Action Corps Weekly
November 9, 2017
In This Issue:
1. Veterans Day in Washington
2. Senate Confirms Three VA Nominees
3. Veterans Legislation Roundup
4. Hearing Held on Transition Programs
5. Army Seeks Veterans Who Participated in Chemical and Biological Agent Testing
6. TRICARE Changes Webinar
7. VA Launches Online Map for Wait Times
8. Online Exchange Shopping Begins
9. POW/MIA Chair Dedication
10. World War I Memorial Groundbreaking
11. Veterans Day Discounts and Freebies
12. MIA Update
1. Veterans Day in Washington: VFW National Commander Keith Harman is commemorating Veterans Day in our nation’s capital along with thousands of veterans, service members, their families and supporters. Visitors to Washington are invited to join in a number of Veterans Day commemorations. The first event is at the National World War II Memorial at 9 a.m. EST, Saturday, followed by ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery at 11 a.m., and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial at 1 p.m.
2. Senate Confirms Three VA Nominees: Leaders of VA’s National Cemetery Administration, Board of Veterans Appeals, and Enterprise Integration were unanimously confirmed by the Senate this week. Randy Reeves will be the VA undersecretary for Memorial Affairs, Cheryl L. Mason has been confirmed as the chairman of the Board of Veterans’ Appeals, and Melissa Sue Glynn will serve as VA assistant secretary for Enterprise Integration. The VFW congratulates the nominees on their confirmations and looks forward to working with them to improve services and benefits for America’s veterans.
3. Veterans Legislation Roundup: This week the U.S. House unanimously passed more than a dozen pieces of legislation centered on veterans’ care, including several VFW-supported bills, such as: H.R. 1900, the National Veterans Memorial and Museum Act, which would designate the Veterans Memorial and Museum in Columbus, Ohio, as the National Veterans Memorial and Museum; H.R. 3562, which tasks Specially Adapted Housing agents with providing adaptive housing assistance to veterans who use the independent living services as part of the Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (VR&E) program; H.R. 3656, which would expand eligibility for memorial headstones and markers; H.R. 3657, which would expand burial benefits to eligible spouses and dependents interred in tribal veterans cemeteries; H.R. 2123, the VETS Act of 2017, which would authorize VA providers to practice telemedicine across state lines; H.R. 3705, the Veterans Fair Debt Notice Act, which would require VA to use certified mail and use plain language explanations when sending debt notices to veterans; and H.R. 3122, the Veterans Care Financial Protection Act of 2017, which would require VA to develop and implement standards that protect individuals who are eligible for this increased pension from dishonest, predatory or otherwise unlawful practices. Click here for more information on the recently passed bills.
4. Hearing Held on Transition Programs: On Wednesday, the House Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity held a hearing to review the status of the Transition Assistance Program (TAP). Representatives from all four services along with the Departments of Labor, Veterans Affairs, Education and Defense all testified on the current state of TAP classes, along with a recent report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) report that outlined areas that needed to be improved within the TAP program. Chairman Arrington and Ranking member O’Rourke both questioned the witnesses about the success, costs, and participation in TAP classes as outlined in the report from the GAO. Programs for our service members like TAP are integral parts of shifting back to civilian life, and the classes offer outstanding services. However, as the report from GAO shows, there is always room for improvement. Click here to watch the hearing and read the GAO report.
5. Army Seeks Veterans Who Participated in Chemical and Biological Agent Testing: A recent class action lawsuit victory requires the U.S. Army to provide medical care to veterans who served as volunteers during research involving chemical and biological testing between 1942 and 1975. As many as 60,000 veterans volunteered for medical research in order to contribute to the advancement of the U.S. Biological and Chemical Programs. The Army will assist veterans in obtaining medical care through military medical treatment facilities, VA facilities, and private providers as appropriate. A notification letter has been mailed to veterans who were identified as possible participants in the medical program, but the Army is actively seeking others who may have been participants. You can get additional information and eligibility requirements here or by calling 1-800-984-8523.
6. TRICARE Changes Webinar: This month, TRICARE will hold a webinar on the upcoming changes to TRICARE, set to take effect Jan. 1, 2018. The webinar will be led by health analysts from the Defense Health Agency and is designed to help beneficiaries prepare for the upcoming changes. Topics to be covered include changes to the health plans, costs, enrollment, stateside regions and contractors, and accessing care. The webinar is scheduled for Monday, Nov. 20, from 1-2:00 p.m., EST. Click here to register for the webinar.
7. VA Launches Online Map for Wait Times: VA recently launched a new website which gives veterans the ability to see average wait times for appointments at their VA medical facilities. The web tool has the capability to break down appointment times by a number of factors including first-time appointments, mental health, women’s health and other specialty care. The new map also offers a comparison to local non-VA wait times for 30 locations across the country, using data collected by Merritt Hawkins. Moving forward, VA will be partnering with Merritt Hawkins to get more non-VA facility wait times measured for comparison purposes. The website is updated on a weekly basis. Click here to see wait times in your area.
8. Online Exchange Shopping Begins: Beginning this weekend, millions of honorably discharged veterans will be permitted to shop online at all four military exchanges, but you still have to verify your eligibility with VetVerify.org. On Veterans Day, eligible veterans will be able to shop online by logging on to the Army and Air Force Exchange Service, Navy Exchange, Marine Corps Exchange, and Coast Guard Exchange websites at, respectively, shopmyexchange.com, mynavyexchange.com, mymcx.com and shopcgx.com. Military exchange shopping returns more than $300 million annually to support on-base morale, welfare and recreation programs. Verify your eligibility.
9. POW/MIA Chair Dedication: On Wednesday, VFW’s Commander-in-Chief Keith Harman attended a POW/MIA chair dedication ceremony on Capitol Hill. The commemorative chair, which sits in Emancipation Hall of the United States Capitol Visitor Center, serves to honor American prisoners of war and stands as a reminder of the nearly 83,000 servicemen and women missing in action. The chair was unveiled by House Speaker Paul Ryan, who was joined by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, Senators Elizabeth Warren and Richard Blumenthal, and Representatives Stephen Lynch and Samuel Johnson, who spent seven years as a POW in Hanoi. Watch the ceremony video.
10. World War I Memorial Groundbreaking: The WWI Centennial Commission hosted a ceremonial groundbreaking Thursday at Pershing Park, which is a block away from the White House. Participating was VFW National Commander Keith Harman, who said though “that generation’s voice is now quiet, their memories will live on through this new memorial, which the VFW is proud to support both in spirit and financially.” Watch a video replay of the ceremony here.
11. Veterans Day Discounts and Freebies: Walgreens will be offering a 20 percent discount for military service members, veterans and their families on Nov. 11. Starbucks is offering veterans, active-duty service members and spouses a free tall hot brewed coffee on Veterans Day. Participating Sport Clips locations will be offering free haircuts to active-duty U.S. service members and veterans on Saturday, Nov. 11. Click here for a list of Veterans Day retail discounts.
12. MIA Update: The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency has announced identification of remains and burial updates of six American servicemen who had been missing in action from World War II and Korea. Returning home for burial with full military honors are:
-- Navy Steward’s Mate 1st Class Cyril I. Dusset, 21, of New Orleans, La., whose identification was previously announced, will be buried Nov. 9 in Slidell, La. Dusset 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. Dusset was one of 429 crewmen killed in the attack. Read about Dusset.
-- Army Sgt. Richard G. Sowell, 21, of West Palm Beach, Fla., whose identification was previously announced, will be buried Nov. 10 in his hometown. Sowell was a member of the 295th Joint Assault Signal Company, Headquarters Company, 3rd Battalion, 106th Infantry. In July 1944, his unit participated in the battle for the island of Saipan, part of a larger operation to secure the Mariana Islands. On July 6-7, Sowell was serving as a spotter for the signal company in the vicinity of Hill 721, while under heavy attack by Japanese forces. Sowell’s commanding officer reported him killed in action on the morning of July 7. Read about Sowell.
-- Army Technician 4th Grade Pete M. Counter, 24, of Detroit, whose identification was previously announced, will be buried Nov. 11 in Onaway, Mich. Counter was assigned to Company C, 126th Infantry Regiment, 32nd Infantry Division. On Dec. 5, 1942, his unit was engaged in an intense battle with Japanese forces in the vicinity of Soputa-Sanananda Track in the Australian Territory of Papua (present-day Papua New Guinea). Counter was killed during the battle and reportedly buried in an isolated grave north of Soputa. Read about Counter.
-- Army Cpl. Donald L. Baer, 20, of Racine, Wis., whose identification was previously announced, will be buried Nov. 11 in his hometown. Baer was a member of Company K, 3rd Battalion, 34th Infantry Regiment, 24th Infantry Division, which was engaged with enemy forces in and around the city of Taejon (now Daejon), South Korea. On July 19, 1950, enemy forces initiated a large-scale attack on the city. Baer could not be accounted for after the battle and was declared missing in action as of July 20, 1950. Read about Baer.
-- Army Sgt. 1st Class Richard G. Cushman, 18, of Springville, Utah, whose identification was previously announced, will be buried Nov. 11 in Cypress, Calif. Cushman was assigned to Company A, 72nd Medium Tank Battalion, 2nd Infantry Division. On Dec. 5, 1950, his unit was ordered to withdraw to the village of Kunu-ri, on the western side of the Korean Peninsula, due to heavy attacks by Chinese forces. While in the village, a task force comprised of Cushman’s company and an infantry platoon were ordered to destroy a roadblock and eliminate enemy troops. Cushman could not be accounted for after the battle and was declared missing in action. Later, two returning American POWs reported that Cushman had died while being held by the Chinese. The Army subsequently declared him deceased as of March 31, 1951. Read about Cushman.
-- Army Sgt. 1st Class Harry E. Harkness was assigned to Company L, 3rd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division. In November 1950, Harkness' unit was participating in combat actions again Chinese forces in the vicinity of Unsan, North Korea. Harkness was reported missing in action as of Nov. 2, 1950, when he could not be accounted for by his unit. Interment services are pending. Read about Harkness.
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