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan. Troxell will replace Marine Corps Sgt. Maj. Bryan Battaglia, who is retiring after 36 years of service.
11. Vietnam War MIA Recovery: The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency announced the identification of remains belonging to Army Staff Sgt. Kenneth L. Cunningham, 21, of Ellery, Ill. On Oct. 3, 1969, then Private 1st Class Cunningham was an observer in an OV-1C Mohawk aircraft on a surveillance mission over the tri-border area of Cambodia, Laos and South Vietnam. Contact was lost and the aircraft was found two days later on top of a 7,000 foot peak in a mountain range north of Kontum. His remains were not recovered. He was assigned to the 225th Aviation Company, 223rd Aviation Battalion, 17th Aviation Group, 1st Aviation Brigade.