Saturday, February 14, 2015

Why the Veterans of Foreign Wars Is So Important

The United States has engaged in wars for over a century. Most have been noble in nature; to ensure that life, liberty and property of the residents of the nation and other nations are not forfeited to the whims and greed of dictators and tyranny. However, not all wars were fought for such lofty ideas. They may have started that way, such as Korea, Vietnam and Desert Storm but they soon became a means unto themselves that have led to such never-ending wars and conflicts like those currently being engaged in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Regardless of the motives of leaders, politicians and the military-industrial complex there is one group of men and women who bear the brunt of these war decisions made from the safe and lofty walls of Washington, D.C. and other castles in the sky -- the veteran and their families.

There are several wonderful organizations that try and help meet the needs of these veterans. Those include The Wounded Warrior Project, The American Legion, Vietnam Veterans of America and many others. One of the most powerful, influential and respected veteran organizations is The Veterans of Foreign War, a.k.a VFW.

The VFW has a long, tried, tested and true history of putting the veteran of a war and their families as the first and only agenda of their programs. They have the strongest pro-Veteran lobby in Washington, D.C. and have become the veteran's Capitol Hill watchdog on all issues, legislation, policies and laws that affect veteran causes.

Here are just a few examples of the kinds of work and tireless effort the VFW expends to ensure that all American veterans and their families are having their needs met.

AV Act Now Law

The VFW was in the White House yesterday to witness President Obama sign the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans (SAV) Act into law. The new law allows the VA to hire more psychiatrists, collaborate with local non-profit mental health organizations, and expand its successful peer support networks. It strengthens and expands the mental health programs and services currently available to service members and veterans. What the SAV Act doesn’t do is go far enough, according to VFW National Commander John Stroud, who said dropped provisions from the final bill would have improved mental health partnerships between the VA and the Reserve Components, and required DOD to review less-than-honorable discharges that may have been associated with undiagnosed PTSD. The VFW will work with Congress to insert those critically important issues into the next suicide prevention legislation.

VFW, Independent Budget Testify Before House VA Committee

On Wednesday, Ray Kelley, Director, National Legislative Service, accompanied the Independent Budget partners at the House Veterans Affairs Committee’s budget hearing. Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Bob McDonald, opened the hearing by laying out the VA’s current budgetary needs and stating that the cost will continue to increase for years to come as Vietnam veterans age and more current conflict veterans enter the system with complex, multifaceted medical conditions—noting that historically, VA sees the usage and cost for care peak for each generation of war fighters 40 years after the conflict ends. Read the Independent Budget’s VA Budget Recommendations Report. Watch the full hearing (hearing starts at approximately the 35:00 minute mark).

VA Choice Card Survey

The VFW is having good response to their request for members to take their second VA Choice Card Survey. They are asking those of you who completed the first survey last December to take the survey again, so that they can track any changes in your experiences. Members who did not take the first survey are strongly encouraged to share their experiences in accessing VA health care. Your input is critical in helping the VFW evaluate the progress of the Veterans Choice Program and in holding VA accountable for delivering timely non-VA care to veterans. Take the survey. To learn more about the Veterans Choice Program or to share your stories with the VFW, click here.

Senate Approves Carter as Defense Secretary

Yesterday, the Senate overwhelmingly approved Dr. Ash Carter to become the new Secretary of Defense. He was deputy secretary of defense from 2011 to 2013, and before that, he oversaw the buying of the military’s newest weapons systems and technologies, as undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics. During the Clinton Administration, he was assistant secretary of defense for international security policy.

Troops to Share Millions in SCRA Violation

This week, the Justice Department announced that, under a settlement with five of the nation's largest mortgage servicers, 952 service members and their co-borrowers are eligible to share $123 million for non-judicial foreclosures that violated the Service Members Civil Relief Act (SCRA). Section 533 of the SCRA prohibits non-judicial foreclosures against service members who are in military service or within the applicable post-service period, as long as they originated their mortgages before their period of military service began. The five mortgage servicers are JP Morgan Chase Bank N.A.; Wells Fargo Bank N.A. and Wells Fargo & Co.; Citi Residential Lending Inc., Citibank, NA and CitiMortgage Inc.; GMAC Mortgage, LLC, Ally Financial Inc. and Residential Capital LLC; and BAC Home Loans Servicing LP, formerly known as Countrywide Home Loans Servicing LP (Bank of America). For more information and points of contact about SCRA payments, click here.

There are more living veterans in the United States than at any other time in the country's nearly 300 year history. We have called upon these men and women to go into places, do things and even sacrifice life and limb in order to preserve our freedom and American way of life. However, many of them come home wounded in mind and body and we simply ignore them and their families after they have surrendered so much of their own freedom and way of life. The homeless rate among today's veterans is higher than at any other time in history. The poverty among them and their families is at an all-time high. This is the kind of situation that cannot stand and no American should continue to tolerate such neglect of those who have paid so much.

Support the veterans in your town or city and get involved with your local veterans group on some level no matter how small.

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