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In This Issue: July 12, 2012 Latest News

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3 Bills Advance to Full House

Veterans Legislation Advances to Full House

On July 11, the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs advanced three bills to the full House for consideration. The improving Transparency of Education Opportunities for Veterans Act of 2012, as amended (H.R. 4057), the Military Family Home Protection Act, as amended (H.R. 5747), and the Veterans Fiduciary Reform Act of 2012, as amended (H.R. 5948) all unanimously passed the Full Committee at an earlier morning markup. “These bills contain provisions from 17 different legislative proposals and represent a considerable amount of the work done by the Committee this session,” said Rep. Jeff Miller (R-FL), chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. “I thank all of our Members for their bipartisan work to not only move legislation forward, but also for what we have done through oversight to shine a light on both the good things America does for our veterans, as well as to address issues and improve VA care and operations.”

The Safe Housing for Homeless Veterans Act (H.R. 4079), introduced by Rep. David McKinley (R-WV), was included in H.R. 4057. “I was so happy that I could use my engineering background to help our veterans. After touring homeless shelters in the 1st District of West Virginia and seeing the conditions with my own eyes, we began to investigate whether this was an isolated case or if it was part of a bigger problem,” said McKinley. “It was unsettling to learn in our research about shelter fires, where lives were lost because of numerous code violations. This bill will ensure our homeless veterans have access to safe shelters nationwide.”

The Open Burn Pit Registry Act (H.R. 3337), introduced by Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO), was also advanced as a provision of H.R. 4057. “We have sent our best and brightest young men and women into harm’s way, and it is our responsibility as a nation to take care of them when they return,” said Akin. “There is a growing body of evidence that burn pits have had tragic effects on the health of some of our returning veterans. We need to deal with this problem proactively to ensure that our veterans get the best possible care and support.”

The Veterans Fiduciary Reform Act of 2012 (H.R. 5948), introduced by Rep. Bill Johnson (R-OH), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, was also favorably reported to the full House. Rep. Johnson has been investigating fraud within VA’s Fiduciary Program for more than a year. “This critical legislation is an important step forward to protecting America’s veterans from abuses in the VA fiduciary system. Our investigations showed that VA’s current fiduciary system leaves many veterans vulnerable to financial risk. We performed our chief function as the oversight body for VA, found the flaws, and put forth common sense legislation to tackle this very serious problem,” said Johnson. “Sending this bill to the House floor furthers our commitment to giving veterans the best care and benefits possible. America’s heroes, our veterans, have earned these benefits and we must make sure they receive them. They deserve nothing less.”

Military Service Integrity Act of 2012

Stolen Valor Legislation Not Dead

On Wednesday, July 11, Senator Jim Webb (D-VA) plans to introduce the “Military Service Integrity Act of 2012,” which could bring criminal penalties to any individual for making a false claim to have served in the military or to have been awarded a military medal, decoration, or other device in order to secure a tangible benefit or personal gain. The legislation was drafted to comply with the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment restrictions outlined recently by the Supreme Court decision United States v. Alvarez, which struck down the original Stolen Valor Act of 2005 (see press release from Webb’s office at:  Press_@webb.senate.gov ).  Webb’s bill is similar to HR 1775 “the Stolen Valor Act of 2011,” introduced in the House by Congressman Heck (R-NV), which makes it illegal for individuals to benefit from lying about their military service, record, or awards. Senator Webb and Congressman Heck believe that their bills would pass constitutional review on the grounds that they do not attempt to limit speech. 

In a related story, on July 11, the Associated Press announced that the Pentagon plans to establish a searchable database of military valor awards and medals, hoping for a technological fix to the problem of people getting away with lying about earning military honors. Pentagon press secretary George Little said details have yet to be worked out, but the intention is to have a digital repository of records on a range of valor awards and medals going back as far in history as possible. The move is in response to a June 28 Supreme Court ruling that invalidated a law making it a crime to lie about receiving the Medal of Honor and other military decorations. An authoritative database would make it easier to check on award claims, and perhaps would deter some who would make false public claims. The high court ruled that the 2006 Stolen Valor Act infringes upon speech protected by the First Amendment.  Veterans organizations and some in Congress have long argued that the Pentagon needs such a database. As recently as 2009, the Pentagon argued that it would be too costly and could pose Privacy Act problems. It also argued that any government database would be incomplete because a 1973 fire at the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis destroyed millions of personnel records, including those citing medals and awards, and that even a complete database would do little to reduce the number of false award claims. "There are some complexities involved in looking back into history," Little said. "We would obviously hope to be able to go as far back as possible, but we also want there to be integrity in the data. So these are factors that are being weighed, and we're in the process of exploring those options. So the door is open."

SDVOSB/VOSB Verification Program

VA Extends Verification Term for Veteran Entrepreneurs

On June 29, the VA announced that it is doubling the amount of time before the owners of service-disabled, veteran-owned small businesses (SDVOSB) and veteran-owned small businesses (VOSB) must re-verify with VA that they are, in fact, owned and operated by qualified veterans and other legal requirements. “The community of veteran-owned businesses and businesses owned by service-disabled veterans is a vital partner with VA and the federal government,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. “To ensure we have improved our verification policies and processes, I have directed that VA simplify the verification process immediately and move from an annual to a biennial re-verification – every two years.”  The interim final rule, which took effect June 27, will benefit thousands of small businesses by reducing the uncertainty and administrative burden associated with a yearly verification cycle.  Public comments on this interim final rule may be submitted within the next 60 days.

By increasing the verification period to two years, SDVOSBs and VOSBs will be able to plan and operate their companies more efficiently and effectively instead of working within the current 12-month business cycle.  Under this interim final rule, businesses at the end of their two-year verification period would be required to be re-verified through VA’s Center for Veterans Enterprise (CVE).  In 2011, VA awarded $3.2 billion in contracts to VOSBs and SDVOSBs.  To participate in VA’s Veterans First program, a veteran-owned and -controlled small business must be verified as an eligible firm by initiating and completing the application process with CVE through the web-based Vendor Information Pages database.  Information about the process for verification can be found on the VA website at http://www.vetbiz.gov/

Businesses removed from the VIP database that were verified from June 2010 to December 2010 will have their remaining months added to coincide with their one-year extension via the interim change.  These designated businesses will be required to re-verify within 120 days of their expiration date.  All future applications for re-verification will be required to submit a complete set of new documentation with each application.

VVA Chair Joins MLB Representatives in Celebration

VVA Chair Speaks at PTSD Facility Dedication

On July 9, Dr. Tom Hall, VVA’s PTSD and Substance Abuse Chair, joined representatives of Major League Baseball, the Kansas City Royals, Rebuilding Together, and other dignitaries in celebrating the renovation of the Kansas City VA Honor Annex, located just off of 43rd Street and Sterling Avenue in Kansas City, Missouri. The facility will provide special mental health and related services for veterans.  Read Dr. Hall’s remarks here:  

I am delighted to have this opportunity to give my thanks to everyone who helped establish this place of healing: The Honor Pavilion.

As a grateful veteran myself, I believe I can speak for all local veterans, all men and women, of all branches of the military, past and present, who have selflessly served this great country, when I say that we are grateful for this facility which honors veteran and active duty troops for their sacrifices for this noble country of ours.

Today we are here to honor: the valiant efforts of Director Kent Hill and the leadership team at the K.C. V.A. and everyone at our local V.A. Medical Center who have gone above and beyond to ensure that no veteran will be left behind.

We are here to honor:  the good citizens of the Kansas City Royals, Major League Baseball, Bank of America, our representatives, and all who have stepped up, on their own, to help complete this facility dedicated to addressing:

  • the impacts of traumatic combat stress and
  • the need for a women’s clinic, devoted to women and designed to ensure open, friendly access to all the women who have served their country so valiantly.

This facility honors the sacrifices made by all veterans, especially the supreme sacrifice of all who could not be here today. Once this facility is up and running, it will be visible proof that our community honors and respects the needs of its own

  • sons and daughters,
  • aunts and uncles,
  • mothers and fathers who have served.

And finally, on this day at this time, America is demonstrating real tangible proof that veterans and active duty, guard and reserve personnel are all welcome home! America is ensuring that all our brothers and sisters in arms will have a chance to come all the way home.
On behalf of veterans everywhere, thank you.

Tom Hall

Dr. Hall and MLB Hall of Fame Member George Brett

Diabetes Report Card

CDC Releases Diabetes Report

The Division of Diabetes Translation of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released a new publication, Diabetes Report Card 2012. Diabetes Report Card 2012 uses 2010 data to present a profile of diabetes and its complications at the national and state level. It includes information about pre-diabetes awareness, diabetes outcomes, and risk factors. Diabetes Report Card 2012 is a requirement of the Catalyst to Better Diabetes Care Act, which is part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Affordable Care Act). The Affordable Care Act includes a number of provisions that directly address gaps in diabetes prevention, screening, care, and treatment. These are described in more detail in the report card.  

The report can be read in full by clicking here.

SAMHSA Resources

Substance Abuse and the Affordable Care Act

The U.S. Supreme Court's recent decision on the Affordable Care Act was an important step in making it possible for more of our families, friends, and neighbors to get the help they need to recover from addiction to alcohol and other drugs. There's still a lot of work ahead in states to make sure that as the law is implemented, the range of services and supports that are needed are included in essential health benefits. The Affordable Care Act requires that health insurance plans sold to individuals and small businesses provide a minimum package of services called "essential health benefits."  Instead of establishing a national standard for these benefits, the US Dept. of Health and Human Services is allowing each state to choose from a set of plans to serve as the benchmark plan in their state. States are now working to define their "essential health benefits" packages and must complete that process by the end of September. Another important issue is making sure that people who are or will be newly eligible know how to use their rights and benefits under the law.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has put together resources that are helpful for State and local governments and recovery community organizations as states prepare for expanded eligibility in Medicaid and implementation of the Affordable Care Act.

Check out state-specific resources as well as others here.

POW-MIA Update

The National League of POW/MIA Families Updates

AMERICANS ACCOUNTED-FOR: There are still 1,664 Americans listed by the Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO) as missing and unaccounted-for from the Vietnam War. Most recently announced are LT Dennis W. Peterson, USN, NJ, listed as KIA/BNR in North Vietnam on July 19, 1967, and SFC Gunther H. Wald, USA, CA, listed as MIA in South Vietnam on November 3, 1969. The remains of LT Peterson were recovered on November 20, 2000, and identified October 21, 2011. SFC Wald's remains were recovered April 13, 2010, and identified January 6, 2011. The number of Americans announced as returned and identified since the end of the Vietnam War in 1975 is now 919. Another 63 US personnel, recovered post-incident by the US and identified before the end of the war, bring the official total recovered and identified from the Vietnam War to 982. Of the unaccounted-for 1,664 personnel, 90% were lost in Vietnam or in areas of Laos and Cambodia under Vietnam's wartime control: Vietnam–1,282 (VN-470, VS-812); Laos–318; Cambodia–57; PRC territorial waters–7; more than 450 were over-water losses.

Click Here To Read The Complete Update
3rd Quarter Newsletter

Commemoration Newsletter

Click To Read The Newsletter

Heros Remembered

Korean War Armistice Observance

Mark your calendar and make plans to be in Washington, DC on July 27 to join the Department of Defense 60th Anniversary of the Korean War Commemoration Committee for a very special ceremony. Our "Heroes Remembered" event is open to the public and will honor and recognize all Korean War Veterans on the 59th Anniversary of the signing of the Armistice.

Click here for more information about this event

Click here to RSVP for the event

Agent Orange Guide Updated

The VVA Self-Help Guide to Service-Connected Disability Compensation for Exposure to Agent Orange

Download the guide

Executive Order

New Deadline for VA Rules re: Educational Institutions Participating in Post 9/11 G.I. Bill

VA Educational Services recently disseminated information about the President's Executive Order 13607 of April 2012, which establishes the "Principles of Excellence" for educational institutions serving veterans, service members and their families under the Post 9/11 G.I. Bill. The VA had asked institutions to review the information, determine whether they intended to comply, and respond to VA via email by June 30, 2012. This response date has been extended to August 1, 2012.

To read Executive Order 13607, click here

History Facts

45 Years Ago Today

U.S. Troops battle NVA regulars in the Central Highlands near the Special Forces camp at Duc Co. Operation Paddington west of Saigon is begun, an inter-allied operation with U.S., Australian, New Zealand, and South Vietnamese troops taking part in a search and destroy operation to trap enemy forces outsife of Xuyen Moc. The Rolling Stones make their debut in London.

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