Monday, May 18, 2015

Letter From VFW CIC

Dear Friend,

It's a time-honored tradition here at the VFW.

On Memorial Day, the VFW Commander-in-Chief visits Arlington National Cemetery to lay a wreath in honor of every man and woman who gave all in defense of our country.

I'm preparing to leave right now. But I want to make sure you're part of this visit as well …

Friend, can I ask you to please make a special gift to the VFW in honor of Memorial Day today?

Your generosity makes our work for veterans and their families possible. And right now, there are so many veterans who need us. 

… Injured veterans struggling to make ends meet
… Veterans on hard times, waiting for VA claims to come through
… Military families without enough money to buy groceries, medicine or pay bills

You can show them they are not forgotten with your Memorial Day gift.

As I stand among those graves in Arlington, know that I carry your pride and thanks for America's veterans in my heart.

I'll see to it that your generosity is put to work for our veterans—those still with us who need our help … and the families of those who gave all.

Thank you.


John W. Stroud
VFW Commander-in-Chief

Friday, May 15, 2015



                                                           May 15, 2015

In This Issue:
1. Second Veterans Choice Program Report
2. VFW Testifies at Choice Program Hearings
3. Senate Holds Hearing on Key Bills
4. House Holds Oversight Hearing
5. Senate Committee Moves NDAA
6. VA Grants Higher Ed Waivers
7. Burial of Unclaimed Remains
8. National WWI Memorial Design Competition
9. Two WWI Soldiers to Receive Medal of Honor
10. Korean War Soldier Identified

1. Second Veterans Choice Program Report: On Monday, the VFW released a second report on the Veterans Choice Program based on feedback from more than 9,600 veterans. The VFW found that participation and awareness of the program has improved. However, the report reveals several areas of concern that still remain to be addressed. Read the report and the VFW's 13 recommendations here:

2. VFW Testifies at Choice Program Hearings: This week the Senate and House Committees on Veterans' Affairs held hearings to evaluate the Choice Program. The committees discussed challenges the program faces and proposed changes. Senior Legislative Associate Carlos Fuentes presented the findings from the VFW's second report on the Choice Program. Fuentes discussed the importance of ensuring eligibility for non-VA care is veteran centric and clinically based.  He also stated the VFW's opposition to a proposed change that will require veterans to choose whether to participate in the Choice Program or wait longer than 30 days for a VA appointment, before exploring their options through the Choice Program. The current process allows veterans to make an informed choice by exploring their private sector options before rejecting their VA appointment. Read the VFW's testimony and watch the hearings here:

Senate hearing:

House hearing:

3. Senate Holds Hearing on Key Bills: On Wednesday, the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee held a hearing on several important bills related to VA benefits. VFW Deputy Legislative Director Aleks Morosky offered the VFW's support for many of the bills, as well as recommendations to improve others. The bills under discussion addressed several important issues including VA employee accountability, improving the disability claims process and making GI Bill eligibility calculation fairer for reservists. In addition, Morosky voiced the VFW's strong support for S. 681, the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2015. Introduced by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), this critical bill would finally extend presumptive service connection for conditions related to Agent Orange exposure to Blue Water Navy Veterans. At the hearing, Chairman Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) indicated that the Committee will continue to move the bills through the legislative process, with a markup to be scheduled sometime in June. To view a video of the hearing and read the full transcript, visit:

4. House Holds Oversight Hearing: On Thursday, the House Veterans' Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations held a hearing to better understand the allegations of VA employees improperly using government purchase cards. A year ago, the VA's Office of Inspector General (OIG) substantiated misuse of these cards, and recently a whistleblower has stepped forward claiming VA has done little to eliminate the practice. VA, the OIG and the whistleblower all testified in what was a heated hearing. To read the witnesses' statements and watch the hearing, click here:

5. Senate Committee Moves NDAA: On Thursday, the Senate Armed Services Committee voted on their version of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2016. The Senate committee's bill set guidelines for $613 billion. Unlike the bill passed by the House of Representatives, the Senate bill includes language that would lead to the privatization of commissaries. The VFW opposes this provision. The Senate bill did include VFW supported language to provide a Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) contribution to every service member. However, the Senate bill excluded a House provision that would provide TSP contributions to service members who continue to serve past 20 years. The VFW will fight to ensure that TSP contributions continue throughout the service member's career before the president signs the bill into law. To read the VFW's statement on commissaries, click here:

To view our action alert on military retirement compensation, click here:

6. VA Grants Higher Ed Waivers: A section of the VA Access, Choice and Accountability Act required public universities to provide veterans in-state tuition rates or have their education programs disapproved for GI Bill funding. While quickly implementing this change is important, it is equally important to ensure that universities have adequate time to make the appropriate changes so student veterans who are enrolled are not harmed if their school cannot comply by the deadline. Secretary McDonald used his authority today to grant a blanket waiver to universities that are not in compliance with the law, as long as they produce a compliance plan by June 15, 2015. To learn more, read VA's press release here:

7. Burial of Unclaimed Remains: On Wednesday, VA announced its program to reimburse an individual or entity for the purchase of a casket or urn used to inter a deceased, unclaimed veteran in a VA national cemetery, if the veteran died with no identifiable next of kin and insufficient resources to pay for a casket or urn. Starting this week, VA will reimburse the actual cost of a casket or urn, not to exceed an annually established average cost, used to inter an eligible unclaimed veteran. Read more about the program here:

8. National WWI Memorial Design Competition: The World War I Centennial Commission is opening a design competition for the new national memorial that will be built a block away from the White House in Pershing Park, which is along Pennsylvania Avenue between 14th and 15th Streets. Officials have set up a two-stage competition and it is open to all. In the first stage, participants will submit narrative and graphic descriptions of a design concept responding to the competition's design goals. Judges will select three to five submissions, and those entries will be further refined and developed in the second stage. The commission will have final decision on the selected design, based on the recommendation of a jury. The submission deadline is July 21, 2015, with the finalists to be announced on Aug. 4, 2015. The commission expects to announce its selected design in January 2016. The design competition formally begins May 21 and competition rules will be posted on the commission's website:

9. Two WWI Soldiers to Receive Medal of Honor: Two World War I veterans will posthumously receive the Medal of Honor for conspicuous gallantry. President Obama will present the nation's highest medal on June 2 to:
Army Pvt. Henry Johnson, a member of Company C, 369th Infantry Regiment, 93rd Division, who distinguished himself on May 15, 1918, in the vicinity of the Tourbe and Aisne Rivers, northwest of Saint Menehoul, France. While on night sentry duty, Johnson and a fellow soldier were attacked by a German raiding party. Despite being wounded, Johnson mounted a brave retaliation resulting in several enemy casualties, and prevented his badly wounded comrade from being taken prisoner by engaging an enemy soldier in hand-to-hand combat. He died in 1929 and is buried at Arlington National Cemetery. Accepting the medal on his behalf will be New York National Guard Command Sgt. Maj. Louis Wilson.
Army Sgt. William Shemin, a member of Company G, 2nd Battalion, 47th Infantry Regiment, 4th Division, distinguished himself on August 7-9, 1918, in the vicinity of the Vesle River, Bazoches, France. Shemin left the cover of his platoon's trench and crossed open space to rescue wounded comrades, repeatedly exposing himself to heavy machine gun and rifle fire. Due to casualties suffered by his superiors, Shemin took command of the platoon and displayed great initiative under fire until he was wounded on August 9. He died in 1973. Accepting the medal on his behalf will be his daughter, Ms. Elsie Shemin-Roth, of Webster Grove, Mo.
Read more here:

10. Korean War Soldier Identified: The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency announced the identification of remains belonging to Army Cpl. Ben L. Brown, 17, of Four Mile, Ore., who is being buried today with full military honors in Roseburg, Ore. In early 1951, Brown was assigned to Company I, 3rd Battalion, 38th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division, when his unit was forced to withdraw south to a more defensible position. Brown was reported missing in action after the battle. Read more about his story here:

To sign up new veterans' advocates, click here

Weather Hampers Helo Recovery in Nepal

Harsh Weather Hampers Helo Recovery Mission in Nepal
05/15/2015 04:03 PM CDT

Harsh Weather Hampers Helo Recovery Mission in Nepal

By Terri Moon Cronk
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, May 15, 2015 - Harsh weather conditions and darkness are hampering efforts in Nepal to recover the Marine Corps UH-1Y helicopter and its crew that went missing May 12.

Officials confirmed yesterday that the helicopter had crashed, Pentagon spokesman Army Col. Steve Warren told reporters today.

The helicopter reportedly carried six U.S. Marines and two Nepalese service members who were performing humanitarian efforts as part of "Operation Sahayogi Haat," which means "Helping Hand" in Nepali.

"The terrain and the weather are exceptionally difficult," Warren said. "At first light and [as] the weather clears, they'll return to the crash site."

The Marines on the helicopter are assigned to Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 469.

Families Notified

Warren said no remains have been recovered as of several hours ago, although two sets of remains have been "visually" identified.

"The families [were] notified their loved ones were aboard the helicopter," the colonel said, adding that family members are in touch with casualty assistance officers who will keep them continually updated.

In accordance with normal procedure, Warren said, 24 hours after remains are identified and family members are notified the names of the deceased will be made available.

The incident is under investigation, the colonel said. The Himalayan crash site, he said, is located about 8 miles north of Charikot, Nepal, at an elevation of more than 11,000 feet. High winds and harsh temperatures could have been factors in the crash, he said.

Earlier reports of radio chatter from the aircraft prior to the crash have not been confirmed, Warren said.

"We will just have to let this [investigation] develop," he said.

(Follow Terri Moon Cronk on Twitter: @MoonCronkDoD)

Related Sites:
Special Report: Operation Sahayogi Haat
Related Articles:
Carter: DoD 'Heavy With Grief' After Helo Crash in Nepal
General: Nepal Helo Crash Survivors 'Unlikely'

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Defense Department News Through Facebook

VA Launches Innovation Creation Series to Improve Quality of Life for Veterans Reaches out to Leaders in Technology and American Public to Help Innovate Solutions to Improve Care FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE May 15, 2015 WASHINGTON D.C. – Can you imagine losing the ability to use everyday objects like your phone, typing on a computer or even enjoying a beloved hobby like photography? These are a just a few of the challenges that Veterans and civilians with disabilities such as amputations and tremors face every day – and these are the challenges the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) wants to help solve. Through the launch of VA’s Innovation Creation Series for Prosthetics and Assistive Technologies, VA invites all designers, engineers, and problem solvers alike, to help us find creative ways to solve these challenges. The VA Innovation Creation Series aims to accelerate the development of personalized technologies to improve care and quality of life for Veterans. “VA has long been at the

Colleagues and Fellow Veterans,

I would like to provide you a brief update with respect to Section 702 of the Choice Act.  Today the Secretary of the Department of Veteran Affairs announced a blanket waiver to all non-compliant states until December 31, 2015 (granted a waiver).

In November, I wrote about the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014 ("the Choice Act") which included a provision affecting students using the Post-9/11GI Bill® and Montgomery GI Bill.  The law requires us to disapprove programs under the Post-9/11 GI Bill and the Montgomery GI Bill-Active Duty at a public institutions of higher learning if the school charges certain individuals tuition and fees in excess of the resident rate for terms beginning after July 1, 2015.

We've been working with every state and territory since December on complying - no state or territory has indicated its schools do not intend to comply with the law. In fact, as of today 21 states comply with the resident rate-requirements of the Choice Act (

We are working hard to ensure all GI Bill beneficiaries have up to date information.  As well, we are updating the GI Bill website with the latest information as schools and states comply with these requirements. We will also post breaking information on the GI Bill Facebook page at

Folks may read our new FAQs by visiting  and searching "702." They can also call our hot line at 1-888-GIBILL-1 to speak with a Customer Service Representative who is ready to answer their questions.

Please help us raise awareness about this important law and the Secretary's waiver by sending this missive to your colleagues.


Curtis L. Coy
Deputy under Secretary for Economic Opportunity
Veterans Benefits Administration
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

VA Core Values:  Integrity, Commitment, Advocacy, Respect, Excellence ("I CARE")

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May 15, 2015

Media Contact: Curt Cashour

(202) 225-3527

HVAC Hearing and Meeting Schedule May 18 - 22

WASHINGTON, D.C.— Chairman Jeff Miller (FL-01) today released the hearing schedule for May 18 – 22. The following events are open to the press:

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Hearing: "Joint Hearing of the House and Senate Veterans' Affairs Committees to receive the Legislative Presentation of Multiple Veterans Service Organizations" (PVA, AMVETS, MOAA, MOPH, IAVA, VVA, BVA and NCOA)

House Committee on Veterans' Affairs

(10:00 AM – Hart Senate Office Building, Room 216, and streaming at


Thursday, May 21, 2015

Hearing: "Markup of Pending Legislation"

House Committee on Veterans' Affairs

(9:00 AM – 334 Cannon House Office Building, and streaming at


For more news from the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs, please visit: