VFW Appoints First Female Assistant Quartermaster General

image003KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States (VFW) has appointed a 13-year Army and Desert Storm veteran as the first female Assistant Quartermaster General for the nation’s largest combat veteran service organization.

Debra Anderson was sworn in on August 23, 2015, before the VFW’s National Council of Administration. The announcement comes just days after a historical change to extend VFW Auxiliary membership eligibility to male spouses and male family members, solidifying the VFW’s commitment to membership equality for all military families.

“Since coming to the VFW in 2006, Debra has been dedicated to furthering the VFW’s mission at Post, District and National levels. I have no doubt that she will continue to ensure the VFW remains the top veterans’ service organization FOR VETERANS,” said John Biedrzycki, VFW national commander.

Prior to her appointment, Anderson served as director of Human Resources and Investment Coordinator where she managed all aspects of human resources for the VFW National Headquarters.

Anderson earned her VFW eligibility for service with the U.S. Army during Desert Storm and left the Army in 1993 as a Major. Among her numerous military decorations, she has been awarded the Bronze Star, Meritorious Service Medal (2), Southwest Asia Service Medal, Kuwait Liberation Medal and Parachutist Badge.

She graduated cum laude with a degree in Economics from the University of Missouri-Columbia and earned a master’s degree in Systems Management from the University of Southern California.

Anderson joined the VFW in 2006 at Post 7356 in Parkville, Mo., where she currently maintains her Gold Legacy Life membership. She has served as Voice of Democracy chair, junior vice commander, senior vice commander, All-American Post Commander, trustee and district adjutant.

(via VFW.org)

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DOD Announces New Prescription Drug Policy

The DOD has announced a new TRICARE policy that will require military retirees and family members to obtain certain prescription drugs through the mail or at a military treatment facility (MTF). The change affects only maintenance medications. Acute medications such as antibiotics may still be obtained through retail pharmacies. Active duty military are exempt. Similar to the TRICARE for Life pharmacy mail order pilot program, generic formulary drugs will be free with home delivery and name brand formulary drugs will cost $16 for a 90 day supply. This is compared to $8 for generics and $20 for name brands currently charged at network pharmacies for a 30 day supply. There is no charge for drugs obtained at MTFs. DOD estimates this new policy will save $88 million a year for them, and $16.5 million a year for beneficiaries. Receiving a single name brand drug through home delivery rather than a retail pharmacy will save beneficiaries up to $176 per year. Affected beneficiaries will begin receiving letters on September 1 with additional information on the new policy and how to obtain waivers if necessary. For more information on TRICARE pharmacy copays, visit: http://www.tricare.mil/pharmacycosts.

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Action Alert: Veterans Choice Program and Access Survey

Background: Last year, Congress passed and the President signed into law the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act of 2014 (Choice Act) to improve access to health care for veterans and reduce VA appointment wait times. Since its enactment, the VFW has worked to ensure this important law serves the best interest of veterans. In the past year, the VFW has commissioned several surveys; compiled three reports; worked directly with VA officials and health care contractors; and testified before Congress multiple times on the state of the VA health care system and the implementation of the Choice Act, resulting in significant changes in the program to better serve veterans.

Action Needed: Take the VFW’s latest Veterans Choice Program and Access Survey to help the VFW hold VA accountable for delivering veterans timely access to high quality care. To take the survey, click here:

http://capwiz.com/vfw/utr/1/EUTAVCFUQO/LWFSVCFUYW/10968957876.

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VFW Auxiliary Now Accepts Men

John A. Biedrzycki Jr., national commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States (VFW) [last week] added his official signature to the new congressional charter of its Auxiliary organization in a historical event solidifying the VFW’s commitment to membership equality for all military families.

The former Ladies Auxiliary VFW, founded in 1914, is the VFW’s highly regarded support organization and is considered its “Partner in Service.”

Under its former name Ladies Auxiliary VFW, membership within the organization was offered exclusively to female spouses and family members of any member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars. The gender-specific eligibility requirement remained for more than 100 years until July 20, 2015, when delegates to the VFW’s 116th National Convention in Pittsburgh voted to amend the dated by-law to extend the same membership opportunity to eligible males.

Appropriately, the Ladies Auxiliary VFW has changed its official name to the VFW Auxiliary.

“It’s an exciting time to be a member of the Auxiliary,” said National President Francisca Guilford. “Women comprise nearly twenty percent of our nation’s military, and this change allows all spouses, fathers, grandfathers, sons, grandsons and brothers to serve others in honor of their veteran.”

Currently, the Auxiliary has more than 465,000 members, a number that is now expected to sharply increase over the next year. Its members represent all 50 states, the District of Columbia, several foreign locations including Germany, Guam and Panama, and have made an impact in local communities around the globe.

Last year alone, its members worked to provide $4.6 million dollars in monetary aid to veterans, active duty military and their families, and volunteered nearly 800,000 hours in VA Medical Centers, hospitals, nursing and veterans’ homes. Auxiliary members also contributed greatly to cancer research, youth activities, civic patriotism and much more.

For more information about the VFW Auxiliary, please visit www.vfwauxiliary.org.

(via VFW.org)

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VFW: Sequestration Must End!

WASHINGTON (July 10, 2015) — There was nothing shocking about Thursday’s force reduction announcement by the Army. The Budget Control Act of 2011 had dictated the terms by which America’s largest military service would incrementally shrink from a wartime high of 570,000 active-duty soldiers to 450,000. Still to come, however, is the return of mandatory sequestration in fiscal year 2016, which would further shrink the active Army to 420,000 soldiers, as well as drastically slash the operating budgets of all four military services.

“Sequestration is the most significant military readiness and national security threat of the 21st century, and despite almost universal congressional opposition to it, no member of the House or Senate has yet introduced any legislation to end it,” said John W. Stroud, national commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States. “Our military can beat any military in the world, but they can’t fight a Congress that is essentially forcing them to operate for a decade on only eight years’ worth of funding.”

Though the Army’s announced two-year plan to reduce its end strength by 40,000 soldiers and 17,000 civilians was preordained four years ago, Stroud said what’s important now is for the new Congress to act.

“We need both political parties to finally say ‘enough,’ not because a continued sequester will hurt civilian economies in certain congressional districts, but because a continued sequester weakens America, worries our allies and emboldens our enemies,” he said. “Our brave men and women in uniform will continue to perform and excel at every mission, but overtasking with inadequate resourcing will cost lives — American lives — which is an impending disaster the VFW will not allow. Sequestration must end!”

(via VFW.org)

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VFW Salutes New Agent Orange Decision

The Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United is saluting today’s [last week’s] decision by the Department of Veterans Affairs to begin accepting disability claims from veterans potentially exposed to Agent Orange-contaminated aircraft in the post-Vietnam era. The decision by VA Secretary Bob McDonald could now benefit as many as 1,500 to 2,100 Air Force and Air Force Reserve personnel who might suffer from any of 14 presumptive medical conditions that have been determined to be related to Agent Orange exposure.

The VA secretary made the decision to expand benefits following a 2015 report by the National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine on Post-Vietnam Dioxin Exposure in Agent Orange-Contaminated C-123 Aircraft. The report found evidence that those who served aboard or worked on the C-123 aircraft were exposed to the herbicide, both during and after Vietnam, when many of the aircraft remained in service for aeromedical transportation or in a mosquito abatement role back in the U.S.

“The VFW has been pushing for this decision for years,” said VFW National Commander John W. Stroud, “because something inside these aircraft was making people sick years after the plane last flew a defoliating mission in Vietnam. We thank the Institute of Medicine for determining a contributing link between exposure and the 14 medical conditions, and Secretary McDonald for making a quick call to care for more veterans.”

All airmen who were assigned to flight, ground or medical crew duties at Lockbourne/Rickenbacker Air Force Base in Ohio (the 906th and 907th Tactical Air Groups or 355th and 356th Tactical Airlift Squadrons), at Massachusetts’s Westover AFB (the 731st Tactical Air Squadron and 74th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron), or with the 758th Airlift Squadron in Pittsburgh, during the period 1969 to 1986, and who may have developed an Agent Orange-related disability, are encouraged to file a disability compensation claim through the VA’s eBenefits web portal (https://www.ebenefits.va.gov/), or to seek the free and expert assistance of a national VFW Service Officer at http://www.vfw.org/NVS/.

Read more about the today’s [last week’s] decision at http://www.blogs.va.gov/VAntage/20825/va-expands-disability-benefits-for-air-force-personnel-exposed-to-contaminated-c-123-aircraft/.

(via VFW.org)

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VFW Calls New VA Appropriations Bill ‘Bad for Veterans’

WASHINGTON — The national commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States said the U.S. House of Representatives is set to penalize disabled veterans this week if it votes to reduce the Department of Veterans Affairs budget request by more than $1.5 billion.

“The nationwide crisis in care and confidence that erupted in the VA last year was caused in many ways by a lack of adequate resourcing that only Congress is authorized to provide,” said John W. Stroud, who leads the 1.9 million-member VFW and its Auxiliaries. “That’s why the VFW is demanding that the House amend this bill to appropriate a funding level that fully funds VA.”

In its current form, the fiscal year 2016 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Bill makes across-the-board cuts to all VA discretionary accounts, and drastically underfunds medical care, major construction and Information Technology accounts. Stroud said across-the-board cuts to discretionary spending is what Congress created back in 2011, but by another name, sequestration. Now the House wants to impose its own sequester on a federal department whose sole mission is to care for wounded, ill and injured veterans.

“The VA cannot fulfill its mission without proper funding, but the House for whatever reason now wants to ration care, eliminate infrastructure projects, and stop improving upon the programs and services that the VA was created to provide,” said the VFW national commander. “This bill is bad for veterans and any vote for it is unconscionable, which is why we want veterans and advocates everywhere to get involved by urging their elected officials to fully fund the VA.”

Make your voices heard here.

via VFW.org

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VA Makes Strides on Reducing Claims Backlog

Washington – The federal initiative to provide timely decisions on disability payments to Veterans has crossed a major milestone in its final sprint to eliminate the backlog of Veterans’ benefits claims.

The major transformation effort to apply new technology and process solutions has paid off at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).  It reduced its inventory of backlogged claims from a high of 611,000 claims in March of 2013 to fewer than 200,000 this week, while at the same time improving decision quality.

“Make no mistake, we’re not slowing down short of the finish line,” said Under Secretary for Benefits Allison Hickey. “Our goal is to eliminate the claims backlog by the end of 2015 – meaning all Veterans will receive timely and accurate decisions on their disability claims.”

Hickey credited a combination of factors for the 67-percent drop in backlog: first, the extra hours of work put in by dedicated benefits claims processors across the nation, who have worked evenings, Saturdays and Sundays to drive the backlog down; as well as procedural efficiencies backed by powerful automation tools and paperless claims processing. In addition, she cited the transformation of Veterans Benefits Administration’s training and quality assurance programs resulting in steady increases in the accuracy of decisions.

Just a few years ago, claims processors handled 5,000 tons of paper annually, an amount equivalent to 200 Empire State Buildings. In less than two years, VA converted claims processing to a 21st Century digital environment where claims for VA benefits and services can be submitted and processed, and benefits delivered, online.

Veterans increasingly are filing claims electronically from the start at https://www.ebenefits.va.gov.  Veterans can submit their applications online, upload their supporting documentation, and check the status of their claim through a multi-channel Web portal boasting nearly 60 self-service features.

(via VA Press Release)

Veterans may also visit their local VFW Post for assistance with their claims process.

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2014-2015 National Youth Scholarship Winner Videos

The winners of the 2014-2015 National Voice of Democracy and Patriot’s Pen scholarship competitions were named earlier this month at the National Legislative Conference in Washington DC.

Adam Densmore from the Department of Colorado was named the first-place winner of the $30,000 Voice of Democracy T.C. Selman Memorial Scholarship Award.  This year’s theme was “Why Veterans are Important to our Nation’s History and Future.”  Densmore was sponsored by VFW Post 3631 and Ladies Auxiliary in Aurora, Colorado.

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The second-place winner, Jaycie Schenone, sponsored by VFW Post 6604 and Ladies Auxiliary in Folsom, California, received the $16,000 Charles Kuralt Memorial Scholarship Award. The third-place winner, Mackenzie Leishman, sponsored by VFW Post 2350 and Ladies Auxiliary in Elko, Nevada, received the $10,000 VFW Scholarship Award.

Ethan Schroeder from the Department of Pennsylvania was named first-place winner of a $5,000 award for his submission on this year’s theme “Why I Appreciate America’s Veterans.”  Schroeder was sponsored by VFW Post 92 and Ladies Auxiliary in New Kensington, Pennsylvania.

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The second-place winner, Jordyn Mies, sponsored by VFW Post 7824 and Ladies Auxiliary Vancouver, Washington, will receive a $4,000 award. The third-place winner, Tracy Kruse, sponsored by VFW Post 2966 and Ladies Auxiliary in Scotland, South Dakota, will receive a $3,500 award.

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