AMVETS in Action

Category: Press Release

American Legion, AMVETS and CVA Joint Statement on VA Spending Request

Washington, DC – Today, the American Legion, AMVETS (American Veterans), and Concerned Veterans of America (CVA) released the following statement regarding congressional posturing resulting from a request made by acting Secretary of Veterans Affairs Sloan Gibson for an additional $17.6 billion in funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs:

“Regardless of the merits, a last-minute VA request for $17.6 billion dollars in additional spending only hampers an already difficult VA conference committee negotiating process. Both the House and Senate VA reform bills that passed were centered on two things—accountability and access. It is disgraceful and utterly painful to see bipartisan efforts erode and lawmakers lose sight of what’s important. Negotiations, which should happen in public, not behind closed doors, must stay focused on ensuring VA leadership is held accountable and veterans have timely access to care. All other discussions only undermine a critically important process.

“We urge Congress to take immediate action to regain their focus on ensuring the VA Secretary exercises their authority to hold management and staff accountable for their inappropriate behavior, and immediately stop the corruption and mismanagement within the VA. Before asking for more money, the VA must start making good on the nation’s promise to its honored veterans.”

Dan Dellinger
National Commander
the American Legion

Stewart Hickey
Executive Director

Pete Hegseth
Chief Executive Officer
Concerned Veterans for America

FBI to Investigate Phoenix VA

June 12, 2014

Lanham, Md. – Officials announced today the Federal Bureau of Investigation is beginning to review records at the Phoenix VA for potential criminal wrongdoing.

Phoenix was the first location whistleblowers exposed manipulation of appointment schedules and claims veterans had died while waiting for care. The VA scandal includes more than 40 hospitals and at least 120,000 veterans experiencing improper delays. The VA Inspector General’s audit proceeds in 69 different medical facilities. In its preliminary report of its audit last week, the VA stated 13 percent of VA schedulers said they were told to falsify appointment-request dates to give the impression that wait times were shorter than they really were in order to receive performance bonuses.

“AMVETS fully supports the criminal prosecution of all who are found to have dishonored the Department of Veterans Affairs by believing they were not actually accountable to the veterans they were there to serve, and the American people,” said Stewart Hickey, AMVETS National Executive Director. “We are pleased the administration is moving in this direction and anticipate it will run its full course.”

“VA easily gets distracted by ‘shiny objects’ and is notoriously slow to act. It is imperative the administration is not diverted by this investigation and continues its focus to further adopt viable solutions that truly fix the VA’s deep-seated systemic problems. Keeping the quality care of veterans within the VA system is the top priority. AMVETS provided recommendations to the VA to bring much needed solutions to the table. Our nation’s veterans deserve access to a health-care system that puts their needs first,” added Hickey.

FBI Director James Comey would not say whether their investigation would be expanded beyond the initial allegations at the Phoenix medical facility, but said the FBI was “working with the VA IG and will follow this wherever the facts take us.”

AMVETS Statement on VA Secretary Shinseki’s Resignation

May 30, 2014

Lanham, Maryland. – Following today’s announcement of VA Secretary Eric Shinseki’s resignation, AMVETS and National Executive Director Stewart M. Hickey released the following statement.

“We are saddened but not surprised at Eric Shinseki’s resignation today. He is an honorable man whose dedication and service to our country and veterans is beyond reproach. Shinseki’s leadership and vision to deliver veterans with the highest quality care were bringing the Department of Veterans Affairs into the 21st century. His focus on veterans included directing the adoption of solutions that directly addressed the known problems including developing the capabilities to digitize claims and implement procedures and capabilities to better manage patient schedules and reduce wait times. Unfortunately, Shinseki’s legacy at the helm of the VA will forever be tainted by the shameful performance and failures of VA employees and managers. Shinseki, as the honorable man that he is, is accepting full responsibility and blame for the problems at VA but he is not the one within VA who should be gone. Shinseki’s trust in the VA was betrayed. The systemic problems are the result of the lack of integrity of nearly every member of VA’s career bureaucrats, especially the VISN and hospital management layers who failed him by withholding crucial facts, disregarding directives and policies, hiding bad news, falsifying documents and otherwise lying to convince him that the serious, systemic issues were merely isolated incidents to be ignored.”

“Shinseki’s removal further complicates, not solves the VA’s problems. With their staunchest champion gone, the trust of America’s veterans will come at a high price for the new VA Secretary. The VA bureaucracy needs a total overhaul; the type of reform that changes the very culture of the VA from complacency and mistrust to the full accountability for the care and well-being of our nation’s veterans. The VA’s new leader must take swift and decisive action to further adopt viable solutions that truly fix the systemic problems, and keep the quality care of veterans within the VA system. The new leader must also immediately discipline and remove the employees responsible for mismanagement, negligence and corruption.” – Stewart M. Hickey, AMVETS National Executive Director


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LANHAM, Md., May 23, 2014—AMVETS leaders this week congratulated AMVETS 2014 Memorial Day Weekend Sweepstakes grand prize winner Carolyn S. Holp. AMVETS National First Vice Commander Larry Via personally called Ms. Holp to congratulate her on winning the $10,000 sweepstakes’ top prize after the drawing was held at AMVETS National Headquarters today.

AMVETS selected the 10 lucky sweepstakes winners out of approximately 120,000 entries from around the country. The prizes ranged from $500, to the $10,000 grand prize.

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 September 2014.

2014 Memorial Day Weekend Sweepstakes winners:

$10,000.00 – Carolyn S. Holp, Brookville, OH

$5,000.00 – Kathleen Dailey, Sheffield Lake, OH

$2,500.00 – William E. Steiger, Richfield, OH

$1,000.00 – Julie Whiting, Mesa, AZ

$500.00 – Robert Brittingham, Laurel, DE

$500.00 – Robert Kuzniar, Thayer, MO

$500.00 – Darlene Beck, Bismark, ND

$500.00 – Petronella Vogt, Marilla, NY

$500.00 – James L Warner, Trenton, MI

$500.00 – Donald R. Shaub, Pequea, PA



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

AMVETS Recommends Solutions to Help Fix VA Healthcare

May 23, 2014

Lanham, MD – Today, AMVETS, one of the preeminent Congressionally Chartered Veteran Service Organizations in the country, released the following observations and recommendations to address some of the current problems within the VA healthcare system:

Introduction & Background:

Now is the time and opportunity to reform the VA to make it effective and efficient to best serve the needs of all veterans. Without cool heads and creative thinkers we’ll never be able to move beyond the recent hysterics and put into effect viable workable solutions.

VA healthcare is the true cost of war. The cost of war has always been extremely high. The major burden of that cost has been borne by the men and women who have served their country in the military, especially during times of armed combat. Their healthcare needs differ from their civilian counterparts, a realization that originally led to the development of the VA healthcare system.

All American Veterans are keenly aware of the disconcerting allegations that numerous VA Medical Centers created ‘secret wait lists,’ falsified health records, and destroyed evidence to hide the fact they were not providing timely and appropriate health care to our nation’s veterans. The scores of stories are shocking and disappointing. The cold hard fact that Veterans wait months for treatment, suffer terrible ailments and chronic pain, even death, can only be deemed as purposeful neglect.

The VA compares to the mythical hydra – an isolated problem arises and we either throw money at it or chop it off. Before we know it more problems pop up to take its place. This insanity of doing the same things the same way and expecting a different outcome is historically how the VA has operated. Now is the time to slay the #VAHydra by effectively changing its culture.

The spate of current problems within the VA healthcare system are neither new nor unusual. Throughout its history, even back to the predecessor Bureau of Pensions, there have been difficulties within the VA, the very system created to minister to their unique healthcare needs. A series of Congressional hearings at the end of World War I identified a nightmare of red tape, inefficiency and neglect and determined VA hospitals couldn’t adequately meet the needs of our veterans. Various government officials have been aware of these problems for years, but failed to take action. There can be no doubt the VA suffers from deep seated, systemic problems and neither the department nor its employees believe that they are actually accountable to either the veterans they serve, or the American people who pay their generous salaries.

It’s also critical for the positives of the VA healthcare system to move into the limelight. Those positives outlined in the Independent Budget (IB) include that VA:

  • Is the largest direct provider of health-care services in the nation;
  • Provides the most extensive training environment for healthcare professionals;
  • Is the nation’s most clinically focused setting for specialized medical and prosthetics research;
  • Provides specialized health-care services in a number of areas that cannot be adequately duplicated in the private sector (e.g., spinal cord injury/dysfunction; blind rehabilitation; traumatic brain injury; prosthetic services; mental health; and war-related poly-traumatic injuries);
  • Is among the most efficient and cost-effective healthcare system in the nation;
  • Sets the standards for quality and efficiency at or below Medicare rates, while simultaneously serving a population that is older and has a higher percentage of individual health problems

We cannot overemphasize one crucial point, VA healthcare is the nation’s largest integrated health care network with millions of participants, countless medical centers and community based outpatient clinics worldwide. Like any large system, it will have problems. Not to say that problems shouldn’t be addressed, but they shouldn’t be unexpected either. Problems, up to and including preventable deaths, are not the exclusive domain of VA hospitals. The vast majority of our veterans receiving healthcare from the VA receive excellent, cutting-edge care and VA’s approval rating is well above that of most any civilian hospital.

A complete top-to-bottom culture change is needed to renew the nation’s commitment to our veterans, not a new system. The problems are not going to be fixed by merely appointing a new Secretary or other chiefs. With drastic changes needed at each and every level of the organization, no one should be excluded from this much overdue ‘spring cleaning,’ up to and including VA contractors.

It is our responsibility to vigorously defend a system that has set itself above all other major health-care systems in this country. In spite of all of the criticism that the VA health-care system receives, it continues to outperform every other health-care system in America, both in quality of care and patient satisfaction. The one main focus moving forward is the health and well-being of our veterans. AMVETS offers these recommendations to help save and improve our VA healthcare system, not eliminate it:

Specific Recommendations:

  1. Ensure both advanced appropriations and discretionary funding for VA, as recommended in the IB, keeps pace with medical care inflation and healthcare demand so that all veterans healthcare needs can be adequately met;
  2. Maximize the use of non-physician medical personnel to mitigate physician shortages and reduce patient wait times especially while utilization of the VA system continues to rise;
  3. Ensure VA makes more realistic third-party medical care collection estimates so that Congress doesn’t under-appropriate funds based on false expectations which in turn negatively impact veteran care
    1. VA needs to redouble its efforts to increase its medical care collections efforts (the cumulative effects of overestimating and under-collecting only degrade the care available to our veterans)
    2. Establish both first- and third-party copayment accuracy performance measures which would help minimize wasted collection efforts and veteran dissatisfaction;
  4. Incorporate civilian healthcare management best practices to attract the best and the brightest healthcare managers in the industry
    1. Include a pathway to VA hospital/clinic management for civilians as part of their succession plan requirements
    2. Adopt proven recruitment, hiring and retention policies to ensure the timely delivery of high quality healthcare to our veterans. (VA’s current cumbersome and overly-lengthy hiring process reduces its ability to deliver critical services. Adopting a more expedient hiring/approval process could include some form of provisional employment;
  5. Immediately increase doctor/patient (d/p) ratio to realistic and productive levels; this one change would drastically improve access to needed healthcare by cutting wait times for veterans needing treatment and/or referrals
    1. Current VA (d/p) ratio is only 1:1200, the (d/p) ratio for non-VA physicians is close to 1:4200;
  6. Improve the patient management system to provide veterans more appointment setting options and reduce staffing errors and requirements
    1. Utilize a private sector best practice hybrid system whereby a portion of the day consists of scheduled appointments and the other portion for walk in or same-day appointments
    2. Eliminate the need for non-specialty appointments to allow veterans quicker access to their primary care providers;
    3. Expand primary care appointment hours to include evening/after hours and Saturdays to help reduce wait times and improve access to needed healthcare
  7. Bring in outside advisory/consulting expertise to reassess VA’s organizational structure and improve its healthcare operations
    1. Adopt private sector best practices for system efficiencies, maximizing human and financial resources, and minimizing waste and redundancies;
    2. Incorporate private sector best practices to rebalance the administrative staff to patient-focused clinical staff ratios
    3. Reduce administrative staff by implementing monitoring and patient advocacy positions at VA Medical Centers to be resourced by trained volunteers from Veteran and Military Service Organizations
  8. Collaborate with HHS (Health & Human Services) to utilize/share the benefits of the Uniform Data System (UDS)
    1. The UDS is a core set of information appropriate for reviewing and evaluating the operation and performance of individual health centers. The ability to track, through the UDS system, a wide variety of information, including patient demographics, services provided, staffing, clinical indicators, utilization rates, costs, and revenues would be invaluable in improving the overall VA healthcare system;
  9. Collaborate with HHS (Health & Human Services) to allow veterans to utilize the existing system of Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHC):
    1. FQHCs include all organizations receiving grants under section 330 of the Public Health Service Act, certain tribal organizations, and they qualify for enhanced reimbursement from Medicare and Medicaid, as well as other benefits.
    2. FQHCs are required to serve an underserved area or population; offer a sliding fee scale; provide comprehensive services; have an ongoing quality assurance program; and have a governing board of directors
    3. Rather than going unseen or untreated due to limited appointment or physician availability, veterans could seek immediate care on a temporary basis until the VA appointment backlog is eliminated;
  10. Exercise the option to terminate non-performing employees at all levels of the organization so that only dedicated, accurate, motivated employees will remain in service to our veterans; and
  11. Reform incentive programs so that only high-performing employees receive appropriate bonuses for their excellence in serving our veterans

Closing Remarks:

Recognition of any problems within the VA healthcare system should not be taken as a need or desire to completely dismantle or replace our existing veterans’ healthcare system, but only to improve it. The cultural and healthcare needs of our veterans are unique and the VA alone is uniquely qualified to meet those important needs. The basic framework for success is already in place and immediate results are achievable with prompt, effective and culture-changing best practices; let’s not throw out one of the premier healthcare systems in the world in our haste to fix these current problems or achieve political goals.

Every American Veteran who has worn the uniform of this country has had to fight to secure and retain this most important earned benefit. AMVETS’ recommendations are intended to serve and honor the men and women who are America’s Veterans by assisting VA in fulfilling its stated mission, ‘To care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow, and his orphan.

Veterans’ Perceptions Overshadow Findings of Gulf War Illness

Lanham, Maryland. – Gulf War veterans finally received some long-awaited answers Monday when the Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Illness (RAC), delivered their newest findings to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). However, greater questions remain whether or not the VA has this significant group of veterans’ best interests at heart or if saving money, not lives, is more important.

“Since its end 23 years ago, the Gulf War has been known for its decisiveness and minimal causalities. But the dangers of war are still claiming causalities today through Gulf War illness,” said Stewart Hickey AMVETS National Executive Director. “I commend the RAC. Their work is making a substantial impact on scientific and clinical thinking about Gulf War Illness. But I wonder what could have been accomplished if the original design and independence of the committee had been adhered to.”

The RAC’s initial report in 2008 was essential in establishing Gulf War illness as a real condition, affecting as many as 250,000 veterans of the 1990-91 Gulf War. Since that time, the independence, oversight role, and provision providing the committee with authority over its own staff and budget were eliminated. In essence, the RAC has been turned into nothing more than an internal VA advisory committee, operating strictly under VA’s authority with little to no connection to the national community.

“If we ever expect to understand GWI, if we ever expect to develop medically appropriate treatments for it, and if we ever hope to truly improve the quality of life for our Gulf War veterans, then continued research, as well as adequate, on-going funding, is absolutely vital,” said Diane Zumatto, AMVETS National Legislative Director. “It is extremely disappointing that the VA often appears to be working at cross-purposes with the RAC and has failed to act on recommendations made by the committee. Our Gulf War veterans deserve better, they have sacrificed their quality of life for our country and are left without the help they deserve from the VA.”

U.S. Representative Mike Coffman (R-CO), along with U.S. Representative Kirkpatrick (D-AZ) and U.S. Representative Michaud (D-ME), recently introduced H.R. 4261, the Gulf War Health Research Reform Act of 2014. This legislation is the product of an extensive investigation by Coffman’s House Veteran’s Affairs Subcommittee for Oversight and Investigation, which found the VA exercising too much control over the RAC, denying their ability to effectively and independently carry out its Congressionally mandated role to improve the lives of Gulf War veterans.

AMVETS has pledged its full support for H.R. 4261 as well as H.R. 4031, the Department of Veterans Affairs Management Accountability Act of 2014, legislation that targets the elimination of the bureaucratic red-tape currently hindering VA leadership’s ability to address systemic strengths and weaknesses in department managers. With H.R. 4261 in concert with H.R. 4031, VA leaders who continue failing the 250,000 ill Gulf War veterans can be removed from the equation, further giving the RAC the support and independence it needs to succeed.

More than just the hindering of the RAC has influenced the veteran community, especially Gulf War veterans, to perceive that the VA is acting at the expense of the very men and women they are supposed to protect. VA has drawn ample media attention when top VA officials questioned the use of the term “Gulf War illness,” and revelations of a “secret wait list” at the Phoenix VA had possible ties to the deaths of 40 veterans awaiting care. Adding to the perception that VA does not care is the noticeable absence of VA Secretary Eric Shinsecki from every RAC on GWI report submission during his term.

“I read it, and listen to it every day,” Hickey said. “In emails, phone calls, and other messages, I hear the stories of Gulf War veterans suffering and losing hope. They feel they have been abandoned by the VA, abandoned by the very government they served. The perception is that the VA is acting like corporate insurance companies, trying to cut expenses by limiting how many claims are filed.”

VA’s most recent report in 2011 shows just how difficult it is for an ill Gulf War veteran to have their claim for benefits approved. Only 20,069 GWI presumptive claims had been approved at the time of VA’s report with a staggering 16,725 that were denied. Compounding things, more than 250,000 Gulf War veterans are suffering from the effects of Gulf War Illness.

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

Military Cuts Should Start With the Brass

By Stewart M. Hickey, AMVETS National Executive Director

What on earth are our military leaders thinking these days? Their comments on pay and benefits at a recent Senate Armed Services, Personnel Sub-committee hearing, should sound an alarm and serve as a wake-up call for all military members and veterans. Watch out for your pay and benefits because military leadership doesn’t have your back.

Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps Michael Barratt told Congress and his own Marines (Less pay raises discipline, Marine Corps Times, Apr 9, 2014) that a lower quality of life would be beneficial to Marines: “I truly believe it will raise discipline… You’ll have better spending habits. You won’t be so wasteful… In my 33 years, we’ve never had a better quality of life… We’ve never had it so good,” said Barratt.

Does the senior enlisted member of the Marine Corps, who is responsible for the well-being of his Marines, truly care about the cause and effect of his opinion? This kind of rhetoric is especially scary considering that roughly 75% of Marines separate after their first enlistment with few marketable job skills, little to no budgeting or financial management skills, and little to no financial stability. No wonder the Marine Corps is the largest contributor to the 18-24 year old at-risk veteran unemployment population.

These kinds of remarks are indicative of a bigger problem, the massive disconnect between the colonels, generals, admirals, and others in the Pentagon, and the vast majority of our service members who are less privileged. Many of these military leaders make more in a month than a junior enlisted does in an entire year, so it’s easy for them to say that a pay raise isn’t necessary or needed. Since when does having less money or fewer benefits, make you a better person? Or more thrifty? Or anything other than disadvantaged and possibly desperate?

The real problem the Pentagon needs to address is not pay raises or benefits for the troops but the overabundance of flag and general officers currently serving. Current troops- to- chiefs ratios are the complete inverse of where they should actually be – more troops and fewer chiefs. According to the 10 September, 2012, edition of Fabius Maximus – How Bad Is Our Bloat of Generals, since World War II ended, the number of general or flag officers per uniformed personnel has been increasing — reaching an all-time high in 2010 of nearly 7 general and flag officers per every 10,000 uniformed personnel. This is an increase of more than 0.5 a general or flag officer per 10,000 uniformed personnel than when the war in Afghanistan began; 1.5 more than when the Cold War ended; and 5 more than when World War II ended.

This brass-heavy unbalance has a direct, negative, trickle-down effect that wastes money that could be better utilized to provide better outcomes. The thought of downsizing themselves never occurs to them since these very same people are responsible for making these decisions. You might easily compare it to having the fox guarding the hen house or Congress voting for term limits; it all sounds good but has no chance of ever seeing the light of day.

When the decision was made back in the 70’s to replace the military draft system with an all-volunteer military model we knew there would be financial considerations and that we, as a nation, would have to pay the price. Well America, that bill has come due. It’s time to step up and fulfill the obligations incurred roughly 40 years ago. Contrary to senior leaders’ rhetoric, limiting pay raises, cutting earned benefits, eliminating positions and raising health care and pharmacy co-pays isn’t the way to do it.

If the Pentagon wants to find savings within their budget without having to sacrifice readiness, troop strength or break faith with retirees, they could start by eliminating waste. Decrease the high rate of growth in the Pentagon’s personnel accounts, close excess bases, and retire obsolete weapon systems that are past their prime or no longer fit our current or emerging security needs. These few options alone would free up enough resources to fund personnel, bullets and bandages. Let’s find ways to bring down costs, but not at the expense of our most valuable resource – our people.

Major Stewart M. Hickey, United States Marine Corps, (Retired), is the National Executive Director of 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

VMI Announces Partnership with AMVETS

VMI Announces Partnership With AMVETS, Named As Official Vehicle Mobility Partner

PHOENIX, Ariz. – April 8, 2014Vantage Mobility International (VMI), a leader in the manufacture and distribution of wheelchair accessible vehicles, announced today the company has partnered with in support of U.S. active military, veterans and their families. The partnership, which recognizes VMI as an Official Vehicle Mobility Partner, is part of VMI’s ongoing effort to bolster its Operation Independence program.

“Like VMI’s Operation Independence program, AMVETS leads the way in helping improve the quality of life for our military veterans,” said Jeff Weston, vice president of sales and business development at VMI. “Our partnership will enable our organizations to reach more and do more for the courageous men and women who serve our country. We’re excited about being affiliated with the wonderful team at AMVETS and being recognized as the organization’s Official Vehicle Mobility Partner.”

AMVETS, which is the first World War II organization to be chartered by Congress, is now represented in virtually every state by national services officers (NSOs) who provide sound advice and prompt action on compensation claims at no charge to the veteran. Recently, AMVETS national service officers processed more than 24,000 claims that resulted in veterans receiving some $400 million in compensation. The VMI and AMVETS partnership was finalized in February.

“VMI has played an important role in supporting our disabled veterans through their Operation Independence program,” said J. Michael Fisher, development director at AMVETS. “The VMI team shares our belief that military men and women deserve the absolute best in care, support and resources in return for their honorable service. We look forward to working VMI to help disabled American veterans find access to quality mobility transportation.”

About Vantage Mobility International
Vantage Mobility International is a manufacturer and distributor of the most innovative, reliable, highest quality and easily accessible transportation in the world. Their full line of products include domestic and import minivan conversions, full-size van conversions, platform lifts, scooter and wheelchair lifts and transfer seats. For more information, call Aaron Cook at (214) 520-3430 Ext. 306 or visit

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

Impotent U.S Foreign Policy Aids Russia’s Imperialism, Says Stewart Hickey of AMVETS

Russia is poised for exploiting another opportunity. Given that history tends to repeat itself, no one should be surprised by the uptick in tensions in Ukraine in the past couple of days and the recent events in Crimea. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s actions and perceptions of what may be coming do nothing more than hark back to the glory days of the Imperial Russian Tsars.

It was only a mere six years ago that Putin started down this path of aggression when he conquered Abkhazia and South Ossetia in Georgia and the world allowed him to do it with impunity. With the taste of victory still in his mouth and with Russia experiencing a surge in nationalism and economic growth, Putin, like any good chess player, struck where there was unopposed opportunity and where his opponent was weakest. On February 28, 2014, Russian soldiers, assisted by the local pro-Russian militia, usurped Ukraine’s territorial rights by occupying important sites across the Crimean Peninsula.

If this series of events seems familiar, it’s because it’s all been done before. Remember Saddam Hussein in 1990 when he attempted to make Kuwait a province of Iraq? Remember Adolf Hitler? The annexation of Sudetenland in 1938 was one of the important events that led to World War II. The current Administration’s weak European policies, lack of leadership in foreign policy along with the massive downsizing of our Armed Forces is causing a lot of stress among our allies who are beginning to question our commitment to defend them.

Lacking the bold approach and ‘tooth’ needed to protect and advance U.S. interests, we are surrendering America’s reign as a powerful global leader. It’s hard to imagine that we’ll be able to defend our allies. Devastating cuts will leave the U.S with its smallest Navy since World War I, its smallest Army since before World War II and its smallest Air Force, ever. While the U.S. and Europe have drastically cut their defense spending, Russia has increased its defense spending by about 30% since 2008. The West has done nothing more than pave the way towards the building of a new version of the Soviet Union and is currently in no position to bring Russia to heel.

Lacking military strength, consistency in foreign policy and the determination to follow through, we are enabling a repeat of history. Without the U.S. and its Allies willing and able to firmly stand up to the bullies of the world, the question we all need to ask ourselves is – where will Putin stop?
Stewart Hickey is the National Executive Director for American Veterans – AMVETS

Media Con­tact: David Gai, (301) 683‑4035,

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. For more information about AMVETS, visit

VA has no business in Gun Control, Or Does It?

By Stewart Hickey, National Executive Director for American Veterans (AMVETS)-

VA appears to be positioned as a political pawn in the government’s bully pulpit to beat up on the Bill of Rights by hanging a public service announcement (PSA) on gun control and safety onto the suicide prevention-centric Veterans Crisis Line. VA’s message and intent to associate gun safety with the mission and purpose of the Veterans Crisis Line is muddy here. Are veterans so juvenile that they need the paternalist government telling them how to properly secure their weapons in their own homes? Never mind that there are four higher causes of injury-related deaths than firearms. Never mind that taking away the means doesn’t resolve why 22 veterans tragically resort to suicide every single day. This type of negative and inappropriate message only helps perpetuate the already skewed perception of veterans as unstable, dangerous and public threats. The solution to the problem is not the instrument being used, nor hyper-vigilance in the home, nor gun safety “best practices.” The solution starts with bettering the environment of hope, caring and resiliency for those in crisis and providing a timely and appropriate way forward. It starts with quick access to evidence-based treatment, counseling and support. The Veterans Crisis Line is a critical element of the solution and a pathway forward. We all realize that VA only wants what’s best for veterans but political distractions are interfering with their priorities. Pushing a gun control agenda on veterans is an irresponsible, disingenuous, ham-handed move on the part of the VA. This, coupled with a Surgeon General nominee (Dr. Vivek Murthy) who advocates for all doctors asking patients if they own or possess guns, makes one skeptical about our government’s interpretation of the second amendment. Just as my doctor has no business knowing whether or not I own a gun (since it also has no bearing on my medical condition), the VA has no business advocating the politics of gun control (since it has no bearing on the hope, care and support VA is supposed to be providing to our veterans). By itself, a PSA on gun safety seems insignificant, but it strikes me as being one more little seed being planted in the overall public landscape. Seed-by-seed, an unsettling collective pattern is starting to germinate around gun control, confiscation of weapons and similar influences and threats to the second amendment, all in the guise of gun safety. When we lose the rights we were born with as Americans we lose our freedom and that’s the one thing that all veterans have risked their lives to protect.
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