Coast Guard: US Must Work to Prevent a Fight in the Arctic   

The U.S. Coast Guard cutter Healy sits in the ice about 715 miles north of Barrow, Alaska, Sept. 30, 2018, during an Arctic research mission. (Coast Guard photo by Senior Chief Petty Officer NyxoLyno Cangemi)
The U.S. Coast Guard cutter Healy sits in the ice about 715 miles north of Barrow, Alaska, September 30, 2018, during an Arctic research mission. (Coast Guard photo by Senior Chief Petty Officer NyxoLyno Cangemi)



April 17, 2019 --- News Flash by VFW Post 3348 News correspondent C. Christophersen


John Johns is home. He is alive and getting better. He said that Foss Home & Village informed him that (after a month) his Medicare had run out. There were going to start charging him $350/day!! Apparently, there is some cap on Medicare services. John contacted his insurance company (Kaiser Permanente) and they stepped up.


He has a hospital bed in his front room provided free of charge by Kaiser. They send out a Therapist to work with him free of charge. He still has a wrapping on both his right knee and his left shoulder. He said that he should be OK in 2-3 months. He is getting better. I cannot get emails because he has a desktop which he said is broken. Complicated by the fact that he cannot reach it and his wife does not know how to use it. Their son is going to look at it.


I first clarified his phone because he as not answering it when I called. I found out that was due to my having the wrong number in my Smartphone --- that was most embarrassing since it is correct on our Membership List i.e. (206) 542-8190.


I managed to find John after looking up his address and realized that he lives 2 miles from me. I drove over to his place and his wife (Donna) answered the door. John was very happy to see me. He is sorry to miss our Memorial Day Buddy Poppy event --- seriously, he has a lot of neighborhood friends who came by the Shoreline Fred Meyer when he was on duty. He got a lot of love as a veteran.


His address, should you care to visit, is 16132 Ashworth Ave N., Shoreline. Ashworth is not a through street. Go down Aurora and turn east on N 160th St. --- drive 2+ blocks until the street runs out; that is Ashworth. Turn left; go a couple blocks; on your right.





Next Milestone for Future B-21 Bomber? First Flight

Artists concept of the B-21 Long Range Strike Bomber (Image: Northrop Grumman Corp.)


Artists concept of the B-21 Long Range Strike Bomber (Image: Northrop Grumman Corp.)


April 11, 2019 --- | By Oriana Pawlyk


The U.S. Air Force's stealthy new bomber is getting ready to take its first flight. "Our next major milestone is first flight," Lieutenant General Arnold Bunch, the Air Force's military Deputy to the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Acquisition at the Pentagon, said of the B-21 Long Range Strategic Bomber program.


During a Senate Armed Services subcommittee on airland hearing Tuesday, Bunch told lawmakers the program has met all developmental checkpoints and is on schedule. While he didn't reveal when the flight will take place, officials have said the first B-21 is expected to reach initial operating capability in the mid-2020s.


Related content:

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Air Force Reveals First Operational Base for Futuristic B-21 Bomber


"We're still in our acquisition thresholds and baselines, and the B-21 is executing the way we want. … We got past critical design review," Bunch said of the bomber, developed from a clean-sheet design. In December 2018, the program cleared the developmental milestone. Officials confirmed the Northrop Grumman-made B-21, named the Raider in honor of the World War II Doolittle Raiders, completed its critical design review. It passed its preliminary design review in 2017.


The B-21 will have both nuclear and non-nuclear roles. As a conventional bomber, it will be able to go after multiple targets, but it can carry out only one nuclear drop at a time. The program is relying on open mission systems and open architecture practices, meaning that different technologies plug into the common management system and communicate with one another, Bunch said Tuesday. The Air Force is also "bringing the warfighter in early," to have pilot input on what is and isn't working.


These moves contribute to the program "making great progress," Bunch said. Lawmakers had a closed-door program briefing in February and intend to have at least one or two more a year, said Senator Tom Cotton, R-Arkansas. Cotton and Senator Angus King, I-Maine, said the sessions help Congress better understand the program's life cycle and to help keep costs in check.


The Air Force awarded Northrop the contract, initially worth $21.4 billion, in 2015. Total costs are expected to exceed $55 billion over the life of the program to procure at least 100 of the Raiders. Last month, the service picked Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota, to be the first operational B-21 base. It will also host the bomber's first formal training unit.


Ellsworth, which currently houses B-1B Lancer bombers, was chosen as the "preferred location" for the B-21 mission. Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, a B-2 Spirit base, and Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, another B-1B base, "will receive B-21 Raiders as they become available."


Last year, the service announced it had selected Edwards Air Force Base, California, and Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma, to be the lead facilities for test and evaluation and maintenance and sustainment, respectively, for the program.






6 Air Force Bases in Running for Space Command HQ

Team Vandenberg supported the successful launch of 10 Iridium satellites on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex-4, Oct. 9, at 5:37 a.m. PDT Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Ian Dudley)

Team Vandenberg supported the successful launch of 10 Iridium satellites on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex-4, October 9, 2018 at 5:37 a.m. PDT Vandenberg Air Force Base, CA (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Ian Dudley)


April 9, 2019 --- | By Oriana Pawlyk


The Air Force is narrowing down the best location to house the Defense Department's newest unified combatant command, and many of the bases in top contention are in Colorado. Air Force officials are still reviewing installations to house U.S. Space Command, which officials have called a stepping stone to creating a U.S. Space Force.


"No candidate basing lists have been sent to the secretary of the Air Force for consideration," service spokeswoman Ann Stefanek said in a statement Monday. Citing an Air Force Space Command memorandum it obtained, CNN reported last week that the Air Force may choose from four Colorado locations, including Buckley Air Force Base, Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station, Peterson Air Force Base, and Schriever Air Force Base. Other options are the Army's Redstone Arsenal in Alabama and Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.


Responding to the report, a Defense Department official said some bases have been identified, but no decision has been made. It is unclear whether Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson will make the decision or whether it will fall to her successor. Last month, Wilson announced she will step down as the 24th Air Force secretary to become the next president of the University of Texas at El Paso; the UT System Board of Regents confirmed Wilson for the position with a unanimous vote last week. She will resign as secretary effective May 31, 2019. A successor has not been named. 


Following the announcement, Republican Representatives Michael Waltz and Bill Posey, members of the House Armed Services Committee, and 11 other Florida lawmakers sent a letter to Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan, saying their state is "the epicenter of America's space program," lobbying for USSPACECOM to be located in Florida. Earlier this month, Space Florida, the state's aerospace economic development agency, met to devise a plan to lobby the administration on headquartering the combatant command in the state, according to a report from the Orlando Sentinel.


Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, a Republican, "is not shy in utilizing his relationship with the president and the administration to make sure Florida is named the home to Space Command," Lieutenant Governor Jeanette Núñez, the board's chair, said during a meeting April 1, 2019. DeSantis in February 2019 sent a letter to the president asking him to locate USSPACECOM at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral. The Space Command memo reported by CNN did not list any Florida installations as possible locations. Meanwhile, the Pentagon last month announced the administration's pick to lead the new command.


General John "Jay" Raymond, head of Air Force Space Command (AFSPC) at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado, has been nominated to lead U.S. Space Command. If confirmed, Raymond would hold both positions, at least for the time being. Space policy and budget experts have said it would be wise to streamline operations at Peterson because it already hosts a robust space mission for AFSPC.

Peterson "is where USSPACECOM was originally headquartered," said Brian Weeden, director or program planning and technical adviser for national and international space security for the Secure World Foundation. Weeden was referring to the first combatant command for space, founded in 1985. It disbanded in 2002.


"I don't think there's any single base that is 100% a good fit" to house USSPACECOM in its entirety, Weeden told "But there are a couple that make more sense than the others." Other than Peterson, Schriever Air Force Base in Colorado "is where most of the command and control for military satellites is done from."






Army Announces Unit Deployments to Afghanistan, Iraq and Korea  

Paratroopers assigned to the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division load an Airforce C-17 Globemaster aircraft to conduct Operation Panther Storm on Thursday, March 28 at Fort Bragg’s Pope Army Airfield. (U.S. Army/ Sgt. Taylor Hoganson)

Paratroopers assigned to the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division load an Airforce C-17 Globemaster aircraft to conduct Operation Panther Storm on Thursday, March 28, 2019 at Fort Bragg’s Pope Army Airfield. (U.S. Army/ Sergeant Taylor Hoganson)


April 8, 2019 --- | By Matthew Cox


U.S. Army Brigade Combat Teams (BCT) will deploy this summer to Afghanistan, Iraq and Korea to participate in ongoing rotations. The 82nd Airborne Division's 3rd Brigade Combat Team, stationed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, will deploy to Afghanistan to replace 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, in support of Operation Freedom's Sentinel.


"Our great paratroopers are honored to answer our nation's call to deploy overseas," Colonel Art Sellers, Commander of the 3rd BCT, said in the release. "We stand eager and ready to work alongside our Afghan and coalition partners toward mission success in support of Operation Freedom's Sentinel." The Army will deploy the 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, out of Fort Wainwright, Alaska, to replace the 101st Airborne Division's 1st Brigade Combat Team in support of Operation Inherent Resolve in Iraq.


"We are privileged to be joining the international coalition that will defeat ISIS and set conditions for increased regional stability," Colonel Matthew Brown, Commander of the 1st SBCT, said, referring to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. "The Arctic Wolves are trained, equipped and exceptionally well led. The brigade has readied itself for any mission." Meanwhile, the 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, at Fort Hood, Texas, will replace the 1st Armored Division's 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team in Korea.


"The Greywolf brigade is a highly trained and professional team of soldiers, always ready to answer our nation's call," Colonel Kevin Capra, Commander of the 3rd ABCT, said in a news release. "We look forward to once again working with our Korean partners and strengthening our nation's alliance. After months of intense training, I know our troopers are ready and able to support this mission."




Navy's Unmanned 'Ghost Fleet' Remain Shrouded in Secrecy  

The unmanned prototype ship ‘Sea Hunter’ is part of the Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessel (ACTUV) program. (U.S. Navy)

The unmanned prototype ship ‘Sea Hunter’ is part of the Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessel (ACTUV) program. (U.S. Navy)


April 3, 2019 --- | By Gina Harkins


As the Navy advances plans for a 10-ship "ghost fleet," leaders are assessing how much decision-making power to give large unmanned vessels that can operate without any humans aboard. The Navy wants $400 million in fiscal 2020 to build 2 "large unmanned surface vessels." Budget documents show service leaders plan to request $2.7 billion to build 10 of the ships over the next 5 years.


But with the programs still largely in the research and development phase, the plans raise questions about what the Navy is actually planning to buy, and how those ships would function in the real world. Not only is it unclear exactly what these future unmanned ships will look like, but also what capabilities they'll have.


"Doing research and development and figuring out exactly the capabilities that we need, it's critical," James Geurts, the Navy's Assistant Secretary for research, development and acquisition. "...The real R&D is in a lot of the guts: the autonomy, the decision-making, how are we going to control it, how are we going to do those things?"


The service has completed the first phase of testing on its large unmanned surface vessel, Geurts said, but much about those plans is shrouded in secrecy. Earlier this year, the Navy's 132-foot-long medium-unmanned vessel named Sea Hunter sailed from California to Hawaii and back again, mostly without anyone aboard. Officials declined to talk to about the transit, citing operational security while it's in development.


Rear Admiral Randy Crites, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy for budget, told reporters last month that the large unmanned surface vessels will serve "as both a sensor and a shooter." And since they're smaller than conventional ships, he added, the 200- to 300-foot vessels should be cheaper to produce and operate.


The Navy's budget also requests funding for dozens of underwater drone vehicles and unmanned aircraft. Navy leaders are pushing funding for projects like the Sea Hunter as it faces new threats at sea from more sophisticated adversaries. The service's 2020 budget request has some in Congress questioning the decision to push an aircraft carrier into retirement early, but leaders say it's essential to use the savings the ship's retirement would provide on newer cutting-edge technology, such as a self-driving ghost fleet.


"That led to some tough choices," Geurts told lawmakers. "One of those is to retire that ship early in favor of looking at other technologies, other larger cost-imposing strategies." The Navy's future aircraft carriers will include a mix of manned and unmanned aircraft and boats that can operate on the surface or underwater as the service prepares to counter more high-tech threats at sea.


Geurts said he expects to see the development of large unmanned vessels pick up quickly over the next year. "It's less about the ship design, because you could make a lot of different ship designs autonomous. The capabilities you would put on there could be fairly flexible and fairly mobile, so our real emphasis, and where I think you're going to see an acceleration versus a traditional shipbuilding program, is you're going to focus more on the autonomy technology -- the capabilities you want to strap onto the ship -- and less about the ship hull form." The Navy is proving its ability to sail unmanned vessels with the Sea Hunter transit. We learned a lot from that."






Army's New Marksmanship Qualification Test Ramps Up Difficulty


Soldiers from the Wyoming Army National Guard's Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 297th Infantry Regiment (Forward) try out the new Army’s new marksmanship qualification test at Camp Guernsey Joint Training Center in early March. (U.S. Army)

Soldiers for the Wyoming National Guard’s Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 297thInfantry Regiment try out the Army’s new marksmanship qualification test at Camp Guernsey Joint Training Center (U.S. Army)


April 2, 2019 --- | By Matthew Cox


The Army is about to release its new training strategy for a challenging marksmanship qualification standard that all soldiers will have to use to qualify annually with their M16 rifles and M4 carbines. The new course will replace current, Cold War-era marksmanship qualification course with one that requires soldiers to engage targets faster and to operate as they would during an enemy engagement.


In the current qualification course, soldiers take many instructions from the range tower, such as when to change magazines and firing positions. "What has changed specifically is, soldiers will change their magazines on their own ... in the past it was kind of an administrative thing," Sargent 1st Class John Rowland, marksmanship program director at Benning's Infantry School.


"They change positions on their own. ... We incorporated the use of cover and or external support to drive home that tactical mindset of, don't be in the open when you have available cover around you, and incorporate things around you to stabilize your shot."


Related: Army to Kill Marksmanship Test Shortcut that Made Soldiers Less Deadly


The new, 4-phase course also adds standing firing positions. "Phase #1 is a react to contact, meaning they are going to start standing and the first engagement will present itself, and they will engage that from the standing unsupported position," Rowland said. "Then they will drop to the prone supported position." Soldiers then go to an unsupported prone position for Phase 2. Phase 3 has soldiers engaging targets from a kneeling supported position. Soldiers then return to a supported standing position for Phase 4 of the course.


"There will be sandbags out there like always ... and the common thing is going to be a barricade for the kneeling supported and the standing supported positions," Rowland said. All of the information about the new course of fire will be in the new manual, TC 3-20.40 "Training and Qualification Individual Weapons." It's awaiting final approval at the Infantry Center, so it can be published and sent out to the active Army and National Guard and Reserve components.


Training officials at Benning said that there is no deadline for the Army to begin using the new marksmanship qualification standard. Unit commanders will have a year to provide Benning with feedback on any challenges they have with putting the new standard into operation on their home-station ranges.


The new course of fire will force soldiers to engage multiple targets at a time compared to the current qualification course that has a lot of single-engagement target exposures. "The updated qualification has quite a few triple-engagement exposures, some quadruple-engagement exposures and a lot of doubles," he said. "This is to reinforce situational awareness, critical thinking and problem solving.


"It also saves time; the old qualification took about 20 minutes; this one takes like 4 minutes to execute." As with the current system, the minimum score to pass in the new qualification is 23 hits out of 40. Soldiers must hit 23 to 29 targets for a Marksman rating, 30 to 35 for Sharpshooter and 36 to 40 for Expert. There are new requirements, however, for achieving Sharpshooter and Expert rating.


"In the past, soldiers did not have to engage, let alone hit, a 300-meter target to get an Expert rating," Rowland said. "Now there are 5 exposures of 300-meter targets, so in order for a soldier to get an Expert rating, they must hit at least one 300-meter target. ... To get Sharpshooter, a soldier must hit at least one target that's 250 meters or beyond."


Army training officials have spent the last 2 years refining the new course of fire, visiting units around the service to have soldiers run through it. Soldiers from the Wyoming Army National Guard's Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 297th Infantry Regiment (Forward) were the first to try out the new test at Camp Guernsey Joint Training Center in early March. The unit qualified using the Army's current qualification standard and then got a chance to try out the new course of fire, without any train-up on the new standard.


Sergeant Sol Griffith, a fire team leader with the Afton-based infantry company, demonstrated the new test for the rest of the unit. "Now you have 3 or 4 targets up at the same time, and you have to transition between them very thoughtfully," Griffith said. "It's not like it was with someone yelling what target is coming up." Griffin, who normally scores 40 out of 40 on the current standard, hit 22 out of 40 targets while demonstrating the new, course of fire.


About half of the soldiers in the unit met the minimum standard of 23 out of 40 hits, and 32 was the highest score on the new course of fire. Marksmanship officials said the new manual will provide units with what they need to be successful on the updated standard.


The training strategy for the new qualification course is broken down into 6 tables in TC 3-20.40:

- Table 1: Preliminary marksmanship instruction and evaluation

- Table 2: Pre-live fire simulation training

- Table 3: Drills such as magazine changes and going to the prone position

- Table 4: Basic grouping and zeroing

- Table 5: Practice qualification

- Table 6: Qualification


"It's no different from what successful units have been doing for years," Rowland said. "It's just laid out in a manner that units don't have to think about what they need to do to be successful. It's right there in the book ... which is a huge improvement for the past, where standards and training resourcing and what not were largely disjointed or nonexistent."


The new publication requires units to perform the first 3 training tables before they go the live-fire tables, according to Melody Venable, training and doctrine officer for the Infantry School. "It creates the reps and sets that we need amongst the force when it comes to increasing lethality. The biggest challenge that we see is change; accepting change. We are doing something different in their minds."







VA to Drop Fight Against Blue Water Navy Veterans

Planes spraying agent orange in vietnam

Planes spraying Agent Orange in Vietnam


March 27, 2019 -- | By Patricia Kime


The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) will not appeal a January 2019 court ruling that ordered it to provide health care and disability benefits for 90,000 veterans who served on Navy ships during the Vietnam War, likely paving the way for "Blue Water Navy" sailors and Marines to receive Agent Orange-related compensation and VA-paid health care benefits.


VA Secretary Robert Wilkie told members of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee on Tuesday that he will recommend the Justice Department not fight the decision, handing a victory to ill former service members who fought for years to have their diseases recognized as related to exposure to the herbicide Agent Orange.


Last year, the House unanimously passed a bill, the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act, to provide benefits to affected service members. But Wilkie objected, saying the science does not prove that they were exposed to Agent Orange. Veterans and their advocates had argued that the ships' distilling systems used Agent Orange-tainted seawater, exposing sailors on board to concentrated levels of dioxin.


However, the bill failed in the Senate when 2 Republicans, Senator Michael Enzi of Wyoming and Mike Lee of Utah, wanted to wait for a vote pending the outcome of a current study on Agent Orange exposure. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in January ruled that a Vietnam veteran, 73-year-old Alfred Procopio, and other Blue Water Navy veterans qualified for benefits currently given to service members stationed on the ground in Vietnam or who served on inland waterways and have diseases associated with Agent Orange.


Procopio, who served on the aircraft carrier Intrepid, suffers from prostate cancer and diabetes, illnesses presumed to be related to exposure to the toxic herbicide. The VA has contended that any herbicide runoff from the millions of gallons sprayed in Vietnam was diluted by seawater and would not have affected offshore service members. It also objected to the cost of providing benefits to Blue Water Navy veterans for illnesses common to all aging patients, not just those exposed to Agent Orange.


The proposed Blue Water Navy Veterans act had estimated the cost of providing benefits to these veterans at $1.1 billion over 10 years. VA officials say the amount is roughly $5.5 billion. Wilkie told members of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee during a hearing on the VA's fiscal 2019 budget that the department already has started serving 51,000 Blue Water Navy veterans.


He cautioned, however, that while he is recommending the Justice Department drop the case, he "didn't know what other agencies would do." Lawmakers praised Wilkie's announcement, urging him to ensure that the DoJ drops the case. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Connecticut, said it would "bring fairness" to these veterans.


"I am grateful for you in making these considerations," Blumenthal said, adding that he'd like to see the VA do more research on toxic exposures on the modern battlefield. "The potential poisons on the battlefield are one of the greatest challenges of our time."


Committee chairman Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Georgia, also promised a hearing later this year on burn pits and other environmental exposures some troops say left them with lifelong illnesses, including cancers -- some fatal -- and respiratory diseases. Isakson added, however, that the VA needs to care first for Blue Water Navy veterans. "If it happens, we are going to be in the process of swallowing a big bite and chewing it," he said.


The diseases considered presumptive to Agent Orange exposure, according to the VA, are AL amyloidosis, chronic B-cell leukemia, chloracne, Type 2 diabetes, Hodgkin's lymphoma, ischemic heart disease, multiple myeloma, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, Parkinson's disease, early onset peripheral neuropathy, porphyria, prostate cancer, respiratory cancers and soft tissue sarcomas.


Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig's disease, in a veteran who served 90 days or more in the military is automatically considered service connected, regardless of date of service.




The 2020 Budget Proposal Has Largest Troop Pay Raise in a Decade  

March 12, 2019 --- | By Richard Sisk


The White House on Monday backed a 3.1% pay raise for the military as part of its overall defense spending proposal of $750 billion for fiscal 2020. The roughly 5% increase for defense, up from a total $716 billion defense budget enacted in fiscal 2019, was included in the record $4.75 trillion budget request for all government spending for fiscal 2020 that President Donald Trump sent to Congress. But the proposal also calls for major reductions in domestic spending.


Congressional leaders from both sides of the aisle, who guard Congress' "power of the purse," said Sunday that Trump's budget request is only a suggestion that will be picked apart in their deliberations, as have others in the past. But they also said a military pay raise in the range of 3.1% is likely to survive. The White House proposal on military pay matches the 3.1% increase indicated in the U.S. Employment Cost Index (ECI) of the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) that serves by statute as the major guideline for military pay. It would mark a boost of 0.5% over the 2.6% military pay increase in 2019.


The proposed military pay hike is "the largest increase in a decade." According to the Pentagon, the military pay increase for 2010 was 3.4%. In addition to the pay raise, the White House defense budget proposal asks for funding "for a full range of compensation programs, from monthly incentive pays to recently modernized retirement benefits." Trump signaled last year that he might call for cuts in defense spending, but he eventually went along with the recommendation of then-Defense Secretary Jim Mattis for a $750 billion request, an increase from the record amount approved for fiscal 2019.


The $750 billion includes $718 billion for the Defense Department, and another $22 billion for related nuclear weapons programs at the Department of Energy. The White House defense budget proposal also calls for adding a total of 30,000 troops to the rolls to bring the active duty and reserve force to a total strength of about 2.14 million. The White House did not break down how the additional troops would be apportioned between the active duty and reserve force; details are expected when the DoD releases its detailed budget request Tuesday. The most controversial part of the proposal is likely the request for a huge increase in the funding for Overseas Contingency Operations, the so-called "war budget," from $69 billion to $165 billion, which would not be subject to spending caps under the Budget Control Act of 2011.


The White House proposal also calls for an expansion of the nation's missile defenses against nuclear threats, focusing on the "hit-to-kill" missile ranges in Alaska. "The budget sustains deployed missile defense assets, improves system reliability against today's threats, increases engagement capability and capacity, and makes strides to rapidly address the advanced threat."


The proposal calls for "a new missile field at Fort Greely, Alaska, with 20 silos and 20 additional Ground-Based Interceptors (GBIs) in support of the administration's plans to increase the number of deployed GBIs to 64, to protect the homeland against North Korean and other intermediate- and long-range ballistic missile threats."






End Afghanistan War; Give Every GWOT Vet a $2,500 Bonus

Paratroopers with 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division fire at insurgent forces during a firefight June 15, 2012, in Afghanistan's Ghazni Province. (Photo Credit: Sergeant Michael J. MacLeod)


March 6, 2019 --- | By Oriana Pawlyk


Two U.S. lawmakers introduced legislation to pay veterans bonuses for serving in America's longest war. Senators Rand Paul, R-Kentucky and Tom Udall, D-New Mexico, introduced the bipartisan American Forces Going Home After Noble (AFGHAN) Service Act to "honor the volunteers who bravely serve our nation by providing bonuses to those who have deployed in support of the Global War on Terrorism (GWOT) and redirect the savings from ending nation-building in Afghanistan to America's needs at home".


If passed, the AFGHAN Service Act would also permanently end America's involvement in Afghanistan and overturn the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force, said the lawmakers, who serve on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. "It is time to declare the victory we achieved long ago, bring them home, and put America's needs first," Paul said.


"Soon, U.S. service members will begin deploying to Afghanistan to fight in a war that began before they were born," Udall said. "It is Congress that has failed to conduct the proper oversight of this nearly 18-year war. Now, we must step up, and listen to the American people -- who rightly question the wisdom of such endless wars."

The bill would order the government to pay any and all members of the military who have served in the GWOT a $2,500 bonus within one year of the legislation passing, according to the AFGHAN Service Act.


"Since 2001, more than 3,002,635 men and women of the United States Armed Forces have deployed in support of GWOT, with more than 1,400,000 of them deploying more than once" "This would be a one-time cost of approximately $7 billion and an immediate savings of over 83% when compared to the current yearly costs. The $51 billion a year can be redirected to domestic priorities." The lawmakers argue that the numbers alone give reason to step away from the conflict.


"Over 2,300 military members have sacrificed their lives in the war, with another 20,000 wounded in action. In addition, the Afghanistan war has cost the United States $2 trillion, with the war currently costing over $51 billion a year." The end to the war would come as peace negotiations with the Taliban are ongoing, and al-Qaida's footprint in the country is shrinking.


"The masterminds of the September 11 attack are no longer capable of carrying out such an attack from Afghanistan," they said. "Osama bin Laden was killed in 2011, and al-Qaida has been all but eliminated from Afghanistan." If enacted, the legislation gives Pentagon and State Department leaders, among others, 45 days to formulate a plan for an orderly withdrawal and turnover of facilities to the Afghan government.


The goal is to remove all U.S. forces from Afghanistan within one year of the bill's passage. Paul and Udall's message comes as a coalition of Democratic lawmakers has endorsed a veteran activist organization's efforts to end the "forever wars" in Afghanistan and Iraq, among other global hot spots, and finally bring U.S. troops home.


Common Defense, a grassroots group comprised of veterans and military families that stood up after the 2016 election, has secured sponsorship from lawmakers and presidential hopefuls such as Sens. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, and Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts. Great nations do not fight endless wars.





Federal judge rules that male-only draft is unconstitutional

(CNN) - US District Court Judge Gray Miller ruled late Friday that the Military Selective Service Act's male-only registration is unconstitutional.


February 25, 2019 --- The challenge was brought by a group known as the National Coalition for Men and 2 men subject to the registration requirements. The Selective Service System had argued that the case was controlled by a 1981 Supreme Court ruling, Rostker v. Goldberg, that women could be excluded from the draft because they were not "similarly situated" with men for draft purposes.


That decision highlighted the fact that women could not serve in combat. "In the nearly 4 decades since Rostker, however, women's opportunities in the military have expanded dramatically. In 2013, the Department of Defense officially lifted the ban on women in combat," U.S. District Court Judge Gray Miller, of the Southern District of Texas, wrote.


"In short," he concluded, "while historical restrictions on women in the military may have justified past discrimination, men and women are now similarly situated for purposes of a draft or registration for a draft. If there ever was a time to discuss the place of women in the Armed Services, that time has based. Defendants have not carried the burden of showing that the male-only registration requirement continues to be substantially related to Congress's objective of raising and supporting armies."


Miller did not issue an injunction against the federal policy. A National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service has been studying the issue. All men ages 18-25 are required by law to provide basic personal information to the Selective Service System.





Retired General: Train, Pay Army and Marine Infantry as an Elite Force  

U.S. Marines with 2nd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, participate in the Infantry Immersion Training Course at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., Jan. 25, 2019. (U.S. Marine Corps photo/Robert L. Kuehn)

U.S. Marines with 2nd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, participate in the Infantry Immersion Training Course at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., January 25, 2019. (U.S. Marine Corps photo/Robert L. Kuehn)


February 15, 2019 | By Matthew Cox


A year after the launch of the Defense Department's Close Combat Lethality Task Force (CCLTF), Army and Marine infantry may be moving closer to being transformed into an elite force, much like the 75th Ranger Regiment. Retired Army Major General Robert Scales, a key adviser to the CCLTF, told that he believes Marine Corps 0311 and Army 11B infantrymen should be recruited, selected, trained and treated as a specialized force.


"Infantry is not a branch. It's a function. It's those people on the ground who have line of sight of the enemy and kill them face-to-face," Scales said, talking about retired Defense Secretary Jim Mattis' vision for the task force. "Secretary Mattis said from the very beginning ... the only way this will work is if we treat close combat as an excepted function. If we build that functionality into the task force, it will work. If we fail to do it, if we fall back and treat the infantry as just another branch, it won't work."


Scales said the concept of creating an excepted force is not new, referring to sailors who work on submarines. "The nuclear submariners are different; they are excepted," he said. "They are treated, trained, paid, recruited, selected differently than the rest of the Navy. Why? Because of what they do.


"It's the same thing with the infantry. Unfortunately, over the last 220 years of our republic, the infantry at peacetime have been just sort of place-fillers. If you need somebody to do police, call up the guys who aren't doing anything, the infantry," he said. Fortunately, Scales said, Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) has embraced the idea of creating elite, close-combat forces, an effort that has paid off over the last 17 years of war.


"If you except close combat as JSOC does -- SEALs and Delta and the Rangers and so forth -- and you look at what they do, what they are capable of doing, and you think to yourself, 'Well, holy crap. You get that much more effectiveness by treating them differently?' So why don't we treat them all differently," Scales said.


The key will be having the right template for "recruiting, selection, pay, dedicated training, leadership -- all the things that need to be done differently for the Army and Marine infantry," he said. "We spent a long time looking at that, what you need for a template, and we were all over the place," Scales said. "We went to Marine Force Recon, we looked at Delta Force, and it seems to me that the sweet spot in that is the Ranger Regiment.


"You don't turn them into individuals like you do with Delta. It's still a team sport at the Ranger Regiment level, but you give them the resources and the exceptional ability to recruit, select, train and retain, and you get to a level of competence, frankly, that is unparalleled in the world."


Joe L'Etoile, director of the CCLTF, said the task force has started efforts to develop a system for screening individuals to see if they have the attributes to be successful in close combat. "We have worked with Tailored Adaptive Personality Assessment System (TAPAS) which is essentially a personality test ... to find people that have the attributes that propense them for success in close combat," he said. "So, we have efforts underway to identify those; that would be a cognitive factor."


The CCLTF also supports multiple programs "to look at physical X-factors" and figure out "what are the things physically that we need to do to optimize human performance," L'Etoile said. "There is a universal recognition that human performance is an area where we can make exponential increases in performance."


Scales acknowledged that there will be challenges to overcome along the way, but said the potential payoff is too great to ignore. "Let's say instead of having 3,000 Ranger-quality, light infantry, we have 55,000," he said. "How much of a difference is that going to make in our ability to fight wars in the future? I'll tell you ... in terms of outcomes and success on the battlefield at a lowest possible cost, I think it's far more impactful than a new aircraft carrier or a new fighter."





As Russia and China Threaten, Navy SEALs Get a New Focus  

A SEAL team member conducts proof of concept and operational testing and evaluation of tactics, techniques and procedures development during exercise TRIDENT 17 on Hurlburt Field, Fla. (U.S. Air Force/Tech. Sgt. Gregory Brook)

A SEAL team member conducts proof of concept and operational testing and evaluation of tactics, techniques and procedures development during exercise TRIDENT 17 on Hurlburt Field, Florida. (U.S. Air Force/Technical Sergeant Gregory Brook)


January 31, 2019 --- | By Patricia Kime


Having spent 17 years conducting counterinsurgency and counterterrorism operations in the deserts and mountains of the Middle East, the Naval Special Warfare community is shifting its focus to threats from China, Russia and aspiring adversaries. Navy operations planners are including Navy SEALs in all aspects of planning and training, such as war games, exercises and tabletop scenarios, Vice Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Bill Moran told reporters at the Surface Navy Association's annual conference.


The shift began in 2013 when Rear Admiral Brian Losey, then-commander of Naval Special Warfare Command, began making "a concerted effort to talk to his teams about getting back to the 'blue side,' " Moran said, referring to the Navy's large fighting forces of ships, submarines and aircraft. That focus has continued since Losey retired in 2016, Moran added.


"Losey saw the 'great power competition,' he saw the threats of an emerging Russia, China, North Korea and Iran," Moran said. SEALs have a very specific and important role to play in all situations." Since the U.S. insertion into Afghanistan in 2001, special operations forces, including the SEALs, have focused on a specific selection of their skill sets, including small-scale strikes and offensive actions, counterinsurgency, hostage rescue, counterterrorism and countering weapons of mass destruction.


But these forces have other expertise that is relevant to both large-scale military conflicts as well as the type of posturing and competing for regional and global dominance that currently is happening, according to a 2017 report by David Broyles and Brody Blankenship, analysts at the Center for Naval Analyses (CNA), an Arlington, Virginia-based think tank that concentrates on the U.S. Navy.


Those skills include preparing an environment for operations, reconnaissance, unconventional operations, military information support operations and foreign humanitarian assistance, according to the report, The Role of Special Operations Forces in Global Competition.


"Special operations forces have a greater role to play in today's global competition through a counteractive approach to adversary maneuvers," Broyles and Blankenship wrote. "The United States has only recently recognized that adversaries are exploiting the U.S. view of 'preparing for future war' vice 'competing in the here and now.' "


Moran agreed that Navy SEALs have a unique talent set that the "blue side" had largely forgotten. "We've grown used to not having them in a lot of situations. ... Wow, there are some great capabilities here that can set the conditions in the world for the kind of operations we are going to need in every single one of our campaigns".


A draft environmental assessment published by the Navy on November 8, 2018 indicated that the SEALs are planning to increase training in Hawaii, asking to increase the number of exercises from the 110 events allowed now on non-federally owned land to as many as 330 training events on non-federal land or waterways and 265 training events on federal property.


The proposed training also would expand the area for conducting exercises to include Kauai, Lanai, Maui and Molokai, in addition to Oahu and Hawaii. The training, in a location relatively near to and similar in climate to the South China Sea, where China continues to assert its dominance, is necessary to enhance the Navy Special Warfare Command's traditional skill sets, including diving and swimming; operating with submersibles and unmanned aircraft systems; insertion and extraction; reconnaissance and parachuting; and rope suspension training activities.


Moran said the SEALs' return to their roots will bolster lethality of the Navy as a whole. "As much as it's their chance to re-blue, it's our chance to reconnect from the blue side," he said. "That will continue to grow, I think."                                                                                                                        ==================  





Proposal Could Require Women to Register for the Draft  

In this Feb. 21, 2013 file photo, female recruits stand at the Marine Corps Training Depot on Parris Island, S.C. (AP Photo/Bruce Smith)

In this Februay 21, 2013 file photo, female recruits stand at the Marine Corps Training Depot on Parris Island, S.C. (AP Photo/Bruce Smith)


January 24, 2019 --- | By Patricia Kime


A congressionally mandated commission is weighing whether women should be required to register for the Selective Service System, or whether the U.S. needs a draft registration system at all. The National Commission on Military, National and Public Service, created in 2016, spent the past year reviewing public service options in the U.S., including the armed forces, AmeriCorps, the Peace Corps, federal employment and more.


Members released an interim report Wednesday that offers some radical proposals for the Selective Service System, which requires all 18-year-old men to register for a potential draft. Among the options under consideration is whether women should be required to register, if the Selective Service System could be used to find candidates to fill critical military billets, or whether the system should be scrapped entirely.


The commission is not ready to make recommendations, said panel chairman Joe Heck, a former Republican congressman from Nevada and retired Army Reserve brigadier general. Instead, its members are continuing to collect information for the final report, due to Congress and the White House by March 2020.


"We want to hear from the American public. What I can tell you, though, as we've gone around the country, people have an opinion on women registering for Selective Service," Heck said. "There aren't that many people sitting on the fence. ... They either say it's a matter of equality, or they shouldn't register because women hold a special place in U.S. society."


Panel members said that, in visiting 24 sites around the country, they found alarming misunderstandings of military and public service among students as well as shortfalls in civic education -- knowledge they say is essential to raising interest in public service. According to the panel, young people who receive quality civics education are four times more likely to engage in public service, but education is sorely lacking. One survey said just 26% of Americans can name all three branches of government.


"Civic education is front and center to this," said co-chairman Mark Gearan, who served as director of the Peace Corps during the Clinton administration. Hence, the committee also will make recommendations on how the nation can "reinvigorate civic education." The most controversial options the commission is weighing, however, are changes to Selective Service and whether universal service -- either military, volunteer national or public service -- should be mandatory.


Members said a mandatory service proposal is unlikely. Heck said that commission members have found that young people "overwhelmingly want to serve, they just don't want to be told to do it." "We are considering ways which the U.S. could offer universal service opportunities to young people," he said.


But regarding the Selective Service, all options are on the table. Under current law, all men ages 18 to 25 are required to register for Selective Service, a database for the country to draw on in the event of a national emergency requiring a draft. The system dates to 1917 and, while military conscription was abolished in 1973, more than 90% of all eligible men are enrolled in the system.


According to Heck, since the intent of the draft was to help backfill combat jobs in the event of a large war, only men were required to register. With the opening of all combat jobs in the past several years to women, however, it made sense to revisit the laws that govern Selective Service. "Generation Z represents a huge potential for this country, if we can find ways to encourage a greater number of them to serve," he said.



Army Retention Bonuses

Army Retention Bonuses now up to $52,000

Cyber Command

The U.S. military has discovered that our country is under attack from Cyberspace.

VA Recommends Dropping Blue Water Navy Legal Battle

WASHINGTON - The Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States is saluting Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert Wilkie for saying during congressional testimony yesterday that he would recommend the Justice Department not contest a recent federal court ruling that will benefit some 90,000 so-called Blue Water Navy veterans. His support to move forward potentially paves the way for the return of earned disability benefits that regulatory changes arbitrarily stripped away in 2002.

In Procopio v. Wilkie, Secretary Wilkie was sued by Navy veteran Alfred Procopio Jr., who was denied service connection for prostate cancer and diabetes mellitus because he never stepped foot on dry land or served within Vietnam's inland waterways. Procopio, a life me...

Nation's Top Teachers Selected for VFW Award

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - The Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. is proud to announce the top three teachers selected in its 2019 Smart/Maher VFW National Citizenship Education Teacher Award contest.

Each year, the VFW names one teacher from the elementary (K-5), middle (6-8) and high school (9-12) levels to receive the Smart/Maher VFW National Citizenship Education Teacher Award. Established in 1999, the award recognizes our nation's top teachers for their exceptional commitment to teaching Americanism and patriotism to their students by promoting civic responsibility, flag etiquette and patriotism in the classroom. The award is named after former VFW National Commander John Smart and retired VFW Quartermaster General Larry Maher.

Bobbie Schamens, a fourth-grade teacher at Meadowview Intermediate School in Sparta, Wisc., was named the elementary school winner for her efforts in recognizing the service and sacrifice of her hometown's military families. Schamens' personal experience as a military spouse has...

VFW's Annual Youth Scholarship Competition Opens

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - The Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. is now accepting entries for its 2019-20 Voice of Democracy and Patriot's Pen youth scholarship competitions. The announcement comes just two weeks after the VFW's 2019 Legislative Conference concluded in Washington, D.C., where the top national winners were recognized.

Dedicated to encouraging a better understanding and appreciation of America, the VFW's Voice of Democracy and Patriot's Pen essay competitions help foster patriotism among today's youth. The programs also promote friendly competition and rewards success in the form of some $3 million in scholarships.

This year's theme for both programs challenges students to answer the question, "What Makes America Great?" The Voice of Democracy audio-essay competition is ope...

President Releases FY 2020 Budget Request

WASHINGTON - The president's federal spending plan for fiscal year 2020 adds 30,000 more troops and proposes a 3.1-percent military pay raise. It would also increase the Department of Veterans Affairs overall budget by 9.6 percent to $220.2 billion, which would enable the VA to implement the MISSION Act, strengthen mental health access and treatment programs, increase women's health services, boost electronic health record interoperability with the Defense Department, and support a host of legislative initiatives being championed by the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States.

"More money isn't always the solution to every problem, but the lack of it weakens every congressional initiative to improve the VA," said VFW National Commander B.J. Lawrence, who called the president's budget submission a very good start. "What the VFW now expects from Co...

VFW Concerned With VA MISSION Act Implementation

WASHINGTON - This morning, during testimony before a joint hearing of the Senate and House Veterans' Affairs Committees, the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. called for full congressional oversight over the implementation of the VA MISSION Act of 2018.

The organization made clear its dissatisfaction with the Department of Veterans Affairs' implementation thus far, citing arbitrary and misguided decision-making.

With more than 80 percent of VFW members relying on VA health care, and dedicating more than 10 million volunteer hours annually to supporting their fellow veterans at VA medical facilities, the VFW's views were actively solicited while drafting the legislation, but the organization has not been engaged to ensure its efficient implementation.

"Unlike appeals modernization, VA has elected to largely ignore the views of the nation's largest war veterans' organization when drafting rules to implement the VA MISSION Act," said VFW National Commander B.J. Lawrence, who leads the more than...

VFW Awards National Youth Scholarship Winners

WASHINGTON - Last night the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. proudly presented $209,000 in scholarships and awards as it named the national winners of its annual Voice of Democracy and Patriot's Pen youth scholarship competitions. The winners were announced during the Parade of Winners ceremony at the 2019 VFW Legislative Conference in Washington, D.C.

Together, the VFW's Voice of Democracy and Patriot's Pen scholarship competitions have helped foster patriotism by challenging middle and high school students to examine our nation's history, its democratic processes, and their roll in America's future based on an annual theme.

More than 40,000 high school students addressed this year's "Why My Vote Matters" theme, and last night Christine Troll was named the Voice of Democracy first-place national winner where she received the $30,000 T.C. Selman Memorial Scholarship award and delivered ...

VFW to Deliver Veterans' Voice to Congress

WASHINGTON - More than 500 members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. and its Auxiliary are arriving in the nation's capital this weekend to urge their respective members of Congress to continue improving the programs and services provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs. Highlighting the annual legislative conference will be the VFW national commander's testimony before a joint hearing of the House and Senate Committees on Veterans' Affairs, and the presentation of two VFW national awards: the VFW Congressional Award to Senate VA Committee Chairman Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), and the VFW News Media Award to Military Times Deputy Editor Leo Shane.

Elected in July 2018 to lead America's largest and oldest major war veterans' organization, VFW National Commander B.J. Lawrence is set to pres...

VFW Names 2019 Voice of Democracy State Winners

High school students across the country recorded audio-essays on this year's Voice of Democracy theme: "Why My Vote Matters." We've selected one winner from each state to qualify for the grand prize, a $30,000 scholarship to the college or technical school of their choice. Listen to your state winning essay!...

Lieutenant 'Green Thumb'

After two tours overseas with the Navy - one in Iraq and one in Afghanistan - former Lt. Vincent Grasso returned to his Long Island suburb, ripped up his front lawn and crafted a self-sustaining,
agricultural ecosystem on his tiny 45-foot-by-100-foot lot. Grasso, the deputy mayor of Valley Stream, N.Y., jokes that his neighbors initially thought he was performing some sort of ritualistic pet burial.

A member of VFW Post 1790 in Valley Stream, Grasso served in Iraq in 2006 as a petty officer 1st class working as an intelligence specialist with SEAL Team 5. In 2013, he deployed to Afghanistan as an intelligence officer with the Special Operations Joint Task Force. Grasso is 5-feet-10-inches of pure, distilled sarcasm. He only revealed his true height after repeatedly insisting he was 6-feet-4, explaining, "I loom large."

It's unclear whether his sense of humor was learned in or was merely strengthened by the Navy. Perhaps it came from his mother, who once joked that she would move to Canada during wartime if she ...

VFW Presents Donation to Kansas City Warriors Hockey Team

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Today, the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. proudly presented a $12,000 donation to the Kansas City Warriors, the city's new ice hockey team comprised solely of disabled military veterans.

"We've been headquartered in Kansas City for more than 90 years and are happy to help support a hometown team, especially one that provides such a great opportunity for our local veterans to find healing and camaraderie," said VFW Adjutant General Kevin Jones.

The Kansas City Warriors operates under the mentorship of the Minnesota Warriors, a program that works in conjunction with the USA Disabled Hockey Program and a leader in the disabled veteran's hockey community. The teams use the game of hockey to assist veterans with disabilities in building self-confidence and helping them transition back into a mainstream lifestyle they had prior to their injury.

Participation in the Kansas City Warriors program is open to all injured or disabled veterans with a VA rating of 10 percent or highe...

VFW Grant Means More Than Money for Veteran's Family

The McKinney household is a bustling hub of love and activity. Veteran Stormie McKinney of North Carolina and her husband Tyrone, have six children and five dogs. Life has been a mix of happy times and intense trials for McKinney.

Joining the Navy in search of a prosperous career, McKinney achieved the rank of petty officer. However, a terrible sexual assault while she was working in the shipyards in France forever changed her path.

The horrific experience caused McKinney to be diagnosed with post-traumatic stress (PTS) and she's now on disability. She was paying the family's bills with her checks and getting by, but the loss of her husband's pay put the family in a desperate situation.

McKinney had enough to pay for household expenses, but there wasn't enough left for things like food or clothes for her children. "I couldn't take care of them on my own. If I paid the bills, I couldn't feed my family," she said.

However, during a conversation with an online veteran community chat group, McKinney found ou...

Scholarship Gives Veteran a Chance to Finish College

Andrew Bramsch, 35, of St. Louis, Mo., didn't know what he wanted to do after graduating from high school, but he knew college was not for him. After exploring his options, he felt the military made sense and he enlisted in the Army.

Bramsch served in the Army for almost 11 years in airborne infantry. He was stationed at Fort Bragg, N.C., and in Vicenza, Italy. He also spent one year in Iraq and one and a half years in Afghanistan before medically retiring as a sergeant.

As fate would have it, events in Bramsch's military career ended up leading him to college after all. He is now finishing a master's degree in transportation and logistics management with American Public University System.

"I started in logistics in the Army after an injury. I was placed in the arms room and helped with supply. I saw there was a lot of planning and preparation in running a company. After that, I enjoyed being behind the scenes," said Bramsch. "I say that working in logistics means that no one knows what I do, but everyone goes ...

Veterans Groups Say $103 Billion in Funding Needed for FY20

WASHINGTON - In advance of the Administration's budget request for Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 and advance appropriations for FY 2021, the three coauthors of The Independent Budget (IB) - Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S., Disabled American Veterans, and Paralyzed Veterans of America - today recommend a total of $103.3 billion to ensure the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) begins to fully and faithfully implement the VA MISSION Act of 2018, make needed improvements, and is able to timely deliver benefits and services to ill and injured veterans, their families and survivors. This is the first time the IB's recommended budget has topped the $100 billion mark, and represents a 17 percent increase over current FY 2019 funding.

Implementing the VA MISSION Act this fiscal year will require significantly more resources than have been provided through regular appropriations, and is the main reason why medical care ap...

Writing a Story of Hope and Healing With Help From a VSO Friend

Joel Capell sat at a book signing for his new memoir when a man came in and offered him a bit of rope. Capell took it, unsure what it meant. The man explained it represented the hope he found in Capell's book.

"No More Hope and No More Rope," said Capell. "That chapter in the book is one of the lowest points of my life."

The two men talked and cried. Capell was amazed. Not only was he there, but he was helping someone else. It was something he never would've imagined himself possible of years earlier. Capell is grateful for the rope thrown to him during a dark time. It came from the assistance navigating the VA he received, and the encouragement to tell his story, from friend and VFW accredited Veteran Service Officer, Zac Miller.

Capell, of Mount Victory, Ohio, joined the Army 23 years ago to pay for school. He spent most of his time in the National Guard as a combat engineer and has served three tours in the Middle East.

For a while, life seemed good. Capell considered himself bright and ready to take ...

VFW Post Feeds Hungry Veterans

In 2014, Feeding America initiated a Hunger in America national study. It showed that one in five households served by the Feeding America network has at least one member that has served or is currently serving in the military.

In Pennsylvania, that number is higher. The Central Pennsylvania Food Bank reported that within its 27 county-service territory, 26 percent of all households receiving assistance have at least one member who served in uniform.

To help combat this problem, in 2015, the food bank initiated MilitaryShare, which offers monthly food distributions at VFW and American Legion posts to veterans. VFW Post 1754 in Huntingdon is one such distribution site.

According to Post 1754 member Reeder Swartz, he has about 25 volunteers each month to distribute the food. In two hours' time, some 120 families are served.

Each family receives eggs, milk, two types of meat, 40 pounds of dry goods, 10 pounds of potatoes, apples, onions and whatever fresh fruits and vegetables are in season.

It costs...

VFW Launches Mobile App Ahead of 2019 Legislative Conference

KANSAS CITY, Mo.- With the 2019 VFW Legislative Conference only weeks away, the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. has designed a new mobile event app to give attendees the tools needed to make the most out of attending VFW national events. The new VFW Events app allows for attendees of the VFW's Legislative Conference and National Convention to receive important notifications and reminders throughout the events, have instant access to the daily agenda, the opportunity to connect with other attendees and more.

The new VFW Events app is available for download at both the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store by searching VFW Events. Users who don't have a smart phone or tablet...

Member Service Center Reps Expect Your Call

The VFW's Member Service Center Director Ken Romine has a simple message to convey: "Call us."

Established in 2017, the Member Service Center does more than people realize, and Romine wants his customer service representatives swamped with telephone calls.

According to Melodi Dailey, one of the service center supervisors, customers don't always know to call the center for orders, even if there happens to be a problem with a past order. All questions about VFW Store orders, including returns and exchanges, should go through the service center.

"We do everything in our power to help," Dailey said. "But if by chance we don't have what they need, we help them by locating it on the computer and supply them with the information they need."

The Member Service Center staff also addresses questions about dues and membership and helps members obtain new membership cards. If a member has misplaced an issue of VFW magazine, calling the service center will guarantee you get the issue in the mail.


The Home Depot Opens Its 2019 Community Impact Grant

The Home Depot has started accepting applications for its 2019 Community Impact Grant. VFW members can receive up to $5,000 to fund repairs or construction projects at their Post building.

While there are no guarantees to being funded, several VFW Posts have been awarded this grant in the past.

Applications are only accepted through Home Depot's online form. Telephone calls, emails or written submissions sent to Home Depot will NOT be accepted, nor will you be able to turn this application in at your local Home Depot store.

New this year, Home Depot now requires a project budget that must be submitted as a Microsoft Excel file. This new requirement is covered in-depth in the guide.

Pay close attention to the Tax ID Instructions. You will use the Employee Identification Number (EIN) of your Post and upload the Post's 501(c)(19) IRS determination letter at the end of the application. If you ca...

Scholarship Sends Veteran on his Next Mission

John Bradford Yarbrough, Jr., 27, of St. Louis, Mo., has always wanted to serve others, serve his country and find a way to make a difference in the world.

"I had a deep desire to serve after the attacks of September 11. I still remember being in 8th grade in 2005, and a Marine who had gone to my grade school and was on the cover of Time magazine ["Street Fight: Inside the Battle for Fallujah"] came to speak to my class. I wished I could've joined right then," said Yarbrough. "I've always had the view that it's your duty as an American citizen to serve in some capacity. And the military breeds leaders. Joining seemed like the easiest way to forge my own path."

VFW Help A Hero Scholarship recipient John Bradford Yarbrough JrVFW National Commander Heading to Eastern Europe

WASHINGTON - The national commander of America's largest and oldest major combat veterans' organization heads overseas this weekend to embed with members of the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team from Fort Riley, Kan., who recently deployed to Eastern Europe as part of Operation Atlantic Resolve.

The visit by B.J. Lawrence, national commander of the 1.6 million-member Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States and its Auxiliary, is the final chapter in a three-part story that began with a meeting with senior Army leadership in the Pentagon last fall. A discussion evolved around having the VFW national commander observe a unit undergoing pre-deployment training at the Army's National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif., then marrying up with that unit overseas. Fort Riley's 1st ABCT, part of the 1st Infantry Division, was selected, but since it had already completed NTC, Lawrence viewed similar training by armor ...

VFW Makes Surprise Donation to KC's Disabled Veterans Hockey Team

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - During its recent Military Appreciation Weekend, the Kansas City Mavericks, along with fans, raised an impressive $7,745 for the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. (VFW), a Kansas City-headquartered nonprofit who specializes in veterans, military and community service programs.

Today, the VFW is proud to announce it will donate those proceeds to the Kansas City Warriors hockey team who took the ice in its first exhibition game last Saturday against the Minnesota Warriors at Silverstein Eye Centers Arena.

The Kansas City Warriors is a new organization operating under the mentorship and guidance of the Minnesota Warriors, an established program with 10 years of proven success and a leader in the disabled veteran's hockey community who operates in conjunction with the USA Disabled Hockey Program. Both Warriors teams are comprised of disabled American veterans who find healing through the sport.

"We want to thank all the fans who came out in support of the Mavericks and Warrior...

Indiana Post Raises $12,500 for Suicide Awareness

For the second year in a row, members of VFW Post 1587 in Speedway, Ind., and its Auxiliary walked to raise awareness about the rate of suicide among veterans.

Last year, the Post sponsored its first Walk 22 event and raised $10,000. This year, the event garnered $12,500. The goal for 2019 is $15,000.

According to Post Commander Tim Kanyuh, the money raised was donated to Families First Indiana for its Crisis and Suicide Intervention Hotline. Crisis intervention specialists are available 24 hours a day by calling 1-800-273-8255 or texting CSIS to 839863.

"A lot of us have been touched by someone who has committed suicide," Kanyuh said, referencing a fellow Iraq War veteran. "We just want to see it end and want to do what we can to help."

About 60 people took part in the two-mile walk in September that weaved throughout the streets of Speedway, home to the Indianapolis 500.

Along the way, the walkers stopped at local businesses to drum up donations and let people know why they were walking.


$165,000 for Autism Programs

A VFW Post in North Carolina has raised more than $165,000 for autism programs in its community. Post 4066 in Shelby, N.C., donated $58,000 to Cleveland County (N.C.) Schools in June for the district's autism programs.

Funds were raised thought private donations and Post events such as dinners, auctions, poker runs, raffles and yard sales. However, most of the money comes from an annual golf tournament, said Post 4066 Commander Clifford Ramsey.

"A lot of the money comes from community businesses that sponsor the event," the Army veteran said. "We have a lot of folks who get involved in our golf tournaments each year."

Over the past five years, Ramsey said, Post 4066's donations have funded summer camp, scholarships, curricular materials, scholarships, staff training and parent events. He said Post 4066 is aiming to raise $200,000 by the end of April, which is National Autism Awareness Month.

Ramsey, who served with the 52nd Aviation Battalion in Vietnam during the Tet Offensive in 1968, said that he and ...

VFW Blue Water Navy Vet Wins Federal Appeals Court Ruling

WASHINGTON - The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit reversed a decade-old ruling yesterday that potentially paves the way for the return of earned disability benefits for some 90,000 so-called Blue Water Navy veterans from the Vietnam War.

The case, Procopio v. Wilkie, was supported by the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States and a number of other veterans service organizations and advocates. It had Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert L. Wilkie Jr. being sued by Navy veteran and VFW Life member Alfred Procopio Jr., who was denied service connection for prostate cancer and diabetes mellitus because he never stepped foot on dry land or served within Vietnam's inland waterways. Procopio, a Life member of VFW Post 6587 in Spring Lake Park, Minn., was assigned aboard the aircraft carrier USS Intrepid, which was stationed inside Vietna...

'This Program Is Helping My Family'

The VFW's Unmet Needs program awarded more than $1,300 to an Iraq War Army veteran in need of financial support.

James Bohlin, an Army veteran who enlisted in March 2010, served as an infantryman in Afghanistan's Paktia Province with 509th Inf. Regt., 4th BCT, 25th Inf. Div., during a 2012 deployment.

Bohlin, of Dallas, Texas, said he has PTSD and physical disabilities stemming from his deployment to Afghanistan. He is rated 70 percent disabled by VA.

After leaving the Army in September 2014, he said it was difficult to deal with his separation from the Army and finances.

"I was able to hold it together for more than a year," Bohlin said. "But, things finally collapsed and things were looking bad. I was looking at foreclosure. Who knows what would have happened if I lost my house at that moment."

In April, Bohlin applied for an Unmet Needs grant. He said the way VFW Unmet Needs helped his family is "indescribable," and he considers himself "on the way to success."

"I was able to gather myse...

'I Can Feel Again'

A member of VFW Post 10165 in Diamond Springs, Calif., works for homeless veterans in his community and around the country. He's doing what he can to make sure his fellow brothers and sisters are "good to go."

Tracey DiVita, a Marine Corps veteran who served from 1999 to 2003, got the idea to help homeless veterans when he came across a man living on the streets who asked for money.

"I usually don't carry cash," DiVita said. "But, that day I just so happened to have $10, so I gave it to him."

A couple of days later, he ran into the same man again. This time, DiVita had two bags of cans and bottles for recycling. He offered the man the bags, but the man refused to take them.

"I offered it to him, but he said he had a hernia," DiVita said. "I got so mad because he was just full of it. I watched him swing a black garbage bag over his shoulder. I just thought that his whole life was in that garbage bag."

That gave him, what he said was, a "light bulb moment" - he thought of a "sea bag," or duffle bag....

Help A Hero Scholarship Helps 'Pave the Way' to MBA

Iraq War veteran Truong Mai had just started his career while pursuing a Master of Business Administration when he came into financial hardship. And VFW's Sport Clips Help A Hero Scholarship provided the assistance he needed.

"This scholarship really helped me out in regard to paying for tuition, books and stipends stuff like that," said Mai, who wrote a letter of thanks to Sport Clips CEO Gordon Logan.

Mai served in Iraq from November 2007 to January 2009 with the 3rd Armored Cav. Regt., and in Afghanistan from March 2011 to March 2012 with the 3rd Inf. Div., 497th Movement Control Team. He received $5,000 for the fall 2018 semester. He is studying at Florida State University, and said, the way his admissions process was handled showed that the university cares about its veterans.

"Florida State is one of the most military friendly universities in the United States," Mai said. "I like their value. The president of Florida State also served in the military."

Mai said the military is a "good ground" to be...

VFW Supports Grieving Widow and Daughter

Katie Bouchard and 6-year-old daughter, Piper, are getting a little bit better every day.

Katie and veteran Keith Bouchard had been married for over a decade when he took his own life. A family in despair with so many details to handle have managed a lot in the past year. What seemed to be a sudden occurrence had a long, telling trail leading to the loss of their hero.

Iowa native, Keith Bouchard joined the Marines in 1988 at 17 years old with the permission of his mother. In his 10 years, he experienced the Gulf War, deployments to Panama and Okinawa, and cold weather training in Norway. These trips were not without injury. Bouchard broke both legs during a helicopter jump performed in Panama.

Bouchard went on to join the United States Coast Guard after departing from the Marines. In addition to the Panama injury, he had to go through shoulder and back surgery. But, he truly loved the work he did in his 16 years with the Coast Guard before retiring in 2014.

"He was very good at what he did. He was in fe...

'Just Good Works'

VFW Post 1467 in Old Lyme, Conn., has the motto: "No bar, no building; just Good Works!"

According to past Post commander Ed Shyloski, when the Post was chartered in 1993, its members met in the Old Lyme Senior Center and agreed there was no reason for a Post home or bar.

Instead, they decided to put their efforts and funds into serving Old Lyme and surrounding communities.

"As normal practice every year," Shyloski said, "we have sent thousands of dollars to the West Haven VA Hospital, Rocky Hill State VA Hospital Program, West Haven VA Blind Center, Fisher House for West Haven and the Giant Steps Art and Music Therapy Program at West Haven VA Hospital."

Five years ago, an anonymous veteran donated $10,000 to the Post, saying everything he has done in his life was because of his experiences in the military.

That donation started the Post's Vets-In-Need Outreach program. Shyloski said the Post advertised the program in local newspapers to spread the word that the Post was ready to help.


Veterans Service Organizations Issue The Independent Budget Policy Agenda for 116th Congress

WASHINGTON - Today, DAV, Paralyzed Veterans of America and Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States released The Independent Budget Veterans Agenda for the 116th Congress which contains policy recommendations to ensure that the Department of Veterans Affairs remains fully-funded and capable of carrying out its mission to serve veterans and their families both now and in the future. The Independent Budget is a roadmap for the 116th Congress, the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Administration to navigate critical veteran issues. It includes detailed recommendations in the areas of benefits, health care, infrastructure, education, employment, training and memorial concerns facing veterans and their families. For over 30 years, the three partnering organizations have co-authored The Independent Budget.

The Independent Budget sets full and faithful implementation of the VA MISSION Act as the critical issue for the 116th Congress. This his...

Action Alert: Tell Congress to Pass Blue Water Navy Legislation Now!

The VFW is urging its members and supporters to tell Congress to pass Blue Water Navy legislation now!

This past year, Congress failed to pass H.R. 299, the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act, which would finally restore VA benefits to some 90,000 veterans exposed to Agent Orange.

Veterans who served in the offshore waters of Vietnam, during the Vietnam War, continue to be arbitrarily and unjustly denied benefits for illnesses associated with Agent Orange exposure.

Do not stand by as veterans suffer. Contact your members of Congress to demand they pass the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act. Congress must not delay while Blue Water Navy veterans sicken and die from diseases related to exposure to Agent Orange.

Take action and contact your representatives today!


Painting Away the Trauma

In the aftermath of experiencing war, some VFW members have returned to their previous passion - art - to manage post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms and bring hope to others.

VFW Life member Pete Damon is one of them. He was in Iraq for only a few weeks when everything changed.

On Oct. 21, 2003, Damon, who served with the Army's 3rd Assault Bn., 158th Aviation Regt., was working on the wheel of a helicopter at Balad Air Base when the rim "exploded." The blast severed Damon's arms and killed Spc. Paul J. Beuche, 19, of Daphne, Ala.

"I don't remember much," Damon said. "It was just flashes of horror of realizing my arms were gone."

Damon lost his right arm above the elbow and left arm below the elbow. He spent 15 months at Walter Reed Army Medical Center - three as an inpatient and 12 as an outpatient. In the following weeks, he underwent "multiple surgeries."

"I was pretty optimistic, I guess - as far as you can be in that situation," said Damon, a member of VFW Post 697 in Middleboro, M...

'What We Do Changes Lives'

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the founding of VFW's National Veterans Service (NVS) Department. That is a century of working on behalf of the nation's veterans to ensure they are granted the benefits they have earned.

It's not an easy mission, as the NVS staff at VFW's Washington Office will attest, but one that grows increasingly more important each year. In 2017-18 alone, VFW's NVS staff recovered a record-breaking $8.36 billion for veterans. Of that, $1.4 billion was for new clients. VFW service officers filed more than 109,000 new claims last year.

"What we do changes lives," NVS Director Ryan Gallucci said. "It's humbling, challenging and rewarding. The scope of responsibility the VFW has to make sure veterans understand their benefits and that those were earned is tremendous."

An Iraq War vet, Gallucci said that he and those who work for him know better than most what it's like to assist discharging veterans get what they are entitled to receive.

"What we went through ourselves after dis...

VFW Announces Spring Scholarship Recipients

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - The Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. is proud to announce its "Sport Clips Help A Hero Scholarship" program has surpassed awarding $5.7 million in scholarships to nearly 1,300 military and student veterans. The latest award of more than $768,000 will now help ensure 172 student veterans can continue their higher education classes this upcoming spring semester.

"The Post-9/11 GI Bill was a great piece of legislation that was made even better with the passage of the Forever GI Bill," said VFW National Commander B.J. Lawrence, whose organization championed both pieces of legislation through Congress. "But higher education is expensive, and oftentimes 36 months of benefits isn't enough for new veterans to fulfill their educational goals," he said. "I'm very proud that the VFW can help change the lives of 172 stu...

VFW and SVA Announce 2019 Student Veteran Fellowship Class

WASHINGTON - Ten Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. members and Student Veterans of America leaders have been selected for the 2019 VFW-SVA Fellowship program. The announcement was made Saturday at SVA's 11th National Conference in Orlando, Fla. The 10 fellows will now join more than 500 VFW members of when they converge on Capitol Hill in early March to advocate on behalf of all veterans, service members and their families.

"The VFW is proud to provide 10 student veterans the opportunity to participate in the legislative process to help improve the care and benefits of their fellow veterans," said VFW National Commander B.J. Lawrence. "We look forward to working with this year's fellows to hone their skills as veterans' advocates on campus, in their communities, and on the national stage."

The VFW-SVA Legislative Fellowship is a semester-long academic experience that involves research, action, reporting and advocating on behalf of one of four veterans' policy areas: student veteran success on camp...

VFW Announces Annual Publications Contest

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - The Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States is now accepting submissions for its 2019 National Publications Contest. VFW publications published up to four times annually, or five or more times annually, will be judged in four categories.*

The categories are:

Department-level publications:

  • Newspaper/Newsletter
    • Defined as being printed on newspaper stock or designed for online distribution as a PDF.
  • Best Feature Story
    • Entries from all publications will be considered for this category. Each article must be submitted separately. The story must be a published article of at least 300 words. It can be originally written by your newspaper/magazine staff or by a freelance writer, or be reprinted from a newspaper within your state. Feature articles published in online/electronic newsletters, newspapers or magazines also are eligible, but must be printed in color and submitted via USPS, not emai...

Is the Cyberworld Safer Than the 3-D World?

With every passing year, more and more of Americans' lives are lived online. Why drive to the bank or the DMV when you can deposit checks with your cell phone and renew your driver's license from home? Adults socialize with friends, pay bills and file their taxes online. High school seniors average a whopping six hours a day online,1 texting, playing games, and on social media.

All this Internet activity means we're safer in some ways-we can't lose our wallet in our living room or get into a traffic accident at our desk. But the online world carries its own dangers, and cybercrime is unfortunately exploding. A September 2018 Forbes article2 listed these five statistics:

  1. Every minute, 1,861 people fall victim to cyber-attacks and $1.14 million is stolen.
  2. Over the next five years, 146 billion records will be breached-four times the current rate.
  3. Ransomware attacks are increasing 350% per year, and damage costs will be $11.5 billion in...

Utah Senator Stops Blue Water Navy Bill

WASHINGTON - The objection by Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) to passing H.R. 299, the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2018, by unanimous consent today on the Senate floor has effectively doomed any chance of the bill being passed in the 115th Congress. Lee now joins Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), who objected last week due to the bill's overall cost. Lee's objection was because he wants to wait and see more sufficient evidence.

"We don't need more sick veterans to prove sufficient evidence," said VFW National Commander B.J. Lawrence. "Agent Orange made Vietnam veterans sick, and science agrees that there isn't any reason to treat so-called Blue Water Navy veterans any different than their peers who served ashore or on the inland waterways of Vietnam," he said. "What both senators have done is fail thousands of veterans - many of whom reside in their home states. Their obstruction to this bill's passage forsakes our nation's promise to take care of those who were injured or made ill due to their military service. T...

Navy Veteran Discovers a 'Gem' in VFW Pre-Discharge Representative

Veteran James E. Jones, Jr. of San Diego, Calif., is a remarkable person surrounded by the love and support of his family and friends. He has spent 26 years of his life in service to his country, and is set to retire from the Navy in a few months.

Growing up in a small community in Alabama, Jones knew he wanted to leave but was too intimidated by the thought of college. Instead, he joined the Navy and traveled all over Europe, before spending 12 years devoted to the conflicts in Africa and Iraq.

He still found the time to marry his love, Gidget, and have two daughters, Alexis and Jameiah. Then, with the experience and confidence gained in the military, he graduated cum laude with a degree in criminal justice, focusing on emergency management and homeland security.

The years abroad were understandably not easy on Jones, physically or emotionally. Like many veterans, Jones knows what it feels like to be caught in enemy fire.

After returning from combat, he began the transition to civilian life. But, this t...

Texas VFW Post Brings Christmas Spirit to Community

VFW Post 2195 will host its second "Operation North Pole" event on Dec. 15 in the dining room of Market Street in Allen. Children will speak to Mrs. Claus, who will be set up across town, through a ham radio.

Post member Jim Brevard, a Vietnam War veteran who served from 1964-65 with the Air Force's 619th Tactical Control Squadron, said the idea came from something he and Post Junior Vice Commander Robert Evans did while in the service.

"The radio guys would go down and set up and let the kids talk to Mrs. Claus at the North Pole," Brevard said.

They brought the idea to the Post, according to Brevard, because of their efforts to "give back to the community."

"It gives us a chance to show the community that we're here," Brevard said, "and we've done other community events, and we generally have a lot of people come up and talk to us and ask about the Post and what we do. This presents us with another opportunity for that."

As the only two ham operators at the Post, Brevard and Evans took the lead o...

First Afghanistan War Veteran to Lead Arkansas Post

Trisha Leslie, who served in Operation Enduring Freedom from 2010-2013, took on the role in April for VFW Post 4556 in Pocahontas, Ark. And to her, the accolade symbolizes change.

"Not only am I the first Afghanistan War veteran elected, but I am also the first female combat veteran and the youngest elected commander for our Post," Leslie said. "Too often, we are scared of change and not knowing what comes with it. But in order to evolve and keep the VFW a successful organization, we have to accept change."

When Leslie exited the Army, she knew she wanted to do more, but said she wasn't sure what that "more" would entail.

"Years went by before I figured out what it was I was looking for," Leslie said. "Then the opportunity presented itself when I was invited to a local Post meeting to visit with other former military members. It was then that I realized that I might be able to help out more at home than I ever could abroad."

She hopes to make her Post more inclusive by recruiting younger members and coll...

VFW to Senate: Pass Blue Water Navy Bill Now!

WASHINGTON - The Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States is calling for the U.S. Senate to finally pass H.R. 299, the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2018, which would end the injustice of denying Vietnam, Korean DMZ and Thailand veterans who suffer from life-threatening health conditions related to exposure to Agent Orange the care and benefits they deserve. The U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 299 earlier this year by a unanimous vote, but the bill has been stuck in the Senate. The VFW national commander is urging all senators to support its immediate passage.

"Agent Orange made Vietnam veterans sick," said VFW National Commander B.J. Lawrence, whose 1.6 million-member organization supports H.R. 299, which would restore VA benefits to some 90,000 so-called Blue Water Navy veterans who had their disability eligibility taken away in 2002 after regulatory changes. It would also require the VA to make whole veterans who were previously denied benefits.

The legislation would also h...

Sport Clips Haircuts Just Donated $1.35 Million to the VFW

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - At the national headquarters of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S., the Vietnam War veteran who founded Sport Clips Haircuts handed over a check for $1.35 million to the VFW Foundation today in order to support Help A Hero Scholarships for active-duty U.S. service members and veterans. Sport Clips began fundraising in October with the goal to exceed the $1.25 million raised last year for the program. By Veterans Day, November 11, Sport Clips, along with its clients, team members and product partners, raised the money for the largest donation in its 11-year history of supporting those who've served through the Help A Hero initiative.

In attendance was first-time scholarship recipient Army Specialist Ian Tucker, who is currently enrolled at Missouri State University studying criminal justice and legal studies. Tucker's goal is to earn his law degree, work for the Department of Justice a...

Veteran Gets Help So He Can Give Help

Javier Galvan signed up for the United States Marine Corps in 2006 at age 17, right out of high school. He didn't have plans for his future and felt the military offered a way to have a career and do something with his life. He also thought it might be a way to validate his American citizenship.

"I was born in the U.S., I'm from California, but I felt like society didn't welcome me because of my Mexican heritage," said Galvan. "I wanted to feel like a real American."

Galvan served his country for four years, deploying to Iraq in 2008 and Afghanistan in 2009. He enlisted with the idea of having a military career, but his experiences in the Marines gave him the desire to do other things. The Post-9/11 GI Bill helped him see he had an opportunity to go to school.

"I started college within weeks of leaving the military," Galvan said. "The Marines do not really have their own medical personnel, but seeing the work done by our Navy corpsmen and combat lifesaver training made me realize I wanted to be a doctor."


VA Bears Responsibility to Make Student Veterans Whole, Says VFW

The Department of Veterans Affairs released a statement yesterday regarding the implementation of Forever GI Bill changes that were supposed to have been enacted this past August. VA Secretary Robert Wilkie has now directed the Veterans Benefits Administration to cease attempting to implement the changes and instead reset the entire effort in order to get the job done correctly. The reset begins this Saturday, with the full implementation date now shifting to December 2019. Student veterans are expected to see positive effects of the changes in the spring 2020 semester.

"The Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States was disappointed to learn about the 12-month delay in implementing this amazing benefit, but we recognize why hitting the reset button was necessary in order for the VA to get this right," said VFW National Commander B.J. Lawrence.

The Forever GI Bill changed student housing allowances to reflect the ZIP codes where students attend the majority of their classes. This cha...

Ten Years of Second Chances

It's been 10 years since the first veterans treatment court started in Buffalo, N.Y., and Jack O'Connor is pleased with what he's seen over the past decade. Veterans who would be in prison - and without treatment - are healing and rebuilding their lives.

O'Connor, the former program director for Medicaid in Erie County, N.Y., started the court in 2008 with two other veterans advocates. Hank Pirowski, court coordinator for the county's mental health court at the time, and Judge Robert Russell also helped get the program going.

It all started when O'Connor and Pirowski were observing drug and mental health court sessions. A Vietnam veteran stood before Russell, looking at the floor and mumbling in response to questions.

Russell asked O'Connor and Pirowski, both Vietnam veterans, to have a chat with this veteran.

"All that man wanted was to talk to other Vietnam veterans," O'Connor said. "He was in a good program, but there were no veterans in it."

After talking with the two men, the veteran came ba...

Gold Star Peak is 'Closer to Heaven'

Kirk Alkire is not a medical professional in any sense. But the emotional moments he has witnessed atop mountain peaks in Alaska prove to him that climbing in honor of fallen service members is therapeutic.

One Gold Star father spoke of his deceased son, a Marine, for the first time in more than 15 years as he hiked to the summit.

"This poor guy has been carrying this around, bottled up, since 2002, and we had no idea," said Alkire, who led a mission to name an Alaskan mountain peak after Gold Star families. "We just figured this is who he is, and this is how he talks about [his son]."

Alkire, a Life member of VFW Post 9785 in Eagle River, Alaska, said it wasn't the people who caused this father to open up.

"We were just a vehicle that got him there," Alkire said. "But the process, the climb and then reaching the summit and seeing all the wonderful stuff that's there... It's a powerful thing. And, like I said, I have no certifications in mental health or anything, but I can tell you that these mountains ...

National Academies Link Hypertension, MGUS to Agent Orange Exposure

WASHINGTON - The Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. is calling on the Department of Veterans Affairs to add hypertension and a precursor to multiple myeloma to the current list of 14 presumptive diseases associated with contact with chemical defoliants used in Vietnam, Thailand, and along the Korean DMZ.

The VFW's case is bolstered by a new report just released by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine. The report, entitled Veterans and Agent Orange: Update 11 (2018), found that sufficient evidence exists that links exposure to at least one of the hazardous chemicals with hypertension and MGUS, or monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance. The hypertension finding is an upgrade from th...

VA Rates 70 Percent of its Nursing Homes as Failures

WASHINGTON - The national commanders of the nation's two largest veterans organizations are demanding that Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie bring immediate attention to his nursing home program that currently has 70 percent of its 132 homes receiving failing grades by the VA's own rating system.

The call by Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. National Commander B.J. Lawrence and American Legion National Commander Brett Reistad is in response to a series of scathing articles by two USA Today and Boston Globe reporters who documented substandard and negligent care at the VA nursing home in Brockton, Mass., which is one of 45 nursing homes that received the VA's lowest rating of one star. Forty-seven homes received two stars, 16 homes three stars, and 15 homes four stars. Only nine nursing homes received the VA's top five-star rating.


The Great War's Great Women

One of the requisite World War I recruitment posters showed a beautiful and composed nurse bending over a young soldier gazing up at her in gratitude and admiration.

Such art was, of course, a fantasy, and by war's end it was an affront to truth. Thousands of U.S. nurses served admirably during the Great War of 1914-18, but there was nothing romantic about their experience. Trench warfare and the impact of the machine gun on infantry operations created an avalanche of casualties that turned field hospitals into hospices of horror.

During the Battle of Belleau Wood in June 1918, for instance, "hundreds and hundreds of wounded poured in like a rushing torrent," Army Nurse Eula Crow wrote in her diary. "The packed, twisted bodies, the screams and groans, made me think of Dante's Inferno."

Conditions were no better at the evacuation station near the old St. Mihiel salient south of Verdun, in northeast France. It was there that the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF), under the command of Army Gen. John J. Pershing,...

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VA Recommends Dropping Blue Water Navy Legal Battle

WASHINGTON - The Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States is saluting Sec...

Nation's Top Teachers Selected for VFW Award

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - The Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. is proud to announce the top three teachers selected in its 2019 Smart...

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