Action Corps Weekly

 September 8, 2017

 In This Issue:

1. September Marks Suicide Prevention Month
2. VFW Clarifies New VA Decision-Ready Claims Initiative
3. VFW Participates in 2017 Warrior Integration Symposium
4. VFW Attends Monthly Women Veterans Meeting
5. TRICARE Fee Increase
6. Disaster Resources
7. DOD Announces New DPAA Director
8. MIA Update 

1. September Marks Suicide Prevention Month: Suicide is one of the leading causes of death in the United States, and the only cause in the Top 10 that continues to increase rather than decrease in prevalence. While death by suicide is an American issue, it overwhelmingly affects the veteran population, with an average of 20 veterans dying by suicide each day. The VFW has teamed up with five organizations for the VFW Mental Wellness Campaign, including Give an Hour, Campaign to Change Direction, One Mind, PatientsLikeMe and the Elizabeth Dole Foundation. Together our organizations strive to prevent suicide by raising awareness about mental wellness, and foster community engagement to improve research and provide intervention for those who need it. VFW Posts across the globe have held events to change the stigma surrounding mental wellness while supporting fellow veterans in their community. The next major event for Posts will be held Oct. 29.  span style="color: #0070c0;">Learn more about the VFW's Mental Wellness Campaign. If you are having a mental health emergency, call the Veteran Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255, and press 1, or learn more here.

2. VFW Clarifies New VA Decision-Ready Claims Initiative: This week VA announced its new Decision-Ready Claims (DRC) initiative, which promises to deliver faster rating decisions to veterans. On the surface, any new option for veterans to access their benefits may sound good, but the reality is that the new program actually puts more responsibility on the veteran to develop the claim before submission –– a task VA usually handles on a veteran's behalf. While this may help some veterans with more simple claims or veterans who require flexible timelines to gather evidence, VFW's Service Officers know that DRC will not be the best option for many clients. The VFW encourages all veterans considering filing a claim to have an honest discussion with their accredited VFW Service Officer to determine the best course of action. Learn more about the nuances of the DRC program.

3. VFW Participates in 2017 Warrior Integration Symposium: This week, more than 500 veteran and military advocates descended on Atlanta, Ga., for the 2017 Warrior Integration Summit, hosted by America’s Warrior Partnership. This three-day event brings together professionals from across the country in order to share their experiences, identify current and upcoming trends, and discuss potential barriers to progress within our community. As a part of the summit, VFW National Legislative Service Deputy Director John Towles was invited to participate in a panel discussion focusing on the role of veterans service organizations in national advocacy and legislation. Learn more here.

4. VFW Attends Monthly Women Veterans Meeting: On Wednesday, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Center for Women Veterans hosted the monthly women veterans meeting with the VFW, multiple other veteran service organizations (VSO) and VA employees. During the monthly briefing, the director for VA’s Center for Women Veterans, Kayla Williams, shared upcoming news and information pertaining to women veterans within VA, and VSOs shared information about what their organizations are doing pertaining to women veterans. This month the Embassy of Israel came as special guests to discuss partnering with the VFW and other organizations for better recognition and outreach to female combat veterans. VA gave updates on Suicide Prevention Month, as well as Hurricane Harvey updates including how it affected, and ultimately shortened, VA’s Women Veterans Summit. Williams and her staff are working to post online all the information that would have been disseminated at the summit. Learn more here.

5. TRICARE Fee Increase: Last year’s National Defense Authorization Act increased TRICARE costs for military retirees who enter the military after January 1, 2018, and their families. Current military retirees and their family members are exempt from these cost increases, but a proposal which was recently advanced by the Senate would remove this exemption. This proposal would result in higher TRICARE fees for military retirees, including pharmacy copayments, which are already three times higher than they were in 2011, and enrollment costs for certain plans, such as the new Select plan, would nearly triple. The VFW believes that there is an inherent cost to fielding a professional, all-volunteer military, and the promise of a modest stipend immediately upon retirement and inexpensive health care are keys to retaining our best and brightest service members. The VFW needs your help in defeating this harmful proposal which would require military retirees to pay more for their earned health care. TAKE ACTION here.

6. Disaster Resources: Disasters, such as hurricanes Harvey and Irma, can cause disruptions in veteran services, such as GI Bill benefits or prescription refills. TRICARE and the Department of Veterans Affairs have published information and guidance on impacts to services and resources for those in the affected areas:

For TRICARE beneficiaries:

For information on VA clinic status and pharmacy benefits:

For information on VA education benefits:

7. DOD Announces New DPAA Director: The Department of Defense announced on Tuesday that Kelly McKeague has been sworn in as the new director of the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA). McKeague, a retired Air Force major general, previously served as the DPAA deputy director and commander of the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command. Acting Director Fern Sumpter Winbush will resume her role as principal deputy director for the agency. Read more here.

8. MIA Update: The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency has announced identifications of remains of six American servicemen who had been missing in action from World War II and the Korean and Vietnam Wars. Returning home for burial with full military honors are:

  -- Navy Fireman 1st Class Samuel W. Crowder, of Kentucky, was assigned to the USS Oklahoma, which was moored off Ford Island, Pearl Harbor, when Japanese aircraft attacked his ship on Dec. 7, 1941. Crowder was one of 429 crewmen killed in the attack. Interment services are pending. Read about Crowder.

  -- Marine Corps Pvt. Vernon P. Keaton, of Oklahoma, was assigned to the USS Oklahoma, which was moored off Ford Island, Pearl Harbor, when Japanese aircraft attacked his ship on Dec. 7, 1941. Keaton was one of 429 crewmen killed in the attack. Interment services are pending. Read about Keaton.

  -- Navy Fireman 1st Class Elmer D. Nail, of Kansas, was assigned to the USS Oklahoma, which was moored off Ford Island, Pearl Harbor, when Japanese aircraft attacked his ship on Dec. 7, 1941. Nail was one of 429 crewmen killed in the attack. Interment services are pending. Read about Nail.

  -- Army Pvt. Raymond Sinowitz, of New York, was a member of 454th Ordnance Company, 27th Bombardment Group, the Far East Air Force, when Japanese forces invaded the Philippine Islands on Dec. 8, 1941.  After months of intense fighting, Corregidor fell and American forces surrendered on May 6, 1942. Sinowitz was one of the thousands of U.S. and Filipino service members taken prisoner and eventually moved to Cabanatuan POW camp. Interment services are pending. Read about Sinowitz.

  -- Navy Hospital Corpsman 1st Class William G. Payne, of Chicago, Ill., was a medical specialist assigned to the 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division. In late November 1950, Payne’s unit was fighting against repeat attacks by Chinese forces in the area surrounding Yudam-ni, North Korea. Payne was killed during the fighting on Dec. 1, 1950 and was reportedly buried in a temporary cemetery at Yudam-ni. Interment services are pending. Read about Payne.

  -- Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Donald J. Hall, of Stroud, Okla., was a member of Detachment 5, 38th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron. On Feb. 6, 1967, Hall and three other service members were flying an HH-3E helicopter on a rescue and recovery mission over northern Vietnam. Hall’s helicopter was hit by enemy ground fire after rescuing a downed pilot, resulting in an internal explosion and crash. Hall was subsequently reported missing in action. Interment services are pending. Read about Hall

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Missed last week's issue? Read it here.