Aug 27 2015

Action Alert: Veterans Choice Program and Access Survey

Background: Last year, Congress passed and the President signed into law the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act of 2014 (Choice Act) to improve access to health care for veterans and reduce VA appointment wait times. Since its enactment, the VFW has worked to ensure this important law serves the best interest of veterans. In the past year, the VFW has commissioned several surveys; compiled three reports; worked directly with VA officials and health care contractors; and testified before Congress multiple times on the state of the VA health care system and the implementation of the Choice Act, resulting in significant changes in the program to better serve veterans.

Action Needed: Take the VFW’s latest Veterans Choice Program and Access Survey to help the VFW hold VA accountable for delivering veterans timely access to high quality care. To take the survey, click here:

http://capwiz.com/vfw/utr/1/EUTAVCFUQO/LWFSVCFUYW/10968957876.

Permanent link to this article: http://vfwva.org/national-vfw-news/action-alert-veterans-choice-program-and-access-survey/

Aug 27 2015

VFW Auxiliary Now Accepts Men

John A. Biedrzycki Jr., national commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States (VFW) [last week] added his official signature to the new congressional charter of its Auxiliary organization in a historical event solidifying the VFW’s commitment to membership equality for all military families.

The former Ladies Auxiliary VFW, founded in 1914, is the VFW’s highly regarded support organization and is considered its “Partner in Service.”

Under its former name Ladies Auxiliary VFW, membership within the organization was offered exclusively to female spouses and family members of any member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars. The gender-specific eligibility requirement remained for more than 100 years until July 20, 2015, when delegates to the VFW’s 116th National Convention in Pittsburgh voted to amend the dated by-law to extend the same membership opportunity to eligible males.

Appropriately, the Ladies Auxiliary VFW has changed its official name to the VFW Auxiliary.

“It’s an exciting time to be a member of the Auxiliary,” said National President Francisca Guilford. “Women comprise nearly twenty percent of our nation’s military, and this change allows all spouses, fathers, grandfathers, sons, grandsons and brothers to serve others in honor of their veteran.”

Currently, the Auxiliary has more than 465,000 members, a number that is now expected to sharply increase over the next year. Its members represent all 50 states, the District of Columbia, several foreign locations including Germany, Guam and Panama, and have made an impact in local communities around the globe.

Last year alone, its members worked to provide $4.6 million dollars in monetary aid to veterans, active duty military and their families, and volunteered nearly 800,000 hours in VA Medical Centers, hospitals, nursing and veterans’ homes. Auxiliary members also contributed greatly to cancer research, youth activities, civic patriotism and much more.

For more information about the VFW Auxiliary, please visit www.vfwauxiliary.org.

(via VFW.org)

Permanent link to this article: http://vfwva.org/national-vfw-news/vfw-auxiliary-now-accepts-men/

Jul 12 2015

VFW: Sequestration Must End!

WASHINGTON (July 10, 2015) — There was nothing shocking about Thursday’s force reduction announcement by the Army. The Budget Control Act of 2011 had dictated the terms by which America’s largest military service would incrementally shrink from a wartime high of 570,000 active-duty soldiers to 450,000. Still to come, however, is the return of mandatory sequestration in fiscal year 2016, which would further shrink the active Army to 420,000 soldiers, as well as drastically slash the operating budgets of all four military services.

“Sequestration is the most significant military readiness and national security threat of the 21st century, and despite almost universal congressional opposition to it, no member of the House or Senate has yet introduced any legislation to end it,” said John W. Stroud, national commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States. “Our military can beat any military in the world, but they can’t fight a Congress that is essentially forcing them to operate for a decade on only eight years’ worth of funding.”

Though the Army’s announced two-year plan to reduce its end strength by 40,000 soldiers and 17,000 civilians was preordained four years ago, Stroud said what’s important now is for the new Congress to act.

“We need both political parties to finally say ‘enough,’ not because a continued sequester will hurt civilian economies in certain congressional districts, but because a continued sequester weakens America, worries our allies and emboldens our enemies,” he said. “Our brave men and women in uniform will continue to perform and excel at every mission, but overtasking with inadequate resourcing will cost lives — American lives — which is an impending disaster the VFW will not allow. Sequestration must end!”

(via VFW.org)

Permanent link to this article: http://vfwva.org/national-vfw-news/vfw-sequestration-must-end/

Jun 22 2015

VFW Salutes New Agent Orange Decision

The Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United is saluting today’s [last week’s] decision by the Department of Veterans Affairs to begin accepting disability claims from veterans potentially exposed to Agent Orange-contaminated aircraft in the post-Vietnam era. The decision by VA Secretary Bob McDonald could now benefit as many as 1,500 to 2,100 Air Force and Air Force Reserve personnel who might suffer from any of 14 presumptive medical conditions that have been determined to be related to Agent Orange exposure.

The VA secretary made the decision to expand benefits following a 2015 report by the National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine on Post-Vietnam Dioxin Exposure in Agent Orange-Contaminated C-123 Aircraft. The report found evidence that those who served aboard or worked on the C-123 aircraft were exposed to the herbicide, both during and after Vietnam, when many of the aircraft remained in service for aeromedical transportation or in a mosquito abatement role back in the U.S.

“The VFW has been pushing for this decision for years,” said VFW National Commander John W. Stroud, “because something inside these aircraft was making people sick years after the plane last flew a defoliating mission in Vietnam. We thank the Institute of Medicine for determining a contributing link between exposure and the 14 medical conditions, and Secretary McDonald for making a quick call to care for more veterans.”

All airmen who were assigned to flight, ground or medical crew duties at Lockbourne/Rickenbacker Air Force Base in Ohio (the 906th and 907th Tactical Air Groups or 355th and 356th Tactical Airlift Squadrons), at Massachusetts’s Westover AFB (the 731st Tactical Air Squadron and 74th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron), or with the 758th Airlift Squadron in Pittsburgh, during the period 1969 to 1986, and who may have developed an Agent Orange-related disability, are encouraged to file a disability compensation claim through the VA’s eBenefits web portal (https://www.ebenefits.va.gov/), or to seek the free and expert assistance of a national VFW Service Officer at http://www.vfw.org/NVS/.

Read more about the today’s [last week’s] decision at http://www.blogs.va.gov/VAntage/20825/va-expands-disability-benefits-for-air-force-personnel-exposed-to-contaminated-c-123-aircraft/.

(via VFW.org)

Permanent link to this article: http://vfwva.org/national-vfw-news/vfw-salutes-new-agent-orange-decision/

May 12 2015

ALL-STATE VFW POST 2014-2015

Congratulations to the following Post who have made All-State so far this Year. If your Post is not on the list you still have until June 30th to achieve All-State don’t stop working on membership.

VFW Post 9835 District 8 Warrenton, VA

VFW Post 5500 District 1 New Port News, VA

VFW Post 8252 District 1 Gloucester, VA

VFW Post 2719 District 9 Wytheville, VA

VFW Post 6002 District 1 Newport News, VA

VFW Post 637 District 3 Hopewell, VA

VFW Post 2582 District 2 Suffolk, VA

VFW Post 8469 District 10 Fairfax, VA

VFW Post 9954 District 4 Victoria, VA

VFW Post 7589 District 8 Manassas, VA

VFW Post 9696 District 9 Bluefield, VA

VFW Post 9760 District 7 Berryville,, VA

VFW Post 1503 District 10 Dale City, VA

VFW Post 392 District 2 Virginia Beach, VA

Permanent link to this article: http://vfwva.org/department-news/all-state-vfw-post-2014-2015/

May 07 2015

VFW Files Suit Against VA

VFW Files Suit Against VA

New claims procedure benefits the government, not veterans

WASHINGTON (May 7, 2015) — The Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States and Disabled American Veterans filed a joint lawsuit yesterday to force the Department of Veterans Affairs to change a new claims submission procedure that was created solely to benefit the VA, not veterans.

The main issue is the elimination of an informal claims process and the institution of a rigid, veteran-unfriendly system for filing claims for benefits, among several other disagreements, explained William L. Bradshaw, VFW director of National Veterans Service, who oversees a nationwide cadre of more than 1,500 VA-accredited service officers who assist veterans with filing their VA claims.

Previously, any form of written communication would have served notice on the VA that within one year, that veteran would be filing a formal claim for disability compensation. If approved, the claim’s effective date could be backdated to the day of the initial notification. As of March 24, the VA now no longer accepts informal claims, and instead requires all veterans to use a standardized form, which essentially postpones the effective date and denies compensation to veterans.

“The VFW doesn’t oppose the use of standardized forms,” said Bradshaw. “Our opposition is to this all or nothing approach that VA is forcing on veterans — changes, that if left in place, will guarantee in this year alone that tens of thousands of service-connected wounded, ill and injured veterans will be denied benefits they were entitled to before the change became effective.”

The VFW, DAV, and other veterans’ service organizations fought against the change after VA first proposed it in October 2013.

“The VA is once again changing the rules to make the claims process easier for them, not for the veterans the VA was created to serve,” said Bradshaw, who added that the new change makes it even more difficult on veterans who don’t understand the process, and especially on those who do not avail themselves of the expert and free claims assistance provided by the VFW and other nationally-recognized and VA-accredited service officers.

“The VA’s move to a standardized form should not come at the cost of an informal claims notification procedure that works,” he said. “The VA can and should accept both.”

Read the lawsuit here.

Permanent link to this article: http://vfwva.org/national-vfw-news/vfw-files-suit-against-va/

Apr 29 2015

VFW Calls New VA Appropriations Bill ‘Bad for Veterans’

WASHINGTON — The national commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States said the U.S. House of Representatives is set to penalize disabled veterans this week if it votes to reduce the Department of Veterans Affairs budget request by more than $1.5 billion.

“The nationwide crisis in care and confidence that erupted in the VA last year was caused in many ways by a lack of adequate resourcing that only Congress is authorized to provide,” said John W. Stroud, who leads the 1.9 million-member VFW and its Auxiliaries. “That’s why the VFW is demanding that the House amend this bill to appropriate a funding level that fully funds VA.”

In its current form, the fiscal year 2016 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Bill makes across-the-board cuts to all VA discretionary accounts, and drastically underfunds medical care, major construction and Information Technology accounts. Stroud said across-the-board cuts to discretionary spending is what Congress created back in 2011, but by another name, sequestration. Now the House wants to impose its own sequester on a federal department whose sole mission is to care for wounded, ill and injured veterans.

“The VA cannot fulfill its mission without proper funding, but the House for whatever reason now wants to ration care, eliminate infrastructure projects, and stop improving upon the programs and services that the VA was created to provide,” said the VFW national commander. “This bill is bad for veterans and any vote for it is unconscionable, which is why we want veterans and advocates everywhere to get involved by urging their elected officials to fully fund the VA.”

Make your voices heard here.

via VFW.org

Permanent link to this article: http://vfwva.org/national-vfw-news/vfw-calls-new-va-appropriations-bill-bad-for-veterans/

Apr 14 2015

VFW Youth Scholarship Competitions

VFW Announces Kick-Off of Youth Scholarship Competitions
New themes selected for the 2015-16 contest

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (April 14, 2015) – The Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. (VFW) is pleased to announce the kick-off of the 2015-16 VFW’s Voice of Democracy and Patriot’s Pen scholarship competitions. The announcement comes just weeks after students from across the globe took home their share of the more than $3 million in scholarships and awards from last year’s competitions.

The VFW’s Voice of Democracy and Patriot’s Pen essay competitions are dedicated to encouraging a better understanding and appreciation for our great country and fostering patriotism among our nation’s youth. Students are asked to submit an essay in response to a question or statement on a subject which prompts them to consider how American history and democratic ideals and principles apply to their lives.

This year’s Voice of Democracy theme asks students to contemplate, “My Vision for America.” The Voice of Democracy scholarship competition is an audio-essay competition open to students in grades 9-12. The national winner will receive the $30,000 T.C. Selman Memorial Scholarship Award.

The Patriot’s Pen competition is open to students in grades 6-8. This year, students are asked to reflect on the statement, “What Freedom Means to Me.” The national winner will receive a $5,000 award.

Student participants are asked to submit their entry (along with a completed entry form) to their participating local VFW Post. The deadline for student entries in both contests is November 1, 2015.

Click here to find your local VFW Post. For more information on the contests, visit www.vfw.org/Youth.  

Permanent link to this article: http://vfwva.org/national-vfw-news/vfw-youth-scholarship-competitions/

Apr 02 2015

VA Makes Strides on Reducing Claims Backlog

Washington – The federal initiative to provide timely decisions on disability payments to Veterans has crossed a major milestone in its final sprint to eliminate the backlog of Veterans’ benefits claims.

The major transformation effort to apply new technology and process solutions has paid off at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).  It reduced its inventory of backlogged claims from a high of 611,000 claims in March of 2013 to fewer than 200,000 this week, while at the same time improving decision quality.

“Make no mistake, we’re not slowing down short of the finish line,” said Under Secretary for Benefits Allison Hickey. “Our goal is to eliminate the claims backlog by the end of 2015 – meaning all Veterans will receive timely and accurate decisions on their disability claims.”

Hickey credited a combination of factors for the 67-percent drop in backlog: first, the extra hours of work put in by dedicated benefits claims processors across the nation, who have worked evenings, Saturdays and Sundays to drive the backlog down; as well as procedural efficiencies backed by powerful automation tools and paperless claims processing. In addition, she cited the transformation of Veterans Benefits Administration’s training and quality assurance programs resulting in steady increases in the accuracy of decisions.

Just a few years ago, claims processors handled 5,000 tons of paper annually, an amount equivalent to 200 Empire State Buildings. In less than two years, VA converted claims processing to a 21st Century digital environment where claims for VA benefits and services can be submitted and processed, and benefits delivered, online.

Veterans increasingly are filing claims electronically from the start at https://www.ebenefits.va.gov.  Veterans can submit their applications online, upload their supporting documentation, and check the status of their claim through a multi-channel Web portal boasting nearly 60 self-service features.

(via VA Press Release)

Veterans may also visit their local VFW Post for assistance with their claims process.

Permanent link to this article: http://vfwva.org/va-news/va-makes-strides-on-reducing-claims-backlog/

Mar 21 2015

2014-2015 National Youth Scholarship Winner Videos

The winners of the 2014-2015 National Voice of Democracy and Patriot’s Pen scholarship competitions were named earlier this month at the National Legislative Conference in Washington DC.

Adam Densmore from the Department of Colorado was named the first-place winner of the $30,000 Voice of Democracy T.C. Selman Memorial Scholarship Award.  This year’s theme was “Why Veterans are Important to our Nation’s History and Future.”  Densmore was sponsored by VFW Post 3631 and Ladies Auxiliary in Aurora, Colorado.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2gmDnEnYwQI[/youtube]

The second-place winner, Jaycie Schenone, sponsored by VFW Post 6604 and Ladies Auxiliary in Folsom, California, received the $16,000 Charles Kuralt Memorial Scholarship Award. The third-place winner, Mackenzie Leishman, sponsored by VFW Post 2350 and Ladies Auxiliary in Elko, Nevada, received the $10,000 VFW Scholarship Award.

Ethan Schroeder from the Department of Pennsylvania was named first-place winner of a $5,000 award for his submission on this year’s theme “Why I Appreciate America’s Veterans.”  Schroeder was sponsored by VFW Post 92 and Ladies Auxiliary in New Kensington, Pennsylvania.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vQZoq5KEtTU[/youtube]

The second-place winner, Jordyn Mies, sponsored by VFW Post 7824 and Ladies Auxiliary Vancouver, Washington, will receive a $4,000 award. The third-place winner, Tracy Kruse, sponsored by VFW Post 2966 and Ladies Auxiliary in Scotland, South Dakota, will receive a $3,500 award.

Permanent link to this article: http://vfwva.org/national-vfw-news/2014-2015-national-youth-scholarship-winner-videos/

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