Action Corps Weekly

September 9, 2016

In This Issue:

1. Remembering 9/11

2. VFW Mental Wellness Campaign Kickoff

3. VFW Calls on Members to Take Action

4. House Hearing on Commission on Care and Subpoenas

5. Senate Holds Hearing on VA Best Practices

6. ITT Technical Institute Closes Doors

7. Presumptive Disability Compensation for Camp Lejeune Veterans

8. Direct Scheduling for Audiology and Optometry Appointments

9. Join #ExploreVA Facebook Chat: Suicide Prevention for #WomenVets

10. DOD, VA Launch Suicide Prevention Campaign

11. VA Finds Higher Rate of Mental Health Conditions in Male MST Victims

12. MIA Update

1. Remembering 9/11: As the 15th anniversary of the worst attack on American soil approaches, VFW National Commander Brian Duffy wants everyone to remember that America is still at war against those responsible for killing nearly 3,000 innocents in New York City, the Pentagon and Pennsylvania, as well as against radical Islamic terrorists who slaughter without mercy. “Just as generations before me remembered the Alamo, the Maine and Pearl Harbor, I will never forget Sept. 11, 2001,” he said, while commending the one percent who secure every freedom for every other American, who choose a harder path while others don’t, and who are still in the fight in Afghanistan, Iraq, and other hotspots around the world. The Chief said the nonstop conflict has produced a lot of hindsight, but perhaps none more reassuring than to know that America’s military was capable of fighting a two-front war for 15 years with just an All-Volunteer Force. “That they have, and continue to do so magnificently, is testament to the high-caliber of today’s military, to our youth, and to their leadership,” he said. “America was built on the service and sacrifice of many Americans, but our continued safety, security and freedoms fall squarely on the shoulders of those who wear the uniform — be they military or first responder — and on behalf of nearly 1.7 million VFW and VFW Auxiliary members, I salute all who have and continue to serve and sacrifice for our great nation, and their families, too.”

2. VFW Mental Wellness Campaign Kickoff: VFW National Commander Brian Duffy will be at the National Press Club in Washington on Tuesday to launch a new nationwide campaign that focuses on mental wellness within the military and veterans’ communities. The VFW Mental Wellness Campaign will leverage the power, influence and reach of nearly 1.7 million VFW and Auxiliary members in more than 6,600 VFW Posts around the world with the nation’s leaders in mental health care, research, and peer-to-peer support. The campaign’s goal is to raise awareness, foster community engagement, improve research, and provide intervention for veterans, service members, and their loved ones who may be suffering from invisible injuries or emotional stress. The Chief will be joined at the press event by three high-profile national partners –– Give an Hour, One Mind and PatientsLikeMe. Read more at: https://www.vfw.org/News-and-Events/Articles/2016-Articles/VFW-Announces-New-Mental-Wellness-Campaign/.

3. VFW Calls on Members to Take Action: Congress has failed to pass a bill that would properly fund veterans’ health care and benefits. If Congress does not pass this important bill before September 30, 2016, veterans will be denied the care and benefits they have earned and deserve. Take action –– tell Congress to prioritize veterans and properly fund VA programs: http://capwiz.com/vfw/issues/alert/?alertid=73858626&queueid=11299959531.

4. House Hearing on Commission on Care and Subpoenas: On Wednesday, the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs held a hearing to subpoena VA on the Denver VA health care system construction project and art expenditures. The committee also discussed a report by the Commission on Care, with included 18 recommendations on how to improve the VA health care system. Commission Chairperson Nancy Schlichting and Vice Chairperson Delos (Toby) M. Cosgrove M.D., testified that the commission believes VA and Congress must reform the way VA provides health care, because veterans deserve a better organized, high-performing health care system. VFW Deputy Legislative Director Carlos Fuentes offered the VFW’s support for most of the commission’s recommendations and proposed alternatives to those the VFW opposes. To view a webcast of the hearing, visit: https://veterans.house.gov/hearings/tumult-transformation-commission-care-and-future-va-healthcare-system.

5. Senate Holds Hearing on VA Best Practices: On Thursday, the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee held a hearing to discuss best practices that improve how VA delivers health care to veterans. Dr. Carolyn Clancy, VA deputy undersecretary for health for organizational excellence, informed the committee about VA’s initiative to identify clinical and administrative best practices, disseminate such practices to other health care facilities, and encourage standardization of practices that improve health care for veterans. Committee Chairman Isakson discussed the importance of discussing the success stories that occur throughout VA to ensure VA is recognized for the good things it does, rather than the tragedies that took place in Arizona and Denver and in other places. To watch the hearing, visit: http://www.veterans.senate.gov/hearings/vha-best-practices-exploring-the-diffusion-of-excellence-initiative.

6. ITT Technical Institute Closes Doors: After weeks of speculation, ITT Technical Institute will not offer its September semester classes and has permanently discontinued all of its academic programs. This decision leaves thousands of veterans in jeopardy of losing both academic credit accrued through ITT and their GI Bill living stipend. Veterans do have options to transfer to a qualifying college or university, but they must act fast to preserve their stipend. Veterans can explore their options by visiting the Department of Veterans Affairs’ “GI Bill College Comparison Tool” at: https://www.vets.gov/gi-bill-comparison-tool. Veterans who need more assistance can call VA’s education call center at 888-GIBILL-1 (888-442-4551) between

7 a.m. - 6 p.m. Central Time, Monday-Friday.

The VFW also operates the 1 Student Veteran program. This program offers direct assistance to student veterans who have questions or are experiencing problems accessing their VA benefits. To make an inquiry through VFW, click here: http://www.vfw.org/1StudentVeteran/.

7. Presumptive Disability Compensation for Camp Lejeune Veterans: Today, VA issued a proposed final rule to establish presumptive disability compensation eligibility for veterans who were exposed to contaminated water at Camp Lejeune during the period beginning August 1, 1953, and ending on December 31, 1987. To be eligible, veterans must have served in Camp Lejeune for a minimum of 30 cumulative days during the specified dates and have a diagnosis of kidney cancer, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, adult leukemia, liver cancer, bladder cancer, multiple myeloma, Parkinson's disease, or aplastic anemia and other myelodysplastic syndromes.

This proposed rule would apply to claims received by VA on or after the date of publication, pending review of the comments received and publication of the final rule in the Federal Register. The rule would not apply retroactively. A veteran whose claim was denied before the final rule is published must file a new claim to obtain a new determination of entitlement under the final regulation.

8. Direct Scheduling for Audiology and Optometry Appointments: On Thursday, VA announced it would eliminate a primary care referral requirement for veterans seeking appointments with audiologists or optometrists. The Audiology and Optometry Direct Scheduling Initiative is being piloted throughout the country and is expected to be fully operational within all VA Medical Centers by the end of 2016.

9. Join #ExploreVA Facebook Chat: Suicide Prevention for #WomenVets: VA and American Women Veterans will host an #ExploreVA Facebook chat on Sept. 16 centered on suicide prevention for #WomenVets. Representatives from VA will discuss how women veterans, service members and their families can use VA benefits and services to manage stress, treat conditions and access resources dedicated to suicide prevention. During the chat, participants will learn how to spot warning signs of suicide and what you can do to help; where to find VA mental health and suicide prevention resources, services and treatment options; and how to determine VA eligibility and apply for VA health care benefits. This event is part of the #ExploreVA From Service to Success online event series showcasing how veterans and their families are using VA benefits to earn degrees, start careers, buy homes, stay healthy, and do much more in life after the military. You will need a Facebook account to participate. Register here: http://explore.va.gov/events?utm_source=September%20Event%20Registration&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=ExploreVA.

10. DOD, VA Launch Suicide Prevention Campaign: September is National Suicide Prevention Month, and DOD and VA have teamed together to launch a campaign. The two agencies began the #BeThere campaign to raise awareness for the importance of being there for yourself and others. Throughout the month, both agencies will be hosting events, webinars and ceremonies highlighting the importance of continuing suicide prevention throughout the entire year. To learn more about the DOD campaign visit: http://www.dspo.mil/Campaign/. For more on the VA campaign visit: http://www.va.gov/health/NewsFeatures/2016/September/Be_There_for_a_Veteran_in_Crisis.asp.

11. VA Finds Higher Rate of Mental Health Conditions in Male MST Victims: After conducting the “National Health Study for a New Generation of U.S. Veterans” survey of 20,563 Post-9/11 veterans, VA found a higher prevalence of mental health conditions in male victims of sexual trauma. The survey researched self-reported data from veterans of Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as non-deployed veterans. VA researchers believe the difference in mental health conditions between the genders may be because women are more likely to seek treatment. For more information, click here: http://www.publichealth.va.gov/exposures/publications/oef-oif-ond/post-9-11-vet-fall-2016/mst.asp.

12. MIA Update: The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency announced the identification of remains of nine Americans who had been missing in action from World War II, Korea and Vietnam. Returning home for burial with full military honors are:

  -- Marine Pvt. Frank F. Penna, 24, will be buried Sept. 17 in his hometown of Canastota, N.Y. Penna was assigned to Company E, 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, which landed against stiff Japanese resistance on the small island of Betio in the Tarawa Atoll of the Gilbert Islands. Over several days of intense fighting, approximately 1,000 Marines and sailors were killed and more than 2,000 were wounded in securing the island; the enemy force of 4,700 was virtually annihilated. Penna died on the first day of battle, Nov. 20, 1943. Interment services are pending. Read more at: http://www.dpaa.mil/News-Stories/News-Releases/Article/937886/marine-missing-from-world-war-ii-accounted-for-penna/.

  -- Army Cpl. Larry M. Dunn, 18, will be buried Sept. 17 in his hometown of Cullman, Alabama. On Dec. 1, 1950, Dunn was a member of Company B, 2nd Engineer Combat Battalion, 2nd Infantry Division, when his unit was fighting through a roadblock that was heavily defended by enemy forces near Sonchu, North Korea. He was declared missing after the battle. Read more at: http://www.dpaa.mil/News-Stories/News-Releases/Article/937905/soldier-missing-from-korean-war-accounted-for-dunn/.

  -- Air Force Maj. Dean A. Klenda, 25, of Marion, Kan., will be buried Sept. 17 in Pilsen, Kan., exactly 51 years after he went missing. On Sept. 17, 1965, Klenda was piloting an F-105D Thunderchief when it was shot down by enemy fire while on an attack mission west of Hanoi in Son La Province, Vietnam. He reportedly was able to eject from the aircraft, but failed to separate himself from the ejection seat. He was assigned to the 67th Tactical Fighter Squadron, 6234th Tactical Fighter Wing. Read more at: http://www.dpaa.mil/News-Stories/News-Releases/Article/937910/airman-missing-from-vietnam-war-accounted-for-klenda/.

  -- Marine Pfc. Nicholas J. Cancilla, of Blair, Pa., was assigned to Company B, 1st Battalion, 2nd Marines, 2nd Marine Division, which landed against stiff Japanese resistance on the small island of Betio in the Tarawa Atoll of the Gilbert Islands. Over several days of intense fighting, approximately 1,000 Marines and sailors were killed and more than 2,000 were wounded in securing the island; the enemy force of 4,700 was virtually annihilated. Cancilla died on the first day of battle, Nov. 20, 1943. Interment services are pending. Read more at: http://www.dpaa.mil/News-Stories/Recent-News-Stories/Article/937392/marine-killed-in-world-war-ii-accounted-for-cancilla/.

  -- Marine Pfc. James S. Smith, of Amite, Miss., was assigned to Company C, 2nd Amphibious Tractor Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, which landed against stiff Japanese resistance on the small island of Betio in the Tarawa Atoll of the Gilbert Islands. Over several days of intense fighting, approximately 1,000 Marines and sailors were killed and more than 2,000 were wounded in securing the island; the enemy force of 4,700 was virtually annihilated. Smith died on the first day of battle, Nov. 20, 1943. Interment services are pending. Read more at: http://www.dpaa.mil/News-Stories/Recent-News-Stories/Article/937401/marine-killed-in-world-war-ii-accounted-for-smith/.

  -- Army Cpl. Vernon D. Presswood, 20, of Perry, Ill., was a member of Heavy Mortar Company, 32nd Infantry Regiment, 7th Infantry Division, as one of approximately 2,500 American and 700 South Korean soldiers assembled into the 31st Regimental Combat Team, which was attacked by an overwhelming Chinese force east of the Chosin Reservoir in North Korea. Presswood would be reported missing on Dec. 2, 1950. Interment services are pending. Read more at: http://www.dpaa.mil/News-Stories/Recent-News-Stories/Article/937359/soldier-missing-from-korean-war-accounted-for-presswood/.

  -- Marine Pfc. John W. MacDonald, from Boston, was assigned to Company F, 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, which landed against stiff Japanese resistance on the small island of Betio in the Tarawa Atoll of the Gilbert Islands. Over several days of intense fighting, approximately 1,000 Marines and sailors were killed and more than 2,000 were wounded in securing the island; the enemy force of 4,700 was virtually annihilated. MacDonald died on the first day of battle, Nov. 20, 1943. Interment services are pending.

  -- Marine Sgt. James J. Hubert, of Duluth, Minn., was assigned to Company H, 2nd Battalion, 8th Marines, 2nd Marine Division, which landed against stiff Japanese resistance on the small island of Betio in the Tarawa Atoll of the Gilbert Islands. Over several days of intense fighting, approximately 1,000 Marines and sailors were killed and more than 2,000 were wounded in securing the island; the enemy force of 4,700 was virtually annihilated. Hubert died on the second day of battle, Nov. 21, 1943. Interment services are pending.

  -- Marine Pfc. Ben H. Gore, 20, of Hopkinsville, Ky., was assigned to Special Weapons Group, 2nd Defense Battalion, Fleet Marine Force, which landed against stiff Japanese resistance on the small island of Betio in the Tarawa Atoll of the Gilbert Islands. Over several days of intense fighting, approximately 1,000 Marines and sailors were killed and more than 2,000 were wounded in securing the island; the enemy force of 4,700 was virtually annihilated. Gore died of his wounds on Nov. 25, 1943. Interment services are pending.

To sign up new veterans’ advocates, click here: http://capwiz.com/vfw/mlm/signup.htm.

As always, we want to hear your advocacy stories. To share your stories or photos with us, simply email them directly to vfwac@vfw.org.