VFW WASHINGTON WEEKLY
January 3, 2014
In This Issue:
1. COLA Penalty Fight Continues
2. Compensation Commission to Meet in San Antonio
3. Join the VFW Action Corps Today
4. VFW Releases 2014 Priority Goals
5. ABMC Assumes Control of Clark Veterans Cemetery
6. VFW Attends SVA Conference
7. New Secretary of Air Force Sworn In
1. COLA Penalty Fight Continues: A two-year budget deal to fund the government and temporarily end the sequester was signed into law Dec. 26. Unfortunately, it also contained a provision that penalizes working age military retirees with reduced cost-of-living adjustments. The penalty, which also affects medically-retired troops, is an automatic one-percent reduction from annual COLA increases until age 62. The cumulative impact of this reverse compound interest on a 40-year-old E-7 retiring today would be the direct loss of $70,000 or more by the time he or she turns 62. The VFW is now working with allies in both the House and Senate to find a bipartisan solution to eliminate the penalty when Congress reconvenes, but the VFW still needs your support to contact your members of Congress while they are still at home on recess. Join the VFW Call to Action today by going to http://capwiz.com/vfw/issues/alert/?alertid=63034211.
2. Compensation Commission to Meet in San Antonio: The COLA penalty on military retirees isn't the only threat to service member and veterans' benefits. The Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission is currently touring the country to gauge reactions to potential changes to military pay and benefits. Fort Sam Houston and San Antonio's VA Medical Center is their next stop with two public hearings and a town hall meeting on Jan. 6 and 7. The Commission is charged with examining how the troops are compensated while in uniform, in retirement and as veterans, and everything military or veteran-related is on their table, to include the 20-year retirement system, military pay and allowances, concurrent receipt, the GI Bills, military healthcare, exchanges, commissaries and schools, and transition and employment assistance programs, among many others. The VFW testified before the Commission in November and views their charter as a serious attempt to balance the budget on the backs of military families, retirees and veterans through an erosion of pay and benefits that will negatively impact recruiting and retention, and possibly threaten the continued viability of the All-Volunteer Military. San Antonio events are:
* Monday, Jan. 6: Public hearings from 8:30 a.m. to noon at the Fort Sam Houston Army Community Service Center, followed by a town hall meeting from 7-9 p.m. at the Audie L. Murphy Memorial VA Hospital.
* Tuesday, Jan. 7: Public hearings from 8:30 a.m. to noon at the Fort Sam Houston Warrior and Family Support Center.
The Commission is required to issue their report to the White House by May 1, 2014. For more information or to leave a public comment, go to http://www.mcrmc.gov/.
3. Join the VFW Action Corps Today: In 2013, the VFW Action Corps generated well over 100,000 messages to every congressional office on critical issues like the budget, tuition assistance, military awards, healthcare and the new retiree COLA penalty, but more still needs to be done. Of tremendous assistance to the VFW's national legislative work is the grassroots advocacy provided by veterans and veterans' advocates who reside in every state and congressional district of all 535 members of Congress. In 2014 we must remain vigilant and remind Congress that cutting any benefits earned by veterans, service members and their families is not acceptable. Pass the word for others to join Action Corps and help us to create and protect those benefits, as well as to defeat those proposals we deem detrimental to veterans, service members and their families. Join Action Corps today at http://capwiz.com/vfw/mlm/signup.htm.
4. VFW Releases 2014 Priority Goals: The VFW's 2014 Legislative Priority Goals are now available on the VFW website for the second session of the 113th Congress. We encourage you to familiarize yourself with the information, then provide copies to your congressional members and their professional staffs during office visits. Highlights from the 2014 goals include providing advance funding for all VA programs; protecting quality of life programs for military service members, retirees and their families; improvements in transition and employment tools for separating service members and veterans; and continued oversight and improvement to the VA disability claims system, among many others. To download and print copies of the 2014 Legislative Priority Goals, go to http://www.vfw.org/uploadedFiles/VFW.org/VFW_in_DC/2014%20Priority%20Goals%20brochure%20final%20pdf.pdf.
5. ABMC Assumes Control of Clark Veterans Cemetery: A VFW National Resolution was fulfilled Dec. 16 with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the Philippine and U.S. governments to allow the American Battle Monuments Commission to assume operations and maintenance of the Clark Veterans Cemetery. VFW Post 2485 had been the caretaker of the cemetery and its 8,000 non-World War II veterans and dependents for almost two decades after Clark Air Base was closed due to Typhoon Yunya and the Mount Pinatubo eruption. Resolution 431 was submitted by the VFW Department of Pacific and approved by delegates attending the 113th VFW National Convention in Reno, Nev. It called upon the United States government to resume full operational control of the Clark Veterans Cemetery. World War II remains are interred in the American Cemetery in Manila, which is one of 24 cemeteries ABMC operates overseas. Read more at http://www.abmc.gov/events/index.php.
6. VFW Attends SVA Conference: The VFW is participating in the 6th Annual Student Veterans of America National Conference in Phoenix. The SVA conference is focusing on social entrepreneurship, campus-based best practices, and upcoming policy changes in Washington. VFW joined in a legislative roundtable to urge a greater focus on consumer education tools and in-state tuition for all student-veterans. Past VFW Commander-in-Chief Jim Nier from Texas provided welcoming remarks yesterday to more than 600 student-veterans and supporters gathered for the three-day conference. For information on the conference and the agenda, click here: http://studentveterans.org/images/Documents/SVA-008%20Conference%20Agendakl1.31.pdf?utm_source=6NatCon+PR+Day+One&utm_campaign=NatCon+PR&utm_medium=email.
7. New Secretary of Air Force Sworn In: Deborah Lee James was sworn in as the 23rd Secretary of the Air Force on Dec. 20. She is the second woman to hold the position, after Dr. Sheila Widnall who served from 1993 to 1997. Ms. James brings with her 30 years of senior homeland and national security experience in the federal government and the private sector. She was previously the president of defense contractor SAIC's Technical and Engineering Sector, where she was responsible for 8,700 employees and more than $2 billion in revenue. She is now responsible for organizing, training, equipping and providing for the welfare of more than 690,000 active duty, Guard, Reserve airmen and civilians and their families, as well as overseeing an annual operating budget of more than $110 billion. Read her official bio at http://www.af.mil/AboutUs/Biographies/Display/tabid/225/Article/467806/deborah-lee-james.aspx.
As always, we want to share your advocacy stories on the VFW Capitol Hill blog. To share your stories either fill out our online form by clicking here, http://www.vfw.org/Forms/Capitol-Hill-Blog-Submissions/, or simply email photos and stories directly to firstname.lastname@example.org.
To sign up new veterans' advocates to receive the Washington Weekly every Friday, click here: http://capwiz.com/vfw/mlm/signup.htm.
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