In This Issue:
1. Deadline for VFW-SVA Legislative Fellowship Approaching
2. NDAA Update
3. VA’s Implementation of Kingdomware
4. Hearing on BRAC for VA and Pershing Hall
5. Veterans Legislation Roundup
6. New Retirement System Outreach
7. U.S. Mint Unveils WWI Centennial Coin and Medals
8. MIA Update
Download a PDF version of this week’s Action Corps Weekly.
1. Deadline for VFW-SVA Legislative Fellowship Approaching: The deadline for applying for the 2018 class of legislative fellows is Friday, October 20. The program, which is in its fourth year, is for VFW members who attend school on a campus with an approved SVA chapter. Ten student-veterans are selected for the semester-long program, which enables the VFW-SVA legislative fellows to attend the VFW’s Legislative Conference and advocate on real policy issues faced by veterans, the military and their families. Learn more about the program or apply.
2. NDAA Update: On Thursday, the House passed a motion to begin conference proceedings on this year’s National Defense Authorization Act. The members of the conference committee will be responsible for negotiating any differences between the House and Senate version of the bill in the coming days. The VFW has sent a memorandum to the conferees and Armed Services Committee leadership stating our position on a number of issues that are important to our membership, including opposition to TRICARE fee increases, pharmacy copay increases, and support for the extension of the dates of eligibility for the Vietnam Service Medal to include those who took part in the USS Mayaguez rescue operation and Operation End Sweep.
3. VA’s Implementation of Kingdomware: On Tuesday, The House Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations held a roundtable to discuss VA’s implementation of the June 16, 2016, Supreme Court decision on Kingdomware Technologies, Inc. v. United States, which requires VA to award contracts to veteran-owned small businesses when two or more veteran-owned small businesses are able to submit offers for such contracts and the award can be made at a fair and reasonable price that offers best value for the United States. Subcommittee members and small-business owners identified issues with VA’s process for awarding contracts. VFW National Legislative Service Director Carlos Fuentes urged VA to train its contract officers so they no longer view veteran-owned small businesses as a burden they must overcome. If you own a small business that contracts with the federal government, please let the VFW know how processes could be improved to ensure veteran-owned businesses have an opportunity to compete. Suggestions can be sent to the VFW Action Corps at firstname.lastname@example.org.
4. Hearing on BRAC for VA and Pershing Hall: On Thursday, the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs held a hearing on pending legislation. One bill would require VA to sell Pershing Hall, a hotel and memorial in Paris, France. The other bill would establish a Base Realignment and Closure process for realigning VA medical facilities throughout the country. Committee members discussed their desires to right-size VA’s footprint in each community. VFW National Legislative Service Director Carlos Fuentes warned Congress and VA that any plans to expand, replace or close VA medical facilities must be aligned with the views and preferences of veterans served by those facilities. View the hearing or read the testimony.
5. Veterans Legislation Roundup: This week, the House advanced several pieces of legislation to improve veterans’ benefits and services. On Thursday, the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs passed H.R. 1066, the VA Management Alignment Act of 2017, which would require the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to submit an evaluation to the Committees on Veterans’ Affairs of the Senate and the House on how individual program offices interact and hold each other accountable; H.R. 3122, the Veterans Care Financial Protection Act of 2017, which would require VA to develop and implement standards that protect individuals who are eligible for this increased pension from dishonest, predatory or otherwise unlawful practices; H.R. 3561, which would expedite the VA home loan appraisal process by authorizing VA-approved appraisers to use information from third-party entities when determining a home’s value; H.R. 3562, which task Specially Adapted Housing agents with providing adaptive housing assistance to veterans who use the independent living services as part of the Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (VR&E) program; H.R. 3656, which would establish a consistent applicability date for provision of memorial headstones and markers for eligible non-veteran individuals; and H.R. 3657, which would expand authority to provide headstones and markers to eligible spouses and dependents in tribal veterans cemeteries.
6. New Retirement System Outreach: The Pentagon asked the VFW to help spread the word about next week’s webinar and Facebook chat on the new Blended Retirement System, which takes effect in the new year. The first event is a webinar on Wednesday, Oct. 18, from 1-2 p.m. EDT, featuring Mr. Andy Corso and Maj. Michael Odle from the Pentagon Office of Military Compensation Policy, and Mr. Stewart Kaplan, who works for the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board. The webinar requires advance registration and can only accommodate 1,400 participants. Register for the webinar. The second event is a Facebook Q&A on Thursday, Oct. 19, from 1-2 p.m. EDT, with #AskRobyn, the Defense Department’s Blended Retirement System, along with colleagues from the Thrift Savings Plan. No registration is required. Find out more about the Facebook event.
7. U.S. Mint Unveils WWI Centennial Coin and Medals: The U.S. Mint this week unveiled a new collectible commemorative coin to mark the 100th anniversary of America’s entry into World War I. The limited edition, WWI Centennial Silver Dollar, is expected to be available for purchase for around $60 each beginning in January 2018, with $10 per coin going to help construct the VFW-supported World War I Memorial a block away from the White House. Also announced were five silver medals representing the five branches of the armed forces that served during the Great War: Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Service and Coast Guard. Details are still coming, but the silver medals are not expected to be sold individually, but instead paired with a WWI Centennial Silver Dollar and offered as a special set. Additional information will be available prior to their release in 2018.
8. MIA Update: The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency has announced identifications of remains and burial updates of seven American servicemen who had been missing in action from World War II and the Korean War. Returning home for burial with full military honors are:
— Army Air Forces 1st Lt. George W. Betchley, 20, of Yonkers, N.Y., whose identification was previously announced, will be buried Oct. 14 in Clearwater, Fla. Betchley was a member of the 429th Bombardment Squadron, 2nd Bombardment Group, 15th Air Force. On March 22, 1945, Betchley served as navigator on a B-17G Flying Fortress, carrying a crew of 10 on a bombing mission targeting the Ruhland oil refinery near Schwarzheide, Germany. After two of its engines and the left wing were reportedly damaged by German fighters and anti-aircraft fire, the plane crashed in southwest Poland. Eight crewmembers, including Betchley, were not recovered following the crash. Betchley was declared missing in action as of March 22, 1945, but his status was later amended to killed in action. Read about Betchley.
— Army Air Forces 2nd Lt. Richard M. Horwitz, 22, of Brookline, Mass., whose identification was previously announced, will be buried Oct. 15 in West Roxbury, Mass. Horwitz was a member of the 716th Bomber Squadron, 449th Bombardment Group. On Feb. 28, 1945, Horwitz and 10 other airmen departed Grottaglie Army Air Base, Italy, in a B-24J Liberator aircraft for a combat mission targeting Isarc-Albes railroad bridge in northern Italy, which was part of Brennan Route, used by Germans to move personnel and equipment out of Italy. After the bombing run, Horwitz’s aircraft was reported to have damaged at least two engines after skimming the mountain tops near Lake Wiezen, Austria, on the way to the rally point. No parachutes were reported and Horwitz was reported as missing in action. Read about Horwitz.
— Electrician’s Mate 3rd Class Don O. Neher, 28, of Kansas City, Mo., whose identification was previously announced, will be buried Oct. 16 in Arlington National Cemetery, near Washington, D.C. Neher was assigned to the USS Oklahoma, which was moored off Ford Island, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, when Japanese aircraft attacked his ship on Dec. 7, 1941. Neher was one of 429 crewmen killed in the attack. Read about Neher.
— Navy Seaman 2nd Class Harold L. Head was assigned to the USS Oklahoma, which was moored off Ford Island, Pearl