Action Corps Weekly

 December 1, 2017

In This Issue:

1. Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Passes Community Care Bill
2. Congressman Introduces Bill to Privatize VA
3. Millions Unaware of New TRICARE Costs
4. VFW and American Legion Send Budget Letter to Congress
5. Senate Field Hearing on the State of VA Services in Ohio
6. VFW Women Veterans Advisory Committee Visits DC
7. SAPRO Call
8. AMSUS Conference
9. New Veterans Identification Card
10. MIA Update

1. Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Passes Community Care Bill: The Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs held a markup and voted 13-1 this Tuesday on the future of VA’s Choice Program. The legislation, Caring for Our Veterans Act, would consolidate all of VA’s current community care programs into one, remove arbitrary barriers for eligibility to use community care, provide the ability for veterans to use private clinics for walk-in appointments at no cost, twice a year, and expand VA’s current caregiver program to all eras of service. The VFW supports the bipartisan legislation which would not only improve community care programs but make them permanent as well, while also funding much needed improvements and updates for VA. The legislation would also maintain VA primary care providers as the coordinator of care for veterans whether they seek treatment within VA or need to go into the community. “The VFW lauds Chairman Isakson and Ranking Member Tester for reaching a bipartisan and comprehensive compromise on the future of VA community care that will ensure veterans receive timely access to high quality, comprehensive and veteran-centric care. We look forward to working with the committee to ensure swift passage of this important bill,” said VFW Executive Director Bob Wallace. Watch the hearing, which begins at the 13:40 mark.

2. Congressman Introduces Bill to Privatize VA: Congressman Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.) recently introduced a bill that would break our promise to veterans. H.R. 4457, the Veterans Empowerment Act, would dismantle the VA health care system, charge veterans for service-connected health care, and reduce VA to an insurance program for veterans. Congressman Lamborn and bill cosponsors, Congressmen Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) and Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), must not be allowed to advance this dangerous proposal. Urge your member of Congress to oppose H.R. 4457 and let Congress know if they cannot take care of America’s veterans, then Congress should quit creating them. Click here to take action!

3. Millions Unaware of New TRICARE Costs: The VFW released the results of a survey this week that confirmed that potentially millions of military TRICARE beneficiaries are still unaware that in one month their health care program costs are about to increase. The VFW survey was conducted between Oct. 26 and Nov. 8, with more than 11,800 responses tallied. Only 48 percent of respondents were aware of any TRICARE program changes, which take effect in the new year. Thirty percent of respondents identified themselves as TRICARE Prime users, but only 12 percent reported being aware that Prime co-payments for military retirees were increasing. TRICARE reports 4.6 million beneficiaries in its Prime category, and 1.94 million using either TRICARE Standard or Extra. The changes were mandated by the fiscal year 2017 National Defense Authorization Act. Also beginning Jan. 1, TRICARE Select replaces TRICARE Standard and Extra, and with it comes a new flat-rate co-payment and enrollment fee. VFW National Commander Keith Harman said “I can only hope DOD ups their game to fill in the notification gaps before the Jan. 1 implementation date.” Learn more here.

4. VFW and American Legion Send Budget Letter to Congress: With ongoing negotiations on the Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 budget at an impasse, the VFW and The American Legion co-signed a letter urging a solution. Calling for an end to sequestration, adjusted budget caps for spending in both FY 2018 and 2019, and a need to ensure care for veterans, the letter serves as a reminder that millions of veterans are impacted by the budget impasse. Also discussed in the letter is the need to ensure full funding of the Electronic Health Record Modernization (EHRM) project which will provide for a joint VA-DOD health record. A long-time goal for both agencies, EHRM would streamline information to ensure the history of treatment received while in service is not lost after discharge. Read the letter.

5. Senate Field Hearing on the State of VA Services in Ohio: Last week, VFW National Commander Keith Harman testified before the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs at a field hearing held in Columbus, Ohio. Harman testified on a multitude of issues facing veterans in Ohio, including community care; mental health; women veterans; oversight and accountability; appeals modernization; and the effects that sequestration has had on our military and veterans. Local VA leaders, veterans, and the Ohio Department of Veterans Services Director Chip Tansill also testified. Read Harman's testimony.

6. VFW Women Veterans Advisory Committee Visits DC: Members of the VFW Women Veterans Advisory Committee were in Washington, D.C., this week to develop their mission statement, priorities and goals for their two-year committee appointment. They met with key employees and political appointees within the Departments of Veterans Affairs and Labor, and staff members from the House and Senate Committees on Veteran’s Affairs. A meeting was also held with Rep. Julia Brownley –– a member of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs as well as a member of the Congressional Women’s Caucus –– during which the women veteran committee members thanked her for her hard work and dedication to legislation focused on the needs of women veterans. There was also discussion about toxic exposure issues and how they may affect women differently, inequities in care which VA is barred from providing such as preventive medicine without co-payments, homeless women veterans’ needs and timely gender-specific health care access. Information from the meeting will be used by the committee members as they move forward with their goals and plans to conduct a new survey of women veterans. The committee will reconvene in Washington, D.C. in March for the VFW’s 2018 Legislative Conference. Learn more about what the VFW is doing for women veterans.

7. SAPRO Call: On Tuesday, the VFW participated in a call with the Department of Defense (DOD) Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office (SAPRO) Director, RADM Ann Burkhardt. Burkhardt, who was appointed in April, provided an update on SAPRO's progress in developing and implementing innovative prevention and response programs designed to eliminate sexual assault in the military community and ensure those who experience sexual assault receive the care they deserve. She listed three priorities for the road ahead: DOD’s plan for responding to sexual assault of military men, a response to retaliation that occurs as a result of reporting sexual assault, and prevention of sexual assault. Read more about DOD's plan.

8. AMSUS Conference: This week the VFW attended the annual meeting of AMSUS, The Society of Federal Health Professionals. Established in 1891 and incorporated by an Act of Congress in 1903, the association includes the medical departments of the Departments of Defense, Veterans Affairs, Health and Human Services, and Homeland Security. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Dr. David Shulkin was the keynote speaker and discussed his top five priorities: providing greater choice, modernizing systems, focusing resources, improving timeliness, and suicide prevention. Researchers and medical health professionals presented on a variety of topics relevant to service members and veterans, to include PTSD, TBI, suicide prevention, care of battlefield injuries, pain management and opioid-related topics. Read the lecture summaries.

9. New Veterans Identification Card: This week VA announced it has opened the application portal for the new national Veterans Identification Card (VIC). The VIC is the result of the Veterans Identification Card Act of 2015, which was signed into law by President Obama in July 2015 and provides all veterans, not just VA beneficiaries, government-issued credentials verifying that they served honorably. This card is not intended to replace identification cards issued to VA beneficiaries or military retirees, but rather enables veterans who are otherwise not eligible for a VA identification card the ability to obtain credentials proving their military service. Any veteran who served in the armed forces, including the reserves, with an honorable or general discharge can apply for the VIC. If you currently possess a Veterans Health Identification Card (VHIC), a Department of Defense identification card, or a state-issued identification card denoting your veteran status, you do not need to request a VIC. Apply for the new card.

10. MIA Update: The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency has announced identification of remains and burial updates of five American servicemen who had been missing in action from World War II. Returning home for burial with full military honors are:

  -- Army Pvt. Shirley E. Bailey, 19, of Charleston, W.Va., whose identification was previously announced, will be buried Dec. 1 in Dunbar, W. Va. Bailey was a medic with Company G, 8th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Division. Bailey provided medical support to his unit as they fought in the Hürtgen Forest of Germany, an area comprised of roughly 50-square miles along the Belgian-German border in late 1944. On Nov. 29, when Bailey’s battalion was moving out, a German counterattack struck his company. Bailey rushed forward to aid a wounded man and was himself killed by enemy fire. Due to the fighting, Bailey’s remains were not recovered and he was later buried in the Ardennes American Cemetery in Belgium as an unknown soldier. Read about Bailey.

  -- Marine Corps Pfc. Donald R. Tolson, 20, of Bakersfield, Calif., whose identification was previously announced, will be buried Dec. 2 in Kansas City, Mo. Tolson was assigned to Company F, 2nd Battalion, 8th Marines, 2nd Marine Division. On Nov. 20, 1943, Tolson's unit landed on the small island of Betio in the Tarawa Atoll against stiff Japanese resistance. Tolson was killed on the first day of the battle, one of approximately 1,000 Marines and sailors killed in the intense fighting. His remains were buried in a battlefield cemetery on the island. Read about Tolson.

  -- Army Air Forces 1st Lt. Robert L. Mains, 27, of Rochester, N.Y., whose identification was previously announced, will be buried Dec. 2 in Wading River, N.Y. Mains was a member of the 714th Bombardment Squadron, 448th Bombardment Group, 2nd Bombardment Division. On April 4, 1945, Mains, along with more than 400 other bombers, took off to attack airbases at Parchim, Perleberg and Wesendorf, Germany, as part of an Allied attempt to cripple what was left of the German air force. Mains' aircraft, which held 10 airmen, was attacked by enemy fighter planes in the vicinity of Hamburg. The plane exploded and crashed; Mains and eight other crew members perished. Read about Mains.

  -- Navy Radioman 3rd Class Howard W. Bean, 27, of Everett, Mass., whose identification was previously announced, will be buried Dec. 6 in Arlington National Cemetery, near Washington, D.C. Bean was assigned to the USS Oklahoma, which was moored off Ford Island in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, when Japanese aircraft attacked his ship on Dec. 7, 1941. Bean was one of 429 crewmen killed in the attack. Read about Bean.

  -- Marine Corps Reserve 1st Sgt. David H. Quinn was assigned to Company C, 2nd Amphibian Tractor Battalion (C-2d Amp Tr Bn), 2nd Marine Division. On Nov. 20, 1943, Quinn’s unit landed on the small island of Betio in the Tarawa Atoll against stiff Japanese resistance. Quinn was killed on the second day of the battle, one of approximately 1,000 Marines and sailors killed in the intense fighting. Interment services are pending. Read about Quinn.

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Missed last week's issue? Read it here.