Monday, October 19, 2009

VFW Washington Weekly

In This Issue:

1. Advanced Funding Ready for President
2. Veterans May Receive $250 Payment
3. House VA Committee Hearings
4. Maine Troop Greeters — The Movie
5. Entire Military Exceeds Recruiting Goals

1. Advanced Funding Ready for President: The Senate this week approved the VFW’s top priority—advanced funding for veterans' health care. The legislation now heads to the President’s desk for his signature. VFW thanks Congress for its support in getting this critical bill passed. The new law will allow VA to receive its funding a year in advance so that VA's managers will be able to provide high-quality health care and better address the needs of America's veterans. The VFW has called on President Obama to quickly sign it. Read the VFW Partnership’s press release.

2. Veterans May Receive $250 Payment: A proposal that would provide another one-time $250 payment to Social Security recipients, VA-compensated veterans and others collecting disability payments, has earned the backing of the President. The payment is designed to help seniors and veterans who are unlikely to receive a cost-of-living-adjustment in 2010 due to the inflation rate and other factors being negative. This is the first time in decades such payments have not received a COLA increase.

3. House VA Committee Hearings:
• On Wednesday, the House VA Committee held a hearing to discuss the current “State of VA.” Secretary Eric Shinseki assessed the challenges his agency is facing, to include new GI Bill implementation, health care enrollment, the claims backlog, cemetery planning, among many other. He answered questions concerning accountability, program improvements, new initiatives for veterans, and his vision for the VA in the 21st century. To read his report, go to the House VA Committee website.

• On Thursday, the House VA Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity held another oversight hearing on GI Bill implementation. VA Director of the Office of Education Services Keith Wilson testified on recent delays in education payments, and the lack of communication regarding resources, which has angered members of Congress. Subcommittee Chair Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (D-SD) asked VA to speak about IT upgrades and the unique demands of the new benefit. Others asked about feedback from veterans on the problems they encountered and if legislative fixes are needed.

• Also on Thursday, the House VA Subcommittee on Health held a hearing on inappropriate VA billing practices. Subcommittee Chair Michael Michaud (D-ME) questioned witnesses about overbilling, copayment charges and the overall inefficiencies in the billing system. Witnesses discussed data collected from independent surveys that suggested VA was incorrectly billing veterans and private insurance companies for service-connected conditions. Members agreed that VA has attempted to implement more accurate billing practices and relies on third party collections, but has failed to document the non service-connected care provided to insured veterans, and assign the appropriate billing codes essential to accurate collections.
For more on any of the hearings, visit the House VA website.

4. Maine Troop Greeters — The Movie: Since 2003, a band of patriotic veterans and citizens have greeted every deploying and redeploying troop plane that landed at Bangor International Airport regardless of the hour or the weather. At last count, they have now shaken the hands of more than 970,000 service personnel heading to or back from Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere. Their devotion is now the subject of an 86-minute documentary entitled, “The Way We Get By,” which is now showing in select theaters nationwide. Highlighted in the film are VFW Post 1761 member Bill Knight and friends Joan Gaudet and Jerry Mundy. Click here for a theater nearest you.

5. Entire Military Exceeds Recruiting Goals: For the first time since the All Volunteer Military went into effect in 1973, all four active duty services and six Guard/Reserve components reached or exceeded their recruiting goals for the fiscal year ending Sept. 30. The Pentagon cited the economic downturn and job market, as well as enlistment bonuses and other incentives as contributing factors. By the numbers:
• Army had 70,045 accessions, making 108 percent of its 65,000 goal.
• Navy had 35,527 accessions, making 100 percent of its 35,500 goal.
• Marine Corps had 31,413 accessions, making 100 percent of its 31,400 goal.
• Air Force had 31,983 accessions, making 100 percent of its 31,980 goal.
• Army National Guard had 56,071 accessions, making 100 percent of its 56,000 goal, and the Army
Reserve had 36,189 accessions, making 105 percent of its 34,598 goal.
• Navy Reserve had 7,793 accessions, making 101 percent of its 7,743 goal.
• Marine Corps Reserve had 8,805 accessions, making 122 percent of its 7,194 goal.
• Air National Guard had 10,075 accessions, making 106 percent of its 9,500 goal, and the Air Force Reserve had 8,604 accessions, making 109 percent of its 7,863 goal.

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