AMVETS in Action

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“The Big 6” United Behind Veterans First Act

“The Big 6” United Behind Veterans First Act

(Washington, D.C.)–The Veterans Service Organizations who are most often called before Congress for testimony on the state of Veterans Affairs, known in D.C. as “The Big 6,” are joining together to call on the Senate to vote on the Veterans First Act. While each has been engaged separately in traditional methods of calling for votes–such as letter-writing and email campaigns– they’re maximizing the power of social media to expand their outreach and get more veterans engaged.

“The AMVETS family is in full support of the Veterans First Act. Eliminating arbitrary eligibility requirements is crucial to ensuring family caregivers of veterans from all eras receive the support they deserve and need. We support the mandate on VA to research the association between toxic exposures and health effects among exposed veterans’ offspring.”–Joe Chenelly, Executive Director, AMVETS

“We’ve recognized that Congress is starting to respond to pressure from social media, so we are doing the best we can to optimize the impact each of our members has by enlisting them to assist in less traditional ways. While Twitter may not be used by most Vietnam veterans on a regular basis, our kids and our grandkids use it. Our families will be helped most by the Toxic Exposure Research provisions within the Veterans First Act, and we are glad to bring them into the fold so they can help us let the Senate know that we all deserve a vote.”–John Rowan, National President, Vietnam Veterans of America

“The VFW strongly supports passage of the Veterans First Act because it rightfully eliminates arbitrary eligibility requirements to ensure family caregivers of veterans from all eras receive the recognition and support they deserve. It requires the VA to research the association between toxic exposures and adverse health effects among the descendants of exposed veterans, and it makes urgently needed improvements to the choice program, which would ensure veterans who receive care from private sector doctors are not erroneously billed for that care.”–Robert E. Wallace, VFW Executive Director.

“The provision within the Veterans First Act that allows for the expansion of the Family Caregiver Program is a top priority for Paralyzed Veterans of America members. Caregivers are life-sustaining for veterans with a spinal cord or disease. They are the most critical component of our rehabilitation and eventual recovery, and their well-being directly impacts the quality of care provided to veterans. Caregivers for veterans of all wartimes should be provided with adequate benefits and resources, yet caregivers of pre-9/11 are made to bear the responsibility—and the toll it takes on their own personal and professional lives—alone. We urge the prompt passage of this legislation so that this inequity will finally be addressed.”– Sherman Gillums, Jr, Paralyzed Veterans of America Executive Director

“The American Legion stands with our sister Veteran Service Organizations to support the Veterans First Act. This bipartisan legislation has one third of the senate as cosponsors and will ensure that veterans have access to a Department of Veterans Affairs that maintains accountability, organized leadership, and parity of services for all generations of caregivers.”–Verna Davis, Executive Director, The American Legion

“DAV strongly supports Senate passage of the Veterans First Act, which would extend comprehensive caregiver support to veterans of all eras. The legislation would also increase veterans’ options for long-term care through medical foster homes; enhance VA’s efforts to recruit and retain the best and brightest medical professionals; reform claims and appeals processing by creating a fully developed appeals pilot program; and make dozens of other positive changes to improve the lives of the men and women who served. DAV looks forward to working together with leaders in both chambers of Congress, the VA, and other key stakeholders to enact comprehensive legislation to help keep the promise to all eras of America’s veterans.”–Garry J. Augustine, Executive Director, Disabled American Veterans

The Big 6 Veteran Service Organizations are asking their members, families, and supporters to join them during this campaign by using the hashtag #Vote4Vets1st in our Twitter Storm. The Veterans First Act is a bipartisan effort to improve accountability at the Department of Veterans Affairs, provide critical benefits to veterans in need, and improve existing programs. The veterans’ community deserves a vote on the Senate floor before Congress is dismissed for summer recess. In order for the Department of Veterans Affairs to fulfill Lincoln’s promise “to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow, and his orphan,” they must prioritize veterans over politics and pass the Veterans First Act.

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Kerry Cahill

American Veteran sat down recently with rising star and Veterans’ advocate Kerry Cahill. Many may recognize Kerry from her roll as Lt. Whitley in last year’s major picture Terminator Genisys. Kerry will soon be a familiar face in this year’s release of Free State of Jones starring Matthew McConaughey.

Kerry proudly describes herself as an Army brat, very familiar with the trials and tribulations of the military. Garnering all sincere admiration and respect, she is no stranger to AMVETS’ cause in raising awareness toward lowering suicides among our ranks.

And she is no stranger to the dangers and tragedies that befall those who serve our nation. Kerry’s passion is inspired by her father’s work as a physician assistant, working with pre- and post-deploying Soldiers at Ft. Hood, Texas. Tragically, Michael Cahill was killed in 2009 by a gunman, along with 12 others at Ft. Hood.

AMVETS National Commander on VA Secretary’s Remarks

Contact/Inquiries: Kristina Miller
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.”

2014 Americanism Award Winners

Americanism Essay


6th Grade

1st Place – Aiden Pendergast, Anderson, CA
2nd Place – Drew Culbreath, Paria, TN
3rd Place – Teanna Binder, Steele, ND

7th Grade

1st Place – Allison Thibaudeau, Rochester, NH
2nd Place – Eddie Dispensa, Bowler, WI
3rd Place – Aaron Hum, Tucson, AZ

8th Grade

1st Place – Amy Barto, Findlay, OH
2nd Place – Morgan Gust, Port Hope, MI
3rd Place – Mya E. Urena, Rochester, NH

9th Grade (Freedoms Foundation Students)

California – Gabrial Brown
Florida – Noah Hempfield
Iowa – Eleanor J. Sullivan
Kansas – Mikaila Cook
Massachusetts – Madison Duffey
Michigan – Liam Browning
Minnesota – Caroline Bender
Missouri – Jamie Best
North Carolina – Alexander G. Dryer
North Dakota – Allison D. Galbreath
Nebraska – Roberto Jimenez
New Jersey – Pierce Burgin
New York – Amanda Mason
Ohio – Noah Lambert
Pennsylvania – Lauren Bowersox
Tennessee – Melissa Clevenger
Washington – Alex Vargas
Wisconsin – Krista Fuller

10th Grade

1st Place – Mary Grace Hanson, Ogden, UT
2nd Place – Mary Taylor Peele, Wilmington, NC
3rd Place – Sandra Estrada, Tacoma, WA

11th Grade

1st Place – Timothy Sheehan, Colorado Springs, CO
2nd Place – Yvette O. Smith, Gulfport, MS
3rd Place – Colin Gust, Port Hope, MI

12th Grade

1st Place – Russell T. Warren, Moscow, ID
2nd Place – Candace S. Miller, Middleburry, VT
3rd Place – Haley Haas, Findlay, OH

Americanism Poster

2nd Grade

1st Place – Holly M. DiStefano, Salisbury, NC
2nd Place – Amber Bush, Buchanan, TN
3rd Place – Mikel Roberson, Rochester, NH

3rd Grade

1st Place – Jon Snell, Potsdamn, NY
2nd Place – Christopher Tiesmeyer, Dunnellon, FL
3rd Place – Caleb Zavlb, Burlington, IA

4th Grade

1st Place – Brianna Hoyle, Lincoln, NE
2nd Place – Savannah Fish, Garden City, MI
3rd Place – Lexus Corbin, Rochester, NH

5th Grade

1st Place – Tristin Timblin, Houstal PA
2nd Place – Harley Ellis, Parishville, NY
3rd Place – Elaina Pechota, Cadillac, MI

Americanism Flag Drawing


1st Place – Anthony J. Hoyle, Lincoln, NE
2nd Place – Lena Schieferstein, Inglis, FL
3rd Place – Kayla Gillett, Prentice, WI

1st Grade

1st Place – Elliott Lang, Bismarck, ND
2nd Place – Alexandria Helbing, Berwick, PA
3rd Place – Lauren McMahon, Leominster, MA

AMVETS Meet with Congressman Bishop to Promote Goldstar Legislation


By Patrick Mitchell
NYS Sons 1st Vice Commander

Pictured (Left-Right); Patrick Mitchell, 1st Vice Commander NYS Sons of AMVETS; Brian Crosby, Commander NYS Sons of AMVETS; Bill Clemens, Past Commander NYS Sons of AMVETS; John Mitchell Jr., AMVETS National Commander; Congressman Tim Bishop; Harold Chapman, AMVETS National Finance Chairman; Steve Kazmierski, Commander NYS AMVETS; and Ed Teller Past Commander DAV 190.

On October 8, National, State, and Local AMVETS Members assembled at Congressman Tim Bishop’s office to help promote Gold Star Dads Legislation. The Gold Star Fathers Act (H.R. 1832) sponsored by Congressman Bishop and co-sponsored by Congressman Walter Jones of North Carolina is attempting to recognize Gold Star Dads as a nonprofit organization consisting of the fathers of service members who made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of the United States.

The Gold Star Fathers Act of 2013 will allow for fathers of certain disabled or deceased veterans to be granted “preference eligible” status when applying for civil service jobs in recognition of the sacrifices they and their loved ones have made for the country. This legislation provides tangible benefits for fathers and will help recognize the loss shared by parents.

Congressman Bishop also spoke about the REVAMP Act (H.R. 2142), which is legislation that will attempt to make Veteran Services Organizations eligible for up to $200,000 in grants to renovate their meeting halls. Congressman Bishop also spoke about the Helping Veterans Exposed to Toxic Chemicals Act (H.R. 2510). This “burn pits” bill will create three centers of excellence for the treatment, diagnosis, and study of the effects of open air burn pit exposure.

AMVETS would like to thank Congressman Bishop for taking the time to help us advance legislation that will help our veterans. We hope to continue meeting to further inform those in the veteran community what efforts are being made to increase benefits for them.

It's Time!

During the 69 National Convention the Long Range Planning committee determined that it was time to embark upon a Long Range Plan and charged the staff to facilitate the process. That process has been initiated and it will unfold over the next twelve months, culminating in a review and adoption by our delegates during the 2014 AMVETS National Convention in Memphis, TN. I am respectfully asking that each of you give some genuine, deliberate and thoughtful consideration towards engaging and supporting this critically important process. All of our leaders and members will have an opportunity to participate in the process and provide their observations, and ideas, on what they would like included in the dialogue. Your first of many such opportunities is just a click away! Click on the “Take Feedback Survey and your responses will be considered, along with thousands of others. Your identity will not be captured. Thank you in advance for your cooperation and please share this opportunity with all of your AMVETS contacts.

John H. Mitchell, Jr.,
AMVETS National Commander

Shutdown Abandons Veterans Families

AmVets Demands Accountability as Government Shutdown Abandons Veterans Families

AMVETS National Executive Director Stewart Hickey

This government is out of control, the control of the American people. When we cannot take care of the families of our war dead, families who have sacrificed their children, husbands, wives, etc., on the altar of freedom and liberty then we have ceased to function as a republic. While the Department of Defense has money to call 350,000 employees back to work, and buy a $47,000 mechanical bull, they don’t have the funding for our fallen families. What does this say about our priorities as a nation; what does it say about the DoD? Are our children merely tools for the DoD to use, break and throw away when they no longer “work”? I am furious about how we as a nation are mistreating these families; this is a national disgrace unfolding before our very eyes. I believe that whoever made this decision should be removed from their position immediately. This is such a travesty that I am barely able to remain civil when I think about it. My three sons enlisted in the Marine Corps out of high school to fight the Global War on Terror. Every time I hear of an American killed in action I am saddened because I know it could as easily have been one of my sons; I feel for the families but to have this insult hurled at them by the very government their children were serving transgresses politics, decency, bureaucracy or any conceivable excuse. This is gross incompetence and negligence. Again, I call for accountability and the removal of those responsible for this national travesty. Those responsible obviously don’t have concern for our citizens who serve our nation in the armed forces.

30 Ways in 30 Days

Thank a Military Hero

Tell us how much you value our U.S. military members and veterans!

Submit your idea to thank a military “hero”—an active-duty service member or veteran (individual or group) in the 30 Ways in 30 Days to Thank a Military Hero promotion. If your idea is selected, University of Phoenix Military Division and Phoenix Patriot magazine will fulfill and activate your idea (up to a value of $1,500) for a deserving military member/veteran/organization in YOUR name!

University of Phoenix will also donate $1,500 IN YOUR NAME to one of four nonprofit military organizations of your choosing: AMVETS, American Red Cross Service to the Armed Forces Giving Program, Pat Tillman Foundation or Wounded Warrior Project.

Now, submit your idea—and thank a military hero today!

AmVets supports America's "Greatest Generation" right to visit their memorials

AmVets supports America’s “Greatest Generation” right to visit their memorials

A group of “Greatest Generation” veterans who traveled to the World War II Memorial on Tuesday, as part of the Honor Flight Program, found the entrance to their memorial gated off and were denied access until they decided the Japanese or Germans couldn’t stop them during the war and they weren’t about to let some metal barricades and the U.S. Park Police stop them now.

The nearly 200 veterans, participating in the second to last Honor Flight, with the last one scheduled in November, were visiting their memorial to honor the sacrifices made by themselves and their brothers, but due to the partial government shutdown, the site was closed.

After a few disheartening minutes the sound of bagpipes began playing and the barricades were removed. The veterans swept past the park police and blockades. Their incursion into the memorial, reminiscent of their valiant efforts on the beaches of Normandy and Iwo Jima, brought tears to the eyes of many in attendance and allowed them to fulfill their commitment to visit the open air monument.

A U.S. Park Police officer stood by as the veterans made their way into the memorial and commented that he was not going to enforce the “no stopping or standing” sign for a group of WWII veterans. The officer was not the only official that aided in their storming of the site.

Rep. Steven Palazzo (R-Miss.), a Marine Corps veteran himself, vowed that he would not let the National Police keep the veterans from their planned visit. He was also joined by several more members of Congress, including Congressman Bill Huizenga, who stated that he had not seen a better example of civil disobedience than this in Washington in a long while.