Retiree & Veteran Affairs News 17 October 2013 

10/17/2013 

 

Strong physical and virtual attendance expected at 2013 AUSA Annual Meeting and Exposition 

10/16/2013 

The Association of the United States Army (AUSA) has announced that pre-registrations are on track for the 2013 AUSA Annual Meeting and Exposition, which takes place Oct. 21-23 in Washington, D.C.  “We currently have in excess of 25,000 pre-registrations and we expect increases through on-site registrations,” Lt. Gen. Roger Thompson, USA, Ret., AUSA’s Vice President for Membership and Meetings, said.

Gen. Gordon R. Sullivan, USA, Ret., AUSA’s president, commented, “AUSA and senior Army leaders, with budget challenges at top-of-mind, have crafted another world-class professional development experience that benefits our Army, our industry partners and the American people by keeping key audiences informed about how our Army is truly ‘globally responsive and regionally engaged’.”

For those who will not be able to attend in person, live-streaming of almost every panel will be available at www.army.mil/professional and www.ausa.org.  Soldiers and family members will also be able to ask questions of the speakers at appropriate times through social media.  All of the sessions will be recorded so participants can go back at a later time and watch them.

Maj. Alison M. Hamilton, Office of the Chief of Public Affairs, said, “Live streaming these forums gives the opportunity to hear senior-leader priorities, learn how they view changes in the force over the next 10 years and hear about important policy decisions and the Ready and Resilient Campaign.”

 The theme for this year’s professional development forum is: “America’s Army: Globally Responsive, Regionally Engaged.” 

 The AUSA Annual Meeting is designed around maximum interaction and an exchange of ideas.  Attendance is free.  Attendees, both physical and virtual, will be exposed to AUSA’s Contemporary Military Forums featuring senior Army leaders speaking on critical and timely topics.  AUSA Family Forums will offer presentations tackling the real world challenges facing soldiers and their families.

 For the first time, this year’s Annual Meeting will feature a Warriors To The Workforce Hiring Event for veterans, created by the American Freedom Foundation in partnership with AUSA.  Attending veterans can talk with employers, submit qualifications and participate in job interviews on the spot.  Another new addition to the Annual Meeting is the Small Business Pavilion on the show floor.  In addition, the Army has authorized designated assembly areas on the exhibit floors to facilitate key engagements among industry and the Assistant Secretary of the Army (Installations, Energy & Environment), Assistant Secretary of the Army (Acquisition, Logistics & Technology), U.S. Army Installation Management Command (IMCOM), the Department of the Army Office of Small Business Programs (OSPB), and other senior leaders.

http://ausameetings.org/annual/

Live-streaming of panels and events at Annual Meeting

For those who will not be able to attend in person, live-streaming of almost every panel will be available at www.army.mil/professional and www.ausa.org. Soldiers and family members will also be able to ask questions of the speakers at appropriate times through social media.

Reminder: The Army Ten-Miler will take place Sunday, Oct. 20, the day before the AUSA Annual Meeting and Exposition.

Note: Due to the Annual Meeting, there will not be a Bulletin next week.

Legislative Update 17 Oct 2013

It is time to stop the destructive partisan politics. Congress and the President need to work together to end this government shutdown and get back to regular business.  We have the greatest, most dynamic democracy on earth. Let's stop bashing each other and start working together for the country.”

-- GEN Gordon R. Sullivan, USA, Ret., President and Chief Executive Officer, Association of the United States Army

TICK… TICK… TICK…

The Military Coalition, a group of 33 military and veteran’s organizations, of which AUSA is a member, held a non-partisan rally at the National World War II Memorial yesterday that focused on the hardships that the military and veterans are facing.  Speakers urged Congress to end the endless budget bickering and reopen the government fully.

A statement released by the Coalition before the event said, “The shutdown has been devastating for the nation’s military readiness and for the veterans, servicemembers, families and survivors in the uniformed services community.”

With the partial shutdown entering the 16th day and the clock ticking towards a debt default, “veterans who receive disability and GI Bill benefits and survivors who rely on survivor benefits don't know if they'll get their next check.  National Guard and Reserve monthly training has been cancelled, affecting critical troop readiness and pay.  Many services that military families count on daily are suspended.  Veterans make up 27 percent of the federal workforce and don’t know when they will get to go back to work.  The 435,000 veterans in the VA disability claims backlog have to wait even longer,” said the statement.

The Coalition was careful to ensure the event did not turn into a partisan political rally.  Politicians were urged to stay away.

 AFFORDABLE CARE ACT HAS LITTLE IMPACT ON TRICARE

The Affordable Care Act also known as Obamacare has been at the forefront of the budget battle on Capitol Hill over the past few weeks.  As some of the elements of the law take effect, many TRICARE beneficiaries may be wondering how it will affect them and their families.

A statement released by the Defense Health Agency sheds some light.  “Simply speaking, the Affordable Care Act will have very little impact on TRICARE beneficiaries.  The biggest change they will notice may be an extra letter in their mailbox every January, and an extra box to check on their tax forms every April.”

Beneficiaries who receive TRICARE benefits, whether at no cost, by electing to pay an enrollment fee, or by paying monthly premiums, have minimum essential coverage under the Affordable Care Act.  This includes: TRICARE Prime, Prime Remote and Standard; TRICARE Reserve Select (TRS); TRICARE Young Adult (TYA); TRICARE Retired Reserve (TRR); and the Continued Health Care Benefit Program (CHCBP).

Eligibility alone for premium-based TRICARE benefit plans – TRS, TYA, TRR and CHCBP -- does not constitute minimum essential coverage.  Eligible beneficiaries must purchase and be in good standing, by paying their premiums to have coverage in force, in order for these TRICARE programs to qualify as minimum essential coverage.  There are two groups of TRICARE beneficiaries who do not meet the minimum essential coverage requirement: those getting care for line of duty only related conditions, and those only eligible to receive care in military hospitals or clinics.

Beginning with the 2014 tax season, and every tax year after that, the Department of Defense will send every TRICARE beneficiary the same information it sends the Internal Revenue Service.  This notification will detail whether sponsors and their dependents had minimum essential coverage during the previous year.  Sponsors can then use this information when they file their tax forms.

Because the information sent to the IRS is generated using beneficiaries’ Social Security numbers, it’s essential for sponsors to make sure their family’s Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS) information is correct and up to date.

HE SAID.  SHE SAID.

“With each passing day that Congress fails to accomplish what they were elected to do, the readiness of our armed forces becomes more at risk.”

AUSA President Gen. Gordon R. Sullivan, USA, Retired.

We are in Day 9 of the government shutdown with seemingly, no end in sight. 

Of the many areas affected by the government shutdown, one has garnered a great deal of attention and rightly so.  The Pentagon said that because of the shutdown, appropriated funds are not available to them to pay the $100,000 death benefit for families of fallen troops including the families of five killed in Afghanistan over the weekend.

Shortly after the Pentagon’s statement, Rep. Ron Barber, D-Ariz., announced that he would offer an amendment to the Pay our Military Act that would make appropriations available to continue the payment of a death gratuity and certain other death-related compensation. 

AUSA President Gen. Gordon R. Sullivan, USA, Ret., immediately faxed a letter to the House leadership expressing his support for Rep. Barber’s amendment and urged them to pass it immediately. 

“It is unconscionable that family members who have lost a loved one in service to the nation should be face with the loss of compensation for transportation to Dover AFB, the loss of a dignified transfer of remains, and the loss of access to death gratuity funds,” said Sullivan.

Statements made by members on both sides of the aisle and in both chambers agree with Gen. Sullivan.  Accordingly, we are hopeful this situation will be resolved immediately. 

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel called most of the civilian defense employees back to work.  However, there are some that are still furloughed.  Right now, legislation that guarantees that they will get paid is still working its way through Congress. 

A Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) statement said that they received final guidance on military and civilian pay from the Defense Department late yesterday.  “Normal pay and allowances have been processed and you will receive them in your mid-month pay.  The amount reflected in your mid-month statement will be deposited,” said the statement.

For civilian pay, the DFAS statement said, “DFAS has also processed civilian payroll.  All employees will receive normal pay through September 30.  The amount of pay for Oct 1-5 will be dependent on whether an employee is exempt, excepted from furlough or furloughed.  Pay will be received on your normal pay dates beginning Oct 11.”

As far as other areas affected by the shutdown, here is what we do know: 

·       Permanent change-of-station moves are suspended except for service members traveling to activities and operations deemed essential to national security.  The same rules apply to temporary duty travel. 

·       With regards to healthcare, in-patient and emergency services are unaffected, and outpatient clinics are still taking patients for acute care as well as follow-up appointments.  However, routine appointments, including physicals, are being postponed.  Appointment phone lines are operational.  Non-elective surgeries will proceed.  All other elective procedures and surgeries, including most dental services, are suspended.  Pharmacies, laboratories and radiology services are functioning at military hospitals and clinics. 

·       Tuition assistance has been suspended.  Applications were cut off on Oct. 1, the first day of the shutdown.  The moratorium will remain in place until Congress reaches a spending agreement for the new fiscal year.  No requests for financial assistance for military spouses under the My Career Advancement Accounts program will be approved until further notice.  Cut-off for that program was also Oct. 1. 

·       Operation of child development centers, family support centers and family advocacy programs will be determined by each installation.

The government shutdown is only one part of the budget mess here in Washington.  The national debt hit the $16.7 trillion legal limit in May.  Since then, Treasury officials have implemented a variety of emergency measures to conserve cash but those measures will be exhausted on Oct. 17. 

While Treasury officials will not say when the United States will begin to miss payments, independent analysts say it would happen no later than Nov. 1, when the Treasury Department must pay out nearly $60 billion to Social Security recipients, Medicare providers, civil-service retirees and active-duty military service members.

If the various factions are actually working on an agreement to end this mess, it is not apparent to us or the general public.  All parties seem content to step in front of the cameras and stick to their talking points.  While the frustration created by this chaos is being felt throughout the country, it is particularly appalling to those of us who are keenly aware of the sacrifice our servicemembers and their families are making while we are still fighting the war.

The news about the five servicemembers who were killed over the weekend fighting in Afghanistan was completely overshadowed by the budget battle being waged by Republicans and Democrats. 

We could not be more disappointed in our leaders. 

NO WAY TO DO BUSINESS

“This is a sad day and it’s disgraceful.”

AUSA President Gen. Gordon R. Sullivan, USA. Ret., on the government shutdown.

The classic Washington blame game is in full force while the Nation scrambles to figure out what is open, what is closed and who should be at work. 

With no time to spare, the House approved a series of continuing resolutions (CR) they knew would not clear the Senate because of added provisions that impacted the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare).  The Senate stripped the provisions from the bills and returned them to the House. 

On the Sunday morning talk shows, Senate Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin, D-Ill., said that “the House position, which is basically the same one that they sent us the last time, is going to be rejected again.  And we are going to face the prospect of the government shutting down come midnight Monday night.”

In return, House Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, criticized the Senate for not coming into session on Sunday and “bringing the nation to the brink of a government shutdown for the sake of raising taxes on seniors’ pacemakers and children’s hearing aids and plowing ahead with the train wreck that is the president’s health care law.”

The heated rhetoric and blame game continued on Monday.  Late Monday, the House agreed to a motion to establish a bicameral conference committee to reconcile differences between the two chambers’ short-term, stopgap spending bills, but that too was rejected by the Senate. 

Accordingly, Monday at midnight the government shut down for the first time in 17 years. 

The Department of Defense will continue to conduct military operations and training exercises because active-duty uniformed military personnel will stay on the job.  However, that is not the story for civilian workers.  Of the department’s 800,000 civilian workers, about half will be furloughed.  Those deemed essential because they are critical to safety missions, or are actively participating in or supporting a military operation, will continue to work. 

All active duty and civilian employees will receive their pay on Oct 1; however, if the shutdown continues, only active-duty members, including reservists on full-time active duty, and those DoD and Homeland Security Department civilians and contractors who are determined to be “providing support to members of the armed forces” will receive an Oct 15 paycheck.  That’s because Congress pushed through a measure on Sept. 30 that will exempt those groups from the shutdown. 

Medical services offered by the Department of Veterans’ Affairs will not be affected by a shutdown.  However, benefits programs will probably be affected.  VA’s regional offices handling disability claims will have limited services, and the Veterans Benefits Administration will be unable to process education and rehabilitation benefits.  The Board of Veterans' Appeals will be unable to hold hearings.  The VA projects that 95 percent of its 332,000 employees are exempt from furloughs, including the 289,000 who work for the Veterans Health Administration.  The department estimates that 14,224 of its employees face furloughs, including more than 7,200 who work for the Veterans Benefits Administration, 3,200 IT workers and more than 1,000 who work for the National Cemetery Administration.

How long the government remains closed is anyone’s guess.  However, it could easily merge with the upcoming mid-October battle over a raise in the debt ceiling. 

We, at AUSA, are asking for your help.  Please visit the AUSA’s website www.ausa.org.  Click on the “Contact Congress” link and then on the prepared letter “Stop the Budget Madness!!” to let your representatives and senators know that it is time to stop this nonsense and return to business as usual.  After you send your letter, tell 10 of your closest friends and family to send their own letter. 

2013 AUSA Annual Meeting and Military Family Forum Registration Open

Registration is now open for the 2013 AUSA Annual Meeting, October 21-23, along with the Military Family Forums. These forums within the Annual Meeting are designed to engage and inform both the military community and the greater civilian community around them. We are excited to connect with military families, share resources, and gain insight from our scheduled speakers and panelists. Visit our Facebook page to learn more about individual panelists, speakers, and organizations. Here is a brief overview of our forums:

Forum I - October 21, 1300-1600: Our Senior Leader’s Town Hall is split in two panels that will answer questions from both the in-house and virtual participants in the style of a town hall meeting. In addition to our senior leader panelists, we’re excited to have each of their spouses add perspective by joining them for this well-rounded discussion about military family support.

Panel One will consist of LTG and Mrs Ferriter (INCOM/ACSIM), LTG and Mrs. Ingram (National Guard), LTG and Mrs. Talley (US Army Reserve), and Panel Two will feature The Honorable John McHugh (Secretary of the Army), General and Mrs. Ray Odierno, and SMA and Mrs. Raymond Chandler.

NO topic is off limits, so this will be the time to get your most pressing questions answered! We’re taking questions live, but we also welcome you to send your queries in advance to familyprograms@ausa.org with the subject line “Family Forum I Question.” Be sure to tell us if the question is for someone specific or for the panel as a whole.

Forum II-October 22, 0900-12PM: Following the principle of “like attracts like,” if you take care of yourself, the people around you are more likely to take the steps to follow your lead. Family Forum II, The Performance Triad: a Holistic Approach to Self-Care looks into this idea further with a panel of subject matter experts sharing their personal and professional experiences that emphasize the importance of taking care of oneself in order to better care for your family.

Our panel will feature representatives from the DCoE Real Warriors Campaign, the Center for Mind Body Medicine, Comprehensive Soldier and Family Fitness (CSF2), and a celebrated author and military spouse. The panel will be moderated by Anthony Stamilio, the Army’s Deputy Assistant Secretary, Civilian Personnel & Quality of Life. Forum participants are in for a special treat, as Surgeon General and Commanding General of the US Army Medical Command, LTG Patricia Horoho, will give a keynote presentation outlining the Army’s Performance Triad model.

Forum III: October 22, 1400-1700: With 70% of military families living off base, it’s important for them to know about the resources available right in their communities. The great news is, there’s a lot out there for you and your family, you just have to know where to look! Our third Military Family Forum, Community Resources: “It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” will bring you face to face with organizations working to bridge the military-civilian divide, and people whose “make-do” attitude not only helped them find resources for their military life, but also led them create resources and organizations to benefit others in the community.

Our speaker for this forum is Colonel David Sutherland of the Dixon Center, which works to create synergies and a multiplying effect that enhances real access to services and advocacy benefiting military service members and veterans, their families and the families of the fallen. Our panel moderator is Katherine Hammack, Assistant Secretary of the Army (Installations, Energy and Environment), and joining the panel discussion are Angela Caban, National Guard New Jersey Military Spouse of the Year; Tara Crooks, Army Spouse of the Year and co-founder of Army Wife Network; Lori Volkman of Military Spouse JD Network; Sandy Risberg of the KSU/Fort Riley Partnership, and Jim Knotts of Operation Homefront.

Forum IV- Wednesday, October 23, 0900-1200: In a world with an app or a program to meet each and every niche in the community, it can be easy for military families to feel swamped with information or miss out on great resources. What’s out there? Where do you start? What personal information should you share? Our 4th and final Family Forum, Expanding our Reach: Our Neighborhood Knows no Boundaries, cracks open the military virtual community and illustrates the trends and best practices for staying connected online.

Our featured speakers and panel moderators are the co-founders of the Army Wife Network, Star Henderson and Tara Crooks, who will discuss statistics of the use of virtual tools by today’s military spouse, the Army Wife Network creation story, and much more. Our panelists are community members and organizations taking an innovative approach to online communication in the military community, and the panel discussion will be shaped like an episode of the Army Wife Network radio show. We’re excited to hear from the National Military Family Association, Blue Star Families, Military Family Learning Network, Army Social Media Center, and get the grassroots perspective from an FRG leader.

Not able to attend in person? Don't worry, you can still be part of the action virtually. We will live stream each of our forums, and will also have several ways for you to interact with fellow virtual participants and our forum speakers and panelists. Be sure to share information about the Annual Meeting Family Forums with people you know, and stay tuned for more information on how you can get involved.

We look forward to seeing you in October. If you plan to attend the Annual Meeting in person, Register today!

This Year's Flu Vaccine

TRICARE covers both the flu shot and flu mist. Beneficiaries may be able get their flu vaccine, at no cost, from a military treatment facility, hospital or from a pharmacist at one of the 45,000 network pharmacies that administer vaccines to TRICARE beneficiaries. Find a participating pharmacy at www.express-scripts.com/tricare/pharmacy , or by calling Express Scripts at 1-877-363-1303. Until now, seasonal flu vaccines have only protected against three strains of flu - two strains of influenza A, which usually causes more cases and more severe illness, and one of influenza B, which is less common but also circulates in multiple forms. The new vaccines include protection against a second strain of influenza B, which experts expect will prevent the vast majority of type B infections. To learn more about flu basics, treatment and prevention visit the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website at www.cdc.gov/flu. Get more information on TRICARE coverage and where to get shots on the TRICARE website at www.tricare.mil/flu.

TRICARE for Retirees

So you are set to retire, but do you know what is going to happen with your health care? Can you really stand to lose your military health care benefits now that you're leaving and probably have a family to take care of?

Fortunately, health benefits are available for retirees and dependents. Here is a very basic sketch of the health benefits you may qualify for:

Again, this list is an outline. You will have to do more research to determine exactly which benefits you are eligible for.

Retiree TRICARE Eligibility:

Uniformed Service Retirees (including Reserves and Guardsman over 65 - see TRICARE for Life) and their eligible family members. The following is a list of eligible family members:

  • A spouse
  • An unremarried widow(er)
  • An unmarried child, including an adopted child or a stepchild, under 21, or under 23 if still enrolled full-time at an educational institution.
  • A dependent parent or parent-in-law (check dependency requirements)
  • Unremarried former spouses, under certain conditions. These former spouses must also not have other medical coverage under an employer-sponsored plan.
  • A person who would qualify as an eligible family member from a previous marriage.

For general information about TRICARE, call the toll-free TRICARE information line for your region found at the TRICARE Contact Us web page.

TRICARE Statement About Government Shutdown

10/1/2013

On October 1, 2013, the Defense Health Agency issued the following statement:

"We know that those who rely on the Military Health System (MHS) are concerned about how the government shutdown might impact their health care.

While we can’t predict the exact consequences of a shutdown on every part of our MHS, we will likely see some impact on the delivery of health care services within our military hospitals and clinics. Inpatient, acute and emergency outpatient care in our medical and dental facilities will continue, as will private sector care under TRICARE. Local hospital and clinic commanders will need to implement the required adjustments to available medical services while ensuring that the quality of care and safety of patients remain intact. Patients should contact their hospital or clinic to confirm previously scheduled routine appointments. Patients needing to schedule new routine appointments might experience delays.

For TRICARE beneficiaries using providers in the private sector, little or no effect is anticipated at this time.

The MHS leadership - comprised of the assistant secretary of defense for Health Affairs, the director of the Defense Health Agency, and the surgeons general of the military departments – are closely monitoring the impact of a government shutdown on the health services provided to our 9.6 million beneficiaries."

Please also be aware that during the government shutdown, TRICARE will not be able to process or pay TRICARE travel claims for the TRICARE Prime or the Combat-Related Specialty Care travel benefits. You may still file your travel claim. TRICARE will review claims for eligibility and process them once the government shutdown ends.

If you have questions about your benefits, please contact your regional contractor (below) or the appropriate contractor (i.e. pharmacy, dental, etc.). Visit the Contact Us page for a complete list of toll-free numbers.

North Region

·         Health Net Federal Services

·         www.hnfs.com

·         1-877-TRICARE (1-877-874-2273)

South Region

·         Humana Military, a division of Humana Government Business

·         Humana-Military.com

·         1-800-444-5445

West Region

·         UnitedHealthcare Military & Veterans

·         www.uhcmilitarywest.com

·         1-877-988-WEST (1-877-988-9378)

Overseas

·         International SOS

·         www.tricare-overseas.com

·         Country

 

VA Closes Regional Offices

The VA recently furloughed over 9,000 employees forcing the closure of VA regional offices nationwide as part of the VA's contingency plan. Because of these furloughs, a number of services were suspended, including: the Education Call Center; personal interviews and hearings at regional offices; educational and vocational counseling; outreach activities and programs; and VetSuccess on Campus. The shutdown of public access to VBA facilities also affects Veterans Service Organizations with office space in VBA facilities, as public access to these VSOs is also suspended. Individual veterans can still initiate claims or check on the status of a claim by dialing 1-800-827-1000.

Stateside Commissaries Return to Normal Operations

Stateside commissaries that closed due to the government shutdown resumed normal operations on Oct. 7, 2013. Stores normally closed on Mondays reopened for business on their next scheduled operating day. For specific information about your base commissary and its operating hours, visit the store's website, which you can locate by searching for it by name on the Commissaries.com website at www.commissaries.com/realign_maps/alpha_list.cfm.

Exchanges Remain Open

The Army and Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES) remains open during the government shutdown to support servicemembers, retirees and their family members. Because some military installations are located in rural areas, with a few located as far away as a two hour drive to a major metropolitan area, local Exchanges provide an outlet for servicemembers to purchase essential items. The Exchange is largely unaffected by the shutdown since nearly 97 percent of the Exchange's funding is generated by sales and three percent from tax dollar support. To find your local exchange store, visit ShopMyExchange.com at www.shopmyexchange.com/ExchangeStores/.

AAFES Wants Your Feedback

The Army & Air Force Exchange Service regularly seeks authorized shoppers' feedback on how the organization is doing in supporting their needs. As part of this effort, the Exchange Mystery Shopper program identifies a select group from each installation to go about their normal day-to-day shopping for a period of six months and detail their experience in a series of three survey sets. Mystery Shoppers are rewarded for their participation with a $30 Exchange gift card and free movie passes. To apply, visit www.shopmyexchange.com and click the "Mystery Shopper -- I want to apply!" link under the "Exchange Locations" header at the bottom of the page. Exchange shoppers can also offer feedback by visiting www.shopmyexchange.com/CustomerService and clicking the "Catalog/Internet Feedback" and "Exchange Store Feedback" links on the right-hand side of the screen.

VFW Calls on Elected Leaders to End Budget Impasse

If a federal budget isn't approved soon, more than 4 million disabled veterans, survivors and student-veterans will not be receiving VA checks at the end of the month. The failure of Congress to compromise on a budget also forced the VA to close its 56 regional offices this week, and furlough more than 7,000 employees, the majority of whom were responsible for processing VA claims. In an opinion editorial, VFW National Commander Bill Thien said he was disgusted with the partisan bickering and government paralysis caused by a White House and Congress that will not budge from their ideological extremes in order to properly take care of America's true heroes. "We need leadership, not more rhetoric, and if the government is unable to take care of veterans, then the government should quit creating us," he said. Read the Chief's OpEd at http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2013/10/09/vfw-disgusted-with-elected-leadership/

 VFW Service Officers Continue Working Claims

While ROs across the country have closed their doors to veterans, VFW service officers around the county are still hard at work processing veteran's claims. Some service officers have set up temporary offices at posts. If you need help with a claim, contact your service officer and/or check with your posts. Our service officer can still turn claims into VA. To find or contact a VFW service officer, click here: http://www.vfw.org/NVS/

President Signs Military Death Benefit Bill

 After a firestorm of heated language from the VFW, veterans and military organizations as well as the public, the President signed legislation to reinstate military death and funeral benefits, just hours after the Senate cleared the measure. Funds provided by the bill, HJ Res 91, will be available until December 15 or until an appropriations law is enacted, whichever comes first. The legislation passed the House 425-0 on Wednesday, and is the first targeted stopgap measure to be sent to the president's desk since the government shutdown began. For details on the bill, click here: http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.uscongress/legislation.113hjres91

VA Secretary Warns of Potential for No Payments November 1

On Wednesday, VA Secretary Eric Shinseki testified before the House VA Committee on the effects of the current government shutdown on benefits and services for veterans. VFW provided written testimony for the hearing stating our deep concern that services to veterans are being harmed every day that the shutdown continues. Shinseki tried to clarify how many employees are furloughed, or will be furloughed, when their current funding runs out before the end of the month. He also stressed that critical payments to veterans and survivors will be impacted as well as the processing of disability claims for compensation, pension, education, vocational rehabilitation and employment benefits. Once mandatory funds are depleted at the end of this month, nearly 5,600 veterans a day will not receive a decision on their disability claims and VA regional offices will be closed. The VFW urged Congress to pass a full-year Fiscal Year 2014 appropriations bill without delay, and to clear legislation (H.R. 813 and S. 932) that will ensure veteran programs and services are not disrupted in the future.
To call on Congress to end the shutdown today, click here for our alert:
http://capwiz.com/vfw/issues/alert/?alertid=62963871. Or for phone numbers to DC and District offices for elected officials, click here: http://capwiz.com/vfw/dbq/officials/
To read our testimony or watch the recorded webcast of the hearing, visit the house VA website at
http://veterans.house.gov/hearing/effect-of-government-shutdown-on-va-benefits-and-services-to-veterans
For an updated guide to VA's contingency plan during the shutdown, go here:
http://www.va.gov/opa/appropriations_lapse_plan.asp 

VFW, SVA Fill GI Bill Void During Government Shutdown

As a result of the ongoing shutdown, the Department of Veterans Affairs GI Bill hotline, 1-888-GIBILL-1, remains offline, meaning veterans have very few places to turn for reliable information on accessing their earned GI Bill benefits. To counter the lack of customer service, the VFW and Student Veterans of America (SVA) are once again informing veterans that the "1 Student Veteran" program is fully open for business. Those with questions regarding GI Bill or other benefits should email 1studentveteran@vfw.org, for timely assistance. Veterans who send a message to 1studentveteran@vfw.org will receive a reply within 24 hours or the next business day from a VFW staff member who specializes in student-veteran issues.

House VA Committee Examines Pain Management for Vets

On Thursday, the House Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Health held a hearing to examine the rising use of opiate painkillers to treat veterans. The committee expressed concern over the skyrocketing rate of prescriptions for these highly addictive medications, and the sense that there is a need for greater care coordination in pain management across VA. Emotional testimony was heard from the widows of two current-era veterans who recently died from overdoses of VA prescribed opiates, as well as two recently medically retired servicemen who continue to struggle with issues surrounding pain and addiction. VA representatives acknowledged the potential harm caused by opiate painkillers and stated that they are developing new alternative pain management programs which will soon be instituted across the department. The new approach, known as the Chronic Pain Rehabilitation Program (CPRP) and based out of the Tampa VA Hospital, focuses on exercise, occupational therapy, pool therapy, relaxation training, acupuncture and massage, with the goal of eliminating dependency on opiate painkillers. Although the CPRP currently accepts referrals from all 50 states, it is the goal of the VA to establish a similar program in every VISN. Subcommittee Chairman Dan Benishek closed by noting that further hearings on this issue will be held in the future to monitor progress. The VFW will continue to keep you updated. For details on the hearing, click here: http://veterans.house.gov/hearing/between-peril-and-promise-facing-the-dangers-of-va%E2%80%99s-skyrocketing-use-of-prescription

Three WWII MIAs Recovered

The Defense POW/MIA Office has announced the identification of remains belonging to two Marines and an Army Air Force pilot who had been missing since World War II. Recovered are:
* Marine Corps Capt. Henry S. White, 23, of Kansas City, Mo., and Staff Sgt. Thomas L. Meek, 19, of Lisbon, La. On July 21, 1943, White and Meek were crewmembers aboard an SBD-4 Dauntless dive-bomber that departed Turtle Bay Airfield on Espiritu Santo Island, New Hebrides, on a night training mission and failed to return. The aircraft reportedly crashed into a coral cliff on nearby Mavea Island. A September 1947 investigation of the crash site recovered no remains. In 2012, a Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command team excavated the site and did recover remains and non-biological evidence that correlated circumstantially to White and Meek. Since no individual identification was possible, both will be buried in a single casket on Oct. 18 at Arlington National Cemetery.
* Army Air Force 1st Lt. Robert G. Fenstermacher, 23, of Scranton, Pa. On Dec. 26, 1944, Fenstermacher was piloting a P-47D Thunderbolt on an armed-reconnaissance mission when his aircraft crashed near Petergensfeld, Belgium. An American officer witnessed the crash and was able to recover Fenstermacher's identification tags from the burning wreckage, but no remains or aircraft wreckage were recovered at the time. In 2012, a group of local historians excavating a private yard recovered human remains and aircraft wreckage consistent with a P-47D, which were turned over to the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command. He is scheduled to be buried on Oct. 18 in his hometown.

A military website link to the above recovery stories has been temporarily shut down due to the government shutdown.

World War II Medal of Honor recipient dies at 96 years old

WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Oct. 7, 2013) -- The Army and the nation are mourning the passing of World War II veteran and Medal of Honor recipient Nicholas Oresko, who died Oct. 4. He was 96 years old.

Oresko, who was a master sergeant, had been the oldest living Medal of Honor recipient at the time of his passing. He received the nation's highest military decoration Oct. 12, 1945.

Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond F. Chandler III said the nation has lost a hero.

"I join the family and friends of former Master Sergeant Nicholas Oresko who grieve at the loss of our nation's oldest recipient of the Medal of Honor," he said.

Chandler praised the bravery of Oresko.

"As his (Medal of Honor) citation states, 'his quick thinking, indomitable courage, and unswerving devotion' on January 23rd, 1945, saved the lives of many of his fellow Soldiers, and allowed his unit to accomplish its mission," said Chandler.

"Thank you, Nicholas, for your lesson in personal courage and selfless service," said Chandler.

Oresko, who had received an outpouring of love and support from the community, was surrounded by veterans and current military members in his final days. Some service members reportedly stood watch at his bedside after Oresko was admitted to a New Jersey hospital, where he died due to complications from surgery.

His wife passed away in 1980, and his son died in 2010. He will be buried in New Jersey with full military honors.

Oresko is a hero in his hometown, Bayonne, N.J., where a school is named after him, according to the mayor's office.

"One of the best things I ever had the great opportunity to do was to name a school after Nicholas Oresko while he was still with us. May his courage continue to inspire all of us," said Bayonne Mayor Mark A. Smith.

Oresko made his hometown proud and represented the patriotism of the community so well, said Smith.

"Nicholas Oresko showed uncommon bravery, carrying out two one-man attacks on German bunkers," he said. "Although he was wounded, he refused to leave the battlefield until his mission was accomplished."

His outstanding heroism and courage helped defeat Nazi Germany, and his actions will stand as a great example for future generations, said Smith.

In the Battle of the Bulge, Oresko "swiftly worked ahead alone" after "deadly automatic fire from the flanks pinned down his unit" near Tettingen, Germany, Jan. 23, 1945, according to his Medal of Honor citation.

Oresko, a platoon sergeant with Company C, 302nd Infantry Regiment, 94th Infantry Division, 3rd Army, moved through the gunfire and then threw a grenade into a German position, rushed the bunker and killed all the hostile occupants who survived the grenade blast, it said.

He then, according to the citation, continued the assault after he was wounded by machine gun fire.

"As withering machine gun and rifle fire swept the area, he struck out alone in advance of his men to a second bunker," the citation states.

"With a grenade, he crippled the dug-in machine gun defending this position and then wiped out the troops manning it with his rifle, completing his second self-imposed, one-man attack."

Oresko, with "quick thinking, indomitable courage, and unswerving devotion to the attack in the face of bitter resistance and while wounded," killed 12 Germans, prevented a delay in the assault, and made it possible for Company C to obtain its objective with minimum casualties, according to the citation.

Oresko received the Medal of Honor in a White House ceremony with 14 other members of the armed forces, according to the Harry S. Truman Library and Museum.

"It is the greatest honor that can come to a man. It is an honor that all of us strive for, but very few of us ever achieve," said President Harry S. Truman in bestowing the award, states the transcript from the presidential library and museum.