Monday, January 7, 2013

VA Eligibility Verification Report (EVR): The Department of Veterans Affairs announced 20 DEC it is cutting red tape for Veterans by eliminating the need for them to complete an annual Eligibility Verification Report (EVR). VA will implement a new process for confirming eligibility for benefits, and staff that had been responsible for processing the old form will instead focus on eliminating the compensation claims backlog. Historically, beneficiaries have been required to complete an EVR each year to ensure their pension benefits continued. Under the new initiative, VA will work with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the Social Security Administration (SSA) to verify continued eligibility for pension benefits. “By working together, we have cut red tape for Veterans and will help ensure these brave men and women get the benefits they have earned and deserve,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. VA estimates it would have sent nearly 150,000 EVRs to beneficiaries in January 2013. Eliminating these annual reports reduces the burden on Veterans, their families, and survivors because they will not have to return these routine reports to VA each year in order to avoid suspension of benefits. It also allows VA to redirect more than 100 employees that usually process EVRs to work on eliminating the claims backlog.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Congress Passes Vet Employer Tax Credits:

Congress included tax credits for businesses who hire veterans in the bill passed to avoid the fiscal
The Returning Heroes and Wounded Warriors work opportunity tax credit provisions offer from $2,400 to $9,600 in credits to businesses who hire veterans.
Two of the tax credits are each worth $2,400, one for veterans whose families are receiving supplemental nutrition assistance, and the other for the short-term hiring of unemployed veterans. Also extended are a $4,800 tax credit for hiring a veteran discharged within the previous year who has a service-connected disability; a $5,600 tax credit for hiring a veteran who has been unemployed for an extended period; and a $9,600 tax credit for hiring a service-disabled veteran who has been unemployed for an extended period.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Secretary of Defense: Create a Central National Registry for Military Sex Offenders

Secretary of Defense: Create a Central National Registry for Military Sex Offenders
Lance Corporal Nicole McCoy

I joined the military because I wanted to serve my country.  I served as a Lance Corporal in the Marines for over three years.  In that time I was raped twice and sexually assaulted another two times.

The first time it happened I was serving abroad in Afghanistan.  After that first incident I was assaulted three other times over the course of three years.  It came to happen so often that I assumed it was normal and that it must happen to everyone.  I never received any training on how to deal with sexual assault in the military- I didnt even know how to report it.

When I finally decided to report the sexual assaults I was led through a maze of questions and excuses and I was even discouraged from reporting the crimes.  In the end, instead of getting justice I was ostracized and humiliated.

I learned that there is currently no national military sex offender registry and that offenders are not required to disclose their crimes on their discharge papers.  A sex offender registration for convicted for military personal would help to address the impunity that surrounds rape within rape the military.  Most veterans are honorable men and women who have served our country, but there are some who have committed serious crimes like rape and sexual assault during their service and the military has a responsibility to disclose that information for the sake of the public good.

When asked why sex offenders do not have to disclose on their discharge papers, some of the responses I was given were 1) It will take too long to create a national database or 2) the military is going green and it takes too much paper to add an extra check box to discharge papers.

This is part of a larger issue of rape within the military.  Some estimates reveal that more than 1/3 of women in the armed services are raped during their service.  If you serve in the US military and you rape or sexually assault a fellow service member you have an 86.5% chance of keeping the crime a secret and a 92% chance of avoiding court martial.

Join me in asking the Department of Defense to create a national database for sex offenders.  

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The VA Research Advisory Committee meeting from June 18-19 in Boston was a firestorm that has been ignited. Our elected officials in the US Senate and US House of Representatives and the President and First Lady need to hear what happenned and put this issue as a PRIORITY. The Gulf War Veterans of 1990-91 have waited for 21 years and can not wait any longer for effective action! WE are ill and dying and need effective action. The VA Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Illness Research was set in action by a law generated and accomplished through Gulf War Veterans Advocacy actions. WE are the ones that are ill and the primary stake holhers in this issue. We encourage everyone to get this message to all elected officials! The VA RAC GWIR Report is included without attachments but the intent and information is there for all to read. The Basic report that was given follows: Draft Recommendation, Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans Illnesses, June 19, 2012 The Institute of Medicine, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, and the United States Congress want to find treatments for Gulf War illness, the chronic multisymptom disease that destroys the quality of life of 250,000 Gulf War Veterans and threatens current and future troops subject to similar risks. The 2010 Institute of Medicine Gulf War and Health Report called for “a renewed research effort with substantial commitment to well-organized efforts to better identify and treat multisymptom illness in Gulf War veterans.” (PP.260-261) “Veterans who continued to suffer from these discouraging symptoms deserve the very best that modern science and medicine can offer….to speed the development of effective treatments, cures, and, it is hoped preventions…..We believe that, through a concerted national effort and rigorous scientific input, answers can likely be found” (p. x) Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki declared on Feb.27,2010, “at VA we advocate for Veterans-it is our overarching philosophy and, in time, it will become our culture.” “This new approach is the first step in a still unfolding comprehensive plan of how VA will treat and compensate Veterans of the Gulf War era.” In the Veterans Benefit Act of 2010, Congress directed VA to enter into an agreement with the Institute of Medicine “to carry out a comprehensive review of the best treatments for chronic multisymptom illness in Persian Gulf War veterans.” “Under this agreement, the Institute of Medicine shall convene a group of medical professionals who are experienced in treating individuals who served as members of the Armed Forces in the Southwest Asia Theater of Operations of the Persian Gulf War during 1990 or 1991 and who have been diagnosed with chronic multisymptom illness or another health condition related to chemical and environmental exposure that may have occurred during such service.”(Public Law 111-275) Some VA central office staff members disagree. They say, “Not on my watch.” They have cut the budget for VA Gulf War illnesses research by two-thirds for FY2013, from $15.0 to $4.86 million. This cut was never discussed with the Research Advisory Committee, which was established by Congress to provide independent advice to the Secretary on proposed Gulf War health research plans. Of the $15.0 million budgeted and approved bythe Secretary and Congress for FY 2012, staff has spent $4.98 million. AppendixA They have changed the Gulf War Illness Research Strategic Plan so that they are not obligated to spend even this $4.86 million on GulfWar illness research. They can spend it on any illness found in Gulf War veterans, however few. In addition to gutting the strategic plan financially, they have eliminated the urgency, commitment, focus, and follow up called for by the IOM and the working groups of VA staff and outside advisors who wrote the original plan. The new draft of the plan is not effective and is not recommended as it currently stands. Appendix B They have misrepresented to the Secretary of Veterans Affairs and to Congress the amount of research dollars being spent on Gulf War health, by including studies that have little or nothing to do with Gulf War veterans and by loading the Gulf War totals with the entire amount of studies that address problems common to veterans of all eras, although Gulf War veterans constitute a tiny fractions of these veterans. Appendix C. They have transformed the new Institute of Medicine treatment study into a literature review by an inexpert committee that has been indoctrinated to believe that Gulf War illness is, or may be, psychiatric, when science has conclusively shown it is not, including the IOM’s own 2010 report. The obvious purpose is to manipulate the new IOM committee into reachinga conclusion that reverses the 2010 report and misdirects future treatment and research. This result is the exact opposite from the intent of Congress in ordering the report. Appendix D. They have refused to conduct the IOM epidemiological study ordered by Congress to determine the rate of multiple sclerosis in Gulf War veterans. Appendix E They have commissioned a mammoth survey of Gulf War era veterans that omits the questions necessary to identify multisymptom illness and includes excessive questions on stress and anxiety. Such an approach is designed to produce psychiatric findings, while minimizing multisymptom illness, the signature health problem of the 1990-91 war. In research, the answers you get depend on the questions you ask. Appendix F These actions repeat the pattern of the last twenty years, as has been well documented in Congressional reports. EG., “Gulf War Veterans Illnesses: VA, DOD Continue to Resist Strong Evidence Linking Toxic Causes to Chronic Health Effects,” Nov1997. Appendix G. Today, these actions must be recognized for what they are. Reversing the recommendation of the Institute of Medicine is bad science. Undermining the policy of the Secretary of Veterans Affairs is insubordination. Twisting the intent of Congress is law breaking. Misrepreksenting information to the Secretary and to Congress is lying. They have said, “Not on my watch.” So be it. The Research Advisory Committee has no confidence in the ability or desire of VA central office staff to formulate and execute an effective VA Gulf War illness research program. Staff particularly includes the Office of Research and Development, the Office of Public Health, and Department of Defense personnel from the Office of Force Health Protection and Readiness who interface with them. Many individual VA researchers are doing excellent work, and some staff members are well intentioned, but they are not the ones calling the shots. The Committee recommends that the obstructive actions outlined above be thoroughly investigated to identify the individuals responsible and that appropriate actions be taken to remove them from positions of authority and influence over Gulf War illness research. Until this occurs, the prospect of meaningful progress is illusory

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Veteran Small Business Owner Resources:

With extensive discussion this week on veterans' employment and continuing work with IFA to help veterans become franchisees, VFW also wanted to highlight several other resources that can help veteran entrepreneurs start their own small businesses and possibly secure federal contracts: * Small Business Administration: SBA offers a variety of tools and resources to veteran entrepreneurs to help get a veteran-owned small business off the ground. These resources are provided regionally through Veterans Business Outreach Centers, or VBOCs. To learn about the services available through VBOCs and to find the center closest to you, visit the SBA's website at * Patriot Loans: SBA also offers financing assistance options for veterans who want to start a small business. Patriot Express Loans are available to anyone who has served honorably to help with expenses ranging from start-up costs to major equipment purchases. Learn more at * Central Contractor Registration: Businesses that seek to secure federal contracts, including set-aside contracts for veteran-owned and service disabled veteran-owned small businesses, must register with the federal government's Central Contract Registration. Start the process at * FedBid is an online marketplace that allows government agencies to identify contractors that can meet their needs. Veteran-owned and service disabled veteran-owned small businesses can register with FedBid for set-aside, competitive or sole-source contracts. The business model is reverse auction, meaning sellers can select to bid on contracts. The government agency, or "buyer," can select the contractor that meets their need. The cost of utilizing FedBid is factored into the bid. Sellers bidding on federal contracts must be registered with Central Contracting Registration. FedBid is just one of several online marketplaces that help businesses secure government contracts. Learn more at

House Passes VA Funding:

: By a vote of 407-12, the House Thursday night overwhelming passed the Military Construction/VA funding bill despite threats of a veto by the Administration. To see how your representative voted, click on The bill, H.R. 5854, provides $146.4 billion dollars for FY 2013, which is a 10-percent increase above last year's levels. VA funding includes $54.5 in Advanced Appropriations for medical care, a boost for medical services and increases for jobs and disability programs for veterans. House members voted to withhold funding on the DOD-VA integrated medical record project until both departments implement recommendations made by GAO earlier this year. It also provides: * $6.2 billion for mental health services * $5.8 billion for homeless veterans programs * $35 million for continued research on the effects of PTSD and TBI * $174 million for expansion of Arlington National Cemetery * $1.1 billion for major and minor construction projects * $1.7 billion for family and military personnel housing For the committee press release and a list of amendments, go to

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Thursday, April 19, 2012

Unemployment High for Young US Military Veterans

While members of the military make up a tiny fraction of the U.S. population, the unemployment rate for America’s military veterans far exceeds the national average. About 12 percent of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans are unemployed, compared to 8.5 percent of Americans nationwide. Hundreds lined up for this veterans job fair hopeful of finding work. Some are still in service, like Ernest Pisogna who is stationed in Afghanistan. This Job Fair will determine whether he re-enlists or is discharged. “I am in computers and telephones so I am going to see what they may have to offer," he said. More than 50 companies participated. The interviewers were respectful, the vets were encouraged. Michael Sorrentino served a total of 12 years in the military. He lost his construction job in 2008 and has been looking for steady work ever since. He recently found help at the America Works employment service. “They don’t charge you. They don’t question you. You give them a resume. If you don’t have a suit, they give it to you. They send you to pick one up. You don’t have shoes, they send you to pick it up," Sorrentino said. "They tell you what to say on an interview. They give you lessons.” America Works has offices in several American cities and one of its specialties is placing veterans. The service is supported financially by local, state and federal governments. “I don’t share I am in a shelter, but if they ask me, I tell them. I will share with them. Very tough; very competitive, too. But I am sure I will find something. I am a fighter, a survivor," Frank Greene explained. Green is both unemployed and homeless. Liz-Ann Jacobs' situation is similar. As a Naval Reservist and young mother, joblessness has meant she had to send her young child to a family in Trinidad and Tobago. Jacobs says she is on the verge of homelessness. Military duty requires her to attend monthly meetings and to ship out for a few weeks of active duty each year. Her Reserve obligation, she says, can be a problem for prospective employers. “I feel the tension as soon as you say, 'You know what, I am in the reserves.' Their whole aspect, 'Oh my gosh, she could leave at any point in time.' And, it’s hard for me," Jacobs said. "I want to be grounded." Lee Bowes is the chief executive officer of America Works. She says preparing veterans for job interviews is critical. “They don’t know how to prepare themselves for the private sector marketplace. Everything from having the appropriate clothing for interviews to knowing how to take the experience they’ve had in the service and translate it into the types of jobs that exist in the private market," Bowes said. And with thousands of American men and women set to leave the military in the next couple of years, the big question is: will there be jobs for them when they get home?