AMVETS in Action

Category: News

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.

University of Phoenix AMVETS Scholarship Recipients Announced

Scholarship program provides 20 full-tuition scholarships to active-duty service members, eligible family members and veterans

PHOENIX, Feb. 2, 2016 – University of Phoenix and AMVETS, a strong advocate for veterans’ education, awarded 20 full-tuition scholarships to active-duty service members, eligible family members and veterans to pursue a bachelor’s or master’s degree from University of Phoenix. AMVETS has teamed up with University of Phoenix since 2007, offering more than 350 scholarships to demonstrate the appreciation of the sacrifice active-duty service members, veterans and their families make for the country and to help them transition from the military to the civilian sector.

University of Phoenix AMVETS Scholarship recipients are:

  • Ronald Bolton of Yokosuka, Japan
  • Brandy Brown of Glen Burnie, Md.
  • James Orsine of Silver Lake, Ohio
  • Rikki Klassy of Bourbonnais, Ill.
  • Dexter Peggins of Martinez, Ga.
  • John Truppa of Berkeley Heights, N.J.
  • Sara McGinnis of New Orleans, La.
  • David Bukovich of Stafford, Va.
  • Dawn Muraca of Spring Valley, Calif.
  • Anne Merry of Midlothian, Va.
  • Shalanieca Bulluck of Goose Creek, S.C.
  • Douglas Hendrix of Atoka, Tenn.
  • Evelyn Adams of Waldorf, Md.
  • Clarke Paris of Henderson, Nev.
  • Derek Martinez of Norfolk, Va.
  • Elizabeth Laird of Temecula, Calif.
  • Lacey Bretado of Lake Havasu City, Ariz.
  • Anthony Leonard of Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.
  • Tony Jones of Yeagertown, Pa.
  • Josie Akins of Livonia, Mich.

“Our long standing education partnership with University of Phoenix is changing the lives of the recipients,” said AMVETS National Commander Jim Pidgeon. “These scholarships are an important part of our mission to help all veterans by providing the support, the means and the opportunities that enable our Service members to pursue and accomplish their education goals and transition into the civilian workforce. That’s powerful, and one of the most impactful ways to show gratitude to our military community.”

“As an ongoing effort to support our military service members, veterans and their families, the partnership with AMVETS and University of Phoenix serves to help them meet their educational, professional and personal goals,” said University of Phoenix Military Relations Vice President and Retired Lieutenant Colonel Adam Such. “The 2015 University of Phoenix AMVETS Scholarships provides the 20 recipients access to education opportunities to help increase their professional skill sets and change the lives of their families and future generations.”

The U.S. Army alone will see a drawdown of an additional 40,000 service members over the next two years1, adding to the regular transition of 240,000 service members annually. Because of this, there is an urgent need to provide education and career services for transitioning active-duty service members and veterans. University of Phoenix and AMVETS understand the critical need for America’s military to educationally distinguish themselves among job seekers in today’s competitive employment landscape.

For more information about University of Phoenix, please visit

A leader since 1944 in preserving the freedoms secured by America’s armed forces, AMVETS pro¬vides 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 Reserve. To learn more, visit

About University of Phoenix University of Phoenix is constantly innovating to help working adults move efficiently from education to careers in a rapidly changing world. Flexible schedules, relevant and engaging courses, and interactive learning can help students more effectively pursue career and personal aspirations while balancing their busy lives. As a subsidiary of Apollo Education Group, Inc. (Nasdaq: APOL), University of Phoenix serves a diverse student population, offering associate, bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degree programs from campuses and learning centers across the U.S. as well as online throughout the world. For more information, visit

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David Gai
AMVETS National Communications Director

Jennifer Marshall
University of Phoenix

WWII Bike Raffle Results

Last year, then-National Commander Larry Via was visiting a campus in his native Florida. While there, he met a large group of student veterans and suggested they start an AMVETS post. In February of 2015, they were chartered with 48 active members and Post 1966 was born.

Their first act as a post was to partner with their school, Wyo Tech, AMVETS National Headquarters, and the AMVETS Riders to build a replica World War II Harley Davidson motorcycle, to be raffled off after our National Convention. The results of that sweepstakes are as follows:

Grand Prize (replica World War II Harley Davidson motorcycle):
Bradford Turkington of Anchorage, Alaska

Second Prize ($1,000):
Rick Decker of Arkport, New York

Third Prize ($500):
Ed Lincoln of Dunnellon, Florida.

We’d like to congratulate our winners of these fabulous prizes, including the WWII Harley!

POW/MIA Balloon Returns to Post 7 in Alexandria, LA

POW MIA Balloon
ALEXANDRIA, LA – On October 14, 2015, Freedom Flight Incorporated’s POW/MIA balloon made another appearance at AMVETS Post 7 in Alexandria, Louisiana. This is the third year in a row that the balloon has visited Post 7.

Freedom Flight Inc. is a non-profit whose mission is to promote the POW-MIA issue through the use of hot air balloons.

The balloon is now on its way to Natchez, MS for an air show this weekend. For more information about where the balloon will travel, please visit the following link:

AANP, AMVETS Promote Non-Pharmacological Approaches for Chronic Pain



Diane Zumatto, National Legislative Director
Phone: 301-683-4016

Michael Jawer, Director of Government and Public Affairs
Phone: 202-237-8150

Washington DC, September 16, 2015 – AMVETS, one of the nation’s largest veterans service organizations, has joined with the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP) in seeking to promote natural, non-pharmacological approaches to treating veterans suffering from chronic pain.

The organizations have collaborated via a “Dear Colleague” letter in the US House of Representatives calling on the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to take steps to employ licensed naturopathic physicians, who are specially trained in natural, non-invasive methods of healing. A “Dear Colleague” letter to that effect has begun circulating in the US House of Representatives. Leading the charge is Congressman Mark Pocan (D-WI), who – like many of his colleagues – is concerned about the dangers of overmedicating veterans, especially with painkilling opioids. Rep. Pocan is joined by Representatives Julia Brownley (D-CA), Suzan DelBene (D-WA), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), and Walter Jones as the letter’s initial signators.

“After incidents across the country of veterans overdosing on or abusing opioids associated with chronic pain, it is clear we need a new approach to veterans’ pain management,” Rep. Pocan stated. “Our veterans deserve access to all possible forms of care when making their healthcare decisions, including the services provided by naturopathic doctors (NDs).”

The VA serves 8.76 million veterans each year, and chronic pain is known to disproportionately affect those who are serving or have served in the military, affecting nearly half of all active-duty military personnel and veterans.

The letter urges VA Secretary Robert McDonald to assign an employment code to licensed NDs so that they can be brought into the agency’s healthcare system. Signators will be on record as supporting the inclusion of “licensed naturopathic doctors, who are trained in the use of safe and effective natural and conventional therapies, in the spectrum of healthcare professionals employed within the agency.” Citizens can quickly and easily urge their Representative to sign the letter by clicking here.

Before its collaboration with AMVETS to support the House Dear Colleague letter, AANP commissioned a nationwide survey of a representative sample of America’s veterans, finding that nearly two-thirds of veterans (64%) would prefer a doctor who prescribes natural therapies before considering drugs or surgery, and that nearly three-quarters of veterans (73%) would consider seeing a ND if he or she were on staff at a nearby VA facility.

For military veterans, chronic pain often coexists with other health problems such as posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, anxiety, and sleep disturbances. NDs are well suited to help, since they are specially trained in natural, non-pharmacological approaches that facilitate the body’s self-healing ability.

Approximately 4,400 NDs are licensed to practice naturopathic medicine, having earned their degree from 4-year postgraduate naturopathic medical schools accredited through the US Department of Education. The approaches studied include nutritional counseling and stress reduction, botanical medicine, therapeutic manipulation, and oriental medicine. A strong emphasis is placed on disease prevention and educating patients on proactive self-care to maintain wellness. Resolutions passed by the US Senate have urged Americans to learn more about this “safe, effective, and affordable form of health care.”

The seeds for the VA initiative were planted at this spring’s AANP legislative conference, when NDs and naturopathic medical students swarmed Capitol Hill expressing the need for the VA to bring NDs into its employment mix. The agency has the ability to assign NDs an existing employment code; Congress’ letter is intended to encourage the VA to take the next steps.

Ultimately, the letter will be delivered to the VA, with the agency asked to respond to this “clear and present need.”

AMVETS (American Veterans), a leader since 1944 in preserving the freedoms secured by America’s Armed Forces, has supported Veterans, Active & Reserve Component Service Members, their families and survivors, for more than a half a century. As a leading advocate for Veterans rights and benefits, AMVETS serves as one of the preeminent voices of Veterans on Capitol Hill. AMVETS seeks to enhance and defend the earned benefits of all Veterans & Service Members through leadership, advocacy and service. Learn more at

About The American Association of Naturopathic Physicians:
The American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP) is the professional association that represents licensed naturopathic physicians. AANP strives to make naturopathic medicine available to every American, and to increase recognition of naturopathic physicians as the identified authorities on natural medicine. Learn more at

An Open Letter to Dr. Ben Carson from Leading Veterans Organizations

Dear Dr. Carson:

As leaders of the nation’s largest veterans organizations, with more than 5 million active members, we vehemently disagree with your dangerous proposal to eliminate the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) health care system for America’s veterans. Eliminating the VA health care system – considering all that it has done in the past and all that it could be in the future – would inevitably endanger the health and well-being of millions of wounded, injured and ill veterans, an outcome that we cannot allow to occur.

Dr. Carson, we do not question your intentions to improve the lives of those who have served; your life’s work speaks clearly to your dedication to the lives of others. Nor do we dispute your observation that VA today faces very serious problems and challenges in providing health care and benefits. Each of our organizations has criticized VA whenever it has faltered or failed, as has too often been the case in recent years. But because our primary concern is about ensuring the best possible outcomes for the men and women who served, we have also proposed thoughtful and responsible reforms that if enacted, and properly resourced, could make VA great again.

While we certainly respect your medical credentials, we are concerned that your current knowledge of the VA is both outdated and inaccurate. We recognize that you received a significant part of your medical training in the VA (as has the majority of America’s doctors); however, the VA you worked in over three decades ago is dramatically different than the VA of today or even ten years ago. The post-Vietnam VA health care system that you observed firsthand during your medical education and subsequent residency operated a system of large hospitals typically located only in major cities. That VA no longer exists. Today the VA system is an integrated, tiered network of more than 1,400 outpatient clinics, medical centers, hospitals, and clinical research facilities, affiliated with hundreds of medical schools and universities.

In reading your recent op-ed in USA Today, it appears to us that you have not been provided with complete and accurate information on how the VA health care system has evolved. Your claim that VA health care has not modernized to meet the changing needs of veterans is simply not borne out by the facts. For example, in just the past dozen years, VA has developed a national integrated system of polytrauma centers and research efforts to address the devastating traumatic injuries from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, particularly traumatic brain injury (TBI). Long the world leader in diagnosing and treating PTSD, VA also has now become the first and perhaps only large scale health care system to fully integrate mental health into its primary care system nationally. Over the past five years VA has also updated its model of care to integrate and support over 20,000 family caregivers of severely injured veterans, not only to allow them to receive care in their homes and reduce government spending, but also to increase the emotional support so critical for their recovery and healing.

VA’s clinical research programs have helped to improve medical diagnosis, treatment and health outcomes for the entire U.S. population. It was VA scientists who developed the original nicotine patch and proved the benefits of low dose aspirin therapy to prevent heart attacks. Closer to your own field of medicine, VA researchers demonstrated that therapy with electrodes implanted into the brain was better than medication at controlling tremors and movement problems in patients with Parkinson’s disease.

Dr. Carson, do you really think that veterans would be better off today had VA not existed, or that they would be better cared for in the future in a world without a national VA system dedicated to their unique and often complex needs?

Furthermore, your suggestion that giving veterans health savings accounts in lieu of access to a VA health care system would effectively diminish our nation’s sacred obligation to “care for him who shall have borne the battle…” It would put the onus on the veteran for finding their own health care providers, navigating through the private market-based system, determining whether it meets the standard of care they require, and dealing with the consequences if it goes awry. To suggest that disabled veterans could be sent out into the private economy with a health savings account card overlooks the fact that civilian health care providers have waiting lists of their own, that private practices often limit the number of government plan patients they accept due to low reimbursement rates, and presupposes that civilian doctors have the necessary skillsets and training to meet the unique health needs of military veterans.

Dr. Carson, as one of our nation’s preeminent medical practitioners, you are well positioned to work with us to promote needed reforms at the VA, reforms that will ensure this country keeps its promises to America’s veterans. We would welcome the opportunity to meet with you and open a dialogue about the benefits of a national health care system focused exclusively on veterans. America’s veterans have earned the right to a VA system that provides veteran-centric, high quality, accessible health care. We invite you to join with us in an effort to strengthen and reform the VA, not destroy it.


Garry Augustine, Executive Director, Washington Headquarters, DAV
Robert E. Wallace, Executive Director, Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States
Verna L. Jones, Executive Director, The American Legion
Homer S. Townsend, Jr., Executive Director, Paralyzed Veterans of America
Stewart M. Hickey, National Executive Director, AMVETS
Robert Puskar, National Commander, Military Order of the Purple Heart
Paul J. Rieckhoff, Executive Director, IAVA
VADM Norbert R. Ryan, Jr., USN (Ret), President, Military Officers Association of America

VA Releases Statement Following Obergefell v. Hodges Ruling

On June 26, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court held in Obergefell v. Hodges that the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution requires a state to license a marriage between two people of the same sex and to recognize a marriage between two people of the same sex when their marriage was lawfully licensed and performed out-of-state. Therefore, VA may recognize the same-sex marriage of all Veterans, where the Veteran or the Veteran’s spouse resided anywhere in the United States or its territories at the time of the marriage or at the time of application for benefits.

VA will work quickly to ensure that all offices and employees are provided guidance on implementing this important decision with respect to all programs, statutes, and regulations administered by VA. Until this guidance has been issued, VA will temporarily wait to adjudicate all claims regarding same-sex marriage that cannot be immediately granted based on prior guidance.

2015 Scholarship Recipients

WASHINGTON DC – AMVETS announced the 2015 recipients of its National Scholarship Program recently.

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

  • Karl Salzmann of East Northport, New York
  • Ryan Kinney of Matthews, North Carolina
  • Alexis Scott of Powder Springs, Georgia
  • Michael Thompson of Elizabethtown, Kentucky
  • Kendall Langum of Friendswood, Texas
  • Haley Kestler of Santa Maria, California

Graduating high school senior selected as the $1,000.00 scholarship recipient of the JROTC scholarship:

  • Mathieu Zamora of Colton, California

Veterans selected to receive four-year scholarships of $4,000.00 are:

  • Kacey Milligan of Winston Salem, North Carolina
  • Benjamin Elliott of Mount Clemens, Michigan
  • Bobby Linnane of Lewiston, New York

Veterans selected to receive the Dr. Aurelio M. Caccomo Family Foundation Memorial Scholarship of $3,000.00:

  • Kiel Edson of Pasadena, Maryland
  • Franklin Palacios of Portland Oregon

Veteran selected to receive The Henry G. Huestis Memorial Scholarship in the amount of $1,000.00:

  • Jo Young Chan of Newton Highlands, Massachusetts

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.

An Open Letter to America’s Veterans from Secretary Bob McDonald


At the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), we have one of the most noble and inspiring missions in Government. I accepted this job and joined this mission to better serve you—our Veterans—and improve the delivery of the care and benefits you have earned. It is our privilege to serve you, and I have made clear that as we move forward as a Department, we will judge the success of all our efforts against a single metric—the outcomes we provide for Veterans.

The Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014 (VACAA), enacted less than 3-months ago, goes a long way toward enabling VA to meet the demand for Veterans health care in the short-term. VA has put considerable focus and attention on ensuring the law is implemented seamlessly, without confusion, and without creating hardships for Veterans. This legislation provides authorities, funding, and other tools to better serve Veterans in the short-term. We are appreciative of this temporary measure to improve access while we build capacity within the VA system to better serve those who rely on us for health care.

From June 1 to September 30, 2014, VA completed more than 19 million Veteran appointments in our facilities and made nearly 1.1 million authorizations for Veterans to receive care in the private sector and other non-VA health facilities—a 46.6-percent increase over the same period in 2013. This was all done under existing programs prior to the passage of VACAA, and sets the stage for strengthening existing partnerships between VA and the private sector. We have much we can share with one another to the benefit of Veterans.

VA has signed contracts with two private health care companies to help VA administer the Veterans Choice Program (Choice Program) under VACAA. The Choice Program is a new, temporary benefit allowing some Veterans to receive health care in their communities rather than waiting for a VA appointment or traveling to a VA facility. It does not impact your existing VA health care or any other VA benefit you may be receiving. We will begin implementing this benefit on November 5, as required by law. A call center is now operational to answer your questions and verify your eligibility for this program.

As part of this new program, we are issuing a Veterans Choice Card to every Veteran who is potentially eligible for the new, temporary health benefit. The Choice Card allows Veterans to elect to receive care outside of VA when they qualify for the new program based on the distance of their residence from a VA care facility, or when wait times for VA health care exceed the standards established in law. The Choice Card does not replace the identification card you already use to access other VA benefits; please do not throw away that identification card.

The Choice Card will be issued in three phases. The first group of Choice Cards along with a letter explaining eligibility for this program is currently being sent to Veterans who may live more than 40 miles from a VA facility. The next group of Choice Cards and letters will be sent shortly thereafter to those Veterans who are currently waiting for an appointment longer than 30-days from their preferred date or the date determined to be medically necessary by their physician.

The final group of Choice Cards and letters will be sent between December 2014 and January 2015 to the remainder of all Veterans enrolled for VA health care who may be eligible for the Choice Program in the future.

We are continuing to work with our partners—Congress, Veterans Service Organizations, and others—to get the information about this health program out to Veterans in as many ways as possible. Please visit our Web site at where we have provided helpful information on Choice Program eligibility. We will work with our partners to keep you informed as we improve our delivery of high-quality, timely care.

Thank you for your service and sacrifice.

Robert A. McDonald

» Facts about your Veterans Choice Card – PDF file (1 MB)