Action Corps Weekly – November 6, 2015
In This Issue:
1. House Holds Hearing on VA Technology Systems
2. House Holds Joint Hearing on Veteran-Owned Small Business Contracting
3. Hearing on Misuse of VA’s Relocation Program
4. Miller and Walz on Improving VA
5. VA Releases Plan to Consolidate Community Health Care Programs
6. Government Shutdown Still Looms
7. Veterans Day in Washington
8. MIA Update
1. House Holds Hearing on VA Technology Systems: On Tuesday, Nov. 3, the House Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity held a hearing entitled, “Examining VA’s Information Technology Systems that Provide Economic Opportunities for Veterans.” The purpose of the hearing was to assess the strengths and weaknesses of the various IT tools that help veterans receive training and get jobs. These include the systems that allow VA to process GI Bill claims and manage the Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment program. Also discussed was the effectiveness of the VA Veteran Employment Center, a new website designed to connect veterans and employers who are looking to hire them. To visit the Veterans Employment Center website, click here: https://www.ebenefits.va.gov/ebenefits/jobs. To watch a webcast of the hearing, visit:http://veterans.house.gov/hearing/examining-va-s-information-technology-systems-that-provide-economic-opportunities-for.
2. House Holds Joint Hearing on Veteran-Owned Small Business Contracting: On Wednesday, Nov. 4, the House Small Business Subcommittee on Contracting and Workforce and the House Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations held a joint hearing to examine the progress and challenges of VA’s Vets First Verification Process. This is the process by which VA verifies that small businesses that receive veteran-owned contracting preferences are in fact owned and controlled by veterans. A 2013 report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that VA needed to improve the accuracy and timeliness of this process. The newest GAO report found that VA has made progress, reducing processing times by more than 50 percent – from 85 to 41 days – and improving accuracy. Still, VA must continue to streamline its process to make it less cumbersome and more veteran friendly. To watch the hearing, click here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RIBe0zy6HBI. For the full transcript, click here:http://smallbusiness.house.gov/calendar/eventsingle.aspx?EventID=398559.
3. Hearing on Misuse of VA’s Relocation Program: On Monday, Nov. 2, the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs held a hearing to receive testimony from witnesses who were subpoenaed following the release of a VA Office Inspector General (VA OIG) report which found that the Veterans Benefits Administration spent more than $1.5 million dollars on the questionable relocation assignments of several senior executives. Philadelphia VA Regional Office Director Diana Rubens and St. Paul VA Regional Office Director Kimberly Graves, who allegedly abused their authority for financial gain, appeared before the committee but opted to follow legal advice and refused to answer any questions. The committee was informed that VA is pursuing punitive action against Rubens and Graves, using the recently enacted expedited firing authority for senior executives. Committee members discussed the VA OIG’s findings and the need to improve accountability and address numerous issues with VA’s relocation program. To view a video of the hearing, visit:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QLCCjMJxZP4.
4. Miller and Walz on Improving VA: On Wednesday, Nov. 4, House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller and Congressman Tim Walz visited the Brookings Institute’s Center for 21st Century Security and Intelligence to discuss what VA is doing well and areas of concern that need to be improved. The discussion focused on how to improve the VA health care system and the need for better accountability. Chairman Miller emphasized that VA must leverage the private sector to improve health care access. Congressman Walz discussed the importance of holding VA employees accountable for wrongdoing, but warned that moving to a federal right-to-work structure would have long-lasting implications. To learn more or listen to the audio, visit: http://www.brookings.edu/events/2015/11/04-veterans-health-administration.
5. VA Releases Plan to Consolidate Community Health Care Programs: VA released its plan to consolidate its community care programs and authorities to improve access to health care for veterans, while streamlining and increasing the use of public and private health care providers in local communities. The plan is aimed at ensuring VA has the proper authority and processes to provide timely access to high quality care when veterans need it, regardless if it’s through VA or non-VA health care providers. The VFW is committed to ensuring that VA health care reforms put veterans’ health care needs and preferences first. The VFW is reviewing VA’s plan and will release its views on the plan soon. To learn more or read VA’s plan, visit:http://www.blogs.va.gov/VAntage/23804/va-releases-plan-to-consolidate-community-health-care-programs/.
6. Government Shutdown Still Looms: The recently signed Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 sets funding levels for the federal government through FY 2017, but it didn’t appropriate any funding, which is a task that now falls on the House and Senate Appropriations Committees. To prevent another government shutdown, both the House and Senate must approve the legislation and the president must sign it into law before Dec. 11, 2015. If funding can be agreed upon, the two-year deal would provide defense officials some much needed fiscal stability, even though it did not repeal sequestration. If an appropriations bill fails to pass, and if a Continuing Resolution is not used as a temporary stopgap funding measure, then a government shutdown would occur immediately, and its impact on military training and readiness and VA would be widespread, similar to the 16-day shutdown in 2013. The VFW Action Corps Weekly will publish more updates as they become available.
7. Veterans Day in Washington: VFW Posts everywhere will be recognizing Veterans Day on Nov. 11. Visitors to Washington can join in the national salute starting at the World War II Memorial at 9 a.m., at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery at 11 a.m. and at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial at 1 p.m. More updates will be posted on the respective websites at: WWII Memorial, http://www.wwiimemorialfriends.org/news-and-events/news-events; Arlington, www.arlingtoncemetery.mil; and The Wall, http://www.vvmf.org/2015-veterans-day-rsvp.
8. MIA Update: The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency has announced burial dates for four Americans who had been missing in action since World War II and Korea, and whose remains had been previously identified and returned to their families. To be buried with full military honors are:
– Army Pfc. Frank Worley, 21, of Wilmington, N.C., is being buried today in Salisbury, N.C. On Feb. 11, 1951, Worley and elements of Battery A, 503rd Field Artillery Battalion, 2nd Infantry Division, were occupying a position in the vicinity of Hoengsong, South Korea, when their unit was overwhelmed by Chinese forces. Worley was reported missing after the attack. Read more here:http://www.dpaa.mil/NewsStories/NewsReleases/tabid/10159/Article/626795/soldier-missing-from-korean-war-accounted-for-worley.aspx.
– Marine Pfc. James P. Reilly, 20, of New York, will be buried Nov. 9 in Bushnell, Fla. In November 1943, Reilly was assigned to Company L, 3rd Battalion, 8th Marines Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, which landed against stiff Japanese resistance on the small island of Betio in the Tarawa Atoll. Approximately 1,000 Marines were killed over several days of intense fighting, to include Reilly on the first day of battle, Nov. 20, 1943. Read more here:http://www.dpaa.mil/NewsStories/NewsReleases/tabid/10159/Article/627126/marine-missing-from-world-war-ii-accounted-for-reilly.aspx.
– Army Cpl. Martin A. King, 18, of Harrisburg, Pa., will be buried Nov. 9 in Annville, Pa. In early November 1950, King was assigned to Company E, 2nd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division, when his unit was attacked by Chinese forces while occupying a position along the Nammyon River, near Unsan, North Korea. King was reported missing on Nov. 2, 1950. It would be later learned that he had been captured, but died of malnutrition in a POW Camp. Read more here: http://www.dpaa.mil/NewsStories/NewsReleases/tabid/10159/Article/627128/soldier-missing-from-korean-war-accounted-for-king.aspx.
– Army Air Forces 1st Lt. William O. Pile, 24, of Circleville, Ohio, will be buried Nov. 10 in Arlington National Cemetery. On Dec. 23, 1944, Pile was assigned to the 559th Bombardment Squadron, 387th Bombardment Group, 9th Air Force. Pile was the pilot of a B-26C Marauder which crashed after being struck by enemy fire near Philippsweiler, Germany. Pile and his co-pilot, 2nd Lt. Robert Ward, were reported killed in action. Seven crewmen survived the crash by parachuting to safety. One crewman, however, was captured and later died in captivity. Read more here:http://www.dpaa.mil/NewsStories/NewsReleases/tabid/10159/Article/627582/airman-missing-from-wwii-accounted-for-pile.aspx.