Friday, January 11, 2013

VFW Washington Weekly 1-10-13

President Signs Two Veterans Bills
On Thursday, President Barack Obama signed two key veterans' bills into law, each of which was supported by the VFW. The first bill was the Improving Transparency in Education Opportunities for Veterans Act (HR 4057), which was crafted by the VFW and ensures VA offers quality consumer information and consumer protections for student-veterans. The second bill, S 3202, is a comprehensive bill that improves cemetery protections for grieving families of veterans, establishes an open-air burn pit registry for veterans, launches a pilot program for veterans' transition resources, and ensures proper maintenance of Clark Cemetery in the Philippines. Read the official White House announcement. To learn about the VFW's work to pass HR 4057, click here. To learn about the VFW's involvement in both bills, click here

SVA Conference Highlights
Last weekend, the VFW was out in force at the 5th annual Student Veterans of America (SVA) national conference in Orlando. VFW Senior Vice Commander-in-Chief Bill Thien signed a memorandum of understanding with SVA, allowing VFW posts and SVA chapters to work more closely in college communities around the country to support student-veterans. VFW staffers also participated in roundtable discussions on topics like student-veteran policies in higher education and the transition from combat to college to the workforce. The VFW also maintained a booth space on-site where veterans could learn about the organization, ask questions about the VA disability claims process, or join the organization. More than 700 student-veterans came from colleges and universities across the country to participate in the four-day event. Get highlights from the SVA national conference. 

DOD to End TRICARE Prime for 171,000
Starting Oct. 1, the Pentagon will eliminate TRICARE Prime for some 171,000 military retirees and their eligible family members, forcing them instead to enroll in the more costly TRICARE Standard or Extra. Why? Because they reside 40 miles or more from an active military treatment facility or former military base. Defense officials are touting the positives of the change by saying the other two TRICARE programs offer more provider flexibility and eliminate the annual enrollment fee, among other benefits. The VFW views the change as a further lessening of earned benefits, especially since TRICARE Standard and Extra have more out-of-pocket expenses, which means DOD is making the change to save money, not to better serve military retirees. Those impacted will be notified my mail. The numbers total 98,771 people in the TRICARE South Region, 37,404 in the North and 36,706 in the West.Read more

Military Budget Reduction Planning
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told reporters yesterday that, "the most immediate threat to our ability to achieve our mission is fiscal uncertainty: not knowing what our budget will be; not knowing if our budget will be drastically cut; and not knowing whether the strategy that we put in place can survive." DOD is moving ahead with its budget reduction planning, primarily because of the inability of Congress to pass a defense bill or deal with the looming threat of sequestration, which could add an additional half-trillion in defense cuts on top of the $487 billion reduction already agreed to over the next 10 years. The budget reduction planning would reduce training for units not imminently deploying to Afghanistan and disrupt research and weapons modernization programs, among many other cuts. Federal civilian defense employees would also be hit with unpaid furloughs. Read more.

Get to Know the New Congress
As we begin the 113th Congress, now is a great time to get to know the new members and their staff. Educate them on the VFW's 2013 Legislative Priority Goals, and visit them when they are back in their State offices during district work periods. Encourage others interested in veterans' advocacy to sign up for the Washington Weekly and to join us on our blog. We are always interested in hearing your advocacy stories. So as you make your visits, feel free to submit a field report for consideration for  the VFW's Capitol Hill blog by using our online formor sending photos and stories directly to vfwac@vfw.orgFind your elected officials.

Field Report: North Dakota VFW Honors Senator
In December, leaders from the North Dakota VFW joined a special brunch to honor more than two decades of service from now-retired Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.). Advocates from the North Dakota VFW said that Conrad was a long-time supporter of the VFW and the veterans' community. To learn more about the event to honor Conrad's service in the Senate, click here. To submit your own Field Reports for consideration on the VFW's Capitol Hill blog, simply fill out our online form or send photos and stories directly to vfwac@vfw.org.

Korean War 60th Anniversary
Planning continues to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the armistice signing that brought a tentative end to the Korean War, a brutal three-year conflict that resulted in almost 1,000 U.S. combat deaths and 3,000 woundings per month. The event will be held July 27, 2013, in Washington, D.C., according to the Defense Department's Korean War Commemoration Committee, and all Korean War veterans and their families and descendants are invited to help remember the sacrifice of all who served. The DOD committee is authorized to accept donations—all tax-deductible—to help offset the cost of the commemoration. Learn more.

Two Korean War MIAs Recovered
 The Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office announced the identification of remains belonging to two soldiers who had been unaccounted-for since the Korean War. Identified are:

  • Army Pfc. Ernest V. Fuqua Jr., 21, of Detroit. In late November 1950, units of the 35th Infantry Regiment and allied forces were deployed in a defensive line advancing across the Ch'ongch'on River in North Korea when Chinese forces attacked. Fuqua was listed as killed in action on Nov. 28, 1950. His body was not recoverable at the time.
  • Army Pfc. Glenn S. Schoenmann, 20, of Tracy City, Tenn. In late November 1950, elements of the 31st Regimental Combat Team were deployed along the eastern banks of the Chosin Reservoir in North Korea when they were encircled and attacked by Chinese forces. Schoenmann was reported as missing in action on Dec. 12, 1950. It would be later learned he died in captivity from malnutrition and lack of medical care for his wounds.


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