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Retiree & Veteran News 30 September 2015

Association of the United States Army Logo - Eagle with Shield, Torch, Olive Branch
Wednesday, September 30, 2015

 

AUSA Legislative Update

If you thought that Congress’ return to Washington meant swift resolution on the fiscal 2016 defense authorization and appropriations bills, think again. 

With only thirteen days left before the end of the fiscal year, lawmakers are finally discussing how to keep the government funded and running past Oct. 1.  It is certain that they will pass a continuing resolution (CR), but how long will it last?  Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., said that the CR would span “a couple months” until “sometime around the end of November [or] early December.”

A short-term CR would be preferable.  An extended CR would be extremely detrimental to the Army, national security and the economy.  The inefficiency created by a CR wastes significant amounts of taxpayer money.  Further, a long-term CR increases the risk to soldiers because it reduces the Army’s flexibility to respond to pressing operational needs.  Finally, it reduces American global stature when we repeatedly demonstrate governmental dysfunction instead of regular order.

That’s the gist of a letter AUSA President Gen. Gordon R. Sullivan, USA, Ret., sent to key Congressional leaders this week.  Now, he is asking that you write to your elected officials and reinforce his message. 

As far as the authorization bill, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, said that "further communication" had occurred over the August break and "most issues are resolved."

It has been reported that conferees have reached a compromise on one of the major sticking points – the proposed reductions to the Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH), a subsidy given to service members to defray the cost of off-base housing. 

The House bill made no changes to the benefit, while the Senate voted to allow the defense secretary to increase service members’ out-of-pocket costs from the current one percent to five percent.   The Senate-passed bill would also have limited the housing allowance for military service members who live together or married military couples "who are assigned within normal commuting distance from each other."  This provision angered both Democratic and Republican House conferees.  Sources say that the compromise reached by the conferees would gradually ramp down the housing subsidy by 1 percent per year for five years.

While we may not agree with some of the compromises reached, we firmly support the passage of a defense authorization bill. 

It may not matter though.  Looming over the legislation is a promised veto by the president.  He and congressional Democrats want a compromise that lifts the spending limits for defense and nondefense spending.  Specifically, they are opposed to the GOP’s use of the Defense Department’s overseas contingency operations (OCO) account to evade the Budget Control Act spending caps.  White House officials said the war funding move "ignores the long-term connection between national security and economic security" and warrants a veto.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee said that he considers Obama’s veto threat to be a credible one this year. 

Army officials have warned that Congress needs to pass a bill before the end of the year to reauthorize expiring special pays and bonuses.  Otherwise, enlistment and new reenlistment bonuses, hazardous duty pays and incentive pays will stop being paid on Jan. 1.

Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla, said, "We don't want to go to December.  We want to go ahead and complete it as quickly as we can, get it to the president and move on." 

We agree.

- See more at: http://www.ausa.org/legislation/newsletter/Pages/17September2015Legislat... IMMEDIATE RELEASE September 29, 2015

Clinical implant audiologist Nancy Duran attaches a bone anchored hearing aid (BAHA) processor to a surgically implanted titanium abutment for Army Veteran Ahmedou AliTwenty Community Agencies to Benefit WASHINGTON

 Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert A. McDonald today announced $12.8 million in renewal funding through the Grant and Per Diem (GPD) program to 20 community agencies that currently provide transitional housing with supportive services for homeless Veterans under the Transition in Place (TIP) model. As a key component of the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) plan to eliminate homelessness among Veterans, VA’s GPD program provides per diem payments to help public and nonprofit organizations establish and operate supportive housing for specific homeless Veteran populations, which includes the innovative TIP approach to assist homeless Veterans transition from homelessness. TIP encourages rapid movement from transitional housing to permanent housing which enables Veterans to live as independently, as possible, while increasing housing stabilization. Today’s awards follows an announcement last week of $4 million in renewal funding through the GPD program to 21 community agencies that currently provide enhanced services for homeless Veterans with special needs. More information about VA’s homeless programs is available at www.va.gov/homeless. Community organizations seeking details and/or more information, may contact the National Grant and Per Diem Program office at http://www.va.gov/HOMELESS/GPD.aspor by calling 1-877-332-0334.

Job Fairs Ahead

A job fair just for people with security clearances will be held Oct. 1 at the Westin Tysons Corner in Falls Church, Va., from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. At least 13 companies, mostly doing defense, homeland security and national security work, will be taking part, looking for people to work in the U.S. and abroad.

What to watch: A Warriors to the Workforce hiring event will be part of the Association of the U.S. Army’s Annual Meeting and Exposition from Oct. 12 to 14 at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C. There will be a cyber-only job fair at the Baltimore Convention Center on Oct. 29 and a Nov. 18 event at the Hyatt Dulles in Herndon, Va., for people who have only passed a polygraph.

 Eying Government Retirement Checks

The nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Budget is proposing ways the government could avoid sequestration in January by cutting spending to stay within budgetary caps. Ideas include reducing the annual cost-of-living adjustment by changing how consumer price increases are calculated and by having military and federal civilian pensions calculated on the highest five years of service, an increase from the highest three.

What to watch: No one knows what might happen, but the committee isn’t just picking on military and government workers. It also proposes eliminating mortgage interest deductions on yachts and second homes, selling up to $10 billion of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve and reducing farm subsidies.

Grants to Reduce Veterans Homelessness

This week, the VA announced the award of $4 million in funding offered through the Grant and Per Diem Program to 21 community agencies currently serving homeless veterans. Learn more about the VA’s Grant and Per Diem program.

This Sunday is Gold Star Mother's and Family's Day

Yesterday, President Obama proclaimed September 27, 2015, as Gold Star Mother's and Family's Day. This is pursuant to Senate Joint Resolution 115 of June 23, 1936, which designated the last Sunday of September as Gold Star Mother's Day. This is a day of remembrance, intended to honor the survivors of service members who died on duty. In the proclamation, the president called upon all government officials to display the U.S. flag over government buildings this Sunday, and encouraged all Americans to display the flag and hold ceremonies as a public expression of respect and gratitude for Gold Star Families. Read the full proclamation.

New Military Leadership

There have been a host of top leadership changes at the Pentagon over the past two months, to include today’s change of responsibility ceremony that had Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey transferring the chairmanship of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to Marine Corps Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., who just yesterday relinquished command of the U.S. Marine Corps to new Commandant Gen. Robert B. Neller. On Sept. 18, Navy Adm. John Richardson became the new Chief of Naval Operations, succeeding Adm. J onathan W. Greenert, and just last month Army Gen. Mark A. Milley succeeded Gen. Raymond T. Odierno as the new Army Chief of Staff. Up next will be the confirmation hearing of Eric K. Fanning, who’s been nominated to become the next Secretary of the Army.

Two Korean War MIAs Identified

The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency has identified the remains of two soldiers who had been missing in action since the Korean War. Returned home are:

·         Army Cpl. Martin A. King, was assigned to Company E, 2nd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division, when he was declared missing in action while fighting in North Korea on Nov. 2, 1950.

 ·         Army Cpl. Robert V. Witt, 20, of Los Angeles, was assigned to 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment, 7th Infantry Division, when he was captured while fighting in North Korea on Dec. 2, 1950. He reportedly died in a North Korean prisoner of war camp on Jan. 31, 1951

Shipboard Sailors May Qualify for Agent Orange Claims

Published: September 24, 2015
More in: Armed Forces News

Sailors who became sick from Agent Orange exposure while stationed on vessels offshore during the Vietnam War may qualify for health care. A recent case decided by the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims upheld a former sailor’s contention that the Department of Veterans Affairs wrongly rejected his claim that exposure to the defoliant rendered him sick. The Fleet Reserve Association is urging its members who may be similarly affected to submit claims to VA, or resubmit their claims that have been rejected.

 The Role of the Education in Rural Veterans' Health and Well-being

This issue of The Rural Connection highlights some of the many efforts underway to increase access to education for rural communities—and ultimately the Veterans who reside there. This issue is the last in a four-part series on the impact that the social determinants of health have on Veterans in rural communities. In case you missed it, last quarter’s issue featured the impact of care and services on health and well-being.

In this issue:

 

 

As you will read throughout these articles, ORH and its partners are committed to ensuring rural Veterans and their health care professionals are able to easily access the education needed to best serve the health care needs of rural Veterans. Our ultimate goal remains the improvement of the health and well-being of rural Veterans by increasing access to care and services.  

Gina Capra, MPA
Director, Office of Rural Health

Veterans! Hard of hearing? VA can help.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Army Veteran Ahmedou Ali loves his audiologists.

“I’m a 62 year old service-connected disabled Veteran who has been without hearing in the right ear for a long time. The bone anchored hearing aid (BAHA) VA provided opened up a whole new world for me.

 

“I absolutely love my audiologists, Erica Bush (VA NYHHS) and Nancy Duran (VA Miami), and the surgical team for making it happen.”

According to Duran, a clinical/implant audiologist, “With the number of Veterans affected by the occupational injury of hearing loss and tinnitus ever increasing, it is so important that VA is able to provide them with quality comprehensive hearing health care. The VA Audiology Program allows Veterans to receive comprehensive assessments, innovative rehabilitation programs for both hearing loss and tinnitus, and advanced technology.”

“For me to be able to provide these services is extremely rewarding.”

VA’s Audiology and Speech Language Pathology Services recognize the importance of caring for Veterans who experience difficulties with their hearing, balance, speech, and communication ability.

Hearing loss and tinnitus (ringing in the ears) account for the two most prevalent service-connected disabilities among Veterans.

The damaging effect of exposure to high noise levels in military operations or during routine military training is insidious, and many Servicemembers do not realize they have hearing loss until permanent damage has already occurred.

Multiple Services Provided

VA audiologists provide comprehensive hearing health care services, including:

·         Disability audiology exams for Veterans and Servicemembers, and medical opinions on relationship between military service and hearing loss, tinnitus, and balance disorders

·         Assessment, evaluation, treatment, and management of hearing loss, tinnitus, and balance disorders

·         Fitting and programming hearing aids and other assistive listening devices such as TV and telephone amplifiers, and post-surgical rehabilitation for cochlear and other auditory implants

·         Hearing screening, noise induced hearing loss prevention services, and aural rehabilitation services to optimize residual hearing.

Duran adds that “These services come together to improve a Veteran’s ability to function in their day-to-day life and improve their quality of life by providing both rehabilitative tools and technology to keep them active and socially engaged. For me to be able to provide these services is extremely rewarding.”

Many Veterans also suffer problems with communication, cognition, memory, and swallowing as a result of traumatic brain injury, stroke, geriatric illnesses, spinal cord injury, and progressive or degenerative neurological disorders.

Duran points out that key members of the interdisciplinary care team that treat such patients are speech-language pathologists, who provide professional services that include:

·         Screening, evaluation, treatment, and prevention services for speech, language, and voice disorders;

·         Evaluation and treatment of swallowing disorders for individuals who are experiencing problems with eating and drinking

·         Provision of specialized assistive technology to assist Veterans with cognitive or communication disorders, including speech-generating devices, cognitive communication aids such as personal digital assistants, global positioning systems, and rehabilitative and restorative voice services including voice prostheses.

Largest Team in America

VA is the largest employer of audiologists and speech-language pathologists in the U.S. with over 1,100 audiologists providing services across 400 sites of care.

More than 400 speech-language pathologists offer services at over 190 sites of care across VA.

Good hearing, speech, and communication ability are essential to Veterans’ quality of life and their ability to live and function independently. VA is proud of its efforts to help Veterans maintain their hearing and speech health and well-being.

- See more at: http://www.va.gov/HEALTH/NewsFeatures/2015/September/Veterans-Hard-of-Hearing-VA-Can-Help.asp#sthash.8KMJvUyp.dpuf 

House Veterans' Affairs Committee Approves Several Bills

On Thursday, the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs considered and approved seven bills related to programs and policies affecting the Department of Veterans Affairs. These bills include H.R. 677, which would allow for COLA increases to disability compensation to occur without needed action by Congress. H.R. 2915 would help identify programs to end suicide by female veterans. H.R. 3106 would affect construction at the VA by shifting larger projects to the Army Corps of Engineers for management and appointing a special Assistant Inspector General for construction-related issues. The VFW will continue to monitor all seven of these bills. For more information on these bills and to watch the hearing, click here.

Gulf War Veterans Needed For Research

The War Related Illness and Injury Study Center at the VA in East Orange, N.J., currently has several research studies focused on Gulf War veterans who deployed to Operation Desert Shield/Storm, as well as non-deployed veterans of the same era. If you are a veteran from the 1990-91 era, or if you have a Gulf War illness and would like to know more about the research, please call 1-800-248-8005 or visit their Gulf War Research page.

National POW/MIA Recognition Day

The VFW Washington, D.C., Office was present at today’s National POW/MIA Recognition Day ceremony at the Pentagon, joining VFW Posts across the nation in honoring and recognizing the service and sacrifice of almost 140,000 former American prisoners of war and the 83,000 Americans who continue to be listed as missing and unaccounted for from World War II forward. Read how one family continues to suffer the pain of unknowing.

Train Attack Heroes Receive Medals

Secretary of Defense Ash Carter and Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Paul Selva presented medals to the three Americans who stopped a radical terrorist on a Paris-bound train last month. At the Thursday ceremony, Airman 1st Class Spencer Stone received the Airman's Medal and Purple Heart Medal, Army National Guard Specialist Alek Skarlatos received the Soldier's Medal, and civilian Anthony Sadler received the Department of Defense Medal for Valor. The Airman’s and Soldier’s Medals rank ninth in the order of precedence, immediately above the Bronze Star. The Defense Medal for Valor was created soon after 9/11 to recognize government employees and private citizens who perform acts of heroism or sacrifice. The three childhood friends were on vacation Aug. 21 when they subdued, disarmed and hogtied a heavily armed gunman on a train heading from Amsterdam to Paris. France awarded all three Americans the Legion of Merit within days of the attack. After the Pentagon presentation, the three young men met with President Obama in the Oval Office.

Four MIAs Identified

The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency has identified the remains belonging to two World War II Marines and two Korean War soldiers. Being returned home for burial with full military honors at a time and date yet to be determined are:

  • Marine Corps Pfc. James P. Reilly and Cpl. James D. Otto, who were both killed in action on Nov. 20, 1943, while fighting on the Pacific island of Tarawa. They were assigned to Company L, 3rd Battalion, 8th Marines, 2nd Marine Division.
  • Army Cpl. Robert E. Meyers, of Franklin County, Pa., was assigned to Company A, 2nd Engineer Combat Battalion, 2nd Infantry Division, when he died fighting in North Korea on Dec. 1, 1950.
  • Army Cpl. George H. Mason, who was assigned to the 2nd Reconnaissance Company, 2nd Infantry Division, died while fighting in North Korea on Feb. 14, 1951.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE September 15, 2015

VA Awards $8 Million in Adaptive Sport Grants to Aid Disabled Veterans

Grants promote rehabilitation, health and wellness and community reintegration WASHINGTON – Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert A. McDonald today announced the awarding of up to $8 million in grants to eligible recipients with experience managing largescale adaptive sports programs for disabled Veterans and disabled Servicemembers of the Armed Forces. The grant recipients may use these funds for planning, developing, managing and implementing adaptive sports programs. The VA is awarding the Grants to national governing bodies, which prepare high-level athletes for Paralympic competition; Veterans service organizations; city and regional municipalities; and other community groups to provide a wide range of adaptive sports opportunities for eligible Veterans and Servicemembers. The Grants will support sports ranging from rowing, cycling and skiing to golf, fly fishing and equestrian sports. “Adaptive sports help Veterans heal both physically and emotionally,” said Secretary McDonald. “We are proud to partner with organizations nationwide to provide these rehabilitative opportunities for America’s Veterans.” VA will distribute the grants to 89 national, regional and community programs serving all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and Guam. Approximately 10,000 Veterans and Servicemembers are expected to benefit. Information about the awardees and details of the program may be found at www.va.gov/adaptivesports

House Holds Hearing on Licensing and Credentialing

On Thursday, the House Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity held a hearing titled, “A Review of Licensing and Credentialing Standards for Servicemembers and Veterans: Do Barriers Still Remain?” In his remarks, Chairman Brad Wenstrup (R-Ohio) made clear that Congress must continue to do all it can to ensure that the valuable skills that service members receive through their military training can be easily translated to civilian credentials necessary to enter many technical fields following service. A recurring theme during testimony, however, is that the federal government is limited in what it can do to facilitate this goal, since credentialing standards are established by individual state legislatures. View the hearing and possible solutions here. The VFW will continue to do all we can to support solutions to this complicated problem, and encourage all Action Corps members to contact your state officials to find out what they can do to improve veterans’ access to professional licenses and credentials in your state.

House Oversight Committee Investigates Army Childcare Program

On Thursday, the VFW attended the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing concerning the program reimbursing Army families for childcare. The program has become wracked with cost overruns and long wait times and has caused severe financial troubles for families. Nearly 10,000 Army families use the program, which funds care when base services are not available. The program was shifted to a new contract shared by the Army and General Services Administration in an effort to save money, but cost an additional $4.4 million beyond its budget, and bad management allowed thousands of email and voicemail complaints to be deleted. For more information on the hearing, click here

Every Name Needs a Photo

Since 2009, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Foundation has been trying to collect at least one photograph of all 58,307 men and women whose names are inscribed on The Wall. To date, 42,000 individual photographs have been submitted for display in the new Education Center at The Wall, as well as online on The Virtual Wall. Six states — North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, New Mexico, Wisconsin and Minnesota — have found all of their photos, with many states having just a few photos left to find. VVMF can provide lists of names by region so that volunteers can look for photos of service members from their area. For more information or to submit photos, click here.

Vietnam MIA Identified

The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency announced the identification of remains belonging to Navy Lt. j.g. Neil B. Taylor, 26, of Rangeley, Maine, who will be buried in his hometown with full military honors on Sept. 14, exactly 50 years after the A-4C Skyhawk he was piloting crashed while on a bombing mission over Bac Lieu Province, Vietnam, on Sept. 14, 1965.