Action Corps Weekly

 March 18, 2016

In This Issue:

1. VFW, VA to Host Facebook Chat on Women’s Health Care and Benefits

2. House Hearing on Gulf War Illness

3. House Hearing on Pending Legislation

4. House Hearing on VA Hiring

5. House Hearing on VA Cybersecurity and IT Oversight

6. VA Requests Participation in Burn Pit Registry

7. Call Center Created to Handle VA Billing Issues

8. MIA Update

1. VFW, VA to Host Facebook Chat on Women’s Health Care and Benefits: The VFW has teamed up with VA to host a Facebook chat group on Tuesday, March 22, at 2 p.m. EST, to provide female veterans the opportunity to discuss and ask questions about women’s health care and benefits at VA. Participants can learn about how VA is working to enhance facilities, train staff and improve access to services specific to women veterans. Topics will include everything from primary care and cancer screenings, to maternity care coverage and mental health. It will be an opportunity for women veterans to ask questions and get direct answers from VA. The #ExploreVA event is open to all female veterans and will take place on the VFW’s Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/VFWFans.

2. House Hearing on Gulf War Illness: On Tuesday, the House Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittees on Oversight and Investigations and Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs held a joint hearing entitled, “Twenty Five Years After the Persian Gulf War: An Assessment of VA’s Disability Claim Process with Respect to Gulf War Illness.” The subcommittees wanted to explore why over 80 percent of claims for Gulf War Illness are ultimately denied. In his testimony, VFW Deputy Legislative Director Aleks Morosky stated that the main problem lies in the way that VA conducts separate exams for each symptom veterans are experiencing, leading to diagnoses other than Gulf War Illness. Since the individual diagnoses usually cannot be connected to the veteran’s service on their own, the claim is denied. The VFW believes that these veterans should receive one exam which considers all their symptoms as interconnected, leading to more accurate Gulf War Illness diagnoses. At the conclusion of the hearing, Chairman Ralph Abraham (R-LA) announced that the committee plans to send a letter to VA, asking them to implement the VFW’s suggestions immediately. To read the testimony or watch a webcast of the hearing, visit: http://veterans.house.gov/hearing/twenty-five-years-after-the-persian-gulf-war-an-assessment-of-va-s-disability-claim-process. To read the Stars and Stripes article about the hearing, click here: http://www.stripes.com/news/vfw-charges-va-with-working-to-deny-gulf-war-illness-claims-1.399391.

3. Senate Hearing on Pending Legislation: On Tuesday, the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs held a hearing to discuss legislation to consolidate VA’s community care programs, improve hiring and accountability of senior VA executives and improve the disability claims appeals process. VFW Senior Legislative Associate Carlos Fuentes offered the VFW’s support for consolidating VA’s community care program and improved accountability for VA’s senior executives. Fuentes cautioned the committee that an expressed appeals process must be accompanied by improved VA decision letters to ensure veterans understand why their initial claims were denied. To read the testimony or view a video of the hearing, visit: http://www.veterans.senate.gov/hearings/pending-legislation03152016.

4. House Hearing on VA Hiring: On Wednesday, the House Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittees on Health and Economic Opportunity held a hearing to discuss legislation to improve VA’s ability to hire and retain high quality health care professionals. VFW Senior Legislative Associate Carlos Fuentes offered the VFW’s support for several ideas being considered, such as expanding veterans’ preference to Guard and Reserve veterans. Fuentes urged the subcommittees to consider improving VA’s authority to quickly hire into high turnover positions, such as administrative clerks who help with scheduling and coordinating medical appointments. To read the testimony or view a webcast of the hearing, visit: http://veterans.house.gov/hearing/legislative-hearing-on-draft-legislation-to-improve-the-authority-of-the-secretary-of.

5. House Hearing on VA Cybersecurity and IT Oversight: On Wednesday, March 16, the Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on Information Technology held a hearing to examine the Department of Veterans Affairs’ progress on modernizing its IT systems and reviewed the implementation of the Federal Security Management Act and Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act. VA Assistant Secretary LaVerne Council announced that VA has begun a pilot of updated scheduling software, which includes a mobile application for veterans to self-schedule their appointments. To read the testimony or view a video of this hearing, click here: https://oversight.house.gov/hearing/va-cybersecurity-and-it-oversight/.

6. VA Requests Participation in Burn Pit Registry: Veterans Affairs Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry is asking eligible veterans and service members to join their registry. In doing so, participants will document their exposures and report health concerns through an online questionnaire. This is also printable for individuals to take to their medical appointments where they can discuss concerns with their healthcare providers. Currently, only two percent of eligible personnel with burn pit exposure are registered. Those who are eligible include individuals who served in Operations Enduring and Iraqi Freedom, Operation New Dawn, Operations Desert Shield, Desert Storm, Djibouti (after Sept. 11, 2001) and Southwest Asia (after Aug. 2, 1990). The questionnaire takes approximately 40 minutes to complete and can be completed in one sitting, or you can save it and return at a later time. You can check your eligibility and partake in the survey at: http://www.publichealth.va.gov/exposures/burnpits/registry.asp.

7. Call Center Created to Handle VA Billing Issues: A Community Care Call Center has been set up for veterans experiencing adverse credit reporting or debt collection resulting from inappropriately billed Choice Program claims. Veterans experiencing these problems can call 1-877-881-7618 for assistance. The VA acknowledges that delayed payments and inappropriately billed claims are unacceptable, and has caused much stress to veterans and providers alike. The new call center is the first step in addressing these issues. Read more at: http://www.va.gov/opa/pressrel/pressrelease.cfm?id=2764.

8. MIA Update: The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency announced the identification of remains and burial updates of one sailor and two soldiers who had been missing in action since World War II.

  -- Navy Ensign Lewis S. Stockdale, 27, of Anaconda, Mont., is being buried today with full military honors in Honolulu. On Dec. 7, 1941, Stockdale was assigned to the battleship USS Oklahoma, which suffered multiple torpedo hits as it was moored off Ford Island in Pearl Harbor. The attack capsized the ship, resulting in 429 casualties, including Stockdale. Thirty-five sailors would be subsequently recovered and identified; the rest would eventually be buried as unknowns in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, better known as the Punchbowl. Learn more at: http://www.dpaa.mil/NewsStories/NewsReleases/tabid/10159/Article/692356/uss-oklahoma-sailor-from-world-war-ii-accounted-for-stockdale.aspx.

  -- Army Pvts. John H. Klopp, 25, and Earl J. Keating, 28, both of New Orleans. In December 1942, Klopp and Keating were assigned to the Anti-Tank Company, 126th Infantry Regiment, 32nd Infantry Division, when their unit was involved in intense fighting in what is present-day Papua New Guinea. On Dec. 5, 1942, Klopp and Keating died repulsing a heavy Japanese attack, and were buried by fellow soldiers within the American perimeter. The American Graves Registration Service was unable to locate their remains after the war, however. Klopp will be buried March 23 in Arlington National Cemetery. Keating will be buried May 28 in his hometown. Learn more about their remains recovery and subsequent identification at: http://www.dpaa.mil/NewsStories/NewsReleases/tabid/10159/Article/695191/soldiers-missing-from-world-war-ii-accounted-for-klopp.aspx.

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