VFW National Convention 2011 in San Antonio Brings Opportunity to Discuss Priority Goals

Saturday August 27th, 2011 I will be leaving the great state of Missouri and heading to sunny San Antonio, Texas for the 2011 VFW and Ladies Auxiliary National Convention.

While many veterans and sisters will be enjoying some of the beautiful sights and historical events (our organization’s visit coincides with the 175th anniversary of the Battle of the Alamo), the main focus is to discuss ways to implement priority goals.

To give you an idea how hard the Veterans of Foreign Wars works, read the list of 2011 priority goals taken from the March 2011 issue of Ladies Auxiliary Magazine….

The VFW 2011 priority goals are:

VA HEALTH CARE

*Provide sufficient funding for the VA so that the highest quality care is available for all veterans.

*Ensure that this nation meets the many health care and benefits challenges facing Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, including increased funding for suicide prevention, traumatic brain injuries (TBI) and other related disabilities.

*Expand programs that improve specialized care for women veterans and ensure that they have equal access to all VA’s health care services.

*Provide necessary training for gender-specific care and mental health care services for post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), military sexual trauma and other needs.

*Improve outreach so that all veterans – especially female, minority and rural veterans – are aware of the health care services and benefits they have earned.

VA BENEFITS AND COMPENSATION

* Reduce the backlog of pending claims.

*Encourage the Congress to use its vital oversight authority to provide real accountability within the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA).

* Call on Congress and VA to conduct further studies to determine which disabilities, and level of disability, adversely affect a veteran’s quality of life.

*VA and Congress should adjust the Rating Schedule to ensure that veterans are adequately compensated.

*Call on Congress to pass legislation that offers workable solutions, not quick fixes, to the VBA system.

SEAMLESS TRANSITION

*Demand a seamless transition for those men and women serving in uniform who are transferring from Department of Defense to VA, including a truly integrated electronic medical record that travels from duty stations to VA or other health care facilities.

* Call on Congress and the Administration to improve the transition services and benefits provided to our veterans to ensure a steady and safe return to civilian life, including timely benefit processing, viable training, employment and education programs.

MILITARY QUALITY OF LIFE

* Call on Congress to remain fully committed to improving the quality of life for all active duty and Reserve Component members and their families.

* Fully fund all programs that enable our troops to succeed in their mission.Ensure our service men and women are provided increased pay, affordable health care, and adequate housing and work facilities for themselves and their families.

EDUCATION AND EMPLOYMENT

* Congress must immediately address the highest unemployment rates among veterans in recent history by enhancing the Post 9/11 GI Bill, including allowing the benefit to be utilized for vocational training, on-the-job training and apprenticeships.

* Ask Congress to pass legislation that will strengthen the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) and reverse legal decisions that tended to favor employers.

* Urge Congress to mandate that all agencies reach the 3% government-wide procurement goal for service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses, and be required to report their procurement levels and be held accountable if they fail to meet that goal.

MILITARY AFFAIRS

* Seek to improve the quality of life for all active and Reserve Component members and their families.

* Provide a military base-pay raise to restore full comparability with private sector wages.

*Support efforts to lower the Reserve Component retirement pay age to 55.

* Oppose any Tricare fee increases.

DEFENSE AND HOMELAND SECURITY

* Support U.S. troops and their mission to prosecute the war on terrorism around the world.

* Ensure defense funding is at a level to fully support personnel initiatives, troop end-strength requirements, and needed weapons programs.

* Halt the development and/or proliferation of nuclear weapons or material, and urge the continued development and deployment of ballistic missile defense system.

* Secure U.S. borders, shorelines and all ports of entry.

POW/MIA

* Achieve the fullest possible accounting of all U.S. military personnel missing from our nation’s wars.

Note: For a full listing of the VFW’s 2011 Priority Goals, go to www.vfw.org/VFW-in-DC

Starbucks CEO “Cuts Off” Washington: No Political Donations

Howard Schultz, the CEO of Starbucks, is cutting off political contributions to Washington and recruiting other CEOs to join him.

In a letter given to the Nasdaq and the NYSE, Schultz wrote: “I’m asking that all of us forgo political contributions until the Congress and the President return to Washington and deliver a fiscally, disciplined long term debt and deficit plan to the American people,”

Schultz’s own political donations have been largely given to the Democratic Party. Out of a total $183,650 in donations, only $1,000 went to Republican candidates.

Schultz also told CNNMoney yesterday, “All it seems people are interested in is re-election. And that re-election — the lifeblood of it is fundraising.”  He is unhappy with the current political culture that has “chosen to put partisan and ideological purity over the well being of the people.”

Schultz said his breaking point was raising the debt ceiling — and Washington’s failure to reach a long-term solution to lowering deficits.

“[Lawmakers] have stirred up fears about our economic prospects without doing anything to truly address those fears,” Schultz wrote to his fellow CEOs.

“It means reaching a deal on debt, revenue, and spending long before the deadline arrives this fall,” the letter said. “It means considering all options, from entitlement programs to taxes.”

Read Full Article >>

Women Veterans Still Struggling for VA Healthcare in U.S.

Women are the fastest growing segment of the United States Armed Forces.  Although many Americans have acknowledged the trend, others are either unaware, unprepared, or unwilling to accept the emergence of women into this typically male-dominated field of expertise.

Regardless of public awareness, opinion, or acceptance, female veterans have earned the right to VA Healthcare Benefits.  Unfortunately, after 7 years of research and studies, the VA Health Care System is still struggling to provide adequate care for women in approximately 30% of their facilities across the U.S.

Excerpt from August 16, 2011 blog post by Veterans Today:

“Our strong interest in women Veterans’ health stems from our combined clinical and research experience caring for women within the VA Health Care System. Here, women have been a historical and numerical minority with specific challenges in obtaining comprehensive care (general primary care, gynecologic or reproductive care, and mental health care).  We believe challenges to women Veterans’ health and health care can be addressed through creative, thoughtful solutions that in are in turn based on several factors.

First, whether women Veterans are seeking general primary care or mental health services, their health care preferences must be taken into consideration. Even issues that don’t seem important—such as whether a woman can see a female provider or, if needed, go to a separate women’s clinic—can have a tremendous impact on health outcomes. In some cases, such matters may make the difference between whether or not a female Veteran receives the care she needs.

Second, improving women’s care requires we first understand how VA care for women Veterans is currently organized. Over two-thirds of VA medical centers have women’s clinics, and most of the rest have designated a women’s health provider to see women Veteran patients. As researchers, it is our job to identify and study anything that stands in the way of a woman Veteran getting the best care possible!

Third, we are concerned about issues related to helping women Veterans continue a care program and sustain good health. For example, has the patient been assigned a primary care provider and/or nurse case manager? Does the patient live near a comprehensive women’s health center? Will there be follow up via telephone, Internet, or group visits? Can the patient receive timely appointments for preventive health care, such as mammography, or cholesterol screening and management?

These are a just a few of the issues we think about everyday as we work to improve access and delivery of care for women Veterans. You can imagine, then, our excitement when a national health care journal—Women’s Health Issues—recently chose to showcase VA-sponsored research in a special supplement of articles and commentaries! Titled “Health and Health Care of Women Veterans and Women in the Military:  Research Informing Evidence-based Practice and Policy,” the supplement not only shows the tremendous growth and diversity of VA women’s health research in recent years, it also exemplifies the many ways the VA is working to integrate research findings into patient care, and, of course, affirms the priority status given women across the Department.”



VFW’s New DC Blog

This week the VFW introduced its newly reinvented blog, www.vfwonthehill.org. 

The primary focus will be on the work of VFW’s National Legislative Service in Washington, D.C. Serving over 2 million members and thousands of veteran advocates, the blog is the latest tool to help engage those who are interested in making a difference for veterans from coast to coast.

Together with the efforts of the VFW Action Corps and the VFW National Legislative Committee, the new blog will help inform all who visit, in real time on the daily activities of veterans’ issues as they develop in Washington inspiring members to reach out to their representatives and take action.