AMVETS in Action

Category: Communications

AMVETS National Commander on VA Secretary’s Remarks

Contact/Inquiries: David Gai,
National Communications Director, AMVETS
4647 Forbes Blvd.
Lanham, MD 20706

Statement from AMVETS National Commander Jim Pidgeon on VA Secretary’s Remarks

The overall experience for veterans, or “customers”, at U.S. Veterans Affairs medical centers has been lacking in quality for far too long. AMVETS (American Veterans) is pleased that the VA is working toward the important measurement of customer satisfaction. That metric is central to all private medical care systems, as well at VA.

VA Secretary Bob McDonald’s unfortunate remarks Monday in which he drew a loose comparison between wait times veterans were facing to receive medical care and the lines for rides at Disneyland were not serious enough for the matter at hand. Waiting for VA medical care should not be compared to waiting in line at an amusement park. It is important to continue tracking and reducing wait times for veterans.

That said, this one sentence does not reflect the full context of McDonald’s overall message and the work being done at VA. In the full context, the need to focus on veteran satisfaction is something that can be agreed with by most, if not all, veterans and their families.

McDonald was unanimously confirmed by the U.S. Senate in a deeply partisan era in large part because of his successful business experience in bringing customers what they need and want. While his latest remarks were easy to spin, the fact is Disney is one of many successful business models the VA can look to through its ongoing transformation.

The VA remains focused on industry and businesses’ best practices and efforts to increase access and reduce wait times. The overall experience must be improved, and AMVETS is hopeful the new MyVA efforts and applications of business and industry best practices are positive steps in that direction.

AMVETS is committed to comprehensive transformation of the Department of Veterans Affairs Health Administration to best serve every veteran. AMVETS will continue working with McDonald and the rest of the VA leadership in a collaborative, transparent effort to create an overall positive experience for every VA “customer.”

AMVETS Names Afghanistan, Iraq Veteran Executive Director

Contact/Inquiries: David Gai,
National Communications Director, AMVETS
4647 Forbes Blvd.
Lanham, MD 20706

AMVETS Names Afghanistan, Iraq Veteran National Executive Director

Chenelly is a longtime veterans advocate, former military reporter and political advisor

WASHINGTON – AMVETS (American Veterans) has tapped one of the veterans’ community’s top grassroots organizers to take over as national executive director of the nonprofit organization.

Marine Corps combat veteran Joseph R. Chenelly will oversee AMVETS, one of the nation’s largest Congressionally-chartered veterans service organization, working to better serve veterans of all eras in both Washington, D.C., and in communities nationwide.

Chenelly is a veteran of operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Kuwait, the Horn of Africa and East Timor. After his time in uniform, Chenelly became a veterans’ advocate, a journalist and a political adviser, organizing nationally at the grassroots levels and advising on veterans and military matters.

In his new role, Chenelly is charged with using that experience to inspire and organize AMVETS’ 250,000 members in 1,400 posts to educate the public on the challenges facing those currently serving in the active/guard/reserve components, veterans and their families.

“We are in a very challenging time, one of the most important for the future of veterans health care. We have every confidence that 2016 has the potential to be one of the most decisive, pivotal years in AMVETS history,” said Chenelly.

AMVETS provides support for veterans and the active military in procuring their earned entitlements, as well as community service and legislative reform that enhances the quality of life for this nation’s veterans and citizens alike. AMVETS includes members from each branch of the military, including the National Guard and Reserves.

“I am grateful for the opportunity to help lead this great, historic organization in fighting for all of the more than 22 million American Veterans alive today as well as their families,” Chenelly said. “It is a difficult time for America’s warriors, a time when we need to stand together stronger than ever. Every veteran matters. The challenges are serious and far reaching, much needs to be done. I am honored to join a group of such dedicated members – the AMVETS family.”

A native of Rochester, N.Y., Chenelly enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps in March 1998, serving with the 1st Marine Division, and was honorably discharged as a staff sergeant in April 2006. He then covered military and veterans matters as a staff writer for Leatherneck magazine, the Military Times newspapers, and Gannett, reporting on operations in the Middle East, Southwest Asia, Africa, as well as disaster relief in the United States.

Chenelly was named one of the 100 “most influential journalists covering armed violence” by AOAV in 2013. He was the first U.S. Marine combat correspondent to step into enemy territory after September 11, 2001, as a military reporter in Pakistan and Afghanistan. He also reported from the frontlines with American and allied forces in Kuwait and Iraq as that war began. He was on the ground for the start of both Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Chenelly served as AMVETS’ national communications director in 2005 and for the past eight years as assistant national director for communications for the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) in Washington, D.C., leading grassroots efforts through social networking and new media.

He’s also served as president of Social Communications, LLC, and a public affairs director for the Department of Navy. Chenelly is an alum of Syracuse University and Central Texas College.

Chenelly resides in Fairport, N.Y., with his wife Dawn, a service-connected disabled Air Force veteran, and their five children. He is on Facebook at and Twitter @jchenelly.

The White House Internship Program and the D.C. Scholars Program

For Immediate Release



Do you know leaders interested in interning at the White House for the Obama Administration?  Encourage them to apply today for the Fall 2016 White House Internship Program – the final internship opportunity in the Obama Administration.  This select group of young men and women from across the country dedicate their time, talents, energy, and service to better the White House, the community, and the nation.

Applicants must be U.S. citizens, 18 years of age or older before the first day of the internship, and meet at least one of the following criteria:

  • Currently enrolled in an undergraduate or graduate degree program at a college, community college, or university (two-to-four year institution)
  • Graduated from an undergraduate or graduate degree program at a college, community college, or university (two-to-four year institution) no more than two years before the first day of the internship
  • A veteran of the United States Armed Forces who possesses a high school diploma or its equivalent and has served on active duty, for any length of time, in the two years preceding the first day of the internship

Every summer since the start of the Obama Administration in 2009, graduating high school seniors from public and charter high schools in the District of Columbia have been invited to apply for a part-time summer internship opportunity at the White House through the D.C. Scholars Program at the White House.

Additional information on both programs, including eligibility requirements, application materials, and internship timelines are available on our website:

How can you help?

  • Promote the White House Internship Program at your alma mater.  Email internship_info@who.eop.govfor more information.
  • Encourage eligible applicants to apply before the deadline – the final intern application cycle in the Obama Administration!  The Fall 2016 White House Internship Program application cycle closes on Sunday, April 17, 2016 at 11:59 PM, EST and the application for the D.C. Scholars Program at the White House closes on Sunday, April 24, 2016 at 11:59 PM EST.  Application questions should be directed to intern_application@who.eop.govand
  • Distribute the attached flyers to potential applicants and other contacts who may be interested in the program.


America Works Campaign

America Works Because... Download PDF file
Click to download
Download your postcard here. Learn how to print double-sided here, courtesy of Adobe.

Use the space on the back of the postcard to tell us why you think America Works! When you mail in your post card, AMVETS will collect and sort it with the others. It will then be hand-placed on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. for Veteran’s Day 2015.

Don’t have a printer? Fill out the form below and submit your thoughts digitally!

There are more than 1.2 Million post cards being distributed this Summer, 2015. Please take the time to share one with family, friends, grandchildren, neighbors and any other members of your community. We invite you to come see it on the National Mall on Veteran’s Day, 2015 in Washington, D.C.

Twitter: @mericaworks #mericaworks

AFGE Opposes VA Accountability Act

Congress’ latest attempt to reform the Department of Veterans Affairs by expanding firing authority to include all employees has been met with stringent opposition from the American Federation of Government Employees.

Last year, Congress passed the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act. This piece of legislation allowed Robert McDonald, the secretary of the VA, to fire senior executives in the department. Critics noted that the act neglected a very large portion of the employee population also engaged in questionable activities.

Some have pointed out that the legislation doesn’t have much to show for itself. Since it was passed, McDonald has only fired two senior executives. Those firings came within the last couple of months, which is over a year after President Barack Obama signed the legislation. None of the firings were in connection with manipulated waitlists. Two executives at the Phoenix VA, the branch which kicked off the scandal resulting in increased scrutiny of the department, are still on paid leave.

Firing regular employees is also incredibly difficult. In another recent example, it took more than a year to fire a VA employee in Alabama who brought a veteran suffering from drug addiction to a crack house and left him for the night. Legislators have continually expressed frustration in hearings that the VA has refused to exercise any measure of internal accountability for inexcusable mistakes and problematic behavior.

A new House bill, HR 1994, aims to expand firing authority to all VA employees. Veterans’ advocates like the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars and Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, have backed the VA Accountability Act of 2015. The bill would allow McDonald to remove employees for performance or misconduct.

Employees would be permitted to file a claim with the Merit Systems Protection Board within seven days, which then would need to provide a decision in 45 days.

When testifying before the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs on the Senate version of the bill, Pete Hegseth, CEO of Concerned Veterans for America, stated that “all VA workers will retain the same federal protections afforded other government workers. S.1082 simply condenses the appeal and adjudication period for fired workers—placing them on unpaid administrative leave in the process. VA workers retain full protections and full appeal rights; they just won’t be sitting on paid administrative leave for months and years.”

But a union representing federal government workers stands in the way. The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) argues that the move would endanger its employees.

Beth Moten, legislative and political director for AFGE, asked legislators in a letter to oppose the legislation, saying House Veterans’ Affairs Committee chairman Jeff Miller misrepresented the purpose of HR 1994. According to Moten, the bill removes fundamental due process rights from employees, including the small subset of whistleblowers.

But Shaun Rieley, outreach and research analyst at Concerned Veterans for America, thinks the fears over decreased protections for whistleblowers are over-hyped.

“The legislation plainly states that the Secretary cannot use this new power against whistleblowers who have an active case with the Office of Special Counsel (OSC),” Rieley told The Daily Caller News Foundation.

While Moten does take note of this provision in the letter, she thinks the legislation will create a perverse incentive and overwhelm OSC with bogus claims from employees who are only declaring whistleblower status to avoid termination.

“This is unlikely, not least because it’s not exactly true that the employees will be “at will” — they still must be fired for cause, and the burden of proof remains the same under the new law,” Rieley added. “The difference is that if the Secretary determines that the employee needs to be terminated, and the OSC approves, the employee can be immediately relieved, instead of the red-tape that currently keeps bad employees from simply being shifted to another assignment, or being placed on taxpayer-paid leave for months.

Courtesy of Jonah Bennett, The Daily Caller

Republishing does not constitute endorsement or political stance of AMVETS. For an official statement, please contact the Communications Department.

VA Accountability Act Press Conference

AMVETS’ National Executive Director, Stewart Hickey, participated in a joint press conference with House Veterans’ Affairs Committee (HVAC) Chairman Jeff Miller (R-Fla.) and other national veterans service organizations to demonstrate support for the VA Accountability Act (H.R. 1994, S. 1082). The VA Accountability Act would offer protection for whistleblowers, and empower VA Secretary McDonald to fire VA employees for misconduct or poor performance.

View the entire press conference below, or click here to just view AMVETS’ comments.

AMVETS Announces Thanksgiving Sweepstakes Winners

LANHAM, Md., November 25, 2014—AMVETS leaders this week congratulated AMVETS 2014 Thanksgiving Sweepstakes grand prize winner George Wittrock. AMVETS National Executive Director Stewart M. Hickey personally called George Wittrock to congratulate him on winning the $10,000 sweepstakes grand prize.

AMVETS selected the 10 lucky sweepstakes winners from approximately 115,000 entries from around the country for prizes ranging from $500 to the $10,000 grand prize. The drawing took place today at the AMVETS National Headquarters in Lanham, MD.

Proceeds from the sweepstakes will help support AMVETS’ continuing mission to deliver quality of life programs for veterans and their families. Be sure to look for the next AMVETS Sweepstakes entry form in the mail in February 2015.

2014 Thanksgiving Sweepstakes winners:

$10,000.00 – George Wittrock, Seattle, WA
$5,000.00 – Cindy Klima, Cedar Rapids, IA
$2,500.00 – Cindy Klima, Cedar Rapids, IA
$1,000.00 – William C. O’Connell, Randolph, MA
$500.00 – David S. Wirkala, Yarmouth, ME
$500.00 – Charles Hickson, Suffolk, VA
$500.00 – Leonard Malczewski, Neenah, WI
$500.00 – Billie Cook, Killeen, TX
$500.00 – Cheryl E. Papp, Columbus, OH
$500.00 – J. Wallington, Spartanburg, SC

A leader since 1944 in preserving the freedoms secured by America’s armed forces, AMVETS provides support for veterans and the active military in procuring their earned entitlements, as well as community service and legislative reform that enhances the quality of life for this nation’s citizens and veterans alike. AMVETS is one of the largest congressionally-chartered veterans’ service organizations in the United States, and includes members from each branch of the military, including the National Guard and Reserves. To learn more visit

VA Proposes Removal of Employees Who Manipulated Data

July 29, 2014

WASHINGTON – The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) today proposed a series of disciplinary actions against six employees at Department facilities in Cheyenne, Wyoming and Fort Collins, Colorado. These actions are a part of VA’s effort to rebuild the trust of America’s Veterans.

“Employees who have been found to have manipulated data, withheld accurate information from their supervisors, and affected the timeliness of care Veterans receive do not reflect VA’s values, and their actions will not be tolerated,” said Acting Secretary Sloan D. Gibson. “VA must earn back the trust of Veterans. Part of earning back that trust is holding people accountable when there is documented evidence of willful misconduct and management negligence. We depend on the dedicated service of VA employees and leaders who live by our core values. Those who have not delivered results honestly have and will be held accountable.”

Based on a review by the Inspector General and other Department investigations, VA today proposed disciplinary actions against six employees at the Cheyenne VA Medical Center and Fort Collins Community-Based Outpatient Clinic.

As a result of these findings, VA proposed disciplinary actions against the Director of the Rocky Mountain Network (VISN 19), and the Director and Chief of Staff of the Cheyenne VA Medical Center.

Certain supervisors in these facilities were found to have personally manipulated data, instructed their subordinates to manipulate data, and withheld accurate information from their superiors. VA today proposed two of the supervisors be removed from Federal service.

Additional proposed penalties for other supervisors include two proposed suspensions, a demotion, and admonishments.