AMVETS in Action

Category: Frontpage

Weekly Recap (June 19 – 23)

Some of the top stories circulating the veteran community.

Miles Migs

Trump to sign VA accountability bill on Friday | By: Associated Press – The White House says President Donald Trump will sign a bill Friday to make it easier to fire Department of Veterans Affairs employees. The measure has broad bipartisan support and is part of an effort encouraged by Trump to fix an agency that provides health care and other services to millions of veterans. The bill was prompted by a 2014 scandal at the Phoenix VA medical center, where some veterans died while waiting for care. Trump promised as a candidate to fire VA employees “who let our veterans down.” VA Secretary David Shulkin supports the measure. The bill cleared the House last week by a vote of 368-55, and the Senate by voice vote. Trump is to sign the measure during a ceremony in the White House East Room.

Pennsylvania Just Made It Illegal To Lie About Military Service | By J.D. PROSE, BEAVER COUNTY TIMES – A bill that would make it a misdemeanor to benefit from lying about military service or receiving decorations or medals unanimously passed the state Senate on Tuesday and now heads to Gov. Tom Wolf’s desk to be signed into law.
House Bill 168, introduced by state Rep. Rick Saccone, R-Elizabeth Township, bans anyone from economically benefiting from lying about their service or decorations. Violators could be charged with a third-degree misdemeanor. “Our men and women of the armed forces and their families deserve the utmost respect and praise, and criminals who disguise themselves as illegitimate veterans demean our true American heroes,” Saccone said. “Some people have actually tried to make money by falsely claiming veteran status,” said Saccone, an Air Force veteran and a 2018 U.S. Senate candidate. “They will now be brought to account.” Saccone said lying about military service or medals to make money “is truly an insult and discredit to the men and women who have selflessly sacrifices their lives on the battlefield.” Saccone introduced the same legislation in May 2016, calling it the Stolen Valor Act. It unanimously passed the state House in June 2016, but did not advance in the Senate. When the new legislative session started in January, Saccone reintroduced his bill and it passed the House 190-0 in April. In 2013, Congress passed the federal Stolen Valor Act, which addressed those who might lie about having military decorations and medals, such as the Congressional Medal of Honor and the Purple Heart, in order to obtain benefits. Those convicted of violating the federal law can face fines and up to a year in jail.

School owner admits stealing $2.8M from veterans program | By: The Associated Press – The owner of a New Jersey computer training center has admitted stealing $2.8 million from a program designed to help veterans find employment.
Elizabeth Honig pleaded guilty Wednesday to theft of government funds. The 52-year-old Morganville, New Jersey, resident faces up to 10 years in prison when she’s sentenced Sept. 25. Honig owns the Eatontown-based Computer Insight Learning Center. Federal prosecutors say she helped 182 veterans enroll to receive federal funding under a program designed to help older, unemployed veterans receive training and find employment in high demand occupations. But the vast majority of these veterans were either not eligible or not actually attending the training. Honig admitted logging on to the applications system more than 100 times and certifying that she was the actual veteran who was applying for benefits.

AMVETS Scholarship Recipients Announced! See the list of our students who earned a scholarship: http://www.amvets.org/2017-amvets-natl-scholarship-recipients-announced/

2017 AMVETS Nat’l Scholarship Recipients Announced

2017 AMVETS NAT’L SCHOLARSHIP PROGRAM RECIPIENTS

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“It is always an honor for AMVETS to help veterans and members of the military continue their families’ legacies by providing additional support through the AMVETS Scholarship Program,” said National Programs Director, Karla Lathroum at today’s announcement. “We always look forward to this time of year when we are able to recognize and award just a few of our many outstanding students in the veteran community.”

Graduating high school seniors selected to receive four-year undergraduate scholarships of $4,000 are:

Erica Ivins of Massachusetts
Evan Chase of Virginia
Lennon Tomlinson of Tennessee
Amy Reiser of Illinois
Julia Sanderson of South Dakota
Lunia Oriol of Alaska
Graduating high school senior Thomas Russ of Virginia was selected as the $1,000.00 scholarship recipient of the JROTC scholarship.
Veterans selected to receive four-year scholarships of $4,000.00 are:
Anna Kendall of Huntingtown, Maryland
Stanley Littrell of Tiger, Georgia
Bryant Rosell of Carlsbad, California

Veterans Matthew Preston II of Indianapolis, Indiana and Dominique Jones of Beaumont, Texas were selected to receive the Dr. Aurelio M. Caccomo Family Foundation Memorial Scholarship in the amount of $12,000.00. The Caccomo Memorial Scholarship is in memory and honoring Dr. Aurelio M. Caccomo, who immigrated from Rome to the United States in the 1950’s and became a physician, orthopedic surgeon, and Army Reservist. He served his adopted country in the Special Forces and retired as a Colonel. Dr. Caccomo spent the last fifteen year of his life serving at the University of Illinois in Chicago under the Department of Orthopedics and establishing his Family Foundation, which provides these meaningful and impactful scholarships for our veterans.

Veteran Renarda Williams of McKinney, Texas was selected to receive The Henry G. Huestis Memorial Scholarship in the amount of $1,000.00

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The winners were selected on the basis of academic excellence and financial need. Since its inception in the 1950s, the AMVETS National Scholarship Program has awarded more than $2 million in scholarships to veterans and graduating high school students who are sons and daughters or grandchildren of American veterans.

2017 Memorial Day Sweepstakes Winners

LANHAM, MD — AMVETS leaders congratulate AMVETS 2017 Memorial Day Weekend Sweepstakes grand prize winner Frederick L. Delcamp. AMVETS National Commander Harold Chapman personally offered Mr. Delcamp his congratulations on winning the $10,000 sweepstakes grand prize.

AMVETS selected the 10 lucky sweepstakes winners from over 100,000 entries from around the country for prizes ranging from $500 to the $10,000 grand prize. The drawing took place 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.

  • $10,000.00 Frederick L. Delcamp
  • $5,000.00 Mr. Charles A. Kraus
  • $2,500.00 Charles A. Burmeister
  • $1,000.00 Marialana W. Branch
  • $500.00 Joseph D. Carty
  • $500.00 Ian Ronald Erickson
  • $500.00 Hoyd O. Sanders
  • $500.00 Gary E. Haines
  • $500.00 Mr. Andy Sharpe
  • $500.00 Mr. & Mrs. John Chakos

About AMVETS:
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 www.amvets.org.

VA Secretary, Lawmakers Swayed by AMVETS’ Campaign Against Cuts to VA Disability Benefits

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: John Hoellwarth
National Communications Director
AMVETS (American Veterans)
(703) 628-9621
jhoellwarth@amvets.org

AMVETS National Headquarters, June 14, 2017 – Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin backed away Wednesday from a proposal to cut Individual Unemployability benefits for disabled veterans during a Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs hearing that followed weeks of efforts by AMVETS to kill the measure in its crib.

“As I began to listen to veterans and their concerns and [Veterans Service Organizations] in particular, it became clear that this would be hurting some veterans. This would be a takeaway from veterans who can’t afford to have those benefits taken away,” Shulkin told the Senate committee. “I am not going to be supporting policies that hurt veterans, so I would look forward to figuring out how we can do things better.”

Shulkin’s testimony directly follows an entire day during which AMVETS leadership visited all 100 Senate offices to advocate against the cuts and a letter signed by 57 members of Congress sent to Shulkin Monday citing and underscoring AMVETS’s concerns about rescinding benefits to 225,000 of our nation’s most vulnerable veterans.

The VA’s initial budget recommendation proposed to eliminate the Individual Employability benefit for veterans aged 65 and older. This benefit currently pays 60- to 90-percent disabled veterans at the 100 percent disabled rate if their service-connected disability prevents them from working. The justification for this proposal has been that veterans 65 are eligible for Social Security instead. But the veterans receiving this benefit are precisely those who have been unable to work because of their service-connected disability and are therefore able to collect very little from Social Security, if anything at all.

As a result of AMVETS’s advocacy and as of the end of Wednesday’s hearing, this change now seems unlikely to ever become law.

In conversation with Veterans Service Organization representatives toward the end of the hearing, Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs Chairman Sen. Johnny Isakson referred to the proposed cuts to Individual Unemployability benefits as “a non-starter” and acknowledged that “anyone else will pretty much tell you it’s a non-starter, too.”

AMVETS is the nation’s largest and oldest Congressionally-chartered veterans service organization that is open to and fights for all veterans who served honorably, including reservists & guardsmen. AMVETS has been a nonpartisan advocate for veterans and their families for more than 70 years. amvets.org

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AMVETS’ Statement to US Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs

AMVETS (American Veterans) Executive Director, Joseph R. Chenelly’s June 14, 2017 Statement for the Record to US Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs

Mr. Chairman Isakson, Ranking Member Tester and Members of the Committee:

As the largest veterans service organization open to all veterans who served honorably, regardless of when or where they served, it is a pleasure to present our views on the fiscal year 2018 budget for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

On behalf of AMVETS National Commander Harold Chapman, we are proud to fully support the requests for funding as outlined in The Independent Budget (IB). It is crucial that the VA Secretary has all the resources needed to successfully, efficiently and responsibly run the many facets of the Department.

One area of great concern that AMVETS wants addressed immediately is the White House’s proposed cut to Individual Unemployability (IU) compensation for veterans eligible for Social Security.

AMVETS National Headquarters has received thousands of emails, calls and messages over the past two weeks from veterans decrying the proposal to steal 225,000 Social Security eligible aged veterans the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ IU compensation program if they have paid into Social Security at any point during their life.

Individual Unemployability is a VA program for veterans who cannot work because of their service-connected disabilities. These veterans are rated below 100 percent per the VA rating schedule. But each recipient of IU has been through an exhaustive verification process to ensure they are unable to earn wages above federal poverty guidelines because of their wounds, injuries or illness.

Cutting this earned and needed benefit would “save” $3.2 billion in 2018 and $41 billion over the next decade, which is slated to go toward an expanded VA Choice program, which has yet to be fully developed. We feel if President Trump knew of the serious repercussions, he would have not included this in his budget request.

These veterans earned a lifetime disability benefit for their service to this nation. They did not ask to become disabled or to become unemployable as a result of their injuries or wounds. Our nation owes it to them to keep its promise, so they may continue to make ends meet.

If veterans lose their IU, it would trigger the loss of:

  • Civilian Health & Medical Program of the VA (CHAMPVA)
  • Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC)
  • Chapter 35 Educational Benefits for the family
  • Commissary privileges
  • Property tax relief
  • VA Dental & Vision Care
  • Vehicle exemption fees

We firmly believe that if this measure of the budget passes, that it would put the lives of these veterans at serious risk. VA’s most recent report on suicide notes that about 65% of all veterans who died from suicide were aged 50 years or older.

We urge your committee to reject this dangerous part of the President’s budget and not include any cuts to IU in your budget. Eve-ry day those who would be affected are growing more distressed. They deserve to keep this earned benefit and live their senior years with some peace of mind knowing that the country they served is not deserting them in the time of their greatest need.

AMVETS is grateful for the Committee’s hard work to provide oversight and the resources necessary for our federal government to keep its promises to veterans, their families and survivors. Any questions or need for additional information may be addressed to AMVETS National Legislative Adviser Ms. Amy Webb at (301) 683-4015 or awebb@amvets.org.

57 Congress Members Back AMVETS’ Defense of IU Benefits

In a bipartisan letter addressed to U.S. Department of Secretary Veteran Affairs David Shulkin, 57 members of the House of Representatives publicly declared that they “strongly oppose” the proposed cut to Individual Unemployability (IU).

The letter, which includes an expert from AMVETS, comes after weeks of intense work on Capitol Hill, informing members of both chambers that this proposal would have deadly consequences for veterans if pass through the budgetary process.

Below is a link to the full letter and list of lawmakers who signed it: Letter to Secretary Shulkin – IU benefits

Weekly Recap (June 5-9)

Miles Migs

Some of the top stories circulating the veteran community.

2018 budget proposes cuts to veteran benefits. The Trump administration’s budget proposal contains a provision to cut Individual Unemployability (IU) benefits for seriously service connected disabled veterans aged 65 and older. This would steal a large percentage of a wounded, injured or ill veteran’s compensation.
The argument for this cut is that these senior citizens would be eligible for Social Security retirement benefits at age 65. That argument is flawed because these veterans have largely been disabled, out of the work force and not paying into Social Security for many years before reaching 65. Many have been severely disabled as a result of their military service and unable to work since the day of their discharge.
Such a misguided move would wrongly take away about $1,200 a month from a single veteran rated at 90 percent disabled and already determined to be unable to work because or his or her military service. The monetary loss rapidly increases for veterans with lower disability ratings. In all, this proposal threatens to strip benefits from more than 225,000 senior citizen veterans who’ve been seriously disabled as a result of their military service.
AMVETS strongly opposes this proposed cut and calls for its immediate withdrawal.
Voice your concerns through our pre-filled letter to Congress:
http://cqrcengage.com/amvets/app/onestep-write-a-letter?5&engagementId=356913

Veterans can register from early access to online exchange shopping. Honorably discharged vets can sign up at VetVerify.org. The exchange sites offer the same tax-free shopping and discounted prices as the shopping centers. This benefit has estimated 13 million veteran shopping increase potential for exchanges.
“It’s an honor to now provide this service and benefit to our well-deserving veterans. Once a Marine, always a Marine,” said Cindy Whitman Lacy, Marine Corps Exchange Director of Business and Support Services at Headquarters Marine Corps Manpower and Reserve Affairs, in a statement today announcing the verifying website.  
“This initiative is one of many ways to keep our community connected.”  

The Senate passed the VA Accountability Bill June 6, and the legislation will make its way to the House next week. The bill would give the VA an easier process for vetting employees.

McCarthy said Wednesday the bill will help improve the government’s second largest department by giving VA Secretary David Shulkin more authority to discipline employees. “If somebody is a bad character, done a lot of bad things they couldn’t survive anyplace else, but you can’t get rid of them, the attitude of good employees goes away, too,” he said.

The AMVETS Post at Bay County, Florida, gave a generous contribution to five Bay County Junior Reserve Officer Training Course (JROTC) June 6. The donations totaled $25,000 and took years to pull together.
“Who best to give it to than the JROTC our future leaders in the military and so that’s what we do, so we’re going to make a sizeable contribution to each one of the Bay County High Schools” said AMVETS Post Commander Rocky Bradford.

Weekly Recap (May 29 – June 2)

Weekly Recap (May 29 – June 2)

Miles Migs

Some of the top stories circulating the veteran community.

2018 budget proposes cuts to veteran benefits. The Trump administration’s budget proposal contains a provision to cut Individual Unemployability (IU) benefits for seriously service connected disabled veterans aged 65 and older. This would steal a large percentage of a wounded, injured or ill veteran’s compensation.
The argument for this cut is that these senior citizens would be eligible for Social Security retirement benefits at age 65. That argument is flawed because these veterans have largely been disabled, out of the work force and not paying into Social Security for many years before reaching 65. Many have been severely disabled as a result of their military service and unable to work since the day of their discharge.
Such a misguided move would wrongly take away about $1,200 a month from a single veteran rated at 90 percent disabled and already determined to be unable to work because or his or her military service. The monetary loss rapidly increases for veterans with lower disability ratings. In all, this proposal threatens to strip benefits from more than 225,000 senior citizen veterans who’ve been seriously disabled as a result of their military service.
AMVETS strongly opposes this proposed cut and calls for its immediate withdrawal.
Voice your concerns through our pre-filled letter to Congress:
http://cqrcengage.com/amvets/app/onestep-write-a-letter?5&engagementId=356913

Ben Carson remains steadfast amid cuts. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson informed veteran advocates this week that budget cuts to housing projects will not affect efforts toward ending homelessness among veterans. Carson informed the public that the department will look toward moving funds into “private investments.”
“In the old model, the government comes, plops down a bunch of money, and says build a place for veterans,” states Carson. “The new model is to bring in private interests, because you can get a heck of a lot more done, and you have people more interested in maintaining that community.”
The 2017 Housing Estimates are to be released this Fall.

White House complaint line goes live. President Trump’s anticipated hotline for veteran complaints launched June 1. The purpose of the line, as stated by a Department of Veteran Affairs official, is to “collect, process, and respond to the complaints of individual veterans in a responsive, timely and accountable manner. It’s proposed to be fully operational by Aug. 15, providing 24-hour assistance.
“This could keep me very busy at night, folks,” Trump told supporters during a rally July 26 of last year. “This will take place of twitter.”
Veterans can reach the complaint line at 855-948-2311.

AMVETS interviews professional baseball player advocating for veterans. Sean Doolittle, pitcher for the Oakland A’s baseball team, explained to AMVETS his reasoning for standing behind veterans with ‘bad paper.’
“My dad was a navigator in the Air Force and active duty in the Air National Guard,” said Doolittle. “I hope that people see that we’ve really done our homework on this, and (that we) haven’t just relied on popularity and stature to promote our message. We’ve rolled up our sleeves and taken meetings with numerous people and organizations who have helped educate us further on this topic. Mental health care for those with less-than-honorable discharges isn’t a topic commonly covered by our mainstream media, so it’s great that Sports Illustrated picked up our op-ed (opposite the editorial page).
Secretary of Veteran Affairs David Shulkin mentioned during his ‘State of the VA’ address May 31 that the VA is currently ahead of schedule in constructing a program that provides mental health care for those with less-than-honorable discharges.