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Special Notice: If you are a veteran in emotional crisis and need help RIGHT NOW, call the VA crisis line at 1-800-273-8255, available 24/7, and tell them you are a veteran. All calls are confidential.

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If you are concerned about the health of your children and your grandchildren, take heed of an attempt to include Section 733 in H.R. 5973 in any omnibus spending bill, Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Oregon) warns.
He describes Section 733 as “a dangerous policy rider intended to weaken the ability of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the judicial branch to protect our nation’s agriculture sector.”

“In recent years,” DeFazio notes, federal courts have ruled that several USDA approvals of genetically engineered (GE) crops have “violated the law and required further study of their economic, health, and environmental impacts.” Their judgments came down at odds with the manufacturers of GE seed, and that continued planting “may cause harm to the environment and/or farmers.” They ordered interim planting restrictions on future plantings; however, they did allow continued cultivation of those already planted, pending further USDA analysis.

Section 733 is specifically intended to:

  • Prohibit federal courts from imposing reasonable restrictions when a GE crop approval is deemed unlawful and potentially hazardous;
  • Eliminate the critical roles of our most important environmental laws;
  • Remove federal agency discretion over GE crop approvals; and
  • Establish a backdoor approval mechanism for unlawfully approved GE crops

“Judicial review is an essential element of U.S. law, providing a critical and impartial check on government decisions that may negatively impact human health, the environment, or livelihoods. Inclusion of this rider,” DeFazio said, “is a brazen overreach into the authority of the independent judiciary and its ability to protect the rights of all Americans.”

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On November 29 five new members were appointed to the Department of Veterans Affairs Advisory Committee on Women Veterans, an expert panel that advises VA on issues and programs affecting women Veterans.  VA relies on the Advisory Committee on Women Veterans to provide insight on key.

Women veterans are one of the fastest growing segments of the veterans population. Of the approximately 22 million living veterans, about 1.9 million are women. They comprise nearly 9 percent of the total veterans population and nearly 5 percent of all veterans who use VA health care services. VA estimates that by 2020, women veterans will comprise 10 percent of the veteran population. VA has women-veterans program managers at VA medical centers and women-veterans coordinators at VA regional offices to assist women veterans with health and benefits issues.  The new committee members, who are appointed to two-year terms, are:

  • Gina Chandler, Bryant, AR - A veteran of the U.S. Air Force; currently serves as a veterans service officer, women-veterans coordinator for the Arkansas Department of Veterans Affairs, and secretary of the National Association of State Women Veterans Coordinators.
  • Larri Gerson, Dunedin, FL - A veteran of the U.S. Air Force; currently serves as a claims examiner for the Florida Department of Veterans Affairs, and webmaster for the National Association of State Women Veterans Coordinators; former state women-veterans coordinator for the Florida Department of Veterans Affairs.
  • Mary Morin, Raymond, NH - A retired U.S. Air Force Master Sergeant; currently serves as the Director of the New Hampshire Office of Veterans Services, and a member of the National Association of State Women Veterans Coordinators.
  • Charlotte S. Smith, Farmington, NM - A veteran of the U.S. Army; currently serves as a veterans service officer, state women-veterans coordinator for the New Mexico Department of Veterans Affairs, and a member of the National Association of State Women Veterans Coordinators.
  • Mary Westmoreland, Bronxville, NY - A retired U.S. Army Colonel, with service in Desert Shield/Desert Storm; currently runs a pro bono consulting company that focuses on coaching, mentoring, and organizational strategic planning for government and nonprofit organizations.

Last Veterans Day, two artworks devoted to sharing veterans’ stories appeared simultaneously in two of New York’s busiest public spaces--Times Square and Union Square. The projects reflect a growing attempt to create new connections between two distinct communities—the art world and the military world. From photo shows in Houston, Honolulu, and Norfolk, Virginia, to art therapy programs at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts and MoMA, artists, curators, and educators have been devising new strategies to present U.S. war veterans not as cyphers or victims but as protagonists and narrators. Read more in this special report by Executive Editor Robin Cembalest at

The VA has revised the reports about OEF/OIF/OND Veterans’ use of VA health care facilities and common diagnoses, including Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, for the third quarter of fiscal year 2012. The reason for the revision was to correct an error in counting inpatient visits. Download revised reports to learn more:  VA Health Care Utilization by Recent Veterans and VA Facility Use by Recent Veterans with PTSD

According to an article in the Tacoma News Tribune by Adam Ashton, the Senate this week passed an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act that would reshape the Defense Department’s behavioral health and suicide-prevention programs, compelling each service to adopt common practices. “This is a major step forward in Congress really focusing on the issue of mental health of our service members, and it has not been done before,” said Senator Patty Murray, the current chairwoman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. Her proposal seeks to standardize the Defense Department’s varied suicide-prevention programs.

Read the complete story at:

On December 6, the Department of Justice and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) signed an agreement to strengthen coordination on fair lending enforcement and avoid duplication of their respective federal law enforcement efforts.  “Discrimination undermines equal access to credit,” said Richard Cordray, Director of the CFPB. “Today’s agreement is a critical step to better protecting consumers from illegal and discriminatory lending practices. We look forward to continuing our partnership with the Justice Department under this new framework.”  “The Department of Justice welcomes the new tools and resources the CFPB can bring to the fight against lending discrimination,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “Cooperation between our two agencies promotes strong and effective civil rights enforcement, and today’s agreement will further our ongoing collaborative efforts.” The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) can be found at:

To read more:

As reported by Alex Horton in VAntage Point, for about two years, VA’s online communications team has been tracking the advertising and recruitment efforts of for-profit schools looking to bring in GI Bill tuition dollars. In some cases, these schools have ensnared veterans by using official-looking websites, which funneled potential recruits to those schools without any balanced, objective information. VA aimed to get the word out in order to help veterans make the best decision possible.

This all came to a head earlier this year, when a group of state attorneys general led an effort to sue the company that owned, a particularly deceptive site. The company settled, and the website was turned over to VA and now redirects to the VA GI Bill page. On December 3, VA announced the next step in the fight against misleading info campaign waged by schools. The term “GI Bill” has been trademarked by VA with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. VA is the sole owner of the mark, and in the coming months, it will issue terms of use for the phrase. This move goes a long way to enforcing accountability to those who would deceive student veterans for financial gain. Of course, with millions of dollars up for grabs, schools and marketing firms won’t lie down because of the trademark, so the VA must remain vigilant to ensure veterans aren’t victims of deceptive recruitment when they decide to make the most out of their education benefits.



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