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Retiree & Veteran Affairs News 13 January 2015

Association of the United States Army Logo - Eagle with Shield, Torch, Olive Branch
Tuesday, January 13, 2015

1/13/2015 

SEVEN QUESTIONS FOR GEN. GORDON R. SULLIVAN, USA RET., AUSA PRESIDENT AND CEO

1.     What was AUSA’s greatest accomplishment in 2014?
We did three important things to help the Army. First, we sounded the clarion call for a trained and ready Total Army, now and in the future. Second, we led the charge to kill sequestration, stop downsizing the Defense Department and build a balanced joint force. Third, we reinforced Army’s messages regarding not only an inability to execute the defense strategy, should sequestration remain, but also the cost in lives and spilled blood of being unprepared. 

2.     What are some major issues facing the Army in the next year?
There is a lot at stake for the Army in 2015. The threat of full sequestration returns—something that would reduce an already-too-small budget. That would leave the Army with a bunch of bad options when trying to pay for readiness, training, education, operations, some modernization, and soldier and family programs. 

3.     How can AUSA and its members influence Congress in the sequestration battle?
For more than two years, the association and I have been explaining the debilitating effect sequestration is having on the military. We have sent letters to the Hill, and I have provided testimony before key congressional committees urging Congress to remove the specter of sequestration from defense funding. We reminded the congressional leadership that if sequestration is allowed to continue, the nation will be left with its smallest ground force since 1940—incapable of carrying out our defense strategy. 

4.     What are some of AUSA’s goals in supporting soldiers’ families in 2015?
AUSA Family Readiness prides itself in supporting Army families through four pillars of support: education, information, advocacy and outreach. Our goals for 2015 include increasing that outreach and connecting with families where they live. We plan on taking our Family Forums on the road and will pilot two such off-site events in 2015. We will work with local AUSA chapters to empower them to continue the follow-on support in issues that many of these forums will identify. Most importantly, we will involve currently serving Army family members in discussions around the issues that affect them. 

5.     In the ongoing struggle of budget cuts, the Army plans to reduce the number of soldiers even more in 2015. How will that affect the military’s readiness and presence abroad?
The soldier is the essence of the Army. The Army is the nation’s foundational force for the joint force, providing responsiveness, capacity and capability, distance-unique functions that only the Army can provide, and executive agent responsibilities. Without sufficient soldiers to meet requirements, the Army’s credibility, both as a deterrent against actions by our enemies and as a reliable partner to our allies, will suffer. Already, friends and foes alike question our resolve, commitment and responsiveness to treaty obligations. This invites miscalculation and emboldens forces aligned against the United States and its interests. A credibly sized force—not just a reasonably sized force—provides a deterrent effect and helps reassure our allies. That capacity is withering due to reduction in personnel. The goal is to avoid a hollow force now and in the future. 

6.     In light of the recent deployment of soldiers to West Africa to help the fight against Ebola, how do you predict budget and personnel reductions will affect the mission?
The Army is a global force in 140 countries that is also regionally aligned and responsive. Currently, the total Army is manned at slightly more than 1 million soldiers. Sequestration, however, takes the total Army to 920,000. At this level, the total Army is unable to execute the defense strategy. 

7.     As a result of downsizing, the military looks to rely more on new technologies and small-unit tactics. How can soldiers prepare to do more with less?
As technology proliferates, enemies will have greater access to WMDs [weapons of mass destruction] and sophisticated capabilities that will negate the Army’s overmatch strengths on the battlefields of tomorrow. Soldiers and leaders must therefore be innovative, adaptive and critical problem-solvers. In order to prepare for the future, Army forces must excel across the entire range of military operations and adapt rapidly for unconventional missions. The new Force 2025 and Beyond initiative mandates making Army forces more expeditionary and leaner; retaining or improving current levels of tactical mobility, lethality and protection; and reducing the required sustainment footprint in austere environments.

—Jennifer Benitz

New Military Veterans Arrive in Congress

There will be new veterans coming to Congress this year, although the total number of veterans serving continues to fall. There will be 58 freshman members in the House and 13 in the Senate, although some in the Senate previously served in the House.

Of the 58 new members in the House, 43 are Republican and 15 are Democrats, while in the Senate 12 of the new members are Republicans and one is a Democrat.

According to an article in the Associated Press, “A number of the new arrivals have served in the military, something that has become increasingly rare on Capitol Hill. Democrats Seth Moulton and Ruben Gallego both served with the Marines in Iraq, while another incoming freshman, Republican Lee Zeldin of New York, served with the Army there. Republican Rep.-elect Martha McSally of Arizona is a retired Air Force colonel and the first female fighter pilot to fly in combat. She told Fox News Sundaythat military veterans bring a problem-solving perspective.

"’We're very solution-oriented, we're very pragmatic," McSally said Sunday. "You can't be in the war you want to be in, you got to be in the war you're in, and you got to just get the job done.’"

-The number of veterans has been declining as the World War II generation in Congress retired or passed away. The last two WWII veterans left Congress at the end of last year and while Vietnam and Iraq/Afghanistan veterans do serve in Congress, their numbers have not made up for the huge number of WWII veterans who served.

Even with the newly elected members the number of veterans from all eras serving in Congress has fallen again from 106 last year to 104 this year. There are 83 veterans in the House and 21 in the Senate. The Senate number is actually and increase of 1 over last year.

Congress has not had fewer than 100 members who were veterans since the 1950’s.

House Passes “Hire More Heroes Act” Unanimously

On Tuesday morning (the first day of new session) we received a call from Rep. Rodney Davis’ (R-IL) office alerting us that HR 22 Hiring More Heroes Act for 2015 (the new version of HR3474)  would be on the House floor for a vote that afternoon. It was a few hours later but sure enough it was passed quickly and unanimously with a vote of 412-0. In the last Congress it passed 406-1.

The legislation would exempt employees with coverage from TRICARE or the VA for purposes of gauging whether a business has 50 or more full-time employees and thus must supply health benefits to full-time employees under the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare.)

It is, of course, a veterans bill but it also appeals to many members of Congress as an attack on Obamacare and as a vehicle to increase employment generally.

It is a bill that TREA has endorsed. At the end of this article you will find Representative Davis’ Press Release on the passage of this act and TREA’s support of it.

After its passage Rep Davis said:”I am humbled by the amount of support shown by the new Congress for my legislation to help businesses hire more of our nation’s veterans,”said Davis. “The Hire More Heroes Act is a great example of the type of bipartisan, jobs legislation that we will continue to advance on behalf of the American people. It is my hope that this legislation will receive swift action in the Senate and by the President so we can put an end to the gridlock in Washington and put our nation on solid footing for a bright future.”

Last year a Senate version of the bill, S2190, was introduced by Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO) The bill had 22 all Republican co-sponsors (Senators Kelly Ayotte (N.H.), John Barrasso (Wyo.), John Boozman (Ark.), Richard Burr (N.C.), Thad Cochran (Miss.), Susan Collins (Maine), John Cornyn (Texas), Mike Enzi (Wyo.), Orrin Hatch (Utah), John Hoeven (N.D.), Jim Inhofe (Okla.), Deb Fischer (Neb.), Mark Kirk (Ill.), John McCain (Ariz.), Jerry Moran (Kan.), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Rob Portman (Ohio), Pat Roberts (Kan.), Tim Scott (S.C.), Jeff Sessions (Ala.), John Thune (S.D.), Pat Toomey (Pa.), and David Vitter (La.). Senator Blunt is sponsoring the bill again. Last year it was not permitted to go to the floor. We will keep you informed as to what happens this year.

Representatives Walz, Miller and Duckworth Reintroduce Clay Hunt SAV Act

from Jan 7, 2015 Press Release:
Representatives Tim Walz (D-MN), Chairman of the VA Committee Jeff Miller (R-FL), and Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) announced the reintroduction of the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans (Clay Hunt SAV) Act, a bill supported by veterans and their advocates to help prevent veteran suicide and ensure our nations heroes get the care and support they need.

The legislation, named in honor of the late Iraq and Afghanistan War Veteran and suicide prevention advocate Clay Hunt, unanimously passed the House of Representatives in the 113th Congress and had broad support in the Senate, but was blocked from becoming law by a lone Senator. Representatives Walz, Miller, and Duckworth first introduced their bipartisan legislation last summer after spending months working together to write final legislation with veterans and their advocates.

A 2012 study from the Department of Veterans Affairs estimated that 22 veterans are lost each day to suicide. That’s over 150 veteran suicides per week, over 600 per month, and over 8,000 per year. To put these staggering numbers in perspective, it is estimated that more veterans take their own lives each year than have been Killed in Action since 9/11.

  • The Clay Hunt SAV Act seeks to quell this growing epidemic by:
  • Increasing Access to Mental Health Care and Capacity at VA to Meet Demand;
  • Requiring the VA to create a one-stop, interactive website to serve as a centralized source of information regarding all VA mental health services for veterans;
  • Addressing the shortage of mental health care professionals by authorizing the VA to conduct a student loan repayment pilot program aimed at recruiting and retaining psychiatrists;
  • Improving the Quality of Care and Boosting Accountability at VA;
  • Requiring evaluations of all mental health care and suicide prevention practices and programs at the VA to find out what’s working and what’s not working and make recommendations to improve care;
  • Developing a Community Support System for Veterans;
  • Establishing a peer support and community outreach pilot program to assist transitioning Servicemembers with accessing VA mental health care services;

Representative Tim Walz (D-MN), spent 24 years in the Army National Guard and is the highest ranking enlisted soldier to ever serve in Congress. Representative Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) served in the U.S. Army for 23 years and retired as a Lieutenant Colonel in the Illinois Army National Guard.

Timetable of Congress Starting to Appear

If there ever was a doubt (and there really was not) as to how busy February and March would be in Congress for military personnel issues there is no more. The White House announced that they intend is release their proposed budget for FY2016 on time on February 2nd. (This is only the second time in the last 6 years that that will happen.) At the same time the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission will submit its report and recommendations. In the same first week of February the Senate Armed Services Committee will hold its first hearing on the nomination of Ash Carter to be the next Secretary of Defense. At first it was expected that the hearing would be this week but the delay has been caused by Mr. Carter’s recent back surgery. Some think that the delay will mean that he will be asked more questions on pay and benefits and the proposed DoD budget. Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Senator John McCain (R-AZ( has indicated that he would like to hear from present Defense Secretary Hagel especially concerning DoD’s proposed budget.

Obviously much more on this will be coming.

Hepatitis C Drug is Busting the VA Budget

Source: militarytimes.com:
Solvaldi, one of the most expensive drugs on the market, is threatening the budget of the Department of Veterans Affairs. The VA is providing it to only the sickest patients who need it. Solvaldi was added to the VA formulary last April.

Commercially the drug costs $1,000 a pill, which means that at 1 pill a day for the entire 12 week course the hepatitis C drug Sovaldi costs roughly $84,000. It received FDA approval in 2014, a breakthrough that reduced the time it takes to treat patients with the blood-borne virus. Previous treatments lasted roughly a year, and were much more risky to undergo with serious side effects.

The VA health system has 174,000 hepatitis C patients in its system, and it can’t afford to treat them all. Even with the cost negotiated by VA with the company's maker, Gilead Sciences Inc. of Foster City, California reduced by 40-% to $594 per dose, treating every Hepatitis C patient in the systems would run nearly $12 billion.

So VA is only providing the treatment for those with advanced liver disease or needing a transplant.

In fiscal 2014, the Veterans Health Administration treated more than 5,400 veterans with Sovaldi at a cost of $370 million. And VA has asked Congress for roughly $1.3 billion to provide Sovaldi and other new hepatitis C drugs for another 30,000 patients.

Even with the discount, VA is paying much more than similar treatments in Canada, Germany and India. Some U.S. lawmakers and advocates are accusing the company of price gouging.

However, Sovaldi counters by saying that they do not provide a "long-term or indefinite treatment" of the type needed for other chronic diseases. Their drug cures a life-threatening disease and wards off the need for the kind of costly lifelong care required after liver transplants.

About 3.2 million Americans are infected with hepatitis C, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The virus is spread by shared needles, an inadvertent needle stick, or having sex or using the toiletries (toothbrush, razor) of an infected person.

Also at risk are those who received a blood transplant or organ transplant before 1992, when widespread screening became available in the U.S.

VA is the largest single provider of hepatitis C care in the U.S., with a high-risk population of Vietnam War veterans who may have contracted the disease through blood transfusions for battlefield injuries or the intravenous drug use common in the era.

Institute of Medicine Find C-123 Fliers Exposed to Agent Orange

The Military Times reported that the Institute of Medicine has concluded that Air Force Reservists who flew C-123s that had previously been used in Vietnam to spray Agent Orange had indeed been exposed to excessive amounts of Agent Orange. To read the full story please click the following link:

http://www.militarytimes.com/story/military/pentagon/2015/01/09/veterans-exposed-to-agent-orange/21458539/

Progress on Backlogged VA Claims

The Department of Veterans Affairs began 2015 with 519,530 pending veterans' benefits claims, 24 percent fewer than at the start of calendar year 2014. Of the pending claims, 253,522 are older than 125 days, the VA's processing goal. That is 37 percent fewer than at the start of 2014, a sign the VA is not just making progress on cutting claims but has put a significant dent in the oldest claims. 

What to watch: The VA has been promising that the "backlog" of claims – those older than 125 days – would be eliminated in 2015, but that seems an almost impossible task. It takes 182 days, on average, for the VA to complete compensation and pension claims but some regions are slower than others. In Baltimore, for example, claims completed in December took an average of 363 days to complete.

The 114th Congress Begins

On January 6, the 114th Congress was sworn into office. Committee leadership positions have been selected and hearings have been scheduled. The Senate Veterans Affairs Committee has new leadership in both parties. Senator Johnny Isakson is now the Chairman of the committee and Senator Richard Blumenthal is the Ranking Member. In the House Veterans Affairs Committee, Congressman Jeff Miller remains the Chairman and Congresswoman Corrine Brown has been promoted to Ranking Member. See who else is on the committees: Senate CommitteeHouse Committee.
 
The House VA Committee has already scheduled three hearings. One will address legislation, including a reintroduction of the suicide prevention bill (SAV Act) that failed to pass at the end of the year. The other two hearings will address major construction projects and the growing appeals backlog. The VFW will testify at each of these hearings. We will provide an update as the dates draw closer.

SAV Act Reintroduced in House and Senate

The Suicide Prevention for American Veterans (SAV) Act, a bill that the VFW strongly supported last Congress, has been reintroduced in both the House and the Senate. This critical legislation would begin to address the crisis of veterans’ suicide by allowing VA to hire more psychiatrists, collaborate with local non-profit mental health organizations, and expand successful peer support networks. Taken up late last year, the SAV Act failed to pass due to Senate procedural difficulties, despite broad bipartisan support. The VFW will work closely with the bill’s sponsors, Representative Tim Walz (D-MN) and Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) to ensure that the SAV Act remains a top priority for the 114th Congress. Check back for updates and be on the lookout for Action Alerts as this important bill moves through the legislative process. Watch Senator Blumenthal’s press conference on the SAV Act.

Military Infrastructure Changes

This week, the Pentagon announced a decision to return 15 European sites and installations to their host countries, as well as the transfer of some existing operations elsewhere within the theater. Most notable will be the transfer of American operations from three Royal Air Force bases; the closure of six commissaries in Germany with only one new replacement; in Italy, to convert the Vicenza Health Center to an outpatient, specialty-care only facility; and in the Azores, to reduce active duty, civilian personnel and contractors by two-thirds. Congress must approve any stateside base realignment or closure actions, but the Defense Department has the authority to make such unilateral decisions overseas. The Pentagon is expected to request a stateside Base Realignment and Closure Commission as part of their FY 2016 budget submission next month. Read more.

Three MIAs Recovered

The Defense POW/MIA Office announced the identification of remains belonging to three American servicemen who had been missing in action from World War II, Korea and Vietnam. Recovered are:

  • Army Air Forces Maj. Peyton S. Mathis Jr., 28, of Montgomery, Ala. On June 5, 1944, Mathis was piloting a P-38J Lightning when the aircraft lost power while attempting to land at Kukum Air Field on Guadalcanal Island in the Solomon Islands. A rescue team located the crash site but was unable to recover Mathis because the aircraft was submerged in a dense jungle swamp. He will be buried with full military honors on a date and location yet to be determined.
  • Army Cpl. Francis D. Knobel, 20, of La Crosse, Wis., was assigned to Headquarters Company, 3rd Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment, 7th Infantry Division, when he was lost Dec. 12, 1950, in North Korea. He will be buried with full military honors on a date and location yet to be determined.
  • Air Force Col. William E. Cooper, 45, of Albany, Ga., was assigned to the 469th Tactical Squadron, 388th Tactical Fighter Wing, when his F-105D Thunderchief was shot down while on a strike mission on a highway-railroad bridge north of Hanoi, North Vietnam, on April 24, 1966. He will be buried with full military honors on a date and location yet to be determined.

Could Disability Pay Discourage Employment?

A Stanford University economics professor suggests that the rise in both the number of veterans receiving disability compensation and the increased value of the pay could have an effect on the labor market. Historically, veterans are more likely than non-veterans to be employed, but economist Mark Duggan said since 2000, veterans are almost 1 percentage point less likely to be employed than non-veterans.

What to watch: There could be other factors at play than just receiving disability compensation, such as a reduction in government jobs that traditionally have been the source of employment for many veterans and the overall decline in the U.S. population of veterans who have served. Still, programs may be needed to emphasize job opportunities for disabled veterans to keep them fully employed. 

Read the full Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research Policy Brief article 

RETIRED AND ANNUITANT PAY: RETIREE NEWSLETTER FOR 4Q2014

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Want to Receive Your 1099R Earlier Next Year? Convert to Electronic 1099R!

Best Ways to Get or Replace a Lost 1099R

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Making your VA copayments online

Donations Help Military Families Worldwide

2015 CRDP/CRSC Open Season Announcement

2015 Cost of Living Adjustment

Contact info for Tricare and Delta Dental and VA Claims

If You Have Questions 

 

MINIMIZING RISK IS ARMY’S 2015 GOAL: CAN-DO CULTURE WORRIES ABOUT WHAT MIGHT NO LONGER BE POSSIBLE

The U.S. Army has long been known for its so-called can-do spirit, but optimism about the ability to succeed in any mission is waning. Senior Army leaders are warning the size of force and tight budgets are creating an unthinkable possibility of sending soldiers into battle who are not fully prepared.

“Military risk is accumulating exponentially,” Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond T. Odierno said in October during AUSA’s Annual Meeting and Exposition in Washington, D.C. In 2012, Army leaders took a look at the world situation and decided the active duty force could drop to 490,000 people. Two years later, Army officials declared it could go even lower, to 450,000, as a way of coping with the deeper cuts resulting from sequestration.

“The problem is that since we made those statements, the world is changing in front of us,” Odierno said. “The world has increased in instability so much I’m concerned if even 490,000 is enough.”

Army Secretary John M. McHugh, speaking at the same meeting, said the Army has been cutting soldiers “about as fast as we can.” He cautioned that deeper spending cuts would likely fall in readiness-related programs, such as training and maintenance. For 2015, McHugh said he thinks the Army has enough funds to balance its programs. For 2016 and beyond, he isn’t sure.

The threat of sequestration, which is on the table again in 2016, is another reason for concern, McHugh said. “Sequestration would require the Army to slash our end strength far below the 450,000 currently reflected in our fiscal year ’15 budget. At that lower level, we would limit America’s strategic options and pose unacceptable risk as even executing one prolonged, multi-phased major contingency operation would be in question.”

The problem is pretty easy to understand, McHugh said. “As we see our budget shrink, we are fiscally and physically unable to be in more and more places, which increase the response time.”

 Corps of Engineers to the Rescue

The Army Corps of Engineers is more than a bunch of dam builders and levee fixers. The Corps has agreed to oversee construction of a veterans' hospital in Aurora, Colo., after the builder quit because of contract disputes with the Department of Veterans Affairs. The project is over budget and far behind schedule.

What to watch: The VA predicts construction could be done in May and that patients could start using the facility in 2017. However, the Corps of Engineers will have to find a contractor or convince the old one to return, and Congress will have to find a minimum of $470 million, money that would be on top of the $600 million already appropriated.

 

Little Things Matter

Deferring construction on troop housing, gyms and child care centers might not seem like a big deal, but Congress is worried. Delays in quality-of-life projects "can adversely impact troop readiness and jeopardize the health and safety of service members," congressional appropriators say in a report on 2015 construction funding, bemoaning "undersized, overcrowded, and poorly equipped physical fitness centers," "deteriorating barracks" and "prolonged waiting lists for child care due."

What to watch: Although construction funding will be tight for the foreseeable future, Congress wants a prioritized list of troop housing, child development and youth centers, and physical fitness centers for the next five years, hoping the list will help them determine how to allocate funds starting with the fiscal 2016 budget.

 Sexual Assault-Homelessness Link

John Downing, the chief executive officer of the nonprofit Soldier On, which works with the VA to help homeless veterans, told the House Veterans' Affairs Committee that he sees a link between homelessness and military sexual trauma for female veterans. "One hundred percent of the women in my care have suffered from military sexual trauma," Downing said. And 70 percent of the women in his care experienced sexual trauma before they entered the military. "It is a dynamic that we cannot ignore."

What to watch: Extensive VA counseling is being provided as part of a bold initiative to eliminate veteran homelessness by the end of 2015, which by the VA's count requires helping almost 50,000 veterans find a place to live. Help includes mental health counseling, which could include specific help or referrals for those who have experienced sexual trauma, as long as funding is available.

 

Suicide Prevention Bill Blocked from Passage

The Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans (SAV) Act failed to pass the Senate after Senator Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) put a hold on the bill, citing cost considerations. The SAV Act was considered non-controversial in the House, and passed that chamber by voice vote the previous week. This critical legislation would have begun to address the crisis of veterans’ suicide by allowing VA to hire more psychiatrists, collaborate with local non-profit mental health organizations, and expand successful peer support networks. The SAV Act was named after Clay Hunt, an OIF/OEF Marine from Texas who became active in the veterans’ community after leaving the military. After years of battling PTSD, Clay tragically took his own life in 2011. The VFW strongly supported the SAV Act, assisting with its creation, testifying in support, and speaking at press conferences when it was first introduced and shortly before it hit the Senate floor. Because the Senate adjourned before the procedural hurdles could be overcome, the bill never came to a final vote. The VFW is deeply disappointed by this, but plans to immediately begin pushing for its reintroduction and passage in the 114th Congress. We would like to thank all of our advocates who helped raise awareness about the SAV Act, and will be calling for your support again in the new year. To read VFW testimony on the SAV Act (H.R. 5059), click here.

Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) Pilot Program Expansion

The Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act (VACAA) extended VA’s authority to carry out the TBI Assisted Living Pilot Program. This week, Congress passed H.R. 4276, the Veterans Brain Injury Care Improvement Act of 2014, to further expand the program. If signed into law, the bill will provide additional oversight of the program by requiring quarterly reports to Congress on the program’s status. It would also allow community-based brain injury residential rehabilitative care centers to participate in the program. The VFW strongly supported VACAA and the expansion of VA’s TBI Assisted Living Pilot Program. Since June 1, 2014, this program has helped 187 veterans in 22 states reach functional gains and improve their quality of life. Read more.

Army Launches OTH Discharge Upgrade Site

The Defense Department announced in September a decision that will enable potentially thousands of Vietnam veterans and others to request upgrades to their other-than-honorable military discharges due to an extenuating factor not known or recognized at the time of their separation - Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. In response to the DOD directive, the Army has launched a new webpage to assist former soldiers who seek to upgrade their discharges. The Departments of the Navy and Air Force have yet to release a similar help site.

Defense Bill Adds New Child Custody Protections

Included in this year's annual defense authorization bill is a new rule that prevents state judges from using military deployments against troops in child custody cases. According to Military Times, versions of the measure have passed in the House 12 times since 2007, but Senate and Pentagon objections have repeatedly sidelined the changes, primarily because military leaders wanted the states to voluntarily adopt their own regulations dealing with military custody issues. Rep. Mike Turner (R-Ohio) and former Kentucky National Guard Capt. Eva Slusher said those efforts do not account for the transient nature of military life. After waging a successful two-year fight all the way to the Kentucky Supreme Court, Slusher had pushed for a national law to prevent others from facing the same heartbreak. "This is about having peace of mind," she said. "When you're deployed, there are so many things to deal with. Worrying about your kids shouldn't be one of them." This action now fulfills VFW Resolution 414, passed by delegates attending the VFW’s 113th National Convention, which urged Congress to prevent permanent changes to child custody arrangements while service members are deployed. Read the Military Times article.

Prescription Tracking

VA recently implemented a new tool that allows veterans to track the delivery of their VA prescriptions through My HealtheVet. This tool grants veterans the opportunity to track their medication refills online, 24/7, without having to rely on calls to their VA medical facility for status updates. VA reports that more than 4,000 veterans currently use the prescription tracker every day. Read more.

VA Nominees Confirmed

Before the United States Senate ended its business for the year, it confirmed two nominees for executive positions at VA – Leigh A. Bradley as General Counsel and Helen Tierney as Chief Financial Officer. Bradley served as VA’s General Counsel from 1998 to 2001. Since then, she has served in numerous public service appointments including her current post as Director, DoD Standard of Conduct Office. Bradley served on active duty as an Air Force judge advocate from 1982 to 1986. Read more

Helen Tierney currently serves as VA’s Acting Chief Financial Officer and is responsible for managing VA’s over $160 billion budget. Tierney joined VA in March, 2011, as Executive Director for Operations in the Office of Management. Prior to joining VA, Tierney served in several public service positions at the Department of Homeland Security and the United States Army. She is the daughter of a WWII veteran and the wife of an Army veteran. Read more.

Keep Spirit of ’45 Alive

The VFW attended a kickoff ceremony at the National Press Club this week to support “Keep the Spirit of ’45 Alive” through the coming 70th anniversary of the end of World War II next August. With fewer than 10 percent of the 16 million men and women who served during WWII still with us, now is the time to recognize their service and sacrifice not only then, but the accomplishments they made to America after they returned home. Numerous events are being planned in cities and towns, battlefields and cemeteries, both nationally and around the globe. Learn more.

Three Korean War MIAs Identified

The Defense POW/MIA Office announced the identification of remains of three soldiers who had been missing-in-action since the Korean War. Recovered are:

  • Army Pfc. Anthony Massey Jr., 23, of Graves County, Ky., was lost in North Korea on Nov. 28, 1950, and later died as a prisoner of war. He was accounted for on Dec. 5, 2014. He was assigned to Company C, 24th Infantry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division, and will be buried with full military honors on a date and location yet to be determined.
  • Army Sgt. 1st Class Gordon L. Hannah, of Minnesota, was lost in North Korea on Jan. 28, 1951, and accounted for on Dec. 3, 2014. He was assigned to Company K, 3rd Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division, and will be buried with full military honors on a date and location yet to be determined.

Army Cpl. Donald A. Therkelsen, 23, of Cook, Ill., was lost in North Korea on July 17, 1953, and accounted for on Dec. 2, 2014. He was assigned to Medical Company, 15th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division, and will be buried with full military honors on a date and location yet to be determined.